Springfield Armory M1870 Navy Rifle .50-70 Govt 32.5″ Rolling Block Antique
SOLD FOR: $1400
Make: Springfield Armory
Model: 1870, Navy Rifle
Year of Manufacture: Circa 1870, ATF Antique
Caliber: .50-70 Govt.
Action Type: Single-Shot Rolling Block style Rifle
Markings: The top of the barrel, between the rear sight and chamber ring is marked with an anchor. The left side of the barrel has the inspector’s marking “P / H.B.R”. The top tang is marked “REMINGTONS PATENT / PAT. MAY 3D NOV 15TH 1864 APRIL 17TH 1868”. The butt-plates top tang is marked “US”. The right side of the action is marked with the Great Seal of the United States (an Eagle) above “USN / SPRINGFIELD / 1870”.
Barrel Length: 32 1/2”
Sights/ Optics: The front sight is a standard military blade by the muzzle. The rear sight is a folding ladder which presents a “V”-notch in the down position. When raised the ladder presents an integral “V”-notch at the top and a “V”-notch slider. The rear end of the ladder is marked “7”, “5”, “3” and “2”.
Stock Configuration & Condition/ Grip: The stocks are two piece smooth wood featuring a metal forend cap, a slot in the forend for the included cleaning rod, two barrel bands, a straight wrist, a straight comb and semi-crescent butt-plate. There is a sling swivel fixed to the bottom of the front barrel band and one fixed to the front of the trigger guard. The stocks have scattered light handling marks, compressions, nicks and scuffs. Notably, there is a light crack on the top of the wrist originating from the left side of the top-tang, a crack on the left side of the forend ahead of the front barrel band and a light crack on the left side of the forend which extends from the action to the barrel. The LOP is approximately 13 1/2” from the trigger to the rear end of the butt-plate. The buttplate has some moderate handling marks and is coated in light surface oxidation. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good condition for antiques.
Type of Finish: White Metal
Finish Originality: Original
Bore Condition: The bore is grey with mostly sharp rifling. There is scattered pitting throughout the bore.
Overall Condition: The rifle was originally finished in the white but the butt-plate appears to have been blued. The buttplate has some trace bluing present but it is coated in mild surface oxidation. The rest of the rifle is in the white and is coated in scattered patches of light surface oxidation. There are light to moderate handling marks, nicks and scuffs on the gun’s metal surfaces. Notably, there is a moderate patch of oxidation on the right side of the muzzle. The Great Seal of the United States on the receiver and the cartouches on the stocks have faded but the rest of the markings remain clear. The screwheads have light-moderate tool-marks but they remain serviceable. Overall, the rifle is in Very Good condition for an Antique.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. We did not fire this rifle. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance requirements.
Box Paperwork and Accessories: The rifle comes with an Ames Mfg. Co. USN Model 1870 Rifle, Type 2 sword bayonet. The bottom right portion of the blade is marked “AMES MFG CO / CHICOPEE, / MASS.” The bayonet has a metal blade and textured brass handle. There are scattered patches of verdigris on the handle and some light patches of discoloration. The blade appears to have been blued and is coated to moderate surface oxidation having taken on a patina color. Overall, the bayonet is in Very Good condition for an Antique.
Our Assessment: This Springfield Armory manufactured Navy Rifle Model 1870 is a rolling block chambered for .50-70 Government cartridges. The story of the M1870 Navy Rifle typifies the shady business practices carried out by Remington during the 19th century. These rifles were manufactured at Springfield Armory under contract with Remington (hence the marking on the top-tang) meaning that Remington secured a royalty for every unit produced. The Navy claimed that the distance between the rear sight and action was too short and could endanger users, thus the first 10,000 were rejected. These first models’ rear sights were only 1/2” in front of the receiver! This rifle was part of the second batch of these rifles which placed the rear sight approximately 3 1/8” away from the action to rectify the issue. Remington began to buy these rifles from the US Government on behalf of the French who were fighting a losing war against Prussia. The sale of weapons by the Ordnance Department to a belligerent in a conflict where the United States was supposed to be neutral was obviously problematic. Thus Remington was banned from purchasing arms from the Ordnance Department in October of 1870. Undeterred, Remington utilized the services of Baltimore based firm Poultney & Trimble to complete the purchase of these M1870 rifles for France. Remington did not seem to make much effort to conceal its war profiteering. In September of 1870, George Bancroft who was serving as the US minister to Prussia reported how “the French streamer Pereire, which on its voyage from New York touched at Brest, had on board [destined] for Havre a considerable number of Remington guns. This fact is also known to the government here [the Prussian government].” Despite this Remington does not appear to have received any further sanction for its activities. While France ended up losing the war, Remington made massive profits from its sales to the country. The M1870 rifles were sold off by France after the war with most either being sold off to Latin American countries or being sold on the civilian market. Despite the unscrupulous activities undertaken by Remington, the M1870 Navy Rifles are well made rifles but they have a long and complex history. This particular rifle’s most peculiar feature is the blued butt-plate, otherwise it appears to be in its original configuration and it remains mechanically sound. The rifle’s a fascinating old antique that you do not want to miss out on!