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Re: Model 1873 questions
Posted by Pete Nelson on Friday, 28 May 2010, at 2:36 p.m., in response to Re: Model 1873 questions, posted by Patrick Murray on Friday, 28 May 2010, at 9:08 a.m.
Hello Pat, and thanks for the full serial number (333906). I checked through all four Volumes of the SRS "SERIAL NUMBERS OF U.S. MARTIAL ARMS" and found clusters of 333000 serial numbers of varying length, but the closest numbers to yours were in Volume-2  and Volume-3 .
In Volume-2,333901 was listed as an "84R" [Model 1884 "standard" Service Rifle, not a Round Rod-Bayonet Rifle] with a date-of-record listed only as "98" and associated with "COMPANY-C of the 32ND MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY" (it was in with a number of other "84Rs" also associated with "THE 32ND". And although there isn't enough there to make any inferences, 333970 was also listed as a Model "84R" and also associated with "THE 32ND".
In Volume-3, 333894 is listed as an "84R" with a date-of-record of 02-13-1887 and as having been associated with "COMPANY-G OF THE 24TH INFANTRY (?)", nothing more definitive than that.
Unfortunately there are, with very rare exceptions, no specific records exist which would give any clue as to when the gun might have been re-blued - - or had other refurbishment work done, other than the year stamped in the cartouche block.
The stamped inscription "U.S./MODEL/1873 is quite correct on the Breech Block. The change from "U.S./MODEL/1873" to "U.S./MODEL/1884" was not implemented until about mid-1887, as you noted in your posting. And that change occurred at serial number circa 366000, which means that, according to the Model 1884R production records, something like 38,500, or 26%, of the total of 148,796 of the Model 1884 Rifles produced were issued with "1873"-stamped Breech Blocks).
And the Model 1884 (the "Buffington") Rear Sight is also quite correct and was apparently used right from the beginning of Model 1884 Rifle production, although there has been mention of technical problems early in the production of the first "Buffington" rear sights, problems relating to the rack-and-pinion mechanism used to set the height of the Slider. The mechanism would not hold the Slider at the set position but allowed it to slip down in the rails of the Leaf. The design was eventually scrapped in favor of a more positive friction system utilizing a modified Elevation Knob. I am not aware of how many of the 6,020 Model 1884 Rifles produced in calendar year 1885 may have first been fitted with the rack-and-pinion design, but they would have been retrofitted with the modified design.
I am not aware of any database, other than the SRS Archival System, which has any (reliable) information regarding cross-referencing issued serial numbers and the units to which they were assigned. The Springfield Armory did indeed refurbish a number of arms, some for Spanish-American War service, and this often did involved re-bluing of barrels and other component parts. And the quality of the bluing/"blackening"/"browning" process which was done by the Springfield Armory was second-to-none, as was its machining and assembly work.
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