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Old April 18, 2009, 05:29 PM   #1
bmcelhany
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Help identifying Civil War rifle

Hello,

I was hoping someone here might be able to help me identify a rifle. The story is that it belonged to my ggg-grandfather in the Civil War (Illinois, 1862). I've attached some images of the gun. Unfortunately, it's not in very good condition and (as far as I can tell) there are no serial numbers/model numbers/etc.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

-Brian
Attached Images
File Type: jpg full.jpg (95.4 KB, 164 views)
File Type: jpg hammer.jpg (96.9 KB, 113 views)
File Type: jpg end.jpg (99.0 KB, 96 views)
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Old April 18, 2009, 05:56 PM   #2
Tom2
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Not a military gun. Some sort of civilian full stock percussion rifle. Might be from the right time period but it's use in warfare would be doubtful, particularly in the North. In the South there was a shortage of arms and sometimes civilian guns were used as a last resort probably, but in the North they pretty much used military approved long arms. That gun would not have been used because it does not have accomodation for a bayonet, and it does not have parts interchangeability with military arms to keep it running, and the supply chain only had ammunition supplies tailored to the military guns requirements. It would have been the rifle you left behind to hunt and protect the homestead as you went off to war. Now some soldiers took along small pistols or revolvers etc. that were not mil. regulation as personal protection or last ditch self defense, but if they were found to be just added weight or an encumbrance or they broke or ran out of lead balls to fit them, they pretty much sent them home or traded them or chucked them in a ditch. Still a nice heirloom that should be inspected and preserved. It might have been his but he did not take it to camp.
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Old April 18, 2009, 07:46 PM   #3
Dfariswheel
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This is a type of rifle often called a Kentucky "Poor boy" rifle.
These were civilian guns, not military.

These were the REAL rifles used by people on the frontier. They were absolutely plain, unadorned or engraved, plain wood, and usually built by frontier gunsmiths.
The quality was excellent, but they were made for heavy no-frills use by working woodsmen and hunters who couldn't afford a fancy rifle.

Unless there is a makers name on the barrel or the lock, you'd need a real expert to tell much more.
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Old April 18, 2009, 08:40 PM   #4
4V50 Gary
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Teamsters could carry non-regulation guns. Of course, they'd have to have their own bullet molds with them since the Army wouldn't be supplying them anytime soon with the right caliber round ball (or patching material). As mentioned by the previous posters, it is highly unlikely that the gun saw military service.
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Old April 18, 2009, 09:24 PM   #5
Tom2
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Well you might call it a "poorboy" rifle, but having brass furniture and double set triggers was not exactly the very lowest price range, probably. Just that by mid century alot of the hunting or utilitarian guns did not have some fancies like alot of decorative carving or fancy patch boxes, etc. So it is probably a typical 1850-70 or so, style of rifle. I don't know if you want to mess with it, as far as cleaning up a little bit or stabilising the condition, but after it is cleaned from dust dirt, etc. you would want to preserve it with a good coat of some sort of wax. Not car wax. Museum type clear wax or even paste wax for hardwoods, as a minimum. Then buff it in and it will protect the wood and metal, and dust will not stick to it if it hangs out on display. Hanging over a fireplace that gets used is not the best environment for a display gun, either. If you have a local museum or historical society, they might help you with preservation or you could read up on it online I suppose. Oil on the outsides of the metal of a display gun attracts dust and gunk. Not the best thing. I found that out from reading a bit. Want to save it as an heirloom. Sometimes there are makers marks on the bottoms of the barrels, also. But that is just the barrel maker, often. Not worth breaking something if that is what it would take to look for it.
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Old April 18, 2009, 10:48 PM   #6
James K
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That old gun was "rode hard and put away wet." It has seen a lot of use, and I think the lockplate may not even be original. It is possible that the rifle was originally flintlock and converted by changing lockplates. In any case, definitely not a high price gun, and the term "poor boy" would appear to be both colorful and accurate. As for the brass parts, they are just as they came from the supplier, without any apparent effort by the builder to shape them or make them more graceful.

It may have belonged to your ancestor, and he may have served in the Civil War, but I think it extremely unlikely he carried that rifle. (Many war veterans own rifles they certainly didn't use in war.)

Value is not high, in spite of the age, but as a family heirloom - priceless.

Jim
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Old April 18, 2009, 11:53 PM   #7
bmcelhany
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Thanks!

I appreciate everyone's information. I half expected that this would have been a civilian rifle...I think the assumption was that since he was in the war then this must have been his "war rifle" and no one took the time to actually look into it.

Also, thanks for the preservation tips...I'd like to clean it up a bit (or at least slow down the deterioration).

Thanks again!
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Old April 21, 2009, 09:02 PM   #8
James K
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It is a very common assumption in families that if this is X's rifle and X fought in a war, then this is the rifle he carried. A very nice lady once showed me the carbine her late husband, an Army captain, carried on D-Day at Omaha Beach. I have no doubt she believed that, but it would very likely have been the only Model 1873 carbine on the beach that day.

Jim
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