County Museum Researches Possible ‘Custer Gun’

County Museum Researches Possible ‘Custer Gun’

A Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield carbine, made in 1875. It was a standard issue weapon to U.S. Army troops throughout the Indian Wars. This one may have been a battlefield pickup. Note the rawhide-wrapped repair made on the stock, a feature common to Native American long guns of the frontier era. Photo courtesy of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.

SWEETWATER COUNTY – A relic of the Indian Wars was the subject of recent study by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Vintage Firearms Research Program.

The firearm was a single-shot, breech-loading Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield carbine in .45/70, which museum staff determined was manufactured very late in 1875. The .45/70 “Trapdoor” was the standard issue of the U.S. infantry beginning in 1873 and continuing through the early 1890s. The short-barreled carbine version, issued to the cavalry, was the standard long gun for horse-mounted troops during the same time frame. The black powder Springfield continued to be the main service rifle of the U.S. military until it was gradually replaced by the smokeless powder Springfield model 1892 bolt-action rifle, commonly known as the Krag – essentially a copy of the Norwegian Krag-Jørgensen action.

What made the project particularly intriguing was the possibility that the carbine is a “Custer Gun;” that is, a firearm issued to the 7th Cavalry, Lt. Colonel George Custer’s regiment, used at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, and picked up by Native Americans.

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Museum staff member Dick Blust emphasized that the operative word is “possible,” as U.S. military Ordinance records identifying 7th Cavalry/Little Big Horn firearms by specific serial number have not survived. Serial number ranges, however, do exist and the carbine’s number falls within that range. In addition, the carbine’s stock was broken and repaired with rawhide wrapping at some point, a feature common to frontier-era Native American long guns.

“That’s not to say that there are no confirmed ‘Custer Guns’ out there,” Blust said, “but credible verification is very difficult.”

One documented Little Big Horn Colt Single Action Army revolver was auctioned in 2022 for over $750,000.

The museum’s Vintage Firearms Program is available to the public at no charge. If a resident has a firearm (or firearms) a they would like to learn more about, contact them at (307) 872-6435 or via email at