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Re: In DC at NARA to research SN40825 - what records would we look for?

Posted by John on Saturday, 6 October 2012, at 10:38 a.m., in response to In DC at NARA to research SN40825 - what records would we look for?, posted by Jamie O on Saturday, 6 October 2012, at 10:08 a.m.

Jamie- Sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not as easy as that.

Frank Mallory literally spend decades digging in the Archives searching for records with serial numbers of military arms, often in cooperation with a handful of other serious researchers on quests of their own, but eager to share tidbits with others that might be useful. As a result of this, they became quite good at understanding the types of records likely to have information, as well as those where a researcher could spend days or weeks and not find a single number.

Obviously, Frank focused his efforts on records which were likely to have numbers in them, and while it is physically impossible for a single person (or even team) to dig through all the billions of pages of military records, he hit most of the likely areas. Thus while there might be some additional info buried in the Archives, the odds of finding anything are very slim. The odds of finding anything on a specific weapon are so infinitesimal as to be a total waste of time.

That said, Frank did publish his findings in a series of four volumes "Serial Number of U.S. Martial Arms" which is out of print and commands high prices when available. For a while, he also sold the data in digital form on floppy discs, and for several years he had it available on line for public use at no cost. After Frank died, the successors to the Springfield Research Service business decided that abuses and misuse of the on line information made it necessary to remove that from the internet, so it is no longer available. People can argue about that decision, but it is SRS's database and they can do with it as they please.

Currently, unless you can find someone with the books or old discs to look stuff up for you, you would need to subscribe to the SRS newsletter, and then the owner will look up a number for you and tell you "yes or no" if it is listed. If you want to know what the listing says, you have to buy a letter from them at a cost of something like $50 to several hundred dollars, with it being a crap shoot as to whether is will reveal that the gun was issued to a famous unit like Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in 1898, or reported lost by the 342nd Shoe repair company at Camp Swampy in 1923.

Your rifle being a .50-70 with numbers, it would be a Model 1868 infantry rifle, made at Springfield Armory. The .50-70 Cadet rifle was the Model 1869, numbered in their own series up to about 3,500, so you can rule that out.

I looked up your number 40825 and there was no data at all found by Mallory for that number. There was data on a fair number of rifles with nearby numbers, but they were all part of the group that were nickel plated and issued for tests to see if that finish was worth adopting for regular production. Since rifles were not assembled or issued in exact serial number sequence, we cannot make any assumptions about where your rifle was or was not issued or used.

Instead of wasting days at the Archives in a fruitless and frustrating search, I recommend you use the time to visit the NRA National Firearms Museum in nearby Fairfax. It is exceptionally well done and interesting, and free, with free convenient parking in back of the building. Or, consider a visit to the Washington Navy Yard and the excellent Navy Museum there, although that requires travel through some nasty sections of town. Or, run down I-95 to Quantico to the Marine Corps Museum.


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