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Spencer 1866 - Repeating Rifle Co. Catalog

Item #686: $14.95
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Spencer 1866 - Repeating Rifle Co. Catalog

38 pages, over 8" x 5 1/2", soft-cover in full color. New re-print restored and digitally enhanced. Illustrated.

This Spencer Catalogue is filled with information about the company, what newspapers, officers and others think of the rifle as well as charts, prices and specifications. A real find for collectors. "The Spencer was the primary repeating carbine and rifle of the Civil War. Most were issued in carbine form for the cavalry although rifles were also made for the infantry. Of the 144,500 made, 107,372 were acquired by the Federal Government. It became the most popular of the carbines for cavalry use by the Union Army, and was widely used in the west after the Civil War. The Spencer is a seven shot repeater loaded through the stock at the back end. Operating the Spencer required both working the lever to load a fresh cartridge and separately cocking the hammer. An experienced man could shoot all seven shots in about fifteen seconds. The Confederates could not use captured Spencers after the supply of captured cartridge ammunition was used up, as it could not be loaded and fired with separate powder, percussion cap, and bullet. The Army was reluctant to purchase the Spencer early in the Civil War.

The available wagon transportation was incapable of delivering the additional ammunition the soldiers would use when given a repeating firearm. President Lincoln intervened by endorsing procurement of the Spencer after test firing one in 1863 halfway into the war. The Spencer used the first self-contained metallic cartridge powerful enough for regular military use. The standard Spencer cartridge is called the 56-56 being named for having the same size at the front end and back end of the copper cartridge case. It fired a 52 caliber bullet with a muzzle energy of 1125 foot pounds. The energy compares favorably with the [typical paper cartridges] of the Civil War muskets. By comparison, the other metallic cartridge available during the Civil War, the 44 Henry, only developed about 700 foot pounds of energy. The cartridge could be successful in the wide variance in barrel bore diameters shown below because the bullet had a huge hollow in its base of the same style as the Minie ball first used in the Springfield musket.

A cartridge box was invented by Blakeslee to carry Spencer ammunition and hasten reloading. In the first issue, it held six tubes of six cartridges each to quickly slide one tube at a time into the gun. The Blakeslee box looks good in theory but was bulky. It bounced around and got in the way when in action or while running as they hadn't then figured out how to hold such containers firmly to the soldier's body. The soldiers could shoot out all the ammunition they could carry nearly as quickly when carrying ammunition as issued in bulk without the hassle of preloading the tubes of the unwieldy Blakeslee cartridge box.

As late as the early 1870s the government's Springfield Armory was still converting a few Spencer carbines to rifles. Springfield Armory also devised a slightly different cartridge with a 50 caliber bullet that the inventor, Christopher Spencer, thought had too much taper. The Spencer Repeating Rifle Company failed financially in the general economic malaise after the Civil War and with a glut of surplus firearms on the market.

For more information, consult "Flayderman's Guide To Antique American Firearms" x Norm Flayderman, and "Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry" x John D. McAulay." Many thanks to thriller writers Emory Hackman and Linda Adams at for their description of the Spencer Rifle.

Contents - Index:

  • Pages: 38
  • Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. 1865 Catalog
  • Armory, Tremont Street, Boston, Mass.
  • Illustrations of: Navy Rifle, Army Rifle, Large Carbine, Small Carbine, Sporting Rifle
  • Cutaway Illustration of mechanism and magazine, cartridges.
  • Extensive discussion of patents, history, performance and mechanism
  • Military ordnance testing results and opinions
  • General Directions for Loading
  • Opinions from Leading Newspapers, Officers of Intelligence and Good Judgment
  • Specifications of different models and cartridges
  • Points of Pre-emine3nt Merit in the Spencer Repeating Rifle, Carbines and Sporting Rifle
  • Price Lists of Spencer Repeating Rifle, Carbines and Sporting Rifle
  • Names and Prices of Component Parts and Appendages
  • Close-up detailed cutaway of Receiver