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Possible 7th Cav Custer carbine

Article about: There is a good article on these Carbines in the latest NRA magazine "American Rifleman" August 2014. Article is short but is in the back of the magazine just inside the back cover

  1. #1

    Default Possible 7th Cav Custer carbine

    Well sometimes you do live and learn. I had this 1873 Springfield carbine for many years and knew it was a decent unmodified early serial number dated circa 1874-75 carbine. But recently I ran across some old copies of magazine articles I had saved years ago, they were dated 1974 and 1995 and about the guns used in the Little Big Horn battle by Custer's troops. I apparently must not have read them too closely but when I finally did the other day. I found the carbine I have, Serial #35616 is not only an early 73 carbine but it might be a very desirable historical gun due to the possibility that it is a "Custer carbine" with potential association with the battle of Little Big Horn because the serial number falls within the known serial number range of carbines issued to the 7th Cav. before the ill-fated Expedition. The magazine articles said that Ordinance records indicate the 7th Cav. received approx. 1,000, 1873 carbines in the serial number ranges of 17400-18400, and 21000-21600, and 32700-36400 and with some into the 42200 range. According to those records, carbines that fall within the 32700-36400 group such as this one were issued to Companies C, D, I, and K of the 7th Cav. of the thousand carbines issued to the 7th Cav,. 250 of them were in the 33,000-43,000 range. The carbine still remains in its correct early period configuration with all the desirable early model features. It has the correct rear sight, correct early hammer, three notch cock, stacking swivel and no proof marks on barrel which is correct. The carbine still has a long wrist stock and according to one of the articles, (Man At Arms, 1995, #4), in 1879 an Ordnance Department directive ordered all carbines numbered under 50,000 in the hands of troops or at posts be sent to the National Armory for replacement or retrofit. As it appears, according to the article, Springfield Armory converted it's stock making machine to make the longer comb stocks from Dec 1876-March 1876, that retrofitting would probably include stock replacement to reduce the potential of stock breakage common with the long wristed stocks. Because there were a number of upgrades during the years following the LBH incident, any carbine, such as this one, having no upgrades was most likely not under government authority at the time. Which leaves the question, were was it?
    The stock has been lightly sanded years ago but the oval ESA cartouche on the left side and a P on the wrist are still lightly visible. There is no butt trap in the stock. There is no original finish remaining on most of the metal as it had been cleaned off many years ago however all the stampings are still deep and clear and the metal has a light patina looking finish now. Even though there is no way to tell what condition the carbine was before being cleaned it does not appear that it suffered the type of abuse it would have with long term Indian use but many carbines were recaptured through Cavalry actions shortly after LBH and they would still be in decent condt. The bore is about VG. It is extremely rare to find an early 73 carbine that is still in its un-modified condition much less one within the Custer issue range. Overall it's in VG condition. Ray

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2


    Good piece there!

  3. #3


    hope you are right.

  4. #4


    Nice piece of history there! The big question is, of course, was it With Custer in the last battle or did it sit in the armory at the fort? It will be a matter of intrigue for many years to wonder about! Either way, the connection is still there and it's a remarkable carbine and in fine shape as well! A great pick up!

    "Much that once was, is lost. For none now live who remember it."

  5. #5


    Hi Very nice carbine and in great condition thats got to be a keeper.

  6. #6


    I believe there is a list of all the troopers killed at LBH, is there not a list on file of the serial numbers of the rifles issued to which troopers???
    Perhaps the armoury records at the time are still available somewhere

  7. #7


    Hi Ray, a great read and distinctive weapon of history, thanks for showing. I did read in an article a few months ago that there is lots of battlefield items still on Site to have, mainly spent cartridges.

    Regards SK

  8. #8


    The problem in proving a carbine was at the LBH battle, much less proving it was issued to the 7th Cav pre Little Big Horn, or having evidence post LBH. Is there are no documented serial numbers of the carbines that are issued to specific units including the 7th Cav. Each crate of carbines shipped from the Armory contained 20 carbines in non sequential/mixed serial numbers and a different crate may have rifles with hundreds of numbers different. Here's a sampling of some other fairly close serial numbers to mine that is llisted in the Springfield Research reference books I have where some time in a guns history it's serial number had been recorded on some document for some reason, (example turned in for repair, replaced part, etc.), and all are listed to different units and all the listings are post dated LBH not pre dated which would really provide good evidence.
    35548, 7th Cav listed 1-3-80
    35818, 5th Cav listed 4-29-79
    35487, 7th Cav listed 08-77
    35624, 2nd Cav listed 10-12-78
    35677, 3rd Cav listed 4-29-79

  9. #9


    Hi RayG, A real piece of US Military history and beautifulll presentation of photos and facts. Congratulations. You are probably aware but just in case you are not, there was a major fire across the LBH battle site a few years back and the decission was made to sweep the area for artifacts etc. Quite a lot of fired ordnance was found and some unfired as were some human remains. The sweep was carried out in a very scientific fasion with all arifact's locations plotted and recorded. Ergo, the sweep was able to ascertain the various locations of groups of troops and how the "battle" was conducted. Of greater interest to you may be the fact that every piece of ordnance was clinicaly inspected and the results logged. To cut a long story short, not so long ago a Cavalry weapon turned up in very poor condition and was inspected. It was catagoricaly proven through balistic checks and testing to have been fired at the LBH and needless to say, its value rocketed. The point of my post is to suggest to you that it may pay you to contact the authorities concerned and possibly get you weapon tested?? Further, the sweep was filmed and shown on one of the history channels over here in the UK not so long ago and it may be on U Tube?? If you have not seen it, it is well worth finding and viewing. Given the facts that your item has not been modified in accordance with US Army requirements and is in such good condition, perhaps it was found after the battle by a civilian and kept as a momento? If only artifacts could tell their own stories????????

    I hope that this is of interest to you? As a matter of interest, one of my ambitions is to visit the LBH one day!

    Thank you once again for showing a true piece of American Indian Wars history
    Regards and best wishes Michael Ryan UK

  10. #10


    Hi, As a PS to my last post I would like to add that the last thing that I would have expected to see on this Forum is an item that had connections with the Battle of the Little Big Horn. To me this shows the credibility, spectrum, professionalism and sheer/vast circumferance of knowledge and interests encompassed within this Forum. It also tells me exactly why I am a member and am proud to say, "yes I am one of them".
    Cheers MR

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