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Re: End of a long search

Posted by Dick Hosmer on Monday, 31 January 2011, at 1:45 a.m., in response to Re: End of a long search, posted by Ernie Brandt on Sunday, 30 January 2011, at 9:42 p.m.

It is a collectible, not a shooter.

I know enough not to do anything irreversible - replacing a breechblock (especially if the first one is tagged and bagged) is not a big deal, and can always be undone. Not that I LIKE having to do it, but that is a far cry from re-machining, altering finishes, building up whole guns from parts, etc.

From the location of the rear sight, it IS one of the first M1870 type arms produced, but, the block is neither what Al says it should be, nor what I believe it should be. So, leaving it alone, while certainly having some merit, does not necessarily make it "correct". Who put the wrong block in it? An official rebuild/overhaul? Maybe, maybe not, we'll never know.

I feel that it should have a block of 1870 machining, but no "Model". The new block profiling (allowing greater opening, and reducing weight, was one of THE differences noted PRIOR to authorization to make the Trials guns. The rifles were made first, but still WELL after being told to make said arms with the new features.

WHY should they have utilized old blocks? This was a trial/test/experiment/whatever - NOT, as would occur later with the 1873/1884 block transition - simply using IDENTICAL old stock to exhaustion. They were specifically told to make guns per the approved design, with the new features, including the lightened, wider opening, block. They did so on the carbines. WHY should we assume they chose NOT to do so on the rifles? Assuming they did, WHAT would be the point of the test/trial? The new sight notch? Give me a break.

One also needs to understand the relevance and significance of the word "Model". Up until that point, SA had been skirting some patent issues, and was in serious legal trouble because of it. No prior arm had ever been marked "Model". The 1870 Trials trapdoors (of Allin design) were NOT yet the "U.S. Rifle Model 1870" - they were only contenders for that title. That is why the "Model" marking does not occur until the second run, AFTER the trials. Was the deck stacked? Of course it was, but the formalities still had to be observed.

The 1872 RCO does little to clarify the situation - unfortunately, I do not have either the 1871 or the 1873. They might help. The OD "exploded" photograph of the arm purported to have been the trial piece is misleading, because it shows the forward sight and the double-shoulder rod! So, not all contemporary references are in agreement, or even useful.

I have, for many years, owned an 1870 rifle with the 1870 block without "Model" (same as on my carbine); it has the forward-mounted sight and M1868 rod. I'd always considered it as "early second run", and that may well be correct. It then appears there could be THREE (or more) distinct versions of the 1870, if all of the features did not change at once. Even if I wanted to, a rather peculiar "toning" of that entire rifle would preclude taking the block from it and putting in the Trials rifle.

It's a bit of a mess. My "late second run" rifle has NO issues whatsoever, other than that I wish it were a little nicer, but nice 1870s are HARD to find. I do wish to hear other opinions, but, do not worry, I won't do anything stupid!


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