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Rare Carbine Stolen from Park Recovered and Returned

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

National Park News

A weapon stolen from Springfield Armory in the early 1970s prior to National Park Service administration has been returned to the park. On August 9th, NPS special agent-in-charge Clark Guy and special agent Jeff Pascale handed over a rare, specially-modified “trapdoor carbine” to superintendent Doug Cuillard. The carbine was one of two modified by Springfield Armory to solve a battlefield defect – its tendency to jam.  Little was done to solve the problem until the Battle of Little Big Horn, when the armory took some of the blame for the disaster. That summer, 1876, Springfield Armory experimented with attaching a cleaning rod under the barrel of the carbine. Only two of these modified carbines are known to exist and now both are back in the Springfield Armory collection. The stolen weapon first surfaced on a web site and was discovered by a private collector, Dick Hosmer. He noted the experimental modifications and suspected that the weapon had likely been stolen – and no doubt stolen from the Springfield Armory. Hosmer enlisted the help of collectors Thomas Fleming and Albert J. Frasca Ph.D., a noted author and expert on the “trapdoor” series. Frasca contacted Springfield Armory and the case was immediately turned over to Guy and Pascale. Pascale, with the assistance of Hosmer, Fleming and Frasca, began a long search for the weapon and its “owner.” Once contacted, the “owner” voluntarily handed the weapon over to the NPS for examination.  Although the serial number had been defaced, scratches and other blemishes matched perfectly with ones on the weapon on pictures taken by Frasca on an earlier research trip to Springfield Armory, leaving little doubt the weapon belonged to the armory. To corroborate this conclusion, the NPS enlisted the help of the FBI’s art crime team, which had helped in an earlier recovery.  The FBI concurred with the NPS conclusion.  After sensitive negotiations and faced with the evidence, the “owner” voluntarily turned the weapon over to the National Park Service. No charges were filed as the “owner” was unaware that he had purchased stolen government property and had fully cooperated with authorities.The recovery of the “trapdoor” carbine is an example of a successful partnership between federal agencies and the private sector. The National Park Service is grateful to these private citizens who took action to recover a piece of cultural heritage that belongs to all Americans.


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