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.