Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-56 Rimfire 22″ Repeating Lever Rifle Antique

SOLD FOR: $2500

LSB#: 220117RW011

Make: Spencer Repeating Rifle Co.

Model: Spencer Carbine, Model 1860

Serial#: 32848

Year of Manufacture: 1863-1865, Antique

Caliber: .56-56 Spencer Rimfire

Action Type: Lever-Actuated Repeating Rifle with a Butt-Fed Magazine

Markings: The top of the receiver is marked “SPENCER REPEATING / RIFLE CO. BOSTON MASS. / PAT’D MARCH 6 1860” and features the serial number “32848”. The left side of the receiver, just ahead of the saddle ring bar assembly, is marked “J”. The right side of the lever is marked “R”. The right side of the lower and upper breech block are both marked “J”. The bottom of the barrel, concealed by the forend, is serial matched and “PR”.

Barrel Length: 22”

Sights/ Optics: The front sight is a blade fixed to a base by the muzzle. The rear sight is a ladder sight 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 ladder is marked 2-8, inclusive.

Stock Configuration & Condition/ Grip: The stocks are two-piece wood featuring a forend secured by a screw, a barrel band, a straight wrist, a straight comb and a metal butt-plate with a slot for the tubular magazine. There is a sling-bar on the left side of the wrist with a fixed saddle ring. There is a sling-swivel fixed to the belly. The stocks have moderate handling marks, compressions, nicks and scuffs. Notably, there are scattered moderate-heavy wear on the forend, a ding around the tip of the sling bar assembly, a light crack which extends from the bottom tang to the right side of the butt, there are a few scattered scrapes on the right side of the butt and some moderate wear centered on the left side of the butt. The LOP is 13” from the trigger to the rear end of the butt-plate. The top of the butt-plate is heavily worn. Overall, the stocks are in Fair-Good condition for Antiques.

Type of Finish: Blue & Case Color

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is dark with mostly sharp rifling. There is scattered erosion concentrated in the rifling and some scattered pitting.

Overall Condition: The carbine retains about 15% of its metal finish. The remaining blue finish is concentrated on the barrel, concealed under the forend. There is some trace case coloring on the receiver and lock-plate. The metal parts of the carbine are coated in light-moderate surface oxidation and have taken a patina color. There are scattered light handling marks, nicks and scuffs. The markings are slightly obscured by oxidation but remain clear. The screw-heads have tool-marks but they remain serviceable. Overall, the carbine is in Good condition for an Antique.

Mechanics: The magazine still can be removed and inserted but it is finicky. The lip of the magazine is damaged and it can not retain rounds. Otherwise, the action functions correctly. We have not fired this carbine. As with all previously owned firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.

Box Paperwork and Accessories: None.

Our Assessment: 

The Spencer Carbine was created by Christopher Miner Spencer in 1860. Spencer was a Northerner, and when the Civil War broke out a year later he was eager to offer his novel weapon system to the United States military. The Army initially rejected the 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 were purchased in 1862 and early 1863, the weapon system remained sidelined.

At the massive clash at Gettysburg, where US forces decisively defeated a massive Confederate invasion into the North, the Spencer Carbine played a decisive role. During the battle, General George Armstrong Custer’s 5th Michigan Cavalry Brigade,  had utilized the advanced Spencer Carbine to defeat an attack led by General J.E.B. Stuart who outnumbered his force by a margin 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, he had a personal experience with them that 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 invention, Spencer secured a meeting with the President. The following day the President fired a Spencer (it is unclear what exact model 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. The weapon system proved its worth on the battlefield, it was reliable and highly effective. Although Confederate forces did capture some Spencers, the Confederacy lacked the manufacturing capabilities to reverse engineer it and it saw only limited use among Southern forces. Interestingly, John Wilkes Booth had Spencer Carbine with him as he made his final stand after having assassinated President Lincoln. Following the end of the conflict, Spencer Repeating Rifle Co. went under for it had become over reliant on government contracts to remain solvent.  John M. Spencer passed away in 1922 at the age of 89 having left a massive impact on the world.

This Spencer Carbine is serial number 32848 and was manufactured between 1863-1865, it is chambered for .56-56 Spencer rimfire cartridges. It appears to be in its original configuration. There are no visible cartouches on the stocks, it is unclear if they wore off or this was a privately acquired specimen. This gun remains a nicely preserved Civil War weapon system which aside from the damaged magazine is still mechanically sound. This is one collectible you do not want to miss out on!

Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-56 Rimfire 22" Repeating Lever Rifle Antique
Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-56 Rimfire 22″ Repeating Lever Rifle Antique