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Old September 2, 2001, 08:52 AM   #1
Robert J McElwain
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Tried My Ancient Muzzleloader, Questions

Well, I took my old percussion cap muzzle loader to the range yesterday, and my friend who knows a good deal more about these things says he thinks my barrel, harware and machanics are original. Again, it's about a 32 caliber and the inside of the barrel certainly has the appearance of many years of wear.

We couldn't find any markings on it to tell us anything more about it. Question: If this is an original, does it have much value to collectors? I'm going to take it to a club shoot next weekend to see if anyone there can tell me anything more about it.

By the way, I shot the x out of the bullseye at 50yards using my friends' flintlock. This was on a 25 yard target. I brought that target home, and I'm going to scan it in and email it to all my friends.

Helluva lot of fun. My friend suggested I get a Lyman rifle if I want to compete with these things.
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Old September 2, 2001, 10:57 AM   #2
4V50 Gary
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You may have to remove the barrel to find some markings. However, this would only be suggestive of the gunsmith. Sometime barrel makers placed their names on their barrels. Even if a gunsmith placed his name on the barrel, the gun could have been restocked many years later. That apparently happened quite frequently.

In reality, there were few gunsmiths in the strictest sense of the word. Many locks used by American gunsmiths were imported from England during the flintlock and percussion era. Gunsmiths may have only made the buttplate, patchbox, thimbles (ramrod pipes), sideplate and sights. While there were gunsmiths who made their own barrels (both fabrication from bar iron to rifling on an old rifling machine), barrels could also be had commerically. Remingnton's early days entailed making more barrels than guns. So, gunsmiths in the strictest sense were "gun stockers" who assembled premade parts into guns.

It's a tough subject and research continues as Americans rediscover their past. Books are now more available than ever and some writers specialize in one particular area or period. Even the experts can be fooled as I've had one instructor who restored a lock on one rifle which appeared in MuzzleBlasts' feature, Longrifles of Note by George Shumway.
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Old September 3, 2001, 09:32 PM   #3
Robert J McElwain
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It's a tough subject and research continues as Americans rediscover their past. Books are now more available than ever and some writers specialize in one particular area or period. Even the experts can be fooled as I've had one instructor who restored a lock on one rifle which appeared in MuzzleBlasts' feature, Longrifles of Note by George Shumway.>

Hi Gary,

Thanks for the detailed information about the early muskets. Hopefully, next weekend, when I take my gun out to a regular shoot at my friends gun club, I'll find some folks out there that can tell me if I've got anything worth hanging on to.

My shooting buddy, who's also named Gary, told me what it might take to get my gun to shoot as well as his. He and I decided I'd be better off leaving it as is and maybe trying to trade it for a new Lyman.

My current interest is primarily with modern pistols, but black powder used to interest me enough to buy this one that I've got. I could easily get caught up in it again.

I'm still amazed at the accuracy of these things.
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Old September 3, 2001, 09:59 PM   #4
4V50 Gary
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Don't Trade!

We're talking about swapping an original muzzleloader valued at least $1k for a $275 rifle? Save your pennies and buy the Lyman from Midway Shooters' Supply.

You can try writing the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association and maybe one of their experts can tell you more about your rifle. Remove the barrel first and look for markings underneath. The barrel is either held in by pins or keys. "Keys" are flat wedges which slip out from the stock. Use a brass drift to get them started. On some rifles, they may be pinned in so they only come out part way; this prevents their loss. Other rifles have "pins" which are just that. They're drifted out like any other pin with a pin punch. You may or may not have to remove the screw which holds down the tang. If it's not a hooked breech design, you have to (On hooked breech guns, you remove the keys and then lift the barrel off, muzzle first, from the stock. The Hawkens Rifles and British Baker rifle featured hooked breeches). You may also have to remove the bolts which hold the lockplate since some bolts (the rearward one which is closer to the hammer) pass through the tang and help keep the barrel in place. Do not peel the barrel off from the stock. Rather, turn the gun upside down with the muzzle pointed towards the ground. Tap it on a thick piece of carpet and be prepared to catch it as it falls free from the stock. "Peeling" a barrel can cause a stock to crack (arrghhh!) and bring much avoidable grief.

BTW, those Lyman Great Plains are good rifles and while I highly recommend them, I wouldn't trade an original for one.
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Old September 4, 2001, 03:21 PM   #5
Robert J McElwain
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Hi Gary,

Thanks for the advice. I'll keep it. I had no idea that it might be worth that much. I think I paid about $75 for it.

I thought a Lyman Great Plains would be more than $250. My shooting buddy said they're one of the best of that kind. He didn't like the Traditions. Any thoughts? I notice Cabella's has a few that aren't Traditions.

My gun disassembles by pushing out a pin and removing a screw from the tang. A very simple piece of machinery. I'm going to take it apart this evening and go over the barrel with a magnifying glass. I'll let you know if I find anything.

Incidently, I emailed copies of my bullseye shooting to some friends and now I'm getting people calling who want to go shoot a muzzle loader with me.

Thanks,

Bob
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Old September 4, 2001, 07:13 PM   #6
Robert J McElwain
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Hi Gary,

Just to follow up. I took my smoke stick apart and I couldn't find any markings that might identify it. However, on what is now the underside of the barrel, there are two dovetail notches that, at one time must have been for rear sights. On what is now the top, there are also two dove tail notches. One holds a modern style Remington adjustable sight the other is empty. The other end of the barrel has only one notch, which holds a new sight.

I think this must be an original barrel with original trigger works that must have been a farmers varmint gun, since it's only 32 caliber. I'm pretty sure the trigger mechanism is original but the brass is probably new.

Maybe I'll get an idea this weekend as what the heck I've got, based on your advise, I certainly won't be trading it for anything ordinary.

Bob
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Old September 5, 2001, 09:45 AM   #7
4V50 Gary
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Hi Robert.

There's another notch on the gun barrel either because a new owner acquired it at some point and had to have the rear sight moved to fit their eyes or a long time owner got older and his eyes changed, requiring the sights to be repositioned. This is not uncommon on older guns.

Notches on the bottom are for barrel lugs which are drilled out for the "pins" or "keys" which secure the barrel to the stock.

Glad to hear you're keeping it.

Gary
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Old September 5, 2001, 01:24 PM   #8
Robert J McElwain
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> Notches on the bottom are for barrel lugs which are drilled out for the "pins" or "keys" which secure the barrel to the stock.

Glad to hear you're keeping it. >

Hi Gary,

I guess, at one time, when the gun had it's original stock, the barrel was held by lugs. When the new stock was put on, they may have gone from the lugs to a single pin plus the screw on the tang.

Yeah. I guess I'll hang on to, unless someone makes me an offer I can't refuse. However, as soon as I can convince my wife that I really need more pieces of iron in my closet, (I just bought a new Sig pistol) I think I'd like to get a BP rifle that's good enough to shoot in competition.

Bob
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Old September 6, 2001, 07:02 AM   #9
jpm63
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Original?

Wonderful that you have an original. If you live in Florida I know a guy there who works with a lot of Museums and such (owns lots of originals himself) and would help you ID the thing or at least put a time period to it. If interested e-mail me at jmorris_3@yahoo.com and I'll pass on his e-mail to you.

JPM
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Old September 6, 2001, 08:41 AM   #10
Robert J McElwain
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Original?
Wonderful that you have an original. If you live in Florida I know a guy there who works with a lot of Museums and such (owns lots of originals himself) and would help you ID the thing or at least put a time period to it. If interested e-mail me at jmorris_3@yahoo.com and I'll pass on his e-mail to you.

JPM>

I don't live in Florida, Kansas actually, but I'll send you an email to get your friends email. Possibly I can learn something about this thing by way of cyberspace.

Thanks,

Bob
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