200+/- year old flintlock coach gun (picture heavy)

Discussion in 'Smoothbore' started by wcubed, May 10, 2019.

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  1. May 10, 2019 #1

    wcubed

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    This is the flintlock that got me into BP shooting.

    I picked it up about a year and a half ago, and finally decided to shoot it, after looking it over.

    It has led a rough life. I've been trying to figure out exactly what it started out as, which is very difficult because it has practically no markings on it. At this point, it appears to be a parts gun.

    The lock reminds me of 3rd pattern Brown Bess, but with barely any markings, the best guess is that it is an American copy. The barrel is .75 caliber, and was cut down to only 15 3/8 inches a very long time ago. I have no idea what the buttplate, or trigger and guard came from.

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    The end of the barrel looks like it was used for a battering ram.

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    A closer look at the brass.

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    This pointy end of the lock was ground off to fit in the current stock. There isn't much detail to the lock.

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    I did manage to get the lock out of the stock.

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    The tang screw/bolt won't come out, so I can't get the barrel off.

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    There appears two sideways O's on the barrel.

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    I made a ramrod for it.

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    And got a new flint for it.

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    And then I fired it using 70 gr. of 3F that I got from a neighbor. It takes about 50 gr. just to cover the touch hole.

    I picked up some .375 round ball for cheap to use as shot, again with 70 gr. of 3F. I used up to 8 balls, which created very little pressure. The ball only put a dent in a plank of wood.

    It creates quite a fireball!

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    I have just picked up some 2F and .69 caliber round ball, so that will be my next test. Yes, I will use a string remotely to test it. I still don't fully trust the barrel, and really think a light load is best, regardless.

    Finally, I will hang it up on the wall, and get something a little newer so I can continue to satisfy my newfound black powder interest. The "Canoe gun" thread I read here was interesting. :)

    Anyone have any ideas on what this old flamethrower used to be?
     
  2. May 10, 2019 #2

    wcubed

    wcubed

    wcubed

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  3. May 10, 2019 #3

    Maven

    Maven

    Maven

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    Light 'em up!!!
     
  4. May 11, 2019 #4

    Juice Jaws

    Juice Jaws

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    Wish it could talk.
     
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  5. May 11, 2019 #5

    wcubed

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    It definitely spoke to me when I saw it! I could just feel the history oozing out of every beat-to-kingdom-come scratch, ding, and alteration done to this piece generations ago.
     
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  6. May 12, 2019 #6

    Artificer

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    What I think you have is a Cut down, inexpensive Commercial Musket either “made for the trade” or at most a low cost arm for the British Militia, but I’m pretty sure it was not provided by British Ordnance. The replacement lock appears to be a 1792 Indian Pattern Musket STYLE at least, but there is too much rust damage to see a makers’ mark outside or inside the lock plate.

    The reason I think it is a Commercial Arm is because there is no side plate and too dainty of a trigger guard and butt plate to have been supplied by British Ordnance. The one Rammer Pipe is indicative of the forward Pipe on a full length musket. The Front Sight is in the style of a Commercial Musket for a Socket Bayonet, as well.

    Personally, I would not shoot it with a live round until that muzzle is addressed/corrected. I would measure the bore as accurately as possible and then make a tapered steel plug in that size and gently tap it in the bore, so the dent/s in the muzzle would be removed or at least minimized. Not sure, but I might also file the end of the barrel perpendicular, if that doesn’t correct the muzzle enough. Also before I shot a live round, I would carefully remove the tang screw and inspect the breech to see if the breech plug has threads and if it is in good enough condition to fire. If that is not possible, then I would not fire a live round in it.

    Gus
     
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  7. May 12, 2019 #7

    Artificer

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    P.S. Sorry, forgot to mention the lack of an entry pipe for the rammer in the stock, which also speaks to a lower price arm. Even the less expensive British Ordnance Approved India Pattern Muskets had entry pipes.

    Gus
     
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  8. May 12, 2019 #8

    wcubed

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    I could provide additional close-up pictures of the lock, but I don't think it will help. I don't believe there are any makers' marks, unless they were so lightly struck that the rust damage has hidden them. If the double line around the edge of the lock is still visible, wouldn't you think any decent maker's mark would still be visible too?

    I have thought about this long and hard, and I believe the reason for the missing side plate is that the lock was re-stocked at some point. The lock was obviously modified to fit in this stock. This would also explain how none of the other stock hardware is correct for the 1792 Indian Pattern. The question is, what DID the parts come from then? (Other than the one rammer pipe that came from a full length musket.)

    I neglected to mention in my original post that I did correct the dented muzzle. Your concern about firing it is valid, and it has been a concern of mine. That is why I will fire it remotely when I load it with a .69 caliber ball.

    I spent over two hours trying to remove all the screws and bolts from this old piece, and the ONLY part I could remove was the lock. I can't even get the butt plate off. As for the tang screw on the barrel, I finally got it to turn up just enough to get a screw driver under the edge to pry on it while continuing to turn the screw, but it does not come out any further. In other words, it will turn counter clockwise as many times as I care to turn it, with no further effect, but it will tighten back up TIGHT in only two turns.

    Any ideas?
     
  9. May 12, 2019 #9

    Artificer

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    I could provide additional close-up pictures of the lock, but I don't think it will help. I don't believe there are any makers' marks, unless they were so lightly struck that the rust damage has hidden them. If the double line around the edge of the lock is still visible, wouldn't you think any decent maker's mark would still be visible too?

    The fact that so much remains of the “Threads” as British Ordnance called them, or the double engraved lines, seems to rule out the lock was ever accepted by British Ordnance. This because their engravings of the King’s Cypher and either Tower or Dublin Castle were normally as deep or deeper than the threads. I suspect the engraving for the maker’s name was not too deep and hence it is hidden under the corrosion forward of the Cock.

    I think the gun was built as a less expensive “Para Military” Musket for the British Militia and then for some reason, it was shortened. This explains not only having no side plate, but also the rest of the furniture and of course the caliber of the barrel. Not sure if the lock was replaced before or after it was shortened.

    Another explanation would be it was built for the Slave Trade as a less expensive musket, then the lock replaced and sometime it was shortened.

    I considered the gun might have been assembled from parts here in the U.S., as a cheap musket to satisfy the 1792 Militia Act requirements and then sometime later the lock was replaced and it was cut down. Much of the furniture is too late for the gun having been assembled before that time period. However, what kind of blows that theory apart is the lock that is on the gun now. If it was a British Ordnance Issued Lock on an Indian Pattern Musket and lost here in action during the War of 1812, it would have the deeper engravings of the King’s Cypher and either Tower or Dublin Castle on the lock. So as mentioned above, I tend to believe the the lock was not from a King’s Musket. Under that thinking, it sort of rules out the lock was replaced in the U.S.

    Your Avatar and profile page doesn’t mention where you are at and you didn’t mention where the gun came from. It would be good to know at least what State you are in or what country, because that may open up more possibilities about the gun. If you are in Canada or a State near Canada, that might explain a few more things.

    As for the Tang Screw, once it is loose, can you push upwards on the bottom of the threaded portion of the screw with a pin punch while turning it with a screw driver? This may free it and allow it to come all the way out or at least far enough you can get a pair of pliers on the body of the screw to better grip it and pull it upwards.

    Gus
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
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  10. May 12, 2019 #10

    wcubed

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    Thank you for your reply, Gus.

    I am located in upstate NY so certainly close to Canada, and I purchased it on consignment as a "wallhanger" at a gun shop.

    I suppose I could try give another try with the tang screw using a pair of pliers, but I am also worried about the integrity of the barrel pins as they look rusted and I might have trouble getting it all back together again, as I have no experience with this sort of thing, and at the price I paid, it's not worth paying someone else. It is what it is.
     
  11. May 12, 2019 #11

    Artificer

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    OK, that opens up the possibility it was made as a less expensive gun for the Canadian Militia only a few years before or during the War of 1812. That would also explain being able to get a Non British Issue Lock of that pattern, as a replacement lock, later on.

    Side Note: Many of us don't know how much the U.S. folks in Washington wanted to try to take over Canada in the War of 1812. I just LOVE the one segment on the History Channel when a Female Historian talking about that, exclaims, "Just WHAT we they THINKING?!!" They appointed General Hull to invade Canada and foolishly did not have enough trained soldiers and didn't support him with a fleet on the Great Lakes. It was generally said and I'm paraphrasing, that General Hull managed to pluck defeat from the jaws of Victory, though that really is too harsh considering what he had to try to do such a enormous job.

    Then the gun may have been deliberately shortened for use in the Canadian Fur Trade/boatmen/bateaux men to use.

    Gus
     
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  12. May 13, 2019 #12

    russellshaffer

    russellshaffer

    russellshaffer

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    Question for Artificer: you say to check to see if the breech plug has threads. Were some of them forge welded or pined in place? Curious minds.
     
  13. May 13, 2019 #13

    wcubed

    wcubed

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    Gus, your explanation makes sense. Of course we will never truly know.

    This is the only mark on the lock that I can find, just below the pan, if it even is a mark. It kind of looks like a small crown but I have no idea if any crown mark looked like this.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. May 13, 2019 #14

    Artificer

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    Hi Russell,

    No, in the period, forge welding or pinning the breech plug in place was not done, even as a repair. What they did when there was a failure in the breech and the barrel forward was still good, was to cut the breech off and thread the fresh cut end for a threaded breech plug.

    The reason I am concerned about the breech on the OP's barrel is the corrosion outside and inside the barrel and thus how much "good and strong" Iron is left in that area - to fire live rounds. Even the best forged Iron in the period had some slag inclusions in the metal and the lower the grade of Iron, the less it was worked to get the most inclusions out of the base metal.

    What worries me about that breech is the corrosion may be enough around the breech and especially the threads, that it may have "rotted" away enough Iron so it would no longer stand the pressure of firing a live round. That's why I would want to pull the breech plug and examine how much the corrosion may have damaged the base metal Iron in those areas.

    Gus
     
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  15. May 13, 2019 #15

    Artificer

    Artificer

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    Yes, it is only a theoretical explanation, but at least one that is possible. Yes, we will almost surely never know for sure and I certainly don't mean it is the only explanation possible.

    I was a bit surprised in this most recent close up photo, even more of the bottom of the "Threads" survive than could be seen in other pics. Not sure what that mark is, but if it was a British Issue Lock, that is the location one would look for the Broad Arrow stamp with the point facing towards the right, away from the Cock. Since that is not what it is, it is probably what is left of the maker's stamp that is sometimes to often in that area. Too bad we can't read more of it, because it might have helped identify who made the lock.

    Gus
     
  16. May 13, 2019 #16

    Jason Lewis

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    IMO this gun looks like it was cobbled together by a frontier gunsmith from recycled parts. I’d guess it was cut down long ago to serve as a boys shotgun. By the outward appearance of the barrel, I would not recommend shooting a projectile of any kind. The risk of destroying an antique and injuring yourself or others is in my opinion too high for this piece. If you are interested in shooting Original guns there are many in shootable condition. This one will look great cleaned and oiled and on the wall. But it’s your gun, do as you will.
     
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  17. May 13, 2019 #17

    Eterry

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    While not an expert in antique firearm repair i grew up on the farm and have years experience with rusted metal parts.
    I would get as much penetrating oil on the tang bolt, both ends, for several days.
    We've had good luck using a screwdriver of correct fit, tapping it into the slot, then clamp visegrips on the handle. Tap the top of the handle while turning the screw. This may take 3 hands, and is best done mounted on a padded vise.

    If it turns, work the screw slowly both ways to allow rust/dirt/200 years of crud to fall free.
    I personally wouldn't pry on the screw, wood, or tang.

    Patience is the key to not breaking anything... it took 200+ years to freeze up, it won't come loose during a commercial break.

    Looks like a "Blanket or Canoe" gun to me.
     
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  18. May 13, 2019 #18

    flntlokr

    flntlokr

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    I suspect he was more concerned that the threads have rusted away, and the plug could blow out under the pressure of a full load. I would personally never try to shoot a projectile out of it. If you want a short big bore, Pecatonica makes a good solid blunderbuss.
     
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  19. May 14, 2019 #19

    wcubed

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    Thanks, flntlokr. I haven't heard of Pecatonica. I've added that to my list of places to check out. I am interested in purchasing a .69 caliber reproduction piece such as a blunderbuss or short musket of some type to replace this as a shooter.

    Jason Lewis, I agree with you, this will look good up on the wall. That was my original plan for it all along, but the temptation is great to shoot it a few times first.

    Gus, you and others have mentioned the integrity of the breech so I must ask a couple detailed questions about barrels now.

    What is the standard thickness of a breech? The outside length of this barrel to the tang but not including the tang is 15 7/8', while the inside length is 15 3/8". That means this breech is 1/2" thick. I kind of find it hard to believe that the breech could be that compromised when all the other pitting is only on the surface. Not knowing anything about breech plugs though, I will leave it to anyone who cares to answer whether my assumption is, well.... just plain ignorant. If so, I will plead guilty.

    My next question is to the barrel thickness itself. With a caliper, I measure an outside thickness at the touch hole of 1.315", while at the muzzle, I measure an outside thickness of 0.9". Subtracting the inside diameter of .75" and dividing by two, gives a thickness of the barrel at the touch hole of 0.2825" (over a 1/4" thick), and a thickness of 0.075" (less than 1/10th of an inch and probably closer to 1/20th of an inch when you factor in the pitting which is worse internally at the muzzle end).

    Is this a normal barrel profile? It is tapered, but perfectly "straight" on the outside. It is not swamped as it is now. Perhaps it was swamped when it was longer, and it was cut down at the thinnest point but doesn't that seem to be awfully thin at the 16 inches point of the barrel if it was originally much longer?

    In any case, I do appreciate your time answering my questions, and your concern about me firing this piece.

    Thank you,
    Bill
     
  20. May 14, 2019 #20

    Artificer

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    Bill,

    I congratulate you for thinking this through so thoroughly and taking the measurements you did. BTW, those measurements agree with ones in Bailey's and others' published research.

    However, it is not only the thickness of the metal or the length of the plug, but more importantly how well the screw threads of the plug lock into the screw threads in the barrel that seal the gas pressure inside the barrel long enough it will vent through the vent hole and muzzle and not through the breech threads.

    I like many people before and after me, I was really surprised the first time I loosened a Breech Plug on an Original Barrel. It required additional force partially because it had "rusted in place" for over 150 years, but once it broke loose, I was REALLY surprised how easy it was to tighten back up. That meant the fit of the threads of the breech plug to the fit of the threads was not that tight. I wrote partially above because the other part of how tight the Breech Plug Threads fit the Barrel Threads came from the fact that Iron has enough ductility it flows/flattens/extends under pressure and thus the act of firing live rounds causes the threads to tighten up against each other and seal the gas pressure in the bore.

    OK, now as corroded as that barrel is inside and outside the bore, I have to suspect some of that corrosion got into the screw threads of the breech plug and barrel or at least I want to make darn sure it did not. The reason for that is the corrosion may/would take metal away from the surface of the screw threads, that is needed to seal the gas pressure in the barrel. IOW, it would not take a large amount of corrosion to eat away enough of the threads that would allow gas pressure to escape between the threads. When that happens, the stock can be cracked at a minimum or the breech may fail catastrophically and you get gas and pieces of metal or wood back into your eyes. That's why I would not shoot the gun with live rounds until I could inspect the threads of the breech plug and the barrel, as well as the barrel wall near the breech.

    Gus
     
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