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I’ve written in other posts before about the “museum quality” debate. It’s often misunderstood, because people assume it refers to a firearm in good condition. But sometimes damaged and incomplete guns can tell the richest stories.

There are many layers to history and one artifact can tell several stories. This U.S. Springfield-Allin Conversion Model 1866 “Trapdoor” Rifle is no exception. For example, it can highlight the history of technology. The Model 1866 was an improvement on the Model 1865 First Allin Conversion that Springfield Master Armorer, Erskine S. Allin designed. The “trapdoor” system refers to a bolt that shuts and secures a cartridge loaded into the breech. Due to issues with the extraction system, the firearm was completely redesigned. The Model 1866 Second Allin Conversion is a single-shot, breech-loader that fires a .50-70 centerfire cartridge with a muzzle velocity of about 1,500 feet per second. These firearms made use of old .58 caliber muskets that were modified to a different caliber, rifled, and converted to Allin’s “trapdoor” system.

Then there’s the history behind the user. As you can see this firearm is lacking a trigger-guard and butt-stock, so why would we exhibit it? This rifle belonged to William F. Cody (1846-1917) and is the firearm that earned him the name Buffalo Bill. In 1867, he used this rifle while on contract to the Kansas Pacific Railroad. During that job, he allegedly killed more than 4,000 American Bison for food supply (although that figure is highly contested). He named this firearm Lucretia Borgia, after the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. The gun was damaged during Buffalo Bill’s ownership, even though he claimed not to recall how it happened.

Those are just two examples behind the different histories that can be learned from one single artifact, but there are multitudes more. It’s amazing that an incomplete firearm can tell such a complete tale.

To see the previous Gun of the Week—a Winchester Wetmore-Wood Revolverclick here. Stay tuned for a new gun next Wednesday. For more information, check out the Cody Firearms Museum page here, or follow the Cody Firearms Museum on Facebook and Twitter.