I have an old cap-lock half-stock rifle that my dad gave to me on a trip back to Boulder, Colorado to visit him and his wife in 2008. It was part of my step-mother’s brother’s estate and the man’s family had tagged it to be sold at an upcoming garage sale for $25. My dad asked them if he could buy it so that he could give to me, if nothing else, as a wall-hanger, knowing that I had a keen appreciation of old rifles in general, especially MLs. They gladly just gave it to him to pass on to me, and I’m very grateful!
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When I got it home, I removed the barrel, lock and tang to clean ages of gunk out of the lock and off of other pieces, being very careful to not remove any finish or patina. I noticed that it was missing the nipple, drum, and clean-out screw, and that the lock screw was almost totally stripped at the end and barely held the lock into the stock and a that a Phillips head screw held the hammer to the tumbler. The ram rod was an old tapered wood one, with no cupped end or brass ferrule threaded for attachments. The breech plug/tang unscrewed from the end of the barrel without much effort, and looking down the barrel was worse than looking down a hand-dug well. After a thorough cleaning of ages of dirt and grime, all the rifling looked pretty decent, no bad rust or deep pitting, and I thought maybe I had a shooter here and not just a wall hanger! I gave the outside of the stock a quick wipe down with a cloth dampened with a little Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. I know, I know, what does that do to the original finish, you ask? Well nothing, except clean dirt and grime off the surface and it soaks into the wood to moisturize and rejuvenate it and what finish is still there. It adds no build-up to the old finish nor does it dissolve anything away from it either, aside from making it look much better! (BTW, I am not affiliated with Kramer’s in any way, it is just a very good product for 100+ year old stocks that I am not afraid to use on anything of my own!!)
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After this initial disassembly, this is what I could determine about it on my own. It had a 32” long full octagon barrel that is 1-1/8” across the flats at the breech end and tapers to 1-1/16” at the muzzle. After pounding a .45 caliber lead bullet through the oiled bore with a long brass rod, I measured its groove diameter right at .40”. Several parts are stamped “REMINGTON”. These are the lock plate (on the outside at lower right), the inside of the patch box lid and the barrel (upside down on the LH side vertical flat near the breech end, just covered by the stock). The “REMINGTON” barrel marking is the hardest to see, with only some of the letters still faintly present. Plainly visible on the top flat of the barrel just ahead of the lock and behind the rear sight is stamped “A.G. Edwards CORU_ _A MICH.”
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I really enjoy trying to find out anything I can about the history surrounding things that I own, that is, if there is any history to be found. This old rifle has started me on a rewarding arm-chair adventure and history lesson! I looked at a Michigan state map with a city index and found that there still is indeed a city with the name Corunna in Michigan. This would seem to satisfy the two unreadable letters in the barrel stamping. I am on a roll!
Now, to try and look-up A.G. Edwards in Michigan. Googling Michigan gunsmiths, I saw on-line somewhere that the American Single Shot Rifle Assoc. (or ASSRA, which I am also a member of, along with the NMLRA) might have a copy of Michigan Gunsmiths of the 19th and 20th Centuries
by James Kelly in their library. I contacted Laurie Gapko, curator of the ASSRA archives and he found this info for me in their copy of that book:
Edwards, A.G., Corunna Village 1860 census
Shiawassee County 1860 census shows A.G. Edwards 32 Gun Smith, born in England. His wife Emaline 28, and first son George H. were born in New York. Three younger children Ida F. 4, Mary 2 and Walter 3 months, were born in Michigan. In 1869 he was still located in Corunna, and made at least one half-stock percussion rifle.
Looking further on my own I found the following excerpt:
American Gun Makers, page 57: Edwards, A.G. - Corunna, Mich. 1869 Half-stock percussion rifle.
This excerpt was taken from the book:
American Gun Makers
, copyright 1953 by the Stackpole Company, Second Edition.
I wanted to learn a little about Remington and his business too. Eliphalet Remington II, a blacksmith by trade and working for his father, had forged his first rifle barrel at the age of 22 in Aug. of 1816. By the mid-1840’s, several of Remington’s sons had joined the company, then E. Remington & Sons, which specialized in making rifle barrels which carried the distinctive ‘REMINGTON’ stamp near the breeches. Many independent gunsmiths purchased Remington barrels and assembled them into custom ordered arms for their customers. With increased demand, other parts were added to their inventory, first percussion locks made in Birmingham, England and marked with their ‘REMINGTON’ stamp, then later brass furniture, was added, i.e. trigger guards, butt plates and patch boxes.
The previous owner of this rifle was Harold (Bud) Wilson, who was my step-mother’s brother, and who passed away I believe in Arizona, presumably in 2007 or 2008. Bud had once told my dad (who passed away in 2018) about how this rifle had belonged to his (Bud’s) grandfather, Gus Bluske, and that Gus had lugged the rifle across the plains when his family came to settle in the Fort Morgan area of Colorado from Wisconsin in the early 1900’s.
Through my dad’s request, someone in the family was able to supply the following additional information about Gus Bluske:
He was born on Oct. 20, 1869 in Vernon County, WI. He was married in Viroqua, WI on Mar. 11, 1902. The 1910 census shows him living in Fort Morgan, CO, and that he was a carpenter. He had also lived later in Greeley, CO and had moved on to California in 1929. He died in Eagle Rock, CA on Jan. 17, 1973.
This rifle was evidently passed on at some point, presumably to a married daughter of Gus Bluske’s and her husband (with the last name of Wilson), who then would be Bud Wilson’s parents, and then on to Gus’ grandson (Bud Wilson), then to my dad and finally to me. This rifle has certainly made the rounds and has traveled quite a bit in its time, originally from Corunna, MI circa 1860’s, to Wisconsin circa the early 1900’s, then to Fort Morgan, CO circa 1910, then on to Arizona, then to Boulder, Co and now in Lone Jack, MO. Wow, how I wish it could talk!
I was still curious about the maker though, A.G. Edwards, and knowing that Sarah Ritter did research for people on old guns and gunsmiths from reading her articles in every issue of MuzzleBlasts, I emailed her with what I already knew. A few months later I got my Nov. 2017 issue and was surprised to read Sarah’s findings about A.G. Edwards inside! Sarah did find his full name in Frank Seller’s book, American Gunsmiths,
which was Antrobus George Edwards (no wonder he went by A.G.!). He is listed as having lived in Rochester, NY from 1849 to 1853, and in Counna, MI from 1853 to 1879. There is also a John Miller listed in Seller’s book who lived in Rochester, NY from 1829 to1853, and who patented a revolving rifle on June 11, 1829. A.G. Edwards had been an employee of John Miller’s prior to him buying Miller’s shop from him in 1852, and was known to have made Miller patent revolving rifles and normal percussion rifles.
So, it appears that my A.G. Edwards rifle was made sometime between 1853 and either 1869 or 1879. (Much past 1869, the demand for percussion rifles would seem to me to be rather limited.) Could my rifle be the ‘one’ half-stock percussion rifle mentioned in both the Shiawassee County 1860 census and the book American Gun Makers
? I guess we will never know! Boy, what a ride!!
Since 2008 I have replaced the drum, nipple, clean-out screw, ram rod, hammer screw and lock screw. The fit of all metal parts to and within the stock shows a very high level of skill and craftsmanship throughout. Now, I have to find the time to go out and try shooting it again!
(I say ‘again’ because I will admit to having taken it out to the range once several years ago. My wife wanted to shoot her TC Cherokee .32 cal. rifle, so we loaded up all the gear and off we went. We got to the range and after we got my wife started shooting I discovered that I had forgotten my balls, .390s and .395s, left them on the work bench sure as the world! Before we left the range that afternoon, I did take one of her .310 balls and nested it in several .50 cal. patches, seated it over a mild charge of powder and pulled the trigger. I was amazed that the tiny ball hit the target paper at 25 yds.!)
Thanks for reading!