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I have a friend working out of state on a pipeline job. He has found what is purported to be an army issue from the 1800s 45/70 Trapdoor Springfield. He says it is in good shape with good wood and all original. As far as he can tell without a borescope he said the rifling looks good and it has some sort of stamp on the stock which he thinks authenticates it as army issue. His questions are 1. is it worth $1500 2. can it safely use modern factory ammo?

If it can't use factory, where is a source of load data for the trapdoor? I have a fair selection of powder. Thinking H4895 might work.

Any possibility it might be fake?

If it were me I wouldn't be shooting it, but he asked that I check with y'all.


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Smart move. Whenever concerned about the safety of something you have no experience with, have a friend ask a bunch of strangers on the Internet.


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Whether any gun is shootable is up to the owner.

Trapdoor level load data abounds and isn’t as weak as you’d think. You may even want to work on the lighter side of it, given the Trapdoor’s buttplate.

A friend just sold a very nice example with sling, bayonet, and frog a few years ago for $1500.

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It would have to be a really nice one to fetch $1500. Bore condition is paramount if shooting is considered (as with anything else). Yeah, they're not the weak sisters we would be led to believe, but still in all I would keep loads mild and strictly follow Trapdoor-acceptable data published in loading manuals, and check headspace too. After all, the newest Trapdoor is now 130 years old and was built out of simple low carbon steel that nobody would consider using for a gun today.

I would bet that jacketed factory loads today are intended more for newer guns, but don't quote me on that. I would also avoid jacketed handloads as that stuff will wear out the soft steel barrel of a Trapdoor fairly quickly - stick with lead bullets (and mind the fact that its bore is probably oversize compared to modern .45 rifle dimensions), and good old black powder is a pretty good idea too.

The stamp he saw on the gun, if on the left side of the stock ahead of the wrist, is merely the final inspector's acceptance mark. They all got them and should still show it unless worn off from use or sanding. A nice crisp stamp usually indicates lack of use or light use - but be aware they are easily and fairly commonly reproduced too.

For that kind of money he being a newbie to them ought to have it checked out in person by someone who knows the rifles. Just about as good, buy a book or two and read up on them first. Caveat emptor.

Last edited by gnoahhh; 12/02/23.

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Thanks for the info. I told him to check Gunbroker and other online sales for actual bids not just asking price. He is sort of a gun nut when it comes to older rifles. I have a match grade M1 Garand that was made in the 1950s he has been pestering me about. It has had maybe 2000 rounds fired from it but is still pretty accurate. I've only shot it a few times. I used a 47 grain load of IMR 4064 and a 150grain bullet if I remember correctly.


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This is one of the myriad repetitive questions of the general category: "I have a gun, what is it worth? Is it safe to shoot? Etc! I think it's fair for knowledgeable folks to set a maximum if it was an outstanding specimen, but as far as safety goes, nothing is going to beat having it properly checked out by someone competent.
Factory 45/70 commercial ammo by the well known manufacturers is available spec'd to such rifles, but there are always the "hot loads" to be found that are a danger. There may also be laws impacting a non-resident's ability to "acquire", "possess", "transport" in the purchase State or the buyer's home state or residence. The fact that the Federal Government may regard it as a "non-firearm" or exempt it from regulatory controls, doesn't mean either the State of sale or residency" state may exempt it.

Were I advising a bud, I'd likely say skip it because of the unknowns presented in such broad question from value, condition and legal issues(s).

Just my take.
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John

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I have my great grandfather’s Trapdoor. This is the inspector’s stamp that has been mentioned.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

He was in the NY National Guard marksmanship team sometime near the turn of the century.

We shot this, maybe 30 years ago with regular Remington jacketed ammunition. I need to start loading blackpowder loads for this.

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Like all military guns, it was most certainly returned to an arsenal at some point. The inspector' cartouche may or may not match the year of production.
Go to Trapdoorcollector.com
He literally wrote the book on Trapdoors.
I still have a 1879 Model carbine that was made in 1880. Due to rust pits I had it relined. Original bores are over sized. Generally bores run .460 - .462". Modern 45-70 run .457 or .458". They were made tis way for soft lead bullets (20-1 lead to tin) and black powder. With the black powder the bullets "bump up" to fill the bore. I shoot low pressure smokeless with soft cast bullets at .460" sized and lubed. Black powderoad shoot well but you need to clean the cases afterwards as the powder residue will pot the cases if left go. Trapdoor don't like hard cast bullets and jacket bullets are hard on the bore due to the jacket and gas blow-by.
Value depends on correct lockplate and sights. Many early guns were later fitted with the 1884 Buffington rear sight.
Trapdoor are a rabbit hole I went down 30 years ago and never escaped

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Haven't seen one yet I thought was worth 1500. A bud bought one last year that was documented as 1 of 24 built for the Sandyhook LR trials chambered for 45-90 he made a score and a half on that deal for about 2000. They were made for black.powder, use it or just look at it. You asked.


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Go to any gunshow, walk out with a very good quality trapdoor from 600 to 900 bucks. Forget jacketed, Just a little reading and he will be up and running with soft bullets, available powders, and all with cheap Lee Mold and dies.


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Originally Posted by WStrayer
Like all military guns, it was most certainly returned to an arsenal at some point. The inspector' cartouche may or may not match the year of production.
Go to Trapdoorcollector.com
He literally wrote the book on Trapdoors.
I still have a 1879 Model carbine that was made in 1880. Due to rust pits I had it relined. Original bores are over sized. Generally bores run .460 - .462". Modern 45-70 run .457 or .458". They were made tis way for soft lead bullets (20-1 lead to tin) and black powder. With the black powder the bullets "bump up" to fill the bore. I shoot low pressure smokeless with soft cast bullets at .460" sized and lubed. Black powderoad shoot well but you need to clean the cases afterwards as the powder residue will pot the cases if left go. Trapdoor don't like hard cast bullets and jacket bullets are hard on the bore due to the jacket and gas blow-by.
Value depends on correct lockplate and sights. Many early guns were later fitted with the 1884 Buffington rear sight.
Trapdoor are a rabbit hole I went down 30 years ago and never escaped
What smokeless powder do you use and the bullet weight and powder weight please?


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Anecdotally, the only rifle I ever had stolen (knock on wood) was a pristine M1884 cavalry carbine. The young punk got caught and punished but I never got the gun back. He stated "none of my buddies wanted it because it was old and they couldn't find bullets for it." The gun evidently changed hands somewhere else in the underworld and the trail went cold.


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For the soft cast I use my dwindling stock of St4759.
IMR 4198 is a favorite. It shoots very well for me with the Speer 400 JFP. Same with a Speer 300 JHP. But remember that my carbine was relined so jacketed bullets are OK in it now.
If the weather holds, I will take it out tomorrow fir my last hunt of the year.

Last edited by WStrayer; 12/05/23.
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My biggest issue with the rifle and Cadet guns is the sights. The fro t sight blade is low. I find them to shoot about 9" high at 100 yards. They are regulated to shoot point of aim at 165. The carbines have a pinned blade that can be swapped out with a higher one and then filed down to point of aim at 100.

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I shoot a 300 grain water quenched hard cast bullet in my .45-70 Ruger #1. 350 grain jacketed soft points over a healthy charge of 3031 will back someone out from under his hat- - - -One of my friends calls them "slobber-knockers". How about Trail Boss as a propellant for the trapdoor rifle?


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Trail Boss can be used in every application, but I have never found it to best in anything...just adequate.

If I was going to advise a newbie, I'd say start with good old Unique...10 to 13 grains, no fillers or powder positioners, a soft 9 to 12 Bhn alloy bullet, the classic 405 carbine bullet will shoot well in anything. If that's insufficient recoil....use the same bullet and a RL-7/4198 family burn rate powder for 1300 to 1400 fps to regulate to the sights. Everybody will chime in here....how dare you not to mention 5744...well it works pretty well in the trapdoor, but if you are squeamish about scorched and unburned powder in the barrel after every shot you will want to pass it by.
If your trapdoor is not a pristine collector...you can vastly improve the Buffington sights by adding around .075" to the front sight and opening the notch on the rear with a tiny die file.


Well this is a fine pickle we're in, should'a listened to Joe McCarthy and George Orwell I guess.
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Trail Boss= higher pressure, lower velocity. Mediocre accuracy in about everything I've tried it in. Some folks get excellent accuracy and love it but I fear they're in the minority. Poor bang for the buck IMO. Moot point because it hasn't been available for quite some time and the manufacturer says "maybe in the future".


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Have handloaded for one 1884, made in 1889--which I inherited from my father.

It had .458 grooves, but the bore was pretty rough--mostly from machining marks. It shot very well with the old Remington factory loads my father had, which were probably from around 1950, with the 405-grain jacketed bullet Remington still occasionally makes today. It also shot very well with the same bullet in handloads using IMR4895 that got "black powder" velocities. Never noticed any "washing out" of the bore with them, except the machining marks got somewhat smoother as I kept shooting it

Its best black powder load was NOT with softer cast bullets, but the relatively hard Cast Performance 460-grain flat-nose, which grouped just about the same with Goex FFG and Accurate 5744.

All of which just proves something handloaders tend to experience: All rifles are individuals.


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My father always liked to use Unique with the 485 grain cast bullets. I didn't like it because of the possibility of an inadvertent double charge; I preferred 4198. Sure enough, he double charged one and ruined my pristine Springfield, which he had borrowed for a match. The rifle shot well with Remington factory loads. I use factory equivalent loads in a H&R replica with no apparent ill effects. I would feel fine using the same load in any original. GD


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