|Originally Posted By bloodmoon:|
I wonder how reliable the extra magazines were given the manufacturing tolerances of the time.
They were really a kind of speedloader, not a magazine. The magazine was in the buttstock, the spring and follower were contained in a tube, and that tube was what you removed, filled the magazine and slid the magazine tube back over the column of cartridges in the tube. Its a lot like the magazine tube in a Marlin Model 60, except in the stock instead of under the barrel.
Amazingly no one ever got a clue that the cartridges could just be loaded into cardboard tubes at the factory and shipped that way. Just put some wax paper on the open end with some sealing wax and a bit of string, pull the seal off with your teath like a musket cartridge and dump.
The fact that the magazine tube could be lost was a definite drawback of the design, though the gun was not useless without it, it could still be single loaded through the action. Once the King patent side gate was added to the Henry to make the M1866 Winchester design the popularity of the Spencer fell drastically.