There is probably no single weapon of the US Civil War that is more representative of the overwhelming force of industry and technology brought to bear by the North against the South than the US M-1860 Spencer Carbine, more commonly known simply as the Spencer. Various single-shot, breech-loading percussion carbines were the standard issue US cavalry long arms prior to the war, and most of these guns remained in heavy use through the closing days of the war. However, the Spencer firmly established the era of repeating carbines firing metallic cartridges by the end of 1863. The “horizontal shot tower”, as some affectionately (or sometimes derisively) referred to the Spencer, was in essence the original assault rifle. While the Henry Rifle offered a greater number of cartridges in the magazine, the .44RF Henry round was essentially the ballistic equal to a pistol cartridge. The .52 caliber 56-56 RF Spencer round was much more comparable to a real service rifle load and delivered far greater downrange stopping power. The Spencer was also very fast to reload, with a 7 round tubular magazine that fed through the buttstock, troopers could carry pre-loaded magazine tubes and reload almost as quickly as a modern shooter exchanges them on a modern magazine fed rifle or pistol. While the Spencer shooter did have to manually cock the hammer for each shot (the Henry had a speed advantage here, since the toggle action that operated the bolt to eject and load a new round also cocked the hammer), the robust design and powerful cartridge combined to make it the most prized, and most feared, cavalry long arm of the American Civil War. Roughly 50,000 of these carbines were produced (in the 11,000 to 61,000 serial number range) between 1863 and 1865 and almost all of them saw service during the war. After the war, many were altered and modified at US armories and many remained in service on the frontier through the early 1870s.
This is a FINE example of the US M-1860 Spencer carbine. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original in every way, and remains in very crisp condition. The gun is an un-altered example with no post-war modifications. There has been no Stabler cut-off added and the original 6-gorove .52 caliber bore remains intact. The action works perfectly, both in terms of cycling the breech and cocking and firing the gun. The gun also retains its original sling ring and buttstock swivel. The original rear sight is in place and flips up as it should, and the original front sight is present as well. The original and correct Civil War period magazine tube is in place in the butt of the gun and functions as it should. The tube is complete and free of any of the commonly encountered breaks or cracks to the thin metal. The gun retains reasonably clear markings on the receiver, the top of which is roll stamped in three lines: SPENCER REPEATING - / RIFLE CO BOSTON, MASS, / PAT’d MARCH 6, 1860. The serial number 53969 is very clearly stamped into the rear of the upper receiver, in front of the buttstock joint. The matching serial number is present on the barrel, under the forend. Based upon Spencer serial numbers in the same range, as listed in the four serial number books by Springfield Research Service, this gun was likely in the field by the fall of 1864. The closest serial number to this gun that is listed in these sources is, #53968, which was issued to Company E of the 6th Indiana Cavalry in the fall of 1864 and was recorded in service with the regiment in January of 1865. The 6th Indiana was a relatively late war cavalry regiment, raised in 1863 and which saw service in the Western Theater. The 6th Indiana was involved in every major series of engagements in the west from Atlanta campaign through the Tennessee campaign, including Franklin and Nashville.
The gun is in about FINE condition overall. It has a very attractive smooth plum-brown patina over most of the metal, with about 10%+ of the original blued finish mixed in and shot through the plum patina. Under normal lighting this lovely combination of plum patina and 10%+ finish looks much more like a 30%+ finish carbine. The patina shows some scattered age staining and oxidized freckling mixed along its length, with a few scattered patches of very minor surface oxidation present. The metal is mostly smooth throughout with the barrel showing only some small, scattered areas of light pinpricking near the receiver and the muzzle. The receiver and frame retains about 15% of its original vivid case coloring, which is most visible in the protected areas behind the hammer and on the top of the receiver where the serial number is located. The balance of the receiver is a mixture of mottled silvery gray, and mottled browns and purples. The right side of the receiver shows a streaky brownish patina over smoky gray metal, while the left side is mostly a lovely tobacco brown patina with dark purplish splotches of faded case coloring. Like the barrel, the barrel shows some freckled surface oxidation ad minor pinpricking on its surfaces. The interior of the breechblock retains about 50% vivid case coloring, with mottled blues, purples and browns over a medium pewter gray patina. The lock plate case coloring has faded to a dark gray smoky patina. The lock plate has a mostly smooth tobacco brown patina, with the previously mentioned traces of vivid case coloring where the hammer has protected it. The hammer retains about 20%+ original case coloring, most of which is on the inside (reverse) face of the hammer and hammer body. The exterior of the hammer has a smooth brown patina that matches the lock and barrel of the carbine very well. The rear sight retains some nice blue on the ladder, some fire blue on the spring and some brilliant fire blue on the sight tension screw. The sight is complete, original and fully functional. The bore retains excellent 6-groove rifling and rates about VERY FINE. The bore is almost entirely bright, showing only some light pinpricking along its entire length, with a couple of tiny spots of very light pitting. The stock is in FINE condition as well. It is not typical to find a Civil War issued Spencer cavalry carbine with visible cartouches, as they were normally obliterated by wear in that area from the carbine sling and swivel. Both cartouches remain quite visible and legible on the reverse wrist of the carbine. A legible script MMJ (armory sub-inspector Martin M. Johnson) is present at a right angle to the rear of the sling bar, and an even nicer script DAP (armory sub-inspector Dwight A. Perkins) is present horizontally to the rear of the first cartouche. The buttstock of the carbine is solid and is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. It is not uncommon to find Spencers with significant cracking in the buttstock due to this structural weakness, and it is nice to see one without that problem. Both the buttstock and the forend shows a significant number of bumps, dings, rubs and mars, all the result of service and use in the field. Both the stock and forend remain quite crisp and show no indications of sanding or other forms of abuse, only real world handling and use.
The overall condition of this Spencer is tremendously better than the typical Spencer carbine seen for sale these days. This is an extremely attractive Spencer that is 100% complete, correct and original. The gun is in its original Civil War configuration and has no post-war alterations, which is a nice bonus. This gun would be a wonderful addition to a higher grade Civil War carbine collection, and is tremendously nicer than the gray and brown Spencers that are available these days in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. Realistically, you would probably have to spend in excess of $5,000 to find a nicer and crisper example of a US M-1860 Spencer carbine. A Spencer carbine is an essential addition to any Civil War collection. Even if carbines are not your thing, no collection of Civil War arms is complete without a Spencer, and if you were to only have one Civil War carbine, no other one is the carbine most associated with the American Civil War.SOLD