View Full Version : Blissett help?

May 4, 2009, 08:01 PM
Well, at the place I work, I am the firearms expert. Problem is, I don't know nothin' :-)

One of the guys wanted me to tell him about his rifle here, and I don't know the first thing about it. But, I told him I knew a great bunch of people who sure would!

It's a front stuffer, beautifully engraved on the lockwork. It appears to be a flintlock of some sort. The bore is rifled, and measures just shy of .75 inches. On the top of the barrel, I can make out (I think): John Blissett, 21 High Holborn, London. The side says J. Blissett. It also is equipped with three folding blade rear sights, presumably for different distances.

It has pretty nice wood, and what looks like some sort of takedown brass apparatus on the side of the rifle. The fellow who owns it seems to think it is an old elephant gun. It looks to be pretty nice; judging by the lack of glass yet it being rifled, I was thinking something like 1880-1910? Is that a close stab?

This fella was wondering if it could be a shooter, or if he would wreck its value (at some point it was appraised at $1500, but the guy who appraised it couldn't give him any info on the rifle. Wonder how he got his figure...).

How do I check it over for him, and what does he need to buy to shoot this thing, if that is possible? What caliber is it?

Any help much appreciated. I think I am attaching a photo I snapped of it.

James K
May 4, 2009, 08:57 PM
John Blissett worked in London from 1843 to 1877; his son, Thomas, began work with him in 1864.

That rifle seems a bit odd to me at that period, but maybe someone can provide more info. I doubt it was made for any kind of dangerous game, since those guns were usually double barrelled, but maybe the shooter had servants to carry at least one spare rifle. The caliber would be right for big game, as would that style of sights.

The gun appears to be well made, but I strongly recommend against firing. No matter how well made it was, it is now over 130 years old. More important, when that gun was made they did not have the technology to drill barrels from solid steel. The barrel is made up of steel and iron heated red hot then wrapped around a rod called a mandrel and welded by pounding with a hammer. As you might gather, those barrels were not very strong and many have been weakened over the years by rust or corrosion not just on the outside but in the joints between the welded pieces.

It looks like a nice piece and a very suitable decorator.

One suggestion, use the ramrod or a rod at least as long as the barrel and insert it into the barrel. Mark the end of the barrel on the rod, then measure the outside. If the rod won't go in down to the bolster (the part that has the nipple in it), the gun may be loaded! If so, take it to a competent gunsmith or come back to us for information on what to do.


Jim Watson
May 4, 2009, 08:58 PM
Joh Blissett was a gunmaker in London England from 1840 until 1877.
The address on the barrel is probably 321 High Holborn which with 322 was his shop from 1850 only until 1856 so the gun is a good deal older than you think.

It is a cap lock - percussion, not a "flintlock of some sort."

It is what the British call a stalking rifle and was used hunting non-dangerous game; not an "old elephant gun," in spite of its big bore. The British did not load them real hot in those days, if they wanted more power they went to a bigger bore, LOTS bigger.

It looks in nice condition and everything I could find about Blissett said he was a maker of good quality guns, even if he is not as well known as other British gunmakers of the day.

A careful shooter could use it a reasonable amount without hurting it but you should do a lot of study before trying it. I sure can't tell you the caliber over the internet, for example.

May 4, 2009, 09:04 PM
Thanks for the help.
It's unloaded. I checked. After the guy brought it in, snapped the hammer (is that it's name on a percussion rifle?) down as it was pointed at my head. Haha. Very funny. I told him I'd brain him with his own gun if he pulled that stunt again.

I'm glad, actually, to hear about the mandrel-bent barrel - I have no want to go pulling the trigger on a rifle that old with such a big hole in it (I can imagine the recoil is fairly forceful...probably more than enough to traumatize that old iron.)

The ramrod, oddly, is made of wood, not brass...and a very light wood, like bamboo, or balsa - it is almost as though there were weight concerns in mind. It also has two spots to attach a sling.

May 4, 2009, 09:07 PM
Other Jim...

Thanks also, for the help. What, pray tell, is the difference between percussion and flintlock?

I'd prefer not to have to help this guy fire this thing. I don't know the first thing about it, and have no desire to learn on something like that. So, we can just tell him it's a wall hanger and to go buy a .22.

So this fellow was sort of a one-off gun maker in london?

Jim Watson
May 4, 2009, 10:03 PM
Well the percussion hammer whacks a percussion cap which is filled with a chemical mix similar to the priming compound in a cartridge primer. It ignites when struck and the flame goes down the hole in the nipple into the load of black powder (and ONLY black powder.)

A flintlock swings an actual piece of flint rock against a piece of steel ( the frizzen) and strikes sparks which fall into a priming pan of very fine black powder on the side of the barrel and ignites it. The flame goes through a flash hole into the barrel and lights the full load of black powder.

I guess you could call Mr Blissett a one off maker. There were few standard models in those days, except for military weapons, the makers turned out guns to order or made what they thought would sell.

May 5, 2009, 06:36 AM
Well, that explains that.

Thanks for all the help, fellas. Anyone know what the durn thing could be worth?

Jim Watson
May 5, 2009, 08:22 AM
I cannot figure out search terms to find one like it on the sale sites and no point in staring at the wall til I see a number. That has already been done so I'd call it $1500 for bragging rights. If he wants to sell it, he could put it on one of the auction sites with a high starting bid and see if it goes. If not, reduce the starting bid til it is bid on. Seems to be a common way of doing business on GunBroker.com.

May 5, 2009, 08:48 PM
I'll tell him to put it on there for 20g, and I'll kick in a box of .380 ammo :-)

May 6, 2009, 08:06 PM
Thanks again for all the help, guys.

He has a couple more goodies, one he's bringing in to me...apparently the dang thing has a HEXAGONAL bore...sort of like that square bore thing I seen on here a few days back. People have the dangedest stuff.

Jim Watson
May 6, 2009, 10:14 PM
Cross your fingers. The most famous hexagonal bore was the Whitworth rifle which revolutionized target shooting in England in the 1860s but is most famous here for the few Confederate sniper rifles that got through the blockade.

An original would be very valuable. A good copy is a nice shooter for those who care to learn its requirements.