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Recovery of Stolen Weapon

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

National Park News

An extremely rare, experimental Springfield “Trapdoor” carbine – stolen from the Armory Museum in the 1970’s – has been recovered and returned to the Armory Museum. It was developed to correct a fatal weakness in the original design -- which contributed to the Army’s infamous defeat at Little Big Horn. Custer’s troops carried standard U.S. Model 1873 breech-loading carbines, often called “Trapdoors” after their hatch-like breech cover. With Indians attacking from all sides, these guns frequently jammed with expended shell casings stuck in the breech. Many soldiers died trying to pry out the spent shells in a desperate effort to keep firing. Afterwards, the Ordnance Department ordered the Springfield Armory to solve this problem.
In response to this order, the Armory built two experimental carbines – one with a special extraction device, the other with a special rod – both intended to improve the gun’s shell-extraction performance. In the end, neither was adopted and the Trapdoors were soon replaced with bolt-action models -- thus making these prototypes among the rarest Springfield weapons ever produced. One of these unique arms was stolen form the Armory Museum during the decade (1968 – 78) after the Army left and before the National Park Service took over its management.
After passing through several hands, the carbine was put up for auction by its most recent owner who was unaware that his gun was stolen federal property. The National Park Service initiated an investigation, and -- through the use of modern forensic technology – determined that the weapon was in fact the missing prototype. The weapon will be formally returned to Springfield National Historic Site Museum during a brief press conference August 9, at 11:00 a.m. The public is also invited to attend.
Springfield Armory Superintendent, J. Douglas Cuillard, states: “We are thrilled to have yet another piece of America’s heritage returned to the Armory. And I’m gratified and proud of our Park Service Special Agents, the FBI, and a private “Trapdoor” expert who helped identify and recover this weapon.” The recovered weapon is valued between $20,000 and $40,000.
Springfield Armory NHS is the only federal National Park site in western Massachusetts. The Armory Museum is open to the public from Memorial Day - Labor Day, Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, Labor Day - Memorial Day, Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. In addition to its permanent exhibits, the Armory Museum offers special tours, an orientation film, and a gift shop.
For further information, call 413-734-8551


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