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Old December 27, 2016, 11:18 PM   #1
tahunua001
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likelihood of a trapdoor used by indians?

hello all,
a friend of mine has just been gifted a family heirloom springfield model 1868 trapdoor and he has strong beliefs that it was used by an ancestor in the Nez Perce War. I'm just curious what the likelihood of this actually is? I don't know a whole lot about military arms prior to world war 1, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me that even a U.S. soldier would have been issued a trapdoor in 1877, no less have the weapon somehow find its way into the hands of an enemy by that time. so what say you experts?
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Old December 27, 2016, 11:54 PM   #2
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Well--Little Bighorn was in 1876, and they all had trapdoors--and
they were the standard issue of the time, in 45-70.

It would have been very possible that a 1868 in 50-70 could
have been acquired in battle or trade by darned near any
native american warrior by 1877. Proving it is probably a
problem, but it makes a nice story.

I'm assuming the 1868 is a rifle--not a carbine?
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Old December 28, 2016, 12:32 AM   #3
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rifle
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Old December 28, 2016, 07:31 PM   #4
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In the John Wayne movie in the attack on the train You can see a fine example when an 'Indian' fires reloads and fires again, a trapdoor , at full gallop !
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Old December 28, 2016, 07:50 PM   #5
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63 rifles, some pistols, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were captured by the Nez Perce when F Company and H Company of the 1st Cavalry Regiment, along with a small company of civilian volunteers, were defeated at the Battle of White Bird Canyon. That was the opening battle of the Nez Perce War.

It is entirely plausible.
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Old December 28, 2016, 09:31 PM   #6
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thanks a million Tad T, I'm glad there's some history buffs out there that know a thing or two about it. I'm pretty much limited to what I can find on wikipedia.
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Old December 30, 2016, 11:17 AM   #7
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It's my understanding that a LOT of trapdoor carbines and rifles in .50-70 were SUPPLIED to Indian agents for sale to reservation Indians, after the Army adopted the .45-70.

So, the likelihood of finding a trapdoor (of some vintage) in the possession of a native American family is actually pretty good. Proving a specific one was at a specific place & time, is a different matter.
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Old January 1, 2017, 07:45 PM   #8
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Quote:
In the John Wayne movie in the attack on the train You can see a fine example when an 'Indian' fires reloads and fires again, a trapdoor , at full gallop !
In Buster Keaton's masterpiece silent film " The General https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_General_(1926_film) you can observe the Union soldiers firing Trapdoors, which if they were available, probably would have ended the war early for the Confederates!


I have no doubt American Indians had every firearm that was in Army or Civilian inventory at one time or another. The hard part is proving ownership.
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Old January 5, 2017, 01:15 AM   #9
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I read someplace that soldiers post Civil War were supposed to step on their empty cartridges to render them useless to be salvaged and reloaded by the Indians. I also read that they would even reload rim fire .44 Henry cartridges. Wish I could remember where I read this.
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Old January 9, 2017, 04:00 PM   #10
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Quite a lot of Indian guns were the older .50/70 guns recycled. Many were bitzers made up out of condemned parts that had been sold off to the dealers for not much more than scrap value.
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Old January 10, 2017, 05:39 PM   #11
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"Quite a lot of Indian guns were the older .50/70 guns recycled. Many were bitzers made up out of condemned parts that had been sold off to the dealers for not much more than scrap value."

Somehow, I doubt that any trooper unfortunate to be hit with a .50 bullet really cared much about the scrap value of the gun he was shot with.

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Old January 12, 2017, 11:58 AM   #12
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A friend informs me that at least one batch of .50-70s provided to the Indians was painted green. The idea being that an Indian with a green rifle was lawfully armed for hunting, and recognizable as such.

As usual, govt plans didn't work exactly as planned....

Quote:
I don't know a whole lot about military arms prior to world war 1, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me that even a U.S. soldier would have been issued a trapdoor in 1877,
in 1877, the Trapdoor was still "cutting edge technology" for the US Army, and the primary issue rifle.

The Trapdoor was the official rifle until 1892, various models from 1866 to 1873 in .50-70 and from 1873 to 1892 in .45-70, until replaced by the .30-40 Krag.

As late as the Spanish American War, many state militia units were still armed with the Trapdoor. They gave a rather poor showing against the Spanish armed with Mauser bolt actions, and even our most modern rifle, the Krag, came off second best, which is why we developed and adopted the 1903 Springfield.
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Old February 10, 2017, 01:23 AM   #13
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In fact just a short time before Little Big Horn Custer's troops had been rearmed with the single shot Trapdoor's giving up their Spencer Repeating Rifles that they had carried since the Civil War. A bureaucratic decision that had fatal consequences for the men under Custer's command as most had not even fired their new weapons until the Battle of Little Big Horn. One hell of a time to learn a new weapon that had 1\5th the rounds per min firepower of the one you had been used to.
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Old February 11, 2017, 01:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
in 1877, the Trapdoor was still "cutting edge technology" for the US Army, and the primary issue rifle.
That may be, but when compared to European rifles of the same time period, they look very antiquated.
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Old February 11, 2017, 03:38 PM   #15
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From what I have read the Indians were very good at policing up the battlefields where they won decisively and no officers or NCOs to tell a brave what he could or couldn't carry. There is the ammo supply problem of course.
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Old February 13, 2017, 09:11 PM   #16
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Correct, Scorch!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scorch
That may be, but when compared to European rifles of the same time period, they look very antiquated.
You betcha, Red Ryder!

I collect WWI infantry rifles and consequently study the transitional rifles and cartridges between black and smokeless powder.

The Trapdoor Springfield (in one variant or another) was the official primary rifle (or carbine) of the U. S. Govmint until - as 44AMP said - 1892. Consider in 1886 the French Army (yes, French!) had a repeating, smokeless powder rifle in service. Of course, they were worried about Germans, not 'half-nekked savages'. The U. S. Government was just plain cheap about military expenditures.

Still prior to the end of the Trapdoor rifle/carbine, most all the European powers had repeaters in black powder and switching to smokeless as quickly as possible.

You are correct! The Trapdoor was rather antiquated.
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Old February 14, 2017, 08:03 PM   #17
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If you study history a bit, you can find many situations where a "conservative" (AKA Pigheaded suborn) individual or small group in positions of authority has had a huge effect on what we arm our troops with.

There were Generals who delayed the adoption of repeating rifles simply because they believed the troops would "waste" ammunition.

The adoption of the Trapdoor was a huge step forward over muzzle loaders, but was technologically behind repeating designs that existed at the same time. And yes, we were also cheap. The trapdoor got the nod mostly because it was designed in house at Springfield, so the govt. didn't have to pay anything extra for it. Today, it seems like an obviously short sighted decision, but at the time, it was a big deal.

Our Army, without an actual "enemy" nation to face, got the short end of nearly everything from after the Civil War until after the turn of the century, and while that had changed some by the time of our entry into WWI, we went back to that (and for all services) until the ramp up that began shortly before we entered WWII.

And, while we came late to the repeater game, and chose a less efficient rifle in the Krag, we balanced that scale with the Springfield, and moved ahead with the adoption of the Garand.
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Old February 15, 2017, 09:29 AM   #18
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To be honest, while there were repeating rifles out there, no major army adopted them large scale until the 1880s. And the 50-70 was one of the first all metal center fire cartridges in production; the Germans and French still used paper cartridge needle guns in 1870.
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Old February 15, 2017, 12:13 PM   #19
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Quote:
There were Generals who delayed the adoption of repeating rifles simply because they believed the troops would "waste" ammunition.
I have read military documents from the 1840's that expressed the same concerns, that troops would shoot up their ammunition. And, the same sentiment expressed as a reason not to adopt the Garand. And if you remember, the M1903 had a magazine cut off.

Sort of gonzo thinking, the Army leadership spent a lot of money training, equipping their Soldiers, and would spend a lot of money deploying them across the seas. And once they got their troops abroad, they were more concerned that their Armies not shoot too many bullets at the Enemy, because of the costs of supply!
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Old February 15, 2017, 02:20 PM   #20
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Quote:
Sort of gonzo thinking, the Army leadership spent a lot of money training, equipping their Soldiers, and would spend a lot of money deploying them across the seas. And once they got their troops abroad, they were more concerned that their Armies not shoot too many bullets at the Enemy, because of the costs of supply!
Not entirely gonzo, if you understand the rationale of the day. And the cost of supply was more a peacetime issue, when combat looms, its the capacity of supply, not the cost, that is paramount.

Outside of combat, things change slowly, both equipment, and attitudes. Technology makes advances, but tactics (and training) to take full advantage of technological advances often moves with glacial slowness, until the shooting actually starts.

The magazine cutoff is a classic example, something that seems reasonable, even prudent, until real world experience proved it to be an unneeded feature.

Remember that it came about during the days well before machineguns, beaten zones, and full auto fire support. Soldiers were trained to fire individual aimed shots, and area suppressive fire was done by volley fire of units of riflemen. (and artillery).

The idea of keeping the full magazine "in reserve" to repel an attack does make sense, if you consider the mindset of the time, which "grew up" with single shot breechloaders being the pinnacle of rifle firepower. With that established, now along comes rifles that hold 5 shots!!!! awesome firepower!!

Not to us, today, but back then, quite a bit. Keeping that firepower in reserve until actually needed did make a bit of sense. Until actual combat (and further tech advances, like automatic weapons) showed that it didn't make sense any more.

Cost matters a lot in peacetime, probably more than any other single factory, especially when money is tight. We got the M1 Garand in .30-06, instead of the .276 Pedersen, simply because the cost of changing to a new round was deemed excessive.

When you get into combat, especially overseas, supply capacity becomes more important than the cost of the items being supplied. We always find a way to pay for them during war, what's more important is that we deliver enough of what's needed to the guys who need it, WHERE they need it, and when they need it.

And, just what is the stuff they need?? History abounds with both right, and (in hindsight) wrong decisions about that, in ALL fields.
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Old February 15, 2017, 02:59 PM   #21
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"...the rationale of the day..." Was that the officers didn't trust the men serving under them. Wasn't just in the U.S. Army either. Officers were educated and aristocrats in most armies, the U.S. Army included. And a lot of the troopies chasing Indians were ex-Confederates. With a bunch of black troopies as well. The wealthy didn't trust any of 'em.
And the Generals were still thinking in terms of Napoleonic tactics. Even as late as W.W. I, the PBI's job was to break the enemy's line for the cavalry to rush through and exploit the break through.
"...changing to a new round was deemed excessive..." There was literally billions of M1906 rounds(over 2 billion rounds) left over from W.W. I. Wasn't until 1936 that it began to run out.
"...the likelihood of this actually is..." Possible but impossible to prove. There are no records of stuff like that.
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Old February 15, 2017, 05:02 PM   #22
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Is this a trap-door?

If it was good enough for Geronimo,,,



Aarond

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Old February 17, 2017, 09:57 AM   #23
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The army use to give 50-70 & 45-70 ammo to civilians in an attempt to get people to kill off the buffalo, making it easier to get the Indians onto reservations.

Stands to reason there had to be a lot of trapdoors out there. If you were to tour the museums in the west you'd find a lot of pictures of Indians, civilians, and everyone else with the Trap doors.

Most of the rifles (or pictures of rifles) I've seen, owned my Indians were decorated with brass and other items. Civilian, Military Rifles not so much.

I do have a 50-70 Trapdoor that has a series of notches cut in the stock. I first thought they were put there to allow for better grip on the forearm but, the notches are only on one side of the forearm and in the wrong pace for proper sling usage.



Anyway, the trapdoors of 1868 would have been 50-70. Soldiers in 1877 would have been the 45-70. Like now (or pre M14 military rifles), surplus military arms even in the 1800s were sold or given to civilians and like the surplus rifles of the 1900s, it would be near impossible to trace. Or, it would be difficult (with the info we have) to prove or dis-prove the rifle you mentioned was used in the Nez Perce War. If the individual was a soldier, he would have been issued the Model 73 (45-70), not the '68 50-70. If it was an Indian or civilian, its anyone's guess.

Top is the 45-70, bottom is the 50-70

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Old February 17, 2017, 11:41 AM   #24
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My understanding has been that in the expansion of the west private individuals were often armed with much better quality equipment then military soldiers.
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Old February 17, 2017, 12:01 PM   #25
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My understanding has been that in the expansion of the west private individuals were often armed with much better quality equipment then military soldiers.
Often, yes, when the private individuals could afford it.
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