M1881 Springfield .45-80 Cartridges

Looking for information on the special .45-80 (2.4" case) cartridges for the “trapdoor” Springfield Long Range rifle of 1879/1881.

I am aware of five HS, and four box designs (no photos available at this time):

R F 4 81 - comes in a two-piece 20-round box with lift lid, printed red on oatmeal (no pasted wrapper or pull string)
R F 9 82 - comes in a two-piece flush-lid box, with full pasted paper wrapper and pull string, printed black on buff
R F 3 83 - as above, except slightly different lettering fonts used
R F 6 83 - EXACTLY SAME box as R F 3 83
R F 4 84 - also comes in a two-piece flush-lid box, with full pasted paper wrapper and pull string, printed black on buff, but entirely different design

Can anyone expand this list?

Many thanks.

From our sale 7 lot 456
Headstamped ‘ R 3 F 81 ‘, this very scarce Cal. .45 “Lengthened Chamber” (aka 2.4” Sharpshooter) possible proof load has a copper primer, a copper case, and a lead bullet. It’s weight is 838.1 grs. and the over all length is 3.219”. {see Hackley Vol. 1 Rev. p.200}

Hackley, F.W., Woodin, W.H. and Scranton, E.L., History of Modern U.S.Military Small Arms Ammunition. Vol. 1 revised., Thomas Pub., Gettysburg PA. 1998.

If you will look at official documents and surviving cartons, I think you’ll find that the cartridge is correctly called the Model 1881 2".4 Case.


Hi Ray,

You are ENTIRELY correct - however, that nomenclature galls me no end, and I don’t use it [big grin]

Dick Hosmer

Pete, I wrote a lengthy response, but it went “poof”, even though my response to Ray DID get through. Don’t have time to redo it now, but will this evening. Thanks!


You know me - the nit-picker.

And welcome to the IAA Forum. For you who do not know, Dick is one of the foremost authorities on the Cal .45 martial arms (and other calibers as well). His books are considered a must in an arms collector’s library.


Perhaps I should clarify my question:

I’m in the midst of finishing my second trapdoor guidebook, which will cover the rare models omitted from previous North Cape works. The “long range” rifle of 1879-1881, and its’ special .45-80 ammunition will receive a chapter therein. In assembling data, I wanted to know if anything more had come up - on the "cartridge collecting side - since the data (pages 249-250) presented in “The .45-70 Springfield” by Frasca and Hill in 1980.

I have copies of Hackley/Woods/Scranton, Hoyem, and the Pittman notes, and am generally familiar with the 2.4" round.

Can anyone expand either the list of known headstamps, or box label types? Was R F 3 81 made in quantity?

What I really need is a good photograph of what I call the 4th style box - which alone is marked “Model 1881” - on page 249 of Frasca/Hill. I might also consider the purchase of such a box, even an empty one, if sound. I have already acquired full or sealed examples of the first three “long range” boxes shown on page 250. I’m also lucky enough to have one of the rifles, 162036. My “red box” (250a) came with the rifle.

Thanks for any further assistance, and thanks also to Ray Meketa, for the vote of confidence.

I can’t answer to the total number of 3-81 dates manufactured, but the “possible proof” variation is very scarce, if not rare. I think it does also exist as a typical round, but don’t have it as such in my drawers, which run from 4 80 to 6 83.

In 2003 it sold for $122.00 inc. buyer prem. & I personally know of only two examples, but very likely several more are out in collections.

I think Hoyem has a list of the known headstamps?

The red box does call this the “LONG-CHAMBERED SPRINGFIELD RIFLE” and “MODEL 1881”, “2.4” LONG CASE" so take your pick of the “correct name” & good luck with your book.
Mine has 4 81 dates inside and the purple rubber stamp on the front dates it to APR 28 1881 with an Initial Vel. of 1335 feet.

Pete - for my notes, does the box label say 2.4" or 2".4 ??


As far as I know, virtually every contemporary government written reference, EXCEPT THE RED BOX, used 2".4.

I was wrong - thanks for catching it

Hi Ray
in my quote marks is says " 2.4" LONG CASE, GILDING METAL " on the right side of the top, along the top edge.
Hope this is of use?

Pete - It is interesting, to me, that at least one source labeled the cartridge as the 2.4" case. I sold my Cal .45 collection about 20 years ago but I still have an interest in the Long Range Rifle and the Lengthened Chamber Cartridge because they were the first US military Match combination. Since I collect US Match, every little bit of information on them is of interest to me.

Back in the mid 1870s there was an interest within the Army to compete in formal competition with organizations such as the newly formed NRA. But the Congress was in no mood to appropriate money for such things as “target shooting”. So, under the cover of producing an experimental sniper or long range military rifle and cartridge, the Long Range Rifle and the Lengthened Chamber Cartridge were developed. But it didn’t last long because with less than 200 of the rifles having been made, the project was terminated. But, it did show that the regular 2".1 case with a 500 grain bullet was just as accurate, and so the efforts weren’t completely in vain. By the mid 1880s the Army initiated a program of regular target practice for troops in the field and competition shooting was recognized as a legitimate military activity.