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Book Review
'Trapdoor' Springfield
The 'Trapdoor' Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L “Harv” Harvey of the Osprey Publishing LTD book The “Trapdoor” Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill by author John Langellier, and illustrators Steve Noon and Alan Gilliland.


** The Springfield trapdoor breech-loader began service as a cost-cutting conversion using the mountains of surplus rifle-muskets left over after the American Civil War. Adopted in 1865, for the next quarter-century both rifles and carbines based on this concept incrementally improved over time, and served as standard arms for the US Army. This dependable, hard-hitting, all-weather, single-shot weapon was carried by the US Infantry and cavalry on hundreds of frontier engagements from the Great Plains to the Mexican border and beyond. When the United States entered the world stage as an international power during the war with Spain in 1898, the tried-and-true veteran had its swansong. Written by a historian who has spent a half-century researching and writing about the post-Civil War US Army, this study weaves the narrative of the Springfield trapdoor’s development and impact into the larger story of westward expansion in the United States.**

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released The “Trapdoor” Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill as Number 62 in their Weapon series. It is a softcover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, a cut-away view illustration, original military manual illustrations, an original schematic drawing, personal quotes, detailed captions and more. It has a 2018 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-1970-3. The book details the development, use and impact of the “Trapdoor” Springfield carbine in US Military service.


- Introduction
- Development
- A breech-loader for the United States Army
- Use
- From frontier constabulary to emerging global power
- Impact
- Conquering the Wild West
- Conclusion
- Bibliography
- Index


The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. Author John Langellier did an excellent job of researching the Trapdoor Springfield and this is very obvious with the amount of details provide in his writing. Langellier discusses early trapdoor rifles and well as the Springfield. He details various models and the Trapdoor Springfield, improvements that were made, faults and benefits, new initiatives as well as later models and the type of rifles that were used in replacing the Trapdoor Springfield. Langellier provides very specific details about certain parts of the trapdoor such as the various model breechblocks, hammer and strike plates, sights, stocks and triggers. Another bit of information I found interesting are the step by step details an individual would need to follow in order fire the weapon. As well as the rifle itself Langellier also provides information on various accoutrements and accessories such as various bayonet types, cartridge boxes, cartridge belts, maintenance tools and even marksmanship badges. As well as specific rifle information Langellier provides excellent information on the various conflicts where the rifle was used such as the fighting in Cuba where the battle of Santiago is discussed and the war in the Philippines such as the fighting at Caloocan. A great deal of information is provided about the Indian Wars. Some of the various conflicts discussed are the Great Sioux War, the Wagon Box Fight, the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Red River War, the Nez Pierce War, the fighting against the Apache and more. Included in the text are quotes from various individuals. One of them I found interesting was from an infantryman, William Murphy, stationed along the Bozeman Trail who spoke of the US Army’s tight-fisted budget when it came to issuing ammunition to the troops. The soldiers were given an ammunition allotment and if they lost ammunition, or used too much ammunition to target practice with, they were responsible for buying more from the Army to maintain their required allotment. Murphy was quoted as saying, “The government charged twenty-five cents per cartridge if the men were short” which was pricey for the soldiers considering that a private made roughly thirteen dollars a month in pay. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the “Trapdoor” Springfield to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

There are a total of 18 black and white photographs and 59 color photographs. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. Several of the photographs are of period illustrations. The majority of the photographs are of rifles as one can assume but there are also period photographs of the various carbines in use by the US Military. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the weapons themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph. In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details. Author John Langellier stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the firearm enthusiast due to the details they contain.

Some of the various rifles shown and discussed are:
    - Springfield Model 1873 carbine
    - Springfield Model 1870 carbine
    - Springfield.50 caliber Model 1865 Cadet rifle
    - Springfield Model 1879 carbine
    - Springfield Model 1886 full stock
    - Springfield Model 1890 carbine
    - Springfield Model 1884 carbine
    - Springfield Model 1892 30-40 Krag-Jargensen rifle
    - Model 1871 Ward-Burton rifle

Some of the various carbine bayonets shown and discussed are:
    - Model 1869 trowel bayonet
    - Detachable triangular socket bayonet
    - Practice fencing bayonet
    - Sliding ramrod bayonet

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

There are 4 color illustrations by illustrators Steve Noon and Alan Gilliland. The illustrations are of:
    - The Trapdoor Exposed.
    - A cut-away view showing the internal workings of a .45-70-405 Springfield Model 1873 carbine.
    - The Wagon Box Fight.
    - The illustration shows the conflict between the Plains Indians and the 18th US Infantry that took place on August 2, 1867.
    - Reno’s Skirmish Line, 1876
    - The illustration shows the initial skirmish line of troopers from the US 7th Cavalry during the fighting at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25th, 1876.
    - The 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at Caloocan, 1899.
    - The illustration shows members of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry engaging Filipino forces on February 11, 1899. (Refer to attached scan)

The cut-a-way view illustration was done by illustrator Alan Gilliland and the battle scene illustrations were done by illustrator Steve Noon.

Please refer to the scan that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.

There are 4 notes included in this volume and they are:
    - Dedication
    - Acknowledgments
    - Editor’s Note
    - Artist’s Note

The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminate any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons and the specific model shown, individual names, dates, location and conflict shown and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by John Langellier’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.

As with the other Osprey Publishing weapons series titles I was impressed with this volume. This is a very nice reference book that contains many close-up detailed subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions that all provide excellent information about the “Trapdoor” Springfield rifle. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.


US $20.00 / UK £12.99 / CAN $27.00


Winchester An American Legend
The Official History of Winchester Firearms and Ammunition from 1849 to the present
R.L. Wilson
Chartwell Books, Inc.

Warriors at the Little Bighorn 1876
Men-at-Arms 408
Richard Hook
Osprey Publishing

Apache Warrior Versus US Cavalryman 1846-86
Combat 19
Sean McLachlan
Osprey Publishing

Sharpshooting Rifles of the American Civil War
Colt, Sharps, Spence, and Whitworth
Weapon 56
Martin Pegler
Osprey Publishing

Little Big Horn 1876
Custer’s Last Stand
Campaign 39
Peter Panzeri
Osprey Publishing

The Indians
The Old West
Time/Life Books

Search inside The “Trapdoor” Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill on the Osprey web site:


Look inside The “Trapdoor” Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill on the Amazon web site:

https://www.amazon.com/Trapdoor-Springfield-Little-Bighorn-Weapon/dp/1472819705/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529707572&sr=8-1&keywords=The "Trapdoor" Springfield

Look inside the Kindle Edition of The “Trapdoor” Springfield – From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill on the Amazon web site:

Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing to mention.
Verdict: Another excellent volume in Osprey Publishing’s Weapon series. Definitely beneficial to the small arms enthusiast.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-1970-3
  PUBLISHED: Jul 09, 2018
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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