Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
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    Feb 2010
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    Default Trapdoor Springfield

    I want to try shooting an 1888 Trapdoor Springfield to the range to fire for the first time. I have ammo made for trapdoor spring Felds. Does anyone have any experience with this gun or the 1884 Trapdoor? Wanted to know if they are generally safe to fire.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    Yes, so long as it is in good condition. You should use factory ammo marked "for all rifles" or wording to that effect. It was designed for low pressure loading with lead bullets. The M1873 an related models is a black powder era weapon. There are three different sets of reloading data for it based on the Springfield, more modern weapons like the Marlin, and super strong single shots like the Ruger #1.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    I have an 1888 and it shoots fine. I scrubbed the bore gave it a VERY close inspection but that was all it needed. But it was in good condition. If your is in poor condition, has a lot of pitting on the inside, or a lot of play in the trapdoor "trap" be careful.

    I shoot only cast lead bullets (400 gr) and a charge that is on the light side even for the published Springfield loads. Just so you know, they usually shoot 1-2 ft high at 50 yards. I put one target on top of the other and shoot at the low one. Look at your group on the top one. You can get a replacement front site blade to fix this but I never bothered. Want to keep it totally authentic.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    I shoot my 1884, and it's a pleasure! I use Winchester 300 grain ammo. Mine is I very good condition and quite accurate for an old gun.
    Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    (Philadelphia County)
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    Find Spence Wolf's book about reloading for the Trapdoor. It is something of a bible for Trapdoor enthusiasts

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Levittown, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    With the Buffington rear sight laid down and back, it is zeroed for 265 yards. Mine is also an 1888 (has the round 3-bladed bayonet looking a bit like a Phillips screwdriver) that was assembled in 1890. It is normal for the receiver to be dated 1884 and used over many years. Mine impacts 9 inches high at 50 yards with the loads I am shooting, using 405 grain .458" lead bullets, paper-wrapped to .464" to accommodate a (slugged) .463 bore. I shoot modern smokeless powder, 22.5 grains of IMR 4759, unavailable for years now. When the 4759 is gone, it's gone. But there are other choices. In the large .45-70 case a small wad of Dacron is recommended to keep the powder back at the flash hole. The used softener sheets from the laundry works perfectly. Starline sells the brass.

    There is a lot of info available googling and books available such as (For Collectors Only (R)) The .45-70 Springfield by Joe Poyer and Craig Riesch. There is a download PDF book Loading Cartridges for the .45-70 Rifle and Carbine by J.S. and Pat Wolf for $25.

    There are many smokeless powder loads available which I won't post here because I have not used them and cannot vouch. If interested PM me and I'll send them.

    The 1873 Trapdoor is rich in historical lore. The original load was black powder, of course, and used a bullet that printed high as described by Delkal. The soldiers were issued the rifles (and cavalry such as Custers 7th Cavalry received carbines) but were not properly trained prior to being sent to war. It has been said that the American Indians approached our soldiers to within 20 yards, easy bow and tomahawk-throwing distance, confident that the soldiers would likely miss if they shot at them. It is one of the rifles used to create the sickeningly huge piles of bison aka buffalo in the quest to starve the Indian and deprive them of needed warm clothing.

    Black powder or substitute is something I have never tried in my Trapdoor. Don't see any need to. The wrapped paper bullets is an interesting old-time remedy for oversized bores, which a lot of rifles were from the day they were born.
    Last edited by Bang; March 14th, 2017 at 10:14 PM.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2010
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    (Berks County)
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    Run mine with 405grn cast and 3031. I'd recommend doing research before loading smokeless so I'll avoid putting a load in a post. As long as they are tight and in good shape they are fun to shoot. Have fun and stay safe.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    The hollow base cast bullet of a softer comp of lead was designed for oversized bores. The pressure expands the base to fill and seal the bore and grab the rifling. Allowing hot gasses to pass by a lead bullet leads the bore, among other negatives. But there is a limit to the differences.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    North Penn area, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    FYI , just because the breach block says 1884 , doesn't mean that's the model of the rifle. Breech blocks were reused in new and rebuilt rifles and most 1888 rifles have blocks that say 1884.



    My 1888 (sliding ramrod bayonet) didn't shoot worth a hoot with .458 cast bullets , till I followed the advise of an old caster who told me to try hollow base or bullets sized .461. I could actually hear the .458's fluttering sideways thru the air.

    Loaded up some bullets cast from straight wheelweights and BINGO! 3in groups at 100yds.
    I don't speak English , I talk American!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Bucks County, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Trapdoor Springfield

    Might be a good idea to have a competent gunsmith look at it first. I had a really good example but sold it before I had a chance to shoot it.

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