The "Trapdoor" Springfield: From the Little Bighorn to San Juan Hill

Published: May 20th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: John Langellier, Illustrators: Steve Noon, Series Editor: Martin Pegler
Reviewed by: 
Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1970-3
Other Publication Information: Soft Bound; 7.3” x 9.8”, 80 pages
Price: $20.00
Product / Stock #: WPN62

John P. Langellier grew up in Tucson, Arizona and spent 12 years in the US Army. He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in History from the University of San Diego, and his PhD in Military History from Kansas State University. John helped found the Autry Museum of the American West in California and has served as the director for the Wyoming State Museum. He is the author of numerous books and monographs that include: The War in Europe: From the Kasserine Pass to Berlin, 1942-1945 (1995, Greenhill); Fix Bayonets: The U.S. Infantry from the American Civil War to the Surrender of Japan (1999, Chelsea); Second Manassas 1862: Robert E Lee's Greatest Victory (2002, Osprey); Union Infantrymen of the Civil War (2003, Osprey); Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army (2016, Schiffer). John has worked as a film consultant in addition to producing many documentaries. John retired in 2015 (but obviously still stays busy writing books) and now lives in Prescott, Arizona.

Steve Noon was born in Kent, UK, and attended his local art college in Cornwall. He's had a life-long passion for illustration, and since 1985 has worked as a professional artist, illustrating over 30 books for Osprey. He lives in Cardiff, UK. Steve was born in Malaya in 1949. Be sure to check out his website at

Alan Gilliland spent 18 years as the graphics editor of the UK's Daily Telegraph, winning 19 awards in that time. He now writes, illustrates, and publishes fiction (, as well as illustrating for a variety of publishers including Osprey. Check him out at and

Osprey's 62nd book in the Weapon series is a square back soft cover includes 80 gloss paper pages. The top of the front cover features a color photograph of a Trapdoor Springfield. The bottom of the front cover features a clip of the two page battle-scene depicting Reno's Skirmish Line during an attack of the Northern Plains Indians on June 25, 1876, by Steve Noon. I counted 74 color photographs, 21 color illustrations, and 5 black and white drawings. Steve Noon contributes the three battle scene color paintings, including two that are two page spreads. Alan Gilliland provides the labeled color cutaway illustration of the Springfield Model 1873.

John P. Langellier starts off with a short introduction featuring the state of the art in rifles and carbines for the Civil War. John then dives into the identification and development of the standard rifle / carbine that would serve the US Army for the next twenty-five years. The 'Trapdoor' Springfield was developed in 1865 by Erskine S. Allin, a master armorer at Springfield. Allin's genius was to use the existing surplus Model 1861 percussion muskets and convert them to breech loading. This relatively simple modification would take advantage of the excess inventory thus reducing the cost for the new breech-loading rifle substantially. The standardization on the 45-70 round led to the all-new construction Model 1873. John P. Langellier covers the continued improvements all the way up to its eventual replacement in the 1890s with the Danish 30 caliber bolt action Krag-Jorgensen magazine rifle. The next chapter covers the extended use of the 'Trapdoor' Springfield, primarily through the Indian Wars after the end of the Civil War. John includes personal accounts from both US Army soldiers as well as the Native American perspective. Major engagements are covered as shown in the following sections:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Editor's Note
  • Artist's Note
  • Glossary
  • Introduction
  • Development - A Breech-Loader for the United States Army
    • Early Breech Loaders
    • Allin Conversions
    • The Allin System [Page 9]
    • A New Caliber
    • The Model 1873
    • Cadet Rifles, Officer Rifles, and Fowling Pieces
    • The Trapdoor Exposed (Labeled Color Cutaway Illustration)
    • Improving the Model 1873
    • New Initiatives
    • Later Models [Page 22]
    • Replacing the Trapdoor
  • Use: From Frontier Constabulary to Emerging Global Power
    • The US Army After 1865
    • New Tactics
    • The Bozeman Trail
    • Red Cloud's War
    • The Wagon Box Fight (2 page Color Illustration)
    • The Great Sioux War
    • The Trapdoor in Native American Hands
    • Reno's Skirmish Line, 1876 (2 page Color Illustration)
    • Constabulary Duty Continues
    • The Red River War
    • The Nez Pearce War
    • The Bannock, Sheepeater, and Ute Wars
    • Facing the Apache [Page 45]
    • The Ghost Dance War
    • Enforcing the Peace
    • Beyond the Frontier
    • Rebellion in Cuba
    • Preparing for War
    • The Battle of Santiago
    • Victory in the Caribbean
    • Operations in the Philippines
    • The 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at Caloocan, 1899 (1 page Color Illustration) [Page 59]
  • Impact: Conquering the Wild West
    • Bayonets
    • Accoutrements and Accessories
    • Marksmanship
    • The Firing Process
    • Reputation - The Little Bighorn and its Aftermath [Page 73]
    • A Cinematic Legacy
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I really appreciated the structure that John P. Langellier utilized, starting with the development of the 'Trapdoor' Springfield and the following discussion on its use for the next three decades on the American frontier. The movie industry's fascination with this period has only endeared this rifle to the public and has continued the fascination with this single action rifle. I found the 'blame game' over Custer's defeat particularly interesting. How little prepared the 7th US Cavalry was noted by an attending surgeon when he compared the ability of the cavalrymen to travel into hostile country to infants.

John P. Langellier provides a very readable text that is well supplemented with photographs and illustrations from Steve Noon and Alan Gilliland. I was able to read the book easily over a few nights. If you own one the previous releases in the Weapon series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Cover
  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Page 9
    Page 9
  • Page 22
    Page 22
  • Page 45
    Page 45
  • Page 59
    Page 59
  • Page 73
    Page 73

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