I was looking through Cleveland’s Hints to Riflemen (publ 1864), and noticed an advertisement for Spencer rifles and carbines that listed two calibers of ammunition, .56 and .44. I was not aware of a Spencer in .44 rimfire, but a little further digging yeilded a later advertisement, that indicated the sporting rifle and a lightweight carbine were chambered in .44. Flayderman wasn’t much help, stating only that ‘a few rare variations of Spencers are known in lesser calibers’. Does anyone know if the .44 rimfire used in these firearms was one of the standard rimfires, or something developed by Spencer?
I’m thinking that they are really referring to the 56-46 cartridge. Let me quote from THE RIFLE IN AMERICA by Phil Sharpe:
[b][i]SPENCER REPEATING SPORTING RIFLE: This was turned out in .44 caliber using the No. 46 Spencer cartridge which after 1867 became known as the .56/46 Spencer. This rifle is frequently known as the Model 1867 and was also turned out in .50 caliber using the .56/52 Spencer. Spencer catalogs reveal that the .56/52 used a charge of 48 grains of powder with a .52-caliber lead bullet weighing 385 grains and was intended for rifles of .50 caliber. The bullet had deep grooves for lubrication and was, of course, outside lubricated, the entire nose of the bullet being dipped in grease and permitted to harden.
The .56/46 cartridge used the same charge of powder with a 310 grain bullet having a diameter of .46 caliber but was marked as being intended for rifles of .44 caliber.[/i][/b]
Farther along he talks of the Carbine, . . . A few of these made in .44 caliber using the .56/46 cartridge . . .
Clear as mud, huh?
Remember, back in those quaint days a .44 could be anything from 38 to 46, or so it seems. If a .50 can be a 56/52, why can’t a 44 be a 56/46??
Sharpe also mentions that the carbine had a smaller frame than the rifle. This could be your “lightweight carbine.” I used to collect martial arms and was not aware that there was a smaller framed Spencer. Notice also that Flayderman doesn’t mention the small frame or the 56-46 either, for that matter.
Thanks for the response. I had momentarily considered the .56-46 but ruled it out as the bullets on these range from .465" on up to about .490". Thank goodness lead handles itself so well in tight situations.
I had also thought, without referring to the handy library, that the .56-46 came along after the war, but now see I was mistaken; it was introduced about 1862.
In Roy Marcot’s book Spencer Repeating Firearms. Chapter 12 page 186.
".44 long Spencers second prototype cartridge used in his early small-frame, military style carbines. Originally known as the .44 cartridge". On page 188 summarizing. No. 44 Cartridges; The .44 Long rimfire. “This ammunition was already chambered in .44 caliber Wesson and Ballard sporting rifles for the early 1860’s and as far as Spencer was concerned was a proven sucess”. There are no cartridge dimensions given but from the cartridge pictured would guess this is the common 44 long rimfire in many collections. Other comments in the book mention 44 caliber barrels using the 56-46 cartridge. We all know as Ray said lots of old cartridges COULD be somewhat close to their listed caliber. Like 38 caliber pistol cartridges. Am always explaining to non gunners how a 38 Special cartridge can be fired in a 357 without blowing it up!
Thanks Gourd. So if I’m interpretting this correctly, it sounds like the .44 could be any of at least three cartridges, a .44 prototype or possibly two prototypes, since it mentions ‘second’ prototype, plus the standard .44 long and the .56-46.
The only way to be sure of what this round is would be to have a chamber cast of a 44 spenser. The rounds are not always what you think they are going to be. I have an 11.7 x 24 R Norweign rimfire (45 Danish Carbine) which was made experimenatlly, and was ALEGEDLY tried in a Spenser. I was always suspect of that statement until I went through the Thun Arsenal and saw all the US rifles chambered for 10.4 swiss. This also included a 10.4 Crispin rifle, and I have seen a 10.4 Crispin cartridge based on the Crispin rimfire. Never say never!
The 44 Spenser could be a 44 long, a 44 Henry, an experimental 44 based on the 56-46, or who knows what.
If you really want to know, find the rifle/carbine in rimfire and get a chamber cast, and we will all know (or we will be all the more confused).