Ammo Spencer Rifle Box of 42 Cartridges

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
I recently bought this original box of 42 Spencer Rifle cartridges from a well- known and recommended Civil War dealer to display with my 1860 Spencer Rifle. The box has a nice original war time Sage Ammunition Works label indicatiing it is for 56 caliber cartridges for the Spencer and Joslyn Rifles. I wanted this for my display when I saw it as there is little doubt it is Civil War era. The Sage Ammunition Works was formed in 1864 expressly to make 56-56 caliber Spencer cartridges on contract for the Federal government. At the end of the war they also made 56-50 cartridges for the Model 1865 Spencer. With the War over and the demand for cartridges gone, the company closed in 1866. Apparently the two different types of Spencer cartridges are the only ammo they made. So of course I was expecting a full box with forty-two 56-56 cartridges inside, and was disappointed to discover that the box contained 6 full sleeves of 56-50 cartridges. All the sleeves are cut open so the top can be lifted up as though hinged, so you can see the contents of each sleeve. Now it is true that no where in his written description did the seller say the box was full of 56-56 cartridges, just that it was a full box of 42 Spencer cartridges. While the dealer has offered to accept a return and refund my money, I'm still thinking about keeping it as the price was not horrible even for full sleeves of 50 caliber cartridges, and that wartime 56 caliber box just seems so rare. It took me 2 days of internet searching just to find a photo of a similar example. While I did easily find examples of Sage's 50 caliber Model 1865 boxes that have been offered for sale or auction in the past, I could not find any example of this 56 caliber box having been sold. If I decide not to keep the cartridges, I may keep the box and try selling individual cartridges or full sleeves of the 50 caliber to collectors who own a Model 1865 gun. What do you guys think? By the way, I already do have an open sleeve of 56-56 cartridges that I do display with my rifle, so I do have some correct ammo.

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ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Joined
May 7, 2016
Location
Alabama
No, 56-56 refers to the dimensions of the casing, not the ball, meaning the case is straight and not necked down. A 56-52 cartridge casing would narrow down at the neck. Here is a photo of both, 56-56 on left, 56-52 on right.

View attachment 400218
I know that as Ive owned 5 of them. The original cartridge for the rifle and carbine was a 56/56. So why buy a box of 56/50? After ordnance trial in 1863, C Spencer felt the 56/52 was a better round than the 56/50. Winchester made post war a 56/56 for the Spencer sporting rifles as well.
 

bobinwmass

Corporal
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Location
Western Massachusetts
I know that as Ive owned 5 of them. The original cartridge for the rifle and carbine was a 56/56. So why buy a box of 56/50? After ordnance trial in 1863, C Spencer felt the 56/52 was a better round than the 56/50. Winchester made post war a 56/56 for the Spencer sporting rifles as well.
I did buy a box for 56-56 cartridges that unknowingly was filled with 56-50 cartridges.
 
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