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Login Name Post: Builders of poor folks rifles?        (Topic#305477)
Elnathan 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1263
05-15-18 03:36 PM - Post#1684814    

    In response to Stophel

  • Quote:
There are some "plain" rifles that exist today that have minimal, or even no carving, but I think most of these are rather later than many people wish they were. Even so, buttplates, ramrod pipes, etc. all there (I know of one late 18th century rifle, I'll say ca 1785 without a sideplate... that's about it). The "barn gun" seems so far to be an entirely post 1800 phenomenon.




I can think of two 18th century rifles, one of which might be anywhere from 1785 to 1810 (it seems looks like an 18th century rifle to me) and another that is probably 1780s, that are sans buttplate and entry thimble. However, they are both carved, and not just a little squiggle.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5314
Stophel
05-15-18 04:39 PM - Post#1684822    

    In response to Elnathan

RCA#137 is like this. A very neat gun, and kind of an oddity. I think it is likely stocked up using a lock and sideplate from a 1780's gun, but as a whole, it is rather later than that.

There are a few anomalies out there. Some that can really make you scratch your head.

Once at a show many years ago, I saw a gun that I was fascinated with. It was definitely what would be considered a "barn gun". The plain maple stock was unstained, and probably the only "finish" was that applied by a century of greasy handling. It was quite yellow and very worn. The stock was of generic rifle architecture, and I cannot now recall if it had a cheekpiece or not. It had a wooden patchbox (lid missing), and no buttplate. The wood patchbox is "early"... right??? The patchbox latch would have caught a slip of metal inlet into the stock.. but that area of the wood was busted out and gone. It had, at one time, a fowler-type triggerguard, which was missing, but the inlet was there. The barrel was a musket barrel, and the lock a reused Revolutionary period Brown Bess lock. I really, really wanted to believe it was a Revolutionary period gun, but to be honest with myself, I just couldn't.

Stuff like this can throw us off sometimes. I have photos of a VERY neat gun, made up with a Bess musket barrel, rod and pipes, a Ketland lock of Revolutionary period, more or less, a plain "full panel" brass sideplate, and an engraved German rifle triggerguard that might be 1740's. No buttplate, no carving. A neatly done gun, that one might also wish were an "assembled" Revolutionary War musket... but honestly, I'd have to say I think it's a militia musket, probably New England, and probably early 19th century. Even if it were Revolutionary, things like this were pressed into service as quickly as possible, with NO time to waste, and I don't think can be compared with peace time civilian arms.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5314
Stophel
05-15-18 04:58 PM - Post#1684825    

    In response to Stophel

The sideplate-less gun I spoke of earlier was illustrated by Shumway in Muzzleblasts some time ago. It is an attractive gun of generic "rifle type", fairly robust, and made with a musket barrel and lock. Found in N.C. in an old small museum, but who knows if it's from there or not. One might really want it to be Revolutionary period, but it may or may not be. It has no sideplate or carving, but the buttplate, which is nice and wide, has raised flats on the tang, which I can tell you are a lot of work to file out! I believe that something like this, is about as plain as you would have ever seen for an American rifle (though this wasn't a rifle) of the last quarter of the 18th century.

I took this gun as inspiration for one I made for myself several years ago (hey, I like plain guns too!), but was convinced to sell it. I made a rifle out of it, and made a better flatter cheekpiece, but otherwise didn't change much.




Making a rifle like this, I do think, was a little bit of fantasy, considering the musket nature of the original, but, it was fun to do.. and I wish I had it back!

 
Elnathan 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1263
05-15-18 06:01 PM - Post#1684841    

    In response to Stophel

RCA was one of the guns I was thinking of. The other is probably a very early Lexington school rifle from KY.

I remember that smoothrifle in Shumway now, and your interpretation. I like that both...


I saw a rifle last year in Knoxville that was one of those puzzles. I got some pictures and looking over them it looks like a c. 1800 English lock that was reconverted with German style lock and frizzen assembly, overall architecture looks more or less 1800, but it also has a flat iron buttplate, open bow triggerguard with acanthus leaf finale, and the entry thimble tang is pointed. Also has a wooden patchbox. I think it is a 19th century rifle that someone stocked up using recycled German furniture from 70 years before.

 
CO Elkeater 
45 Cal.
Posts: 683
CO Elkeater
05-16-18 09:07 AM - Post#1684927    

    In response to Elnathan

I was gonna comment on the affordable Henry Leman rifle but then realized he is probably after the Golden Age. I couldn't leave a blank page.

 
Rifleman1776 
Cannon
Posts: 14709
Rifleman1776
05-16-18 09:20 AM - Post#1684931    

    In response to Stophel

Non-fancy but still a very beautiful rifle. The lines are very pleasing to look at.

 
CO Elkeater 
45 Cal.
Posts: 683
CO Elkeater
05-16-18 11:09 AM - Post#1684952    

    In response to Stophel

I wish you had sold it to me! The wood grain is excellent. That combined with the reveal at the back of the lock plate is very pleasing. Is it walnut?

 
Spence10 
Cannon
Posts: 6978
05-16-18 01:40 PM - Post#1684970    

    In response to CO Elkeater

I see ads such as these...

The South-Carolina GAZETTE
August 25, 1764
CHARLES-TOWN
…..very neat silver and steel-mounted Fowling-Pieces, with break offs and bolts and best locks, common brass-mounted ditto, common and best brass barrel Holster Pistols, with good locks, moulds and cases,

The South-Carolina GAZETTE
June 13, 1761
CHARLES-TOWN
... neat light fowling pieces, inferior ditto

They are saying there are different levels of quality of new guns, and I'm sure the prices reflect that. What do you think the difference is in the neat/best and the common/inferior guns?

Spence


 
M.D. 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4969
05-16-18 02:50 PM - Post#1684973    

    In response to Spence10

Kinda sounds like they are talking imported rifles and pistols rather than American made.
Most colonial made guns were from imported parts but whole arms were also imported for sale, pre-revolution.

 
Elnathan 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1263
05-16-18 03:19 PM - Post#1684978    

    In response to Spence10

  • Spence10 Said:
They are saying there are different levels of quality of new guns, and I'm sure the prices reflect that. What do you think the difference is in the neat/best and the common/inferior guns?




Quality of the lock, quality of the iron in the barrel, and quality of the wood finish are all possible areas of difference. Also, there is very definitely a continuum of quality between a trade gun, export grade fowling pieces, and fine gentlemen's fowling pieces in terms of the care spent shaping the stock and the quality of the mounts. They just all have buttplates and sidepieces.

I don't think that anyone is saying that there weren't differing grades of firearms. What folks are arguing is that during the 18th century 1) guns, even the lowest grade, were not made without at least a cheap, nailed-on buttplate and sideplate, and all but the very cheapest tradeguns had at least some carving and 2) rifles, being more expensive weapons due to the cost of making the barrel, were invariably in the mid-range in terms of fit and finish as well. In other words, a poor man's rifle would not be a "poorboy" type, but one with a complete set of brass furniture, a single-bridle lock with the standard factory engraving, some modest carving, a barrel made with mid-grade iron, and a quick coat of varnish. Original finish quality and the grade of iron in the barrel aren't obvious from photos, but a quick scroll through RCA will reveal many examples of guns fitting the rest of the description.

 
M.D. 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4969
05-16-18 08:32 PM - Post#1685006    

    In response to Elnathan

Iron quality before the Bessemer smelting process ( 1856) was not very uniform and good barrel steel quality didn't happen until Sheffield came out with pressure cast steel. Steel billets formed in cylinders with a hole punched through the center were rolled out around a mandrel forming a bore which could then be straightened, reamed and rifled. This allowed for better barrels steel which was stronger with no forge welded seems.
Before the advent of this process Damascus steel was used for the better grade of guns but most were simply made from flat sckelps of steel formed into a tube and forge welded their length.
None of these processes were particularly strong or uniform and were completely inadequate for anything but black powder.

 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4228
05-17-18 10:57 AM - Post#1685060    

    In response to M.D.

Oftentimes arguments are made that because cheap plain trade guns were bought by the hundreds in the colonial and early Federal periods, then it is likely or even certain that there were cheap, plain rifles made here. I don’t follow the logic. Rifles are precision instruments using better locks and barrels that were far more expensive, comprising much or most of the cost of a finished gun.

There are a number of examples of relatively undecorated rifles from the last quarter of the 1700’s, some even lacking a sideplate, and with no engraving.

Much later on and specifically in hills and hollers of Appalachia we see rifles that lack carving entirely, and may even lack a buttplate. However there were often full rifles (rifles barrels) with double set triggers. In contrast the Berks County PA barn guns were often smoothbores.

 
Cruzatte 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1123
Cruzatte
05-17-18 03:17 PM - Post#1685090    

    In response to Rich Pierce

I'm somewhat confused as to what defines "plain," since I don't really have a clear idea of what kinds of rifles we're comparing. For everyone's consideration I submit this quote from The Northwest Gun by Charles E. Hanson Jr. [p. 48] regarding rifles for the Indian Trade.
  • Quote:
Single trigger--Barrels of different lengths from 3 feet 6, to 3 feet 8 inches long--Balls assorted from 32 to 40 to the pound--5 inch Superior Locks. Stocks of maple or Sugar Tree stained and varnished as is customary--Silver thumbpiece--Handsome engraved Brass mountings--Hickory ramrod stained. Wiper in 2 pieces to unscrew in the middle, the socket being fastened to the end of the ramrod--...



Now speaking strictly from personal preference, I'd say that's beyond plain. Matter of fact, it comes close to describing my rifle, with these two exceptions; it has double triggers, and no silver thumbpiece.

Edited by Cruzatte on 05-17-18 03:18 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
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