US Indian Wars Cavalry Burnside Model 1865 Spencer Carbine 56-50 Antique

SOLD FOR: $1,150

WOA#: WY240311JH003

Make: Burnside Rifle Company

Model: Model 1865 Spencer Carbine

Serial Number: 19307

Year of Manufacture: Ca. August 1865

Caliber: 56-50 Spencer Rimfire

Action Type: Lever Operated Rotating Breechblock Repeating Carbine with Tubular Magazine Loaded Through the Buttstock

Markings: The top of the receiver at the chamber is marked “SPENCER REPEATING RIFLE / PAT’D MARCH 6, 1860 / MANUF’D AT PROV, R.I. / BY BURNSIDE RIFLE Co” and “MODEL / 1865”. The top of the receiver behind the breech-block and the bottom of the barrel under the forend are each marked “19307”. The bottom of the barrel also has “PPM”, “5” and “11”.

Barrel Length: 20”

Sights / Optics: The front sight is a brass blade pinned to a slotted base fixed to the front of the barrel. The rear sight is a folding ladder, showing a “V” notch. There is a “V”-notch at the top of the ladder and the slider has a “V”-notch.

Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two-piece smooth walnut. The forend is secured by a barrel band and a screw. The buttstock has a straight wrist, straight comb and steel carbine-style buttplate. There is a sling bar with ring in the left of the wrist and a sling plate in the belly. The stocks have moderate wear with scattered nicks, dings, scrapes and scratches. There are long, repaired cracks along each side of the belly and there are filled holes in the belly, one in front and one behind the sling plate (likely part of the repair). There are a few more minor cracks and losses around the edges. The LOP measures 13″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The buttplate has scattered nicks and scratches, some minor oxidation, and wear around the edges. Overall, the stocks are in Good condition as repaired Antique.

Type of Finish: Blue & Case Color

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is gray and the rifling is well defined. There is scattered erosion and some pitting in the bore. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates 6 out of 10.

Overall Condition: This carbine retains about 5% of its metal finish. There is infrequent remaining finish in well protected areas. The receiver has some spots showing a nickel-like appearance, typical of old case-hardening due to higher nickel content in the surface. The barrel has gone to a mottled patina. There is better case color on the portions of the lever and breech-block concealed when the action is closed. There are scattered nicks, scuffs and scratches. There is some scattered minor surface erosion. The action shows operational wear. The screw heads range from sharp to tool marked with usable slots. The markings are generally clear, the manufacturer’s marking on the chamber ring appears to have been stamped with a broken die. Overall, this carbine rates in Very Good condition as Antique.

Mechanics: The action functions correctly. This carbine is equipped with a Stabler cut-off, allowing for single-shot or magazine-fed operation of the action. We did not fire this firearm. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance requirements.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This carbine comes with a single 7-round tubular magazine.

Our Assessment: Spencer Repeating rifles and carbines were invented by Christopher Miner Spencer. Spencer was a Northerner, and when the Civil War broke out he was eager to offer his novel weapon system to the United States military. The Army initially rejected his innovative design for fear that the constant need to provide ammunition for repeating rifles would place an insurmountable burden on its already strained logistics system. While limited numbers of Spencers were purchased in 1862 and early 1863, the weapon system remained sidelined.

At the titanic clash at Gettysburg, where US forces decisively defeated a massive Confederate invasion into the North, Spencer repeaters played a pivotal role. During the battle, General George Armstrong Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade utilized their advanced Spencers to defeat an attack led by General J.E.B. Stuart, whose force outnumbered Custer’s by a factor of 3-1. The rapid fire capability of the repeaters proved more than a match for the large Confederate force which was forced to retreat. Despite this stunning success, President Abraham Lincoln was reluctant to invest in the Spencer manufactured repeaters, as his personal experience with a Spencer repeater had led him to believe they were unreliable. To remedy this misconception, Spencer himself secured an audience with President Lincoln to prove the worth of his invention.

On August 18th, 1863, just a month after Custer had proven the effectiveness of his repeaters, Spencer secured a meeting with the President. The following day the President fired a Spencer (it is unclear what exact model or type it was), and was impressed with the effectiveness of the arm. Unsurprisingly, the government began to place larger orders for the Spencer repeaters, with the carbine variant making up the bulk of the units offered to the US military. Ironically, John Wilkes Booth had a Spencer Carbine with him as he made his final stand after having assassinated President Lincoln. The demand for Spencer carbines was so great that a contract was also provided to the Burnside Rifle Company, who produced 30,496 Spencer carbines from April to October 1865. Though made too late to see combat in the Civil War, those Model 1865 Spencer carbines were the mainstay of the US Cavalry in the Indian Wars that immediately followed; they were the primary issue Cavalry shoulder arm until the Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield carbine was introduced. The slab sided Spencer Carbine quickly became part of the iconic image of the US cavalryman protecting westering settlers and miners in the desolate, lawless expanse of the post-Civil War American frontier.

This Burnside produced Model 1865 Spencer Carbine is in fairly good shape. This antique carbine’s action works great, it has a decent bore, and is well preserved for a mid-19th century military firearm. This old repeating carbine will certainly appeal to historical firearms collectors. Good luck and happy bidding!

Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California. -Bud

US Indian Wars Cavalry Burnside Model 1865 Spencer Carbine 56-50 Antique
US Indian Wars Cavalry Burnside Model 1865 Spencer Carbine 56-50 Antique