Thoughts on shorter barrels (or…Stop me from my blaspheme!)

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

Joined
Feb 24, 2019
Messages
694
Reaction score
802
Location
Central Texas
If the rib is attached with screws, bend away. If not, install some countersunk screws at intervals then bend away. It probably won’t take much bending/flexing to fix the problem.
If that doesn’t work you still have the option of cutting the barrel. But The barrel shortening may only lessen the problem, not eliminate it.
A poster asked for muzzle pics, will do this evening.

A pro will do the work, don’t worry.

Shortening may not fix the problem. I have a new rear sight that I was going to cut the notch way over to the left, and I know that will resolve it…but I just don’t like the looks of that.

The improvement of handling is one of the driving factors here, and the originals were shortened due to barrel splitting at the end. I think it would make a great saddle gun, and be more useful to me than a poor handling wall hanger…

Appreciate everyone’s input.
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2008
Messages
20,648
Reaction score
15,540
Location
Republic mo
Well I’m thinking that guns worked hard, and lived rough.
We talk about what defines a Brown Bess. But I think on the retreat from the south by Cornwallis. I bet a musket or two got pretty banged up and altered by the armorer. I bet there was more then one whose muzzle got beat up and was shortened, and stocks cut back ect.
The American musket of 1812 shown by the old militia man at Gettysburg was made in to a half stock.
In short it’s your rifle alter it as needed to fit your needs.
Old guns were far from proper in the old days.
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2019
Messages
694
Reaction score
802
Location
Central Texas
I'm a believer in doing what one must to have a gun that fits and suits the owner. I wouldn't hesitate to have the barrel cut if I just couldn't bond with it otherwise. Is it possible for you to replace the barrel with a shorter - with no issues - tube? Just me cogitating when I shouldn't be.
There is a photo of an 1803, that I think was on the Pike expedition, that has an octagon barrel and wooden ramrod. Seriously considered doing that…and may yet at some point.

I’m not married to the 1803 as issued since the rifle used by the CoD was a bit different than the production model.
 

DixieTexian

Pilgrim
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Messages
78
Reaction score
95
I wouldn't shorten the barrel unless I was sure that would fix the problem. But if it looks like it will then shorten away.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2005
Messages
696
Reaction score
778
Location
New England, New South Wales, Australia.
Cut back to 30 inches or so would not upset the looks.
If you debcide to bend then it’s no great job to remove the rib if it’s soft soldered on, lf lt’s hard soldered then it should bend with the barrel, after all the bend is very small.
But check the concentricity of the bore, as has been said, many barrels were bored a bit off center; the first rifle that I built using a modern made barrel had that fault, which, luckily, I got a tip about before I fitted the breech plug.
 

Snake Pleskin

36 Cl.
Joined
Apr 22, 2022
Messages
82
Reaction score
70
These are reproductions not originals. IMHO that makes it Ok to do what ever you want to make it "work" for you. Cut the barrel and be done with it. Based on your posts, I think you like & want the shorter barrel for reduced weight & ease of handling. That is enough reason to cut the barrel in IMHO.
 

flntlokr

Bug Hunter
Joined
Aug 6, 2014
Messages
478
Reaction score
453
Location
Vancouver Island
I have a Zoli .54 1803 that I dearly love…sorta.

Had a relative on the Corps of Discovery, the time period I am focusing in on to do some living history is 1805-1810 in the mountain west.

Got some great guns that fit the time period. And I have this 1803 in a good piece of wood that is a .54 and has a US made lock.

What’s not to love? Well, two things. First this long barrel is kinda heavy and doesn’t balance well, it doesn’t carry well either…I can live with all that. But the other issue is the bore, or barrel not sure which, is curved to the right. The rifle shoots 2” groups at 50 yards…but even with the front sight as far right as I can get it and the rear sight as far left, it still hits 4” right.

Less than Optimal.

So, in a whiskey inspired moment, it occurred to me that shortening the barrel MIGHT fix the POI issues, and definitely would correct the weight/balance issue. Plus…the originals were known to burst at the muzzle, so it’s a historical remedy, so to speak. Genious!

See the pics below. I’ve marked on the barrel where I would cut, and also right in front of the ramrod pipe.

This leaves me 25” of barrel. Anyone shot a .54 with a 25” barrel? I have a .62 smoothie Caywood Chiefs gun that measures 28” and she shoots better than me…so I think I’m on solid ground.

Opinions? Experience? Burn me at the stake?

View attachment 139173View attachment 139174View attachment 139175
It's your gun, cut it if you wish. The early Jaeger guns were short barrelled, and certainly took their share of game. The early military guns were kept long because they became pikes after shooting only a couple of rounds in battle. The American long rifles evolved from the Jaegers which wer brought from Europe in the 16-1700s. The Brits wern't supplying much in the way of shootables (lead and powder), so both became quite valuable. The early settlers set about making their own powder, which was of decidedly lower quality than the European stuff, and often would not accellerate a ball enough for hunting use in short barrels. So the smiths lengthened the barrels, The next problem was getting enough lead to shoot from the long barrels, so the smiths started to make smaller calibre rifles (who needed a .75 or .61 for the (relatively) small game usually hunted East of the Applachians)? That all reverted when settlers crossed the mountains and started to encounter elk, bison and grizzlies, and they travelled long distances on horseback, which is less convenient wuth a 60+ inch long gun. Hence the development of the 'Plains' style rifles. In my personal collection, I have a Jaeger, a long skinny squirrel rifle, a .54 smooty (also long), and a .75 blunderbuss. Love 'em all!
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2019
Messages
694
Reaction score
802
Location
Central Texas
Cavalry carbines in the War of Northern Aggression weren’t much different from what I am thinking about doing now. I’m a man before my time even in the distant past!

And the men of the mountain west spent a lot of time on horseback. I could see this rifle as a handy backup.

Those of you wringing your hands about me defacing an Italian replica should also remember these import 1803 barrels are thicker and heavier than the originals. They ruin the handling of the guns and aren’t true to what the originals felt like in the hand or on the shoulder.

Several times I have passed on shootable originals priced under $2,000. One day I will buy one of them to commune with my CoD ancestor.

I have an original .54 1842 Mississippi that I hunt with…everyone should have a shootable antique if you love this sport and clouds of smoke.
 

Notchy Bob

54 Cal.
Joined
Apr 6, 2014
Messages
1,859
Reaction score
3,171
Location
Florida
I really like that rifle. I remembered seeing those pictures of it on this forum at some point, and I spent a bit of time last evening searching for them, with no luck! Thanks for reposting the images!

I'm wondering if this gun might have been the inspiration for the old Green River Forge Astorian rifles. I couldn't afford one when they were available, but they looked like pretty nice rifles in a very handy style.

If I remember correctly, somebody on the ALR forum made a copy of this re-barreled M1803 and posted some photos a few months ago. I might see if I can find them.

That looks like a pretty substantial barrel on the original, though. Too bad the weight is not noted.

There were certainly half-stocked flintlock rifles on the American frontier. We have written descriptions and surviving examples. There is also artwork from the period showing half-stocked flintlocks, although there is no way to determine from the images which were rifles and which were smoothbores. The issue that comes up on this forum and gets discussed and rehashed a couple of times a year is that we have no concrete evidence of half stocked Hawken flintlocks.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 24, 2019
Messages
694
Reaction score
802
Location
Central Texas
I really like that rifle. I remembered seeing those pictures of it on this forum at some point, and I spent a bit of time last evening searching for them, with no luck! Thanks for reposting the images!

I'm wondering if this gun might have been the inspiration for the old Green River Forge Astorian rifles. I couldn't afford one when they were available, but they looked like pretty nice rifles in a very handy style.

If I remember correctly, somebody on the ALR forum made a copy of this re-barreled M1803 and posted some photos a few months ago. I might see if I can find them.

That looks like a pretty substantial barrel on the original, though. Too bad the weight is not noted.

There were certainly half-stocked flintlock rifles on the American frontier. We have written descriptions and surviving examples. There is also artwork from the period showing half-stocked flintlocks, although there is no way to determine from the images which were rifles and which were smoothbores. The issue that comes up on this forum and gets discussed and rehashed a couple of times a year is that we have no concrete evidence of half stocked Hawken flintlocks.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
I was going there, without going there! 😎
 

Notchy Bob

54 Cal.
Joined
Apr 6, 2014
Messages
1,859
Reaction score
3,171
Location
Florida
I found that thread on the ALR forum: Half-Stock Flint Plains Rifle

There are some good photos. The rifle discussed in that thread was inspired by the re-barreled Harpers Ferry shown in post #25 (above), although it was not meant to be an exact copy.

This is one of the old Green River Forge "Astorian" rifles, which was on Guns International a while back. This one is obviously percussion, but the flint version was identical except for the different ignition:
Astorian Percussion .1.jpg
Astorian Percussion .2.jpg


These were outfitted with double-set triggers, while the original had a single trigger. The Astorian also had no patchbox.

These rifles used the now obsolete Haddaway locks, which were virtually indistinguishable from the Siler. Note the "sporting" style cock and faceted pan, as compared to the reinforced cock and round pan on the original.

Astorian Percussion .4.jpg


Despite these differences, it appears to me that the design of these old GRF Astorian rifles must have been inspired by the re-barreled Harpers Ferry that is now in the Gordon collection.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

Irishmusket

40 Cal
Joined
Jun 4, 2020
Messages
123
Reaction score
127
Use what you like and works best for you .I have a preference for much longer barrels on my smooth bores 39inches to 51 the longer the better .I have been shootin and hunting 57 years since 1965 old school always with a musket never use rifles for hunting far to limited capabilities for hunting in the Hills of Massachusetts
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2019
Messages
694
Reaction score
802
Location
Central Texas
Pic of the muzzle. Nothing here to suggest the bore is not concentric to the barrel. Opinions welcome.

I just spent 45 mins drooling on my phone looking at the Ness collection for sale on Cowans… There are a good number of 30” barreled trade rifles and even an S. Hawken rifle that was shortened to 27”.

31AD59B2-A7BD-444B-8092-6276C5F4F399.jpeg
 

Notchy Bob

54 Cal.
Joined
Apr 6, 2014
Messages
1,859
Reaction score
3,171
Location
Florida
When drilling those deep holes for rifle bores, the bit starts at the end of the bar stock which would be the muzzle. This is easily centered. As the bit gets deeper, there may be a tendency for it to wander, or become off-center farther down. This is described as "run-out." So, the bore would be concentric at the muzzle but if there is any run-out, it would be at the breech.

I've heard of Douglas barrels with so much run-out that the rifling was cutting into the threads of the counterbore for the breechplug. These barrels were still considered usable in most cases, and you would never know the runout was there unless you removed the breechplug.

I have unbreeched several old rifles in which the bore was not concentric at the breech. We have two rifles in the family with hand hammered barrels, and if I remember correctly, both had nonconcentric bores at the breech. Again, the barrels were perfectly shootable, but the flats were aligned so the bore would be running "uphill," from breech to muzzle, that is, with the run-out in the vertical plane. This could be compensated for with a taller front sight. If the runout was positioned in the horizontal plane, one or both sights would have to be moved off center to compensate.

I was the one who suggested the possibility of a nonconcentric bore (page 1, post #8), but frankly this is not extremely likely. It was suggested as just one more thing to consider or rule out in diagnosing the problem described.

As far as I know, the breechplug would have to be removed to see if there is any lateral runout or nonconcentricity. It would probably have to be removed anyway for proper analysis of a bent barrel, as well. I think the old-time gunsmiths used a thread or wire through the bore for this purpose, pulled taught by a bent stick, like an archer's bow. I understand that the shadow cast by the string or wire would appear to be broken at the point where the bend was.

Regardless of the cause of the problem, that's a nice rifle. I hope you get it fixed up and shooting to suit you!

Notchy Bob
 

Latest posts

Top