Original 18th century Virginia Rifle

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Here is a rather early Ca. 1760-1770 Virginia Rifle I thought some others might find interesting.

It is unusual that CW has this pegged as from the Tidewater or Piedmont Area of Southeastern Virginia. Though rifles in this part of Virginia were not unknown, the rifle culture normally was nearer or in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I sure wish it had a maker's mark on it.

The fact this rifle is stocked in Black Walnut strongly suggests it was assembled in Virginia and not in England, though the English and almost "Brown Bess like styling" certainly comes through. Also, the barrel was held in place by wedges and not by barrel pins.

Oh, to get to the page that allows one to view it closer up and in different parts of the rifle, just click on the word "expand" under the top photo.

https://emuseum.history.org/objects/31405/rifle-other#

Gus
 

rich pierce

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Hmmmm would be nice to have the wood tested. Not 100% sure it’s colonial and not English. Very nice rifle.

It DOES say black walnut and it has no proof marks on the barrel. So could be colonial. And it could be the rifle previously attributed to Virginia but recently attributed to John Newcomer of Lancaster PA.
 
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jbwilliams3

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Wow, thanks for posting, Gus! If only it could tell us for certain its origins. Would be cool if we had a rifle with known provenance to the Tidewater or Piedmont. If it IS an actual colonial-made rifle, I could see the quality along with the wedges and trigger guard as being from an English gunsmith living nearer the coast. I wonder if the wedges are original???

One thing I’m surprised not to see is the common swell near the entry pipe as is so common on English guns. I was just at the Yorktown museum this past weekend and one of the first guns on display is listed as a probable Virginia-made rifle that definitely has that entry pipe swell. Though very different architecturally from the rifle in the link above, it does have at least two things in common – the fowling-piece-like trigger guard and the possible Virginia provenance. It reminded me a lot of one of the two rifles pictured in Jim Mullins’ “Of Sorts for Provincials” - the rifle that is NOT the Faber rifle. I don’t have that book in front of me, but it too had a fowling guard and similar architecture.

Either way, I really like the rifle in question, regardless of where it was made. Such graceful lines.
 

jbwilliams3

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Here's the rifle I mentioned above... At least you can see the trigger guard, but darned if the rest of the pictures of that gun weren't deleted, so you can't see the entry pipe swell. It definitely has it though...
 

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dave_person

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Hi,
Rich has the right idea. It is the famous RCA 119 "Bullard" rifle Shumway thought was of southern origin Virginia based on the English hardware and styling. However, as Rich mentioned, it is now pretty firmly attributed to John Newcomer of Lancaster, PA based on a signed gun of similar style and workmanship.

dave
 

Stophel

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Pretty much anything and everything that is not "obviously Pennsylvania" is automatically declared "Virginia"....

This is the type of gun that every one EXPECTS to be from Virginia, but really it's all speculation.
 

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"Keys" holding the barrel? Rather forward thinking for that time period.

LD
There is a rifle I have mentioned before that is on Display at Valley Forge and attributed to Virginia as an AWI period rifle. It not only has wedges, but has wedge escutcheons. These along with the fine figure stock, some engraving, etc. seems to be a higher grade rifle UNTIL you look at the long outdated Dutch lock with a teat on the rear. I asked their Head Curator who made the rifle, etc., but they had nothing recorded on it. Honestly, I don't think that was a Virginia Rifle, either.

Gus
 

dave_person

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Hi Gus,
I think the rifle you mentioned at Valley Forge is the one with a square breech section. It has a what we call an octagon to round barrel but the octagon section is actually square in cross section. Rifles made in Sweden and Norway often had that style of barrel and there is speculation that the gun was made in Scandinavia. David Dodds made a nice copy of it. It has a grease hole like some southern mtn rifles but the stock and cheek piece do look European. Below are some photos of David Dodds copy.

dave


 

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Hi Gus,
I think the rifle you mentioned at Valley Forge is the one with a square breech section. It has a what we call an octagon to round barrel but the octagon section is actually square in cross section. Rifles made in Sweden and Norway often had that style of barrel and there is speculation that the gun was made in Scandinavia. David Dodds made a nice copy of it. It has a grease hole like some southern mtn rifles but the stock and cheek piece do look European. Below are some photos of David Dodds copy.

dave
Hi Dave,

I THINK the rifle at Valley Forge was octagon to round barrel and not a square breech rifle, however I may be mistaken. It is the bottom rifle in a vertical display case and it is down so far, I actually had to get down on all fours and then sit down on the floor beside it to get a better look at it. I wasn't concentrating on the breech though. I was trying to see if it had a name on the barrel flat and it did not.

However, Dave, the rifle I'm referring to had a fairly fine quality patch box. The stock also looked a bit too slim for a 1770's era rifle, but there was no information on what caliber it was and you can't see the muzzle hole, so it might be a medium to small caliber rifle.

Gus
 

Brokennock

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Hi,
Rich has the right idea. It is the famous RCA 119 "Bullard" rifle Shumway thought was of southern origin Virginia based on the English hardware and styling. However, as Rich mentioned, it is now pretty firmly attributed to John Newcomer of Lancaster, PA based on a signed gun of similar style and workmanship.

dave
Do we have an approximate date this rifle was made by Newcomer? Just curious as what had me intrigued in the original post is the thought that it could be as early as 1760. And, it is a really nice rifle....

Thanks.
 

dave_person

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Hi Gus,
My bad. Somehow your description of the patch box and engraving did not sink into my brain. I guess I had the square barreled gun on my mind. A number of years ago, a reenactor in my brother Nils' Morgan's Rifle Corps unit used a later period iron mounted southern rifle with a grease hole. It had a cast steel copy of a forged iron trigger guard with grip rail, cast steel butt plate and Siler lock (so it was not even correct for a later southern mountain rifle). Many members criticized the gun as not correct for the time and he asked me if there was some way I could modify it for him. When I found the square barreled gun I was really happy. Finally, an actual iron mounted rifle possibly used in the Rev War and a grease hole to boot. I could use it as a model for a hardware change that made his rifle look more correct, which I did. Then a few years later during a thread on the ALR site, the rifle was discussed and the opinion of some key KRA collectors and long rifle students was that the gun was Scandinavian. So I told the reenactor he had to change his Scotch-Irish name to Oley.

LD, quite a few early long rifle makers, including J P Beck, used barrel keys with and without standing breeches. The famous early Beck that so many aspiring builders copy (mainly because it has a simple wooden patch box lid) used barrel keys.

dave
 
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