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While the design for the Roper rifle and shotgun originally came from Sylvester Roper, Christopher Spencer played a very significant role in its production. When sales of the Spencer lever action rifle dissolved at the end of the Civil War, Spencer needed something new to work on, and Roper recruited him into his company. Roper’s design was for a shotgun that used a 4-shot rotary magazine and reusable steel cartridge cases.
By late 1868, however, sales of the Roper shotguns had not reached a profitable level (most likely because the price of the guns began at $60, making them very expensive for the time) and the company was put up for sale. Spencer was able to put together enough money to purchase it himself, and he moved the machinery to Hartford CT and set up a new production line. In addition to shotguns, Spencer also made a .40 caliber rifle version of the gun. The prices remained too high, though, and could not sustain the company’s operations. In response, Spencer began taking on contact forging work, and that proved to be a much more profitable and sustainable business model. The company was reformed in 1872 as Spencer & Billings, and would leave the gun business behind.
Spencer would go on to invent the automatic screw machine, and make a not insignificant fortune on that idea – which is still widely used in the manufacturing industry today.
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