56-50 Spencer with unusaul bullet


I have a 56-50 Spencer with an unusual bullet profile.


The cartridge on the left is a typical 56-50 Spencer the one on the right has a different bullet profile (heavier bullet?). Physical dimension of the two are very similar. All of the military contract loads I’m aware of have bullets profile almost identical to the one on the left. The cartridge on the right, with the wider bullet weighs 497.6 grains. After weight all of my other military contract style 56-50 Spencer (CD Leet, DC Sage, Jacob Goldmark and FVV&Co.) their weights ranged from 456 to 475 grains. The weights of commercial rounds (UMC, USC, Winchester and Dominion) are all in that same weight range also. To my understanding the standard military contact 56-50’s all had 350 grain bullets and 45 grains of powder and I think commercial loadings were similar.
Any thoughts on this heavy bullet version, who loaded it and for what purpose?



Not one like it here. You ought to write Lou.
At first I thought it was one someone worked on to the change the profile, but adding 25 or more gr’s?


This is a little bit like being the devil’s advocate, but if you removed the service bullet and powder charge and replaced them with a .50-55 carbine bullet and maybe a distance piece the total weight would be about what this one is. Surely an x-ray would convey useful information. Jack



I thought about a reload situation but i think it would be difficult to remove a bullet from a rimfire with such an extreme bullet crimp. Any loading of a 56-50 would need very specific equipment to perform the crimping operation.

I suppose it would have been possible to have the wrong bullet loaded into a case.

What is the standard bullet weight for a 50-55 carbine and who loaded them?



Hello Pete,

I discussed this cartridge with Lou at SLICS. He wasn’t sure about it either. I’m supposed to send him the dimension and details but haven’t gotten around to it yet.



Paul: The .50-55 bullet weighs 430 gr. and has a point like the 405 gr. bullet used in the military .45-70 cartridges. I was thinking (and am not certain this is plausible) that if the original bullet from a .56-50 round was removed by an inertia type puller it would open up the crimp enough for a .515 to .520 diameter bullet to replace it and its powder charge. The weight factor works out OK I think, as the .56-50 bullet and powder charge are about 395-400 grains, and the .50-55 bullet is 430, which would weigh about 30 grains more than the weight of the original bullet and its charge. Having typed all this however it does seem like your round has an ‘unmeddled with’ appearance. Jack


I wouldn’t feel comfortable in using an inertia bullet puller on a rimfire round, safer to ask a “friend” to do the whacking in the next room!



Gravelbelly: A thought worth considering. Meanwhile I can only hope someone knows what this thing is and will tell us. Jack


Hallo Paul
After doing some digging I came to the conclusion that this 56-50 was most likely produced by Springfield
Armory basing this on the tool marks on the bottom now by consulting BARBER you will find that this
Arsenal done a certain amount of experimental work after the civil war ( chapter 4 page 97) top perhaps
this cartridge is one of those very rare experimental coming out of such a batch!! I do not believe that
bullet had been replaced you getting in touch with LOU BEHLING was a very good idea he is most likely
the most knowledge person on this subject and yes these Spencers can be very very frustrating


I finally got round to sending the details to Lou. Here is his reply:

“I have not seen a Spencer with the bullet style yours has. Your total weight indicates the bullet is in the weight range of 400 grains rather than the normal 350. During the development of the Spencer cartridge there were various bullet styles and weights tried but I do not have any information on this bullet style. Your case is the early throated (necked) style and appears to be of Leet manufacture. I don’t think the difference in the bullet ogive accounts for all the weight difference. Try to get an x-ray of it with a normal Spencer along side of it - that will let you see if the bullet has the same number of grease grooves, is longer or whatever.”

I’m presently trying to find some one to X-ray it.