Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-50 Conversion Repeating Lever Rifle Antique

SOLD FOR: $2790

LSB#: 220109RB004

Make: Spencer Repeating Rifle Co.

Model: Spencer Carbine, Model 1860

Serial#: 61082

Year of Manufacture: 1863-1865, Antique

Caliber: .56-50 Centerfire

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

Markings: The top of the receiver is marked with a faded Spencer Repeating Rifle Company stamp and is marked with the serial number “61082”. The left side of the receiver, just ahead of the saddle ring bar assembly, is marked “R”. The left side of the barrel is marked “W” and “R”. The right side of the lever is marked “R”. The right side of the breech block is marked with what appears to be a faded “W”. The bottom of the barrel, concealed by the forend, is serial matched and “6”.  The top of the upper block is marked “&” and appears to be an aftermarket replacement.

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 light-moderate handling marks, compressions, nicks and scuffs. Notably, there is a crack at the top of the wrist which originates from the receiver, there is a small and long crack which both  originate from the tip of sling bar assembly and extend onto the butt, there is a light crack which originates on the right side of the bottom tang and extends onto the wrist and there is some light wear at the toe. The LOP is 13” from the trigger to the rear end of the butt-plate. Overall, the stocks are in Good condition for Antiques.

Type of Finish: Blue & Case Color

Finish Originality: The carbine appears to have been refinished at some point.

Bore Condition: The bore is bright with sharp rifling. There is no erosion in the bore.

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 surface oxidation. There are scattered light handling marks, nicks and scuffs. The marking at the top of the receiver is faded but the rest remain clear. The screw-heads have tool-marks but they remain serviceable. Overall, the carbine is in Good condition for an Antique.

Mechanics: 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 61802 and was manufactured between 1863-1865. It appears to have been refinished at some point, but most of the finish has worn off. The upper portion of the falling block appears to have been replaced and the rifle has been altered so that it can fire centerfire rather than rimfire cartridges. The serialization and characteristics (ie. barrel length) rules out this carbine having been a Model 1865 variant of the Spencer Carbine. 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 beautifully preserved Civil War weapon system with a nearly immaculate bore which is mechanically sound. This is one collectible you do not want to miss out on!

Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-50 Conversion Repeating Lever Rifle Antique
Spencer Model 1860 Carbine .56-50 Conversion Repeating Lever Rifle Antique