Copyright 2006, all rights reserved by utah Gun Collectors Association
Been Where? - - - Done What?
Some U.S. military arms tell about their service around the world.

Only a tiny percentage of guns have any verifiable history. 
Here are some historic guns with documented history, mostly based on material in the National Archives, found by Springfield Research Service.  In most cases, the information covers a very brief period out of many years that these guns remained in service.  But, so few guns have any verifiable history, that collectors treasure those that do.

Top- Springfield .45-70 rifles used in the Spanish American War or Philippine Insurrection by: Pvt. Elmer H. Johnson of the 4th Illinois Vounteer Infantry; Pvt. Crawford Blair of the 20th Kansas Volunter Infantry; and the 202nd New York Volunteer Infantry.
Bottom- Spencer Carbine used by Pvt. William Wise of the 6th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry in the Civil War.

(Top to bottom) Scarce unmodified M1892 Krag mysteriously taken from the West Virginia National Guard; M1917 Eddystone recaptured from the Viet Cong guerillas in Vietnam; M1903 Springfield used by Pvt. Louis J. Berman, with the 1st Marine Brigade in Haiti in 1912; and M1903 Springfield used aboard the Coast Guard CG-229 during the Prohibition "Rum Wars" on the Great Lakes.



Model 1917 S&W Revolver found defective at Camp Jackson, SC, during World War I.
M1911A1 ".45 Automatic" carried by P-38 Pilot Tristan P. Smith with the 433rd Fighter Squadron in the Philippines during 1944-45.
These guns have “been there, and done that….” Read more of the details below.
From the collection of John S., displayed at the October, 2006 Utah Gun Collectors Association Gun Show.


U.S. Rifle Model 1894

Serial number 11213

I began my service at Springfield Armory in 1895. On July 2, 1895, I was shipped to the state of West Virginia along with another rifle.  We were really cutting edge technology at the time, and only a few of us went to the states instead of the Regular Army.  In fact, by February 1897 only eleven of us 1894 Krags had been sent to West Virginia

On April 9, 1896, I arrived in the Maryland Adjutant General’s officer, brought there by his clerk.  The clerk claimed that I had been loaned to him by Mr. Frost, of Annapolis.
Mr. Frost explained that I had been given to him by the Governor of West Virginia.  I don’t know the truth about how I got out of West Virginia and ended up in Maryland, but that was Frost’s story.

In January of 1898, West Virginia’s governor was inquiring about serial numbers of arms shipped to the state, presumably to reconcile their records, and Springfield was able to confirm when I had been shipped to West Virginia.

I do not recall if I was sent back to West Virginia, or if I got hidden away somewhere else, but someone took good care of me, and I escaped the update to Model 1896 configuration! [Note it is believed that only about 50 of the 1894 Krag rifles escaped modification to M1896 configuration!]

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

U.S. Revolver
Model of 1917
by Smith & Wesson

Serial number 22588

I was made by Smith & Wesson around May or June of 1918 when labor-management strife was so bad that the Army Ordnance Department was about to seize control of the plant to increase production. 
I was shipped to the Second Corps Artillery Park in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  On June 15, 1918 the Ordnance Officer reported that at least twenty of us had arrived with rusty barrels and chambers.  I was noted as- ”Very badly pitted with rust both in the cylinder chamber and interior of the barrel.”

This report was forwarded by the Corps Commander and the Chief of Ordnance to the Engineering Division.    Apparently a light coat of oil was applied to the bore and chambers of revolvers intended for immediate issue, with cosmoline on the outside.  Those intended for overseas shipment received cosmoline protective treatment throughout.

In any case, I remained in service, and it looks like a good cleaning took care of whatever rust or pitting the Ordnance Officer complained about.

Camp Jackson, SC, during World War I.

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

U.S. Model 1903 Rifle

Serial number 449863


Made at Springfield Armory in 1910, I really don’t recall much about my early years. 
By June 30, 1928 I was aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Boat CG-229, part of the fleet of Patrol Boats under the 9th Coast Guard District which included the Great Lakes.
These 75 foot boats were built specifically for Prohibition enforcement duties, with a deck gun and some small arms.  Capturing “rum runners” was one of the Coast Guard’s big jobs during prohibition (1919-1933).  Smuggling was rampant across the Great Lakes, so we had a busy time.

"Six Bitter" Patrol Boat bringing in a "Rum Runner" on the Great Lakes
Sometime later I got freshened up with an arsenal overhaul leaving me a nice looking rifle with a new barrel, new finish and nice stock.  Despite modern hysteria about “unsafe low number rifles” I served continuously until the end of World War Two.

The 75 foot boat I was on was known as a “six bitter” (to distinguish it from the larger 125 foot “buck and a quarter” patrol boats).  Some of these boats, like me, served into WW2, but most left service in the 1930s. 

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

Model 1884 “Trapdoor” Springfield .45-70 Rifle

Serial number 235285

Kansas State Flag

I had a lot of adventures with my soldier, Private Crawford Blair of Company F, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry.  Private Blair was not a very good soldier, and this 19 year old former miner was constantly getting in trouble, with six summary court-martials in less than a year.*  He joined the regiment when it was formed May 12, 1898 and we served together until he was discharged on October 28, 1899.
We went by railroad from Topeka to San Francisco, and then spent 29 days on the Transport “Newport” before arriving in Manila on December 7, 1898
The Filipinos did not like the American occupation forces, who had liberated them from Spanish oppression, and open warfare broke out in February 1899.  We were engaged in many large and small actions until the end of June, including one at Caloocan where our Colonel Frederick Funston and two enlisted men earned the Medal of Honor. 
We arrived back in San Francisco on October 10 after a 37 day voyage and on October 28th the regiment was mustered out.  I really don’t remember much after that exciting period.

    Pvt. Crawford Blair's disciplinarey record with the 20th Kansas:

    • Tried by Summary Court Martial. Sept. 14, 1898 for violation of Article 33, Articles of War (absence from Reveille).  Sentenced to be confined two days 
    • Tried by Summary Court Jan 19, 1899 violation 62 A.W. absence from drill.  Fined $4.00.  Fine deducted on pay roll for Jan. and Feb. 1899.
    • Tried by Summary Court Feb. 4, 1899 violation A.W. 62 (Refusing to perform fatigue duty).  Sentenced to forfeit $4.00 and to be confined two days.  Fine deducted on pay roll for Jan. and Feb. 1899.
    • Tried by Summary Court July 5, 1899 violation 33 A.W. (absence from Retreat).  Fine $5.00.
    • Tried by Summary Court Aug. 27, 1899 violation A.W. 33 (absence from Reveille) Fine $3.00.  Both fines deducted from pay roll for July and Aug. 1899. 
    • Tried by Summary Court July 18, 1899, violation 33 A.W. (absence from Retreat).  Fine $5.00.  Fine deducted from pay roll Sept. 1899.

    Not everyone in this outfit was a screw up. Over in Company F, Norman F. Ramsey was an exemplary soldier. He joined up with us 2 months before his 16th birthday. You gun collectors may recognize him better from his service as Commanding Officer of Rock Island Arsenal 1937-1944 and then Springfield Armory in 1944-1945 resulting in the NFR cartouches on M1 Garand stocks.

    Here's another one of our comrades, Pvt. Clark Messenger, just one of our average soliders, about age 25 at the time.

References: Springfield Research Service documentation

Model 1860
Spencer Carbine

Serial number 29250

I reached the 6th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry in late 1863 or early 1864 and was issued to Private William Wise, in Company K, who had been in the regiment since its formation in November 1861.  He had been using Sharps carbine serial number 85956 until I got there. 
Operating mainly out of Memphis, we were in various engagements in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky against General Nathan B. Forrest’s troops during much of 1864.  The biggest fight was at Franklin, TN, shortly before Pvt. Wise was discharged.
Private Wise and I stayed together until December 12, 1864 when his enlistment expired. 

Someone messed with my sights later on, and replaced my stocks make me look better. Speaking of looking better.... my solider had to be better looking than this guy:

The only photo found of any member of this Regiment is Pvt. Samuel Harrington of Company A.

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

U.S. Model 1911A1
“.45 Automatic”

Serial number 1945272

I could tell you a lot about my adventures with an Army Air Corps P-38 “Lighting” pilot!
We met at Hamilton Field in California, when First Lieutenant Tristan Perego Smith was being issued his gear to go overseas.  We left on flights to Hawaii, then on to New Guinea where replacement pilots picked up newly assembled aircraft.  We then flew up to the Philippines where we became part of the 433rd Fighter Squadron (Satan’s Angels”), part of the 475th Fighter Group.

On our flights, he would carry me in a shoulder holster.  We didn’t shoot down any Jap planes, but most of our work was supporting ground forces making their way through the Philippine Islands, and strikes against Jap targets in Formosa.

I hope you like my cool Plexiglas grips!  The guys all thought these were great.  Tristan even scratched his name and number on my slide, and initial on the frame so no one would take his pistol.

Tristan kept me when he went home at the end of the war, and later gave me to a friend, who sold me to the present owner. Tristan wrote a book telling about our adventures, and illustrated it with many of his own drawings.  His pilot nickname “Auger” was the title of the book.

Reference: Tristan P. Smith, Auger, privately published, circa 1994.

U.S. Model 1903 Rifle

Serial number 215217

Back in the “Old Corps” all the Marines used rifles like me!  And they sure could shoot with us!
I surely served in World War I, but I can only prove that I served in Haiti.  You know, that impoverished island the French screwed up in the Caribbean?  I hear they are not much better off now than when I was there 75 years ago. 

I was down there with Private Louis J. Berman, with the 1st Marine Brigade, chasing banditos and the thugs trying to take the place over in 1931.  Marines had been doing that during chronic and threatened insurrections between 1914 and 1934. Prior to the Marines’ arrival, they had 102 revolts, wars or coups in 72 years.

Marines in Haiti rounding up insurgents.

Anyway, in April, 1931, PVT Berman turned me in for one of those “high number” rifles (serial number 918585) because rifle grenades were going to be used, and us “low number” rifles weren’t supposed to be tough enough for that job.  Well, we were tough enough to serve all the way through World War Two.  You will note that I got a new barrel sometime after Pearl Harbor, and kept on fighting.  Those thrifty Marines even punched some spurs on my butt to grip their shoulders better.

Semper Fi!

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

Model 1884 “Trapdoor” Springfield .45-70 Rifle

Serial number 147180

I served with the western New York troops of Company F of the 202nd New York Volunteer Infantry.
My company was signed up in July 1898, and we moved to Camp Black on Long Island, NY; then to Camp Meade in Pennsylvania, and then on to Camp Haskell near Athens, GA.
On December 3, 1898 we embarked on the transport Minnewasca and arrived in Havana for occupation duty on December 9th.   We spent the next three months at Camp Barrett at Guanajay in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.  During that time “…outposts were maintained, starving poor rationed, hospitals rehabilitated, sanitation of the towns supervised, roads and bridges reconstructed, public property inventoried, …telegraph lines constructed, postal routes opened, etc., etc.”
On March 18, 1899 we were relieved by the 1st U.S. Infantry, and we departed for Savannah, and were mustered out of service on April 15th, 1899.

I’m a “Star” too!  Springfield built me in 1880 using parts salvaged from earlier Model 1873 rifles with the narrow receivers and blocks, but I had those parts newly made.  But, since my kind were considered to be “second class” arms, we had a star after the serial number.  We were mostly set aside for issue to the state militias, not the Regular Army.

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield .45-70 Rifle

Serial number 73927

I served in the Spanish American War with my soldier, Private Elmer H. Johnson, in Company M, 4th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  Elmer was a 21 year old farmer, 5’ 6” high, weighting 140 pounds. 
He signed up June  20, 1898, and we served at Camp Cuba Libre near Jacksonville, FL. Elmer was sick a lot.  He missed duty once in July, for about a week in August, and another week in September.  He went on sick furlough on September 19th for 19 days, but that was extended until he was finally discharged on March 7, 1899.  While he was home sick, the regiment left for Cuba and served there from January to April 1899. 

Disease was a bigger problem than combat deaths then.  Only 332 men were killed in combat, and 1,641 were wounded.  Meanwhile 2,957 died from disease.

Reference: Springfield Research Service documentation

U.S. Model 1917 Rifle by Eddystone
Serial number 1177872

I’m tired, and pretty beat up.  My younger days are kind of vague, but I was made for use during World War I, but don’t think I got “over there.”  I was probably among the huge number of Model 1917 rifles provided to the French (or maybe even the Chinese) during World War 2.  Probably the French, as I have a typical French “bowtie” wood repair on my wrist.
In any case, I ended up in Vietnam in the 1960s, in the hands of the Viet Cong.  I think they captured me from the French in the 1950s, but I’m not sure. China received a lot of M1917 rifles from the U.S. during WW2, and maybe the Chinese gave me to the Viet Cong.
The late January, 1968, “Tet Offensive” was some fierce fighting, and my Viet Cong owner was killed during an attack on an American base.  An Army Special Forces Captain grabbed me off the battlefield, probably more to keep me from being used against Americans again than as a souvenir. 
When it was the Captain’s time to go on “R&R” leave, he traded me to an Army personnel clerk with the 13th Aviation Battalion at Can Tho, in the Mekong Delta, to get quick processing on his orders.  The clerk was Specialist 5 John Potyra, and he brought me back to the United States as a war trophy in April 1968.

I’ve really “been there and done that!”

Reference: Personal communications from SP5 John Potyra