The Springfield Model 1868 was a breechloading rifle developed by Springfield's Erskine S. Allin and a development of the Springfield Model 1866 rifle. The Model 1868 is considered an improved version of the Model 1866, with further refinements occuring in 1869 and 1870.
The Springfield Model 1868 was a refined version of the Model 1865, which had received criticism for its unreliability and the larger .58 caliber Minie Ball it used. The Model 1866 had resolved some of these issues, however it was still considered unreliable, the barrel lining (which would become detached when in sustained use) being the main cause of issue.
Therefore the Model 1868 used a brand new, and slightly shorter (32.5in), barrel which was bored for the .50 bullet used in the .50-70 Government Cartridge. This meant that the Model 1868 was not as popular as a conversion for the older Springfield rifles, as the barrel would have to be replaced which was more expensive and difficult to do. This barrel was given the same 1:42 twist ratio and the same number of twists (3) to spin the bullet.
The barrel was joined to the stock by two barrel bands, one fewer than the older Model 1866. This was due to the 4in shorter 32.5in barrel, which only required two barrel bands to join to the stock. This also meant that the sling (used to carry the rifle over the shoulder) was located on the barrel band closer to the stock.
The Model 1868 also used a new Allin type receiver to which the barrel was joined. This was a stronger design for the 'Trapdoor' mechanism and would form the basis of the mechanism used in the Springfield Model 1873. The major change was a modification in the extractor system, using stronger spiral springs, which were less prone to failure.
The Springfield Model 1868 was the second Springfield rifle to use the .50-70 Government cartridge, which had become the army standard with the Model 1866. It used the same .50in (12.7mm) bullet with 70 grains of blackpowder.
The Springfield Model 1868 was a significant step in the development of the Model 1873, also produced by Springfield. The Models that immediately followed the Model 1868 were little more than modifications to it, rather than significantly different models.
Springfield Model 1868 CarbineEdit
A carbine version of the Model 1868 was developed in the same year as the Model 1868, and was given a 22.3in (0.57m) barrel (with the same twist). Yet, this model was never released, as there was little interest in the design.
Springfield Model 1869Edit
The Springfield Model 1869 was almost entirely identical to the Model 1868, using the same breechblock and receiver mechanism. The only major difference between the two was a thinner butt plate and the area around which the barrel joined the stock also thinned. Around 3,400 examples were built.
The Model 1869 also appeared as a Cadet version (designed for Cadet units for training purposes) which had a shorter 29.5in barrel (3in shorter than the Model 1868 and full size Model 1869). These contributed to the 3,400 Model 1869s produced.
Springfield Model 1870Edit
The Springfield Model 1870 was, again, only a modified version of the Model 1868. The only change between the two was a marginally stronger hinge mechanism on the 'trapdoor' breechblock, which was also shortened. The Model 1870 returned to the thicker stock of the Model 1868 and was produced in couple of different versions.Remington designed rolling block action, fitted to a Model 1870 frame/stock. This version was cristened the Springfield Model 1870 Remington-Navy, largely due to its popularity with Naval officers. Profits were split between Remington and the Springfield Armory.
Springfield Model 1870 (1st Version)Edit
This was the original Springfield Model 1870, using an improved rear sight, which was virtually sat on top of the shortened receiver. Around 1,000 examples of this version were produced between 1871 and 1872.
Springfield Model 1870 (2nd Version)Edit
The second version of the Model 1870, on which the rear sight was moved 0.5in back from the receiver (removing the potential problem of the receiver catching on the sight) and used a double shouldered ramrod. The Model 1870 2nd Version was produced from 1872 until 1873 with 10,000 examples produced.
Springfield Model 1870 CarbineEdit
The Springfield Model 1870 also received a Carbine version, although the production of this version was limited to around 350 examples in 1871. The barrel was shortened to the same length as the Model 1868 Carbine (22.3in)
The Springfield Model 1868 can be considered a significant evolution in the Model 1865's design, as the Model 1866 had been. The Model 1868 was used in the first phase of standardisation across the United States forces, replacing many of the rifled muskets still in use since the American Civil War, such as the Pattern 1853 Enfield or the ever popular Springfield Model 1861 (which were also, in some cases, converted to breechloading).Around 50,000 examples of the Model 1868 were produced, with the subsequent Model 1869 and Model 1870 rifles being considered the same rifle in military circles. The next major Springfield, the Model 1873, took the rifle to the next level, and the Model 1868, like the Model 1866, provided a major stepping stone in its development.
Interestingly the Model 1868 can be and was referred to as a Rifled Musket, the same designation as the older firearms such as the Pattern 1853 Enfield and Springfield Model 1861. This is seen in the 1909 Catalogue produced by Springfield as they tried to sell their remaining stocks of pre and post American Civil War era firearms.