The sale of items from the legendary late collector set new participation records for a Sotheby’s UK auction.
Background & history of production
The Spencer Repeating rifle, designed by Christopher Spencer in 1860, was the world’s first ever practical repeating rifle.
Spencer demonstrated the weapon for President Abraham Lincoln during a shooting match, and impressed him enough to order it into production. The rifle is often referred to as ‘Lincoln’s Choice’.
It was initially used by the U.S Navy, and then the Army who used it extensively during the American Civil War. Using .52 calibre metallic rimfire cartridges, it could be fired 20 – 30 times per minute and was regarded as extremely reliable on the battlefield. The Spencer Carbine, a modified shorter and lighter version of the rifle, was also popular amongst soldiers.
Describing the rifle, U.S Army Major-General James H. Wilson stated:
The gun was used exclusively by the Union Army, apart from a handful of examples which were captured by Confederates. Its effectiveness and superiority to Confederate weapons means it is regarded by many experts as one of the major deciding factors of the entire war.
The rifle was manufactured from 1860 until 1869, with approximately 200,000 models produced. After the war, many rifles were sold as military surplus to the French army who used them during the Franco-Prussian war.
Did you know?
At the time he was apprehended and killed by Union soldiers in 1865, Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth was found to be carrying a Spencer carbine Rifle.
The rifles may feature manufacturer marks from both ‘Spencer's Repeating Rifle Co.’ and the ‘Burnside Rifle Co’. Production of the gun ceased in 1868 when the Spencer Rifle Co. was sold to the Fogerty Rifle Co. of Boston, so authentic weapons will feature dates no later than 1868 and no earlier than 1860.
Price guide and notable auction sales
Spencer Repeating Rifles are highly popular with collectors of U.S Civil war weapons and memorabilia, and usually sell at auction for between $800 - $3,000 depending on their condition.
Main article: Antique & vintage firearms
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