Springfield Armory Long Range Experimental Rifle

Springfield Armory Long Range Experimental Rifle

Brand: Springfield Armory
Product Code: SA1881LongRange
Price: $7,995.00

Springfield Armory Long Range Rifle


Serial number 161921


This quote is from Al Frasca’s book “The .45-70 Springfield” on page 94.  “The development of the long-range rifle is very confusing and almost impossible to follow.  It appears that army marksmen were very interested in participating in national and international rifle competitions.  However, the army was not willing to fund the venture or to make a special competition arm.  Somewhere in the negotiations and manipulations, it was decided that a “sniper rifle,” needed to be perfected and tested by the marksmen in the army.  Thus, under the pretext of producing the “sniper rifle,” the army acquired what is referred to as long range rifles.  Since the arms were made at different times and for different groups, there are quite significant variations.”

This quote is from Al Frasca’s Springfield Trapdoor Rifle Information Center web site.

“Long range rifles were made over several years (1879-1882). They were originally made for soldiers in the marksmanship program. Therefore, trainers in charge of each team wanted their own designs incorporated into the team's rifles. Some requests were for special Bull rear sights, several varieties of pistol grips, various trigger shapes and serrations, thumb rests in the wrist of the stock and Hotchkiss rather than standard butt stocks."

An article in the March, 1959 issue of “The Gun Report” by Robert M. McDonald states “Two experimental arms were made with three and six lands and grooves, and an 18-inch twist.  Another experimental intermediate type had nineteen and five-eighths inch twist with six lands and grooves.”  This rifle does have a 19 5/8” twist with six lands and grooves.  He also states this bore configuration was tested with a round of 80 grains of Hazard Fg and a 500 grain .453 / .466 paper patched bullet of 1 to 19 tin to lead alloy.  Another quote in the article under the heading Conclusions states “Although the “Sharpshooter” arms were a failure from the performance standpoint, they taught us a great deal about the infant science of ballistics, which was a rather hit-and-miss proposition at the times.”

The serial numbers for these guns range from 114,000 to 163,000, with the 160,000 numbers being most common.  The barrels are stamped "H/G/R" or "H/G." Very few of these rifles were produced and they are now considered very valuable.

The best estimates are that there were 150 to 170 Long Range rifles made.  The problem is how to distinguish some long-range rifles from experimental or trial rifles.  It is believed that there are only about 50 of these rifles currently documented and known to exist.  Their rarity leads to confusion when considering what features should be expected to find on any one rifle relative to its components, serial number, date of manufacture, history, etc. 

This rifles receiver, with serial number 161921, was made between October and December of 1881.  It is the later 1.20" wide version with the longer and deeper gas ports and came into use after December 1878.

There is some confusion as to what variant of breech block this rifle has and when it was made.  Font is 0.070" tall.  Low arch and rounded shoulders.  Thick wall firing pin housing.  Width is 1.20".  A feature of this block is that the letter L is missing its bottom leg and looks like an I.  The U and S are not followed by periods.  This leads one to believe it fits the description of a block made in early 1883.  An identical breech block has been seen on another long-range rifle whose receivers serial number shows it was made in 1881 and is believed to be original to the rifle.  Its serial number is 162359 and sold in October of 2015 by James D. Julia.  It was from the Jonathan Peck collection.  This block's firing pin is a fourth type and was used roughly between June of 1878 and January of 1881.

The barrels rifling has six lands and grooves with a right hand 19 5/8” twist.  The bore diameter is .4522” and the groove diameter is .4655”.  Groove depth is .0066”.  Lands are .075” wide and the grooves are .160” wide.  Chamber length is 2.420".  Throat length is approximately .060”.  Head space measures .079”.  The chamber, bore and crown are in excellent condition.  The tenon is rounded that came into use after October 1878.  The reference marks on the right side of the barrel and receiver are in perfect alignment.  The bottom of the barrel has a few areas that show corrosion and pitting.  

There is damage to the barrels exterior and is located 3 1/2” forward of the receiver, under the rear sight, and completely incircles the barrel.  A possible explanation is, if the barrel was set up in a lathe and a cutter was accidently run into the turning barrel the cutter would start shallow and dig in deeper as the barrel turned, especially if the cross feed was engaged.  The cut is cosmetic and does not affect function in any way.  There are file marks and missing original finish where the damage was smoothed out so the rear sight can set flat on the barrel.  The area has been cold blued to make the damage less visible.  There are also a few vise jaw marks.

The stocks cartouche is SWP (Samuel W. Porter) over 1881.  There is a final firing proof (circled P) rear of the trigger plate and pistol grip.  There is a stock inspectors mark but it is partially obliterated and not legible.  The butt is the standard Springfield service configuration and not the Hotchkiss butt that was used on some long-range rifles.  There are nicks, dents and scratches showing significant usage.  There are drying cracks in the butt with the most significant one on the left side.  Dark oil stains are visible around most metal to wood contact surfaces.  The rear trigger plate / pistol grip screw hole was stripped out and has been repaired.  The screw is a standard wood screw and is not correct.  The stock has been cleaned, oiled and waxed.

Some of these rifles were mounted with a Freeman Bull rear sight that was a modified Model 1877 or 79.  The leaf hinge pins were replaced with a screwed windage adjustment with a knob on the right side.  Windage adjustments below 500 yards are made by moving the slider laterally.  Long range adjustments can only be made with the leaf in a position above the sight base side rails.  The rifle now has a sight that is a close copy of a Bull sight made from a M79.  All of the Bull sights were mounted with slotted screws whose heads were rounded more than the standard screws that were slotless.  This sights slotted screws have been rounded over.

The front sight is of the second type that was put into use in July 1879.  The blade is .602” above center line bore.  This rifle does have a M1883 Buffington front sight cover installed.

The ramrod (cleaning) is a Model 1878, second type, with a cupped tip.

Included with this rifle is an original unopened 20 round box of Frankford Arsenal ammunition.  It is known that this box is of the second production run.  The top of the box is marked: INITIAL VELOCITY. / 1346 FEET. / SEP 7 1882

Various markings

F, R                                         top rear of barrel.  The F is inverted

P, ~, 2 and 4 dots                    bottom of barrel.  The dots are arranged in a square

V, P, eagle head, P                  left rear of barrel

Y                                             bottom rear of receiver

D, 4                                         breech screw

D                                             above witness marks

Y                                             trigger bow

G                                             trigger plate

G                                             trigger

8                                              sear spring

&                                             sear

H                                             bridle

P                                              tumbler

D                                             main spring hook end

4                                              butt plates back

US                                           butt plate

PAT / AUG. 16 / 1870            rod stop

US / MODEI / 1873                breech block



Overall length             52”

Stock length                48 7/8”

Barrel length               32 5/8”

Rod length                  35 9/16”

Published barrel and ammunition used in the “sharpshooter” rifles

Service 22” twist, 2.100”, 2 groove    70 gr Hazard Fg          505 gr .4555”              1/16 alloy

Service 22” twist, 2.400”, 3 groove    80 gr Hazard Fg          500 gr .4555”              1/16

18” twist, 2.400”, 3 groove                 80 gr Hazard Fg          500 gr .4555”              1/16

18” twist, 2.400”, 6 groove                 80 gr Hazard Fg          500 gr .4555”              1/16

19 5/8” twist, 2.400”, 6 groove          80 gr Hazard Fg          500 gr .453/.466 PP    1/19