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    Description

    Battle of the Little Bighorn Used

    U.S. Springfield Model 1873 Trapdoor Carbine. Among relics of famous battles, none are more highly prized and sought after than weapons. It is difficult to express the sense of awe one feels when holding in one's hands a firearm used in one of the most iconic confrontations, the Battle of Little Bighorn.

    While several guns can be attributed to that fight by documented provenance, a new method for identifying Little Bighorn guns using forensic evidence was developed in the 1980s. An accidental range fire scorched most of the Reno battlefield, exposing a trove of 6000 artifacts, among them 2000 cartridge cases and bullets fired during the battle. The precise location of each object was carefully recorded. Internationally-respected American archaeologist Douglas Scott, working with a team from the National Parks Service, utilized a process not unlike that employed in criminal investigations, where microscopic study of firing pin and ejector marks on cartridges could be used to confirm that certain guns were actually used in the battle. Essential to the accuracy is the fact that clear firing pin impressions as well as ejector marks were readable on most cartridges. These are necessary to be sure that the field samples being inspected and cartridges test-fired from a subject firearm were in alignment. Their initial study, which tested 133 promising guns in private collections and those of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Rock Island Arsenal Museum, Little Bighorn Battlefield Museum, the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, and others yielded fifteen absolutely confirmed matches. Their standards were rigorous, and guns which met their criteria are now generally accepted as confirmed Battle-fired examples.


    The carbine offered here was matched to three individual shell casings found at the location of the Benteen/ Reno defensive position. It is accompanied by a 2006 notarized letter signed by both Doug Scott and Dick Harmon attesting to these matches (please see the web site presentation of this lot to view that letter). Heritage is honored to present this incontrovertible Little Bighorn carbine, clearly one of the highlights of the remarkable Swanson Collection.

    It is challenging to predict what a gun of this importance might sell for. With the assistance of the consignor, we have been able to confirm six public and private sales of Little Bighorn-used guns. The highest was $650,000 and the average for the six was $315,000. Because of the absolute match to THREE Little Bighorn shell casings, we feel that this should be considered one of the most desirable forensically-documented examples.

    The following is a technical description of the gun provided by our firearms expert:

    Serial no. 41219, 45-70 caliber, 22-inch barrel. Blade type front sight and graduated rear sight. This particular gun does not have the compartment on the butt. Lockplate marked "[American Eagle]" and "U.S. / SPRINGFIELD / 1873". Breechblock marked "MODEL / 1873 / over [eaglehead] over [crossed arrows] over US". According to research, Model 1873s were the first of Springfield Trapdoors chambered for the 45-70 cartridge. Cartouche mark present near lower tang [circle P], not visible near sling ring. Faint but legible W / W on wood, front of triggerguard area. According to Flayderman's Guide, these guns were made c.1873 to 1877, with total quantities in the 73,000 range [this number includes rifles, carbines and cadet rifles]. See 9A-364. Note: Pre-1876 made carbines, under serial number 43,700, are considered typical of the model armed with Custer's 7th Cavalry.

    Condition: Very good plus. Barrel retains a blue/brown patina with faint case colors present to breech. Some bluing to protected areas. Some pitting present near muzzle and some scattered scuffs and dings to handling areas of metal. Stock with numerous dents, bruising and scuffs throughout, typical of this model. Some shrinkage and loses to wood around buttplate area. Marred screws. Action good, bore ok.
    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June
    9th Saturday
    Post-Auction Buys Period Ends
    4 Days 9h 34m
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: N/A
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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    $125,000.00