POTD: US Ready for Bolt Action? – Ward-Burton 1871 Trials Rifle


POTD: US Ready for Bolt Action? – Ward-Burton 1871 Trials Rifle

Welcome to today’s Photo of the Day! Here we have the Springfield Armory Ward-Burton Trials Rifle of 1871. These rifles were submitted following the United States government voicing an interest in a bolt-action service rifle. These are single-shot .50-70 black powder rifles. They operate on a cock-on-close action and have six locking lugs in the rear. This is because black powder cartridges operate at a lower pressure than smokeless ones and black powder fouling and corrosion tended to clog up-front locking lugs. Apparently, from what I gather, the Ward-Burton was a pretty so-so rifle in trials and the Springfield Trapdoor rifle would end up winning the trial for a new service rifle for its simplicity. I guess we were not ready for the bolt action stuff just yet.

“The W.G. Ward and Bethel Burton designed rifles were the first true bolt action military rifles in the U.S. and were manufactured in a run of just 1,011 as the U.S. Model 1871 Ward-Burton. Most of the Model 1871s were sent West for testing and were tested against the elements and harsh nature of the battles during the Indian War era. Thus, few remain in good or better condition. It has the standard Springfield style bayonet stud/blade front and folding ladder rear sights, “U.S./SPRINGFIELD 1871” on the left side of the receiver, “WARD.BURTON. PATENT./DEC.20.1859 FEB.21.1871” on top of the bolt cover, a smooth straight wrist stock, a slotted metal ramrod, sling swivels, and a “US” marked buttplate.”


Lot 197: U.S. Springfield Armory Ward-Burton Model 1871 Trials Rifle. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/69/197/us-springfield-armory-wardburton-model-1871-trials-rifle.

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Writer | TheFirearmBlog Writer | AllOutdoor.com Instagram | sfsgunsmith Old soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.

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