July 1, 2012

Pedersoli Officer's Model 1873 Trapdoor .45-70

The Trapdoor Springfield has a golden history, having been used by the U.S. armed forces from 1873 until it was supplanted by the Krag around 1892. The Trapdoor gets its name from its top-opening, hinged breech, which is no paragon of strength but adequate for the hottest black-powder loads of its heyday, and for many “normal” 45-70 loads of today, or at least reproductions are. Buffalo Bore’s “lever” ammunition and other brands specifically intended for use in modern single-shot rifles and other weapons with strong breech designs have no place in Trapdoors, neither old nor new ones.

Gun Tests Magazine took a look at the Pedersoli Officer’s Model 1873 Trapdoor .45-70 (about $1,100), and compared it in handling to an original full-length version. Though they did not expect perfect function nor outstanding accuracy from the original (in fact it had an internal problem and they were not able to test fire it), they were interested in the overall handling qualities it might have, compared with the new ones.

Here's what they found:

This was a shorter, lighter, and generally more attractive version of the regular Pedersoli Trapdoor Rifle. If you’re interested, Pedersoli also offers a carbine version, which is overall the same size as the Officer’s Model, but without the nice touches. It sells for about $850.

The touches on our Officer’s Model included checkered wood, though the overall wood quality was not a lot, if any, better than on the standard “rifle.” The short forend of the Officer had a beautifully inletted, graceful metal cap that was polished and left in the white. The ramrod was of wood, not steel, and had a tricky serrated end that was supposed to keep it within the rifle. However, during our brief shooting, we noted the ramrod overcame its springiness and “trick” lock and began to move forward, so keep a close eye on yours if you buy and shoot one of these.

Gun Tests August 2003


Shorter and significantly lighter than the full-length rifle, the Officer's Model Trapdoor had a handful of extras that included case coloring on the action and trim parts, checkering, and a fine, fancy forend cap.

The 26-inch barrel was as well polished and blued as on the full-length rifle, and it had a tube added beneath it to accept the wood ramrod. There was one barrel band, not two, and it was case-colored. The action was also case colored, in addition to the breech block, and it was an attractive job. The opening lever was blued, as was the aperture sight and its base. The hammer and its lockplate were left white. The trigger guard, butt plate, aperture sight ladder, and single-set trigger were nicely case colored. The trigger had an adjustment for its set letoff, but we left it alone. In fact, during our shooting tests we used the trigger normally, to get an idea of this rifle’s performance compared with the standard rifle. Pushed forward and set, the trigger broke at 4.5 ounces. Unset, it broke at just over 4 pounds, with some creep.

The stock finish on this model was about the same overall quality as on the full-length rifle. The pores were slightly open, and the oil-like matte finish to the wood permitted seeing the grain easily. Workmanship throughout was on a par with the other rifle, so your extra money would go for all the little touches that including the checkering, which was well-enough done, but by no means perfectly pointed up. The sights were also distinctly different. The front was a big gold dot on top of a post, and you had the option of drifting it to correct windage, though this was also handled by the aperture rear sight. The aperture was not really the only rear sight. There was a big U-shaped notch in the top of the action that served as a super-fast rear sight. We used it to help set the aperture. The aperture was adjustable for elevation in that the aperture itself was a screw that tightened itself to the upright ladder. It had a knurled outer surface to permit that. But if you loosened it, especially if you loosened it too much or too quickly, you lost what you had previously set. There were no reference marks, but we suspect experienced shooters will soon make some. The aperture also moved sideways when you loosened it, so you had double trouble for windage. We found the big, fixed U-notch rear sight handy here. We peered through the aperture and lined it up with the front sight, and with that U-notch, to get the aperture located close to where it should have been. We messed with it until we had shots hitting near where we looked, and then left it strictly alone.

Gun Tests August 2003


The rear sight had a slight detent to keep it in place when raised. The checkering had a pleasing pattern, but was not perfectly pointed-up, especially near the borders on the forend.

This rifle was a bit handier than the full-length rifle, and that might be important if you wanted to use it for hunting, or for specific Cowboy Action events. In practice, we didn’t get quite the fine accuracy out of the Officer’s Model as we did with the rifle, though we got what was probably enough accuracy. We suspect careful load selection would improve it drastically. Note that the shorter barrel here gave higher velocities with our handload than the 32-inch barrel on the rifle.

Gun Tests August 2003


The aperture rear sight folded rearward for easier packing. The small screw visible behind the trigger adjusted the single set let off. We left it alone. This model had hammer and lockplate in the white. It was an attractive combination.

The action was slightly different on the Officer’s Model. There were only two notches for the hammer. The first permitted loading and unloading, and we found the breech block on the Officer’s Model closed significantly easier than the rifle’s. That first notch is where you’d leave the hammer to carry a loaded rifle. The second notch was all the way back, fully cocked and ready to rip.

Gun Test Recommends: Pedersoli Officer’s Model, about $1,100. Buy It. Recoil didn’t seem to be much worse here despite the lighter weight and higher velocity. Any long bench sessions would get your shoulder’s attention, so shooters beware of the steel butt plates on serious rifles. We thought this was an attractive and handier alternative to the full-length rifle, and we generally thought we’d be happier with this slightly fancier rifle, despite its reduced accuracy (as tested so far).


Comments (8)

am needing a ramrod for officers model carbine

Posted by: howdy damn doody | December 13, 2013 12:07 PM    Report this comment

am needing a ramrod for officers model carbine

Posted by: howdy damn doody | December 13, 2013 12:00 PM    Report this comment

I vastly prefer the Sharps style, preferably in .45-110.

Posted by: Visigoth52 | July 5, 2012 10:34 PM    Report this comment

I had a rolling-block with a 4 inch ladder sight. I hated it. When firing it would collide with my hat brim, readjusting both the hat and sight. I changed it to a 2" (had to change to a shorter globe, front sight too) and was much happier. I could still sight as far as I could shoot. It fit better when folded too. This rifle seems to have a shorter-style ladder sight (hurray), but fails to mention it's length.

Posted by: Mister E | July 5, 2012 8:15 PM    Report this comment

I had a S&W 9mm that would do the same on occasion and two of my friends had the same model in 40cal. which would malfunction in the same manner. Needless to say although highly accurate and priced right I don't own an M&P anymore. I hope S&W has taken care of this problem as so many police officers I know are issued these very sidearms.

Posted by: playhookie | July 5, 2012 5:13 PM    Report this comment

The trapdoor Springfield does not have a “golden history”. The main reason they existed was that late in the Civil War, the Springfield Armory found that the .50 caliber could be converted to breech loaders for a small fraction of the cost of building one from scratch, and the Army had very little money for upgrading arms by then. Apparently the authorities decided after the war that it would be more efficient to develop a .45 caliber version of the trapdoor for the long term than to start from scratch. It is incomprehensible, though that the Army didn't simply adopt the Remington Rolling Block that was already developed before 1867. The Army was not interested in developing a repeating rifle for fear that soldiers might waste ammunition.

The early Trapdoor Springfields had numerous problems although most of the serious bugs had been corrected by 1876 when Custer's 7th Cavalry was wiped out at Little Big Horn. One of the most serious problems, though, the copper cartridge cases had not. The copper cases stuck in the breeches so frequently that special extractor tools were issued. Many of Custer's troopers died while trying to extract copper cases from their Springfields, but they were doomed anyhow because the Indians outnumbered them about twenty to one, and many had Winchester repeating rifles.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2012 5:06 PM    Report this comment

I don't know about the rest of you guys but I've always expected a rifle to hit exactly where I aim it. Same as Annie Oakly would I reckon.

Posted by: playhookie | July 5, 2012 3:52 PM    Report this comment

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Posted by: ttwoodard | July 2, 2012 11:34 PM    Report this comment

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