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It can be arguably said that the Spencer repeating rifle was a revolutionary military weapon and one of the greatest force multipliers in history. Prior to its appearance on the battlefield, a soldier with a muzzle-loading weapon could only fire about two or three times a minute. Even a breech-loading single-shot rifle could only fire about once every few seconds. With the lever-action Spencer, a soldier could fire about once a second or better. In one of the first battles to see the weapon used, at Hoovers Gap on June 24th '63, the Confederate officers thought that the Union soldiers were being reinforced by fresh troops, such was the volume of their fire.

The rifle fired rimfire bullets, and held a 7-shot tubular magazine in the stock, inserted through the butt plate. A multiple-tube carrying box was developed for cavalry, who found them extremely useful. This also sped the transition of cavalry from scouts and skirmishers to mounted infantry.

It also had a part in the movie Unforgiven starring Clint Eastwood. He and Morgan Freeman's character use it in a pivotal sequence.

Sources:
http://www.civilwarguns.com/spencer2.html
http://www.romanorifle.com/SPENCER_Firearms/spencer_firearms.html

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