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Rare & Fine Harpers Ferry US Model 1819 Flintlock Rifle c. 1838 w/ Bayonet

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Rare & Fine Harpers Ferry Model 1819 Flintlock Rifle c. 1838 & Bayonet

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This is a very rare US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Breech-Loading Rifle manufactured at Harpers Ferry Arsenal in 1838.

The development of the Hall Breech-Loading Rifle began in the early 1800s when American industrialization was getting its footing and many gun designers began to seek alternatives to the slow-loading flintlock weapons of the period. Enter John Hancock Hall, who was born in 1781 in Portland, Maine and served as a Soldier and worked in his father's tannery as a young man. Hall eventually set up his own workshop in 1810 where he worked as a carpenter and boat builder. He also began to experiment with firearms. As a Soldier, Hall was very experienced with the regimented, tedious, and slow, method of reloading the standard flintlock weapons of the period. Like any tedious and slow process, Hall began to conjure up ways to both simplify and increase the speed of loading of weapons.

Hall submitted his patent for a new breech-loading, flintlock rifle in 1811. This patented design was the one that would form the basis of all future Hall breech-loading designs. The submission of Hall's patent offers an interesting side note. Some historians credit not only Hall, but Dr. William Thornton, as the "co-inventor" of Hall's design. Thornton was an interesting character who was a physician, painter, renowned architect and inventor. Thornton actually submitted the winning design for the United States Capitol and was the first Architect of the Capitol. He was also the first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office, which is how his name became associated with the Hall breech-loading design.

The Superintendent of the Patent Office carried with it significant power and Thornton, on occasion, was known to abuse this power and claim credit for inventions that were not his to claim. He did this in 1811 when John H. Hall submitted his patent for the Hall breech-loading rifle system. Upon receiving Hall's patent submission, Thornton claimed he had also invented it and, as proof, showed Hall a Ferguson breech-loading rifle. The Ferguson Rifle, known at the time as the Ordnance Rifle, was actually an adaptation of an early 1720 design. British Army Major Patrick Ferguson redesigned the earlier action around 1770 and received an English patent in December 1776. The Ferguson or Ordnance Rifle was, however, a completely different design from the Hall as the Ferguson used a threaded breech that is opened and closed by unscrewing the breech using the trigger guard as the handle. While the two designs were completely different (and even Thornton's credit for the Ferguson design was not true), Thornton refused to issue Hall with a patent unless his name was also on the patent. John Hall, realizing he really did not have any other choice, agreed and that is how William Thornton's name came to be associated with the Hall family of weapons. The patent was issued for Hall's single-shot, breech-loading rifle on May 21, 1811.

Hall's design was revolutionary not only because it significantly decreased loading times, but also because he designed it to use interchangeable parts. The operation of the Hall design was not, technically, a breech-loading weapon. Rather, the design incorporated a rotating chamber that was separate from the barrel. The chamber, designed to only hold a single round, flips up with the chamber opened to the front or muzzle end of the weapon. A round was loaded "back" into the chamber and the chamber was then rotated back down to align the chamber and the barrel. The Hall design permitted a well-trained soldier to fire from 8-10 rounds per minute compared with the 3 rounds per minute expected of a trained soldier using the Model 1816 Flintlock Rifle that was standard issue at the time.

Although Hall (and Thornton) patented the Hall design in 1811, it was not adopted by the U.S. Army until 1819. Prior to that, on November 20, 1816, Hall proposed to the U.S. Government that he manufacture 100 of his rifle, plus bayonets, at $25 each. Hall’s proposal was accepted on January 10, 1817, with the provision that all of the rifles be delivered within a year. Hall completed the 100 rifles by October 1817 and they were subsequently accepted by the Ordnance Department on December 5, 1817. Ninety-eight of these Model 1817 Hall Rifles were shipped from Boston to St. Louis in 1818. These rifles were issued to a Missouri militia unit that entered federal service in the mid-1830s. The Model 1817 was issued at this late date to militia to ensure that all new Model 1819 Hall Rifles would be available to regular army troops.

Shortly after Hall completed the 100 Model 1817 Rifles, he went to the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia to begin manufacturing his Model 1819, .52 caliber Flintlock Rifle. While at Harpers Ferry, Hall was able to refine his design to ensure the interchangeability of parts that was noted previously. Hall's efforts were a success and he noted as much in a letter to then Secretary of War John C. Calhoun in 1822, when he wrote, "I have succeeded in an object which has hitherto completely baffled all the endeavors of those who have heretofore attempted it – I have succeeded in establishing methods for fabricating arms exactly alike, and with economy, by the hands of common workmen, and in such manner as to ensure a perfect observance of any established model..." This was, obviously, a signature achievement that would be expanded upon by arms manufacturers from that point forward.

The US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Rifle was well received by US Soldiers in the field. It was produced at the National Armory at Harpers Ferry, intermittently, from 1819 until 1840 with only approximately 19,780 manufactured. To supplement production, the US Government also issued a contract for production of the US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Rifle to Simeon North in 1836. North produced the Hall 1819 Flintlock Rifle from 1830 until 1836 with only approximately 5,700 weapons manufactured. Because of the success of the Hall Rifle, the US issued a contract to arms manufacturer Simeon North for the production of subsequent weapons, including carbines.

The Hall Model 1819 Flintlock Rifle is historically significant because it was the first regulation breech-loading arm adopted by the United States and also the first breech-loading weapon manufactured at a United States armory. As noted, it was also the first U.S. military shoulder arm to achieve true parts interchangeability. Although there was no distinction made by the Ordnance Department to the US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Breech-Loading Rifle as it was manufactured over the years, collectors now generally classify the US Model 1819 Hall Rifle into several types.

The First Production Type are those Hall Rifles manufactured in 1824, of which only 1,000 were made, and which have breech markings of “J. H. HALL / H. FERRY / 1824 / U.S.” The Second Production Type are those Hall Rifles bearing dates from 1826 to 1838 and that have breech markings of “J. H. HALL / H. FERRY / US / [date].” The Third Production Type have dates from 1837 to 1840 and have breech markings of “J. H. HALL / US / [date].”

This particular Hall Rifle is the Second Production Type and dated 1838. Only 19,680 Hall Rifles were manufactured at Harpers Ferry and only 2,934 rifles made there when this rifle was manufactured in 1838. US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Rifles are also rare in their original flint configuration as this rifle is because so many were later converted to percussion just prior to and at the beginning of the Civil War.

As noted, this particular US Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Breech-Loading Rifle was made at Harpers Ferry Arsenal in 1838 and is the Second Production Type. This rare rifle is in its original flint as noted and remains in attic untouched condition. The US Model 1819 Hall Rifle is a .52 caliber rifle. The rifle could either be loaded at the muzzle like a standard muzzle-loading rifle, or it could be loaded from the breech for speed of reloading. To facilitate traditional muzzle loading, the barrel was counterbored at the breech approximately 1 ½” until it meets the rifling. The counterbore on this rifle is in fine condition and remains crisp.

To breech load the Hall Rifle, the spur-type breech block catch on the bottom of the rifle, just forward of the trigger guard bow, is pulled to the rear and then pushed up. This disengages the breech catch and enables the breech block to be pivoted upwards at the front. This exposes the front of the chamber for loading. Either a prepared cartridge or powder and ball could then be inserted into the breech block. The breech block would then be pivoted down to the closed position and the weapon could then be fired after the pan was primed.

The original Barrel on this Hall Rifle is 32 11/16” long with a flat crowned muzzle. When manufactured, the barrel was rifled its entire length and the counterboring was then done afterwards. On this rifle, the counterboring was made to .545” in diameter and traces of the original rifling can still be seen in the counterbore space. The Barrel exhibits traces of the original brown finish with the balance a mixed plum and pewter patina but is very clean throughout.

The original Front Sight is present. The Front Sight is a small iron blade that is integral to its rectangular base. The Front Sight remains securely brazed to the barrel approximately 1 1/8” behind the muzzle and was offset 1/8” to the left of center for proper sighting with the large flintlock mechanism. The front sight also served as a bayonet lug. The original Rear Sight is a standing leaf with a “V” notch that is also offset 1/8” to the left. It is still tightly dovetailed into the barrel 1 5/16” forward of the breech.

The Frame on this rifle comprises two 9 7/16” side rails with the front ends screwed and soft-soldered to both sides of the barrel’s breech for approximately 1 ½”. These rails swell to a width of 2 19/32” at the adjustable recoil lugs and there is a spacer lug dovetailed into the underside of the barrel at the breech. These rails were designed to have a gap above the stock as can be seen in the photos to act as a gas escape valve. The Frame is very clean throughout with no areas of old pitting evident. All of the single-slot frame screws are present. The Frame still exhibits the vast majority of the original brown finish throughout.

The Breech Block itself measures approximately 5 13/16” by 1” and is generally a rectangular shape except at the recoil lugs where it swells to 1 3/8” wide. The front of the breech block is bored for the 2 3/8” deep double-diameter chamber. The smaller diameter rear chamber is for powder. The front chamber is for the bullet and has a mouth diameter of .533”. The breech block release lever on the bottom exhibits a blued and pewter patina and the release plate exhibits the same patina. The bottom single-slot plate screw is present. The Top of the breech block retains a pewter patina and has the still-sharp “J. H. HALL / H. FERRY / US / 1838” stamps. The sides of the block exhibit a mixed plum and pewter patina but are remarkably clean with no evidence of pitting. The breech block still unlocks and locks into battery properly.

The original Cock projects upward through a slot in the breech block and is slightly offset to the right. The bottom of the lower jaw as well as the underside of the top jaw are both diamond stippled to secure the leather and flint. The Jaw Screw has an elongated cylinder type head with a single slot at the top. The lower, protected part of the cock still exhibits traces of the original case hardened finish. The balance of the cock and jaws exhibits a dark plum and pewter patina.

The Pan is integral to the breech block and is also offset to the right. The vent is centered in the bottom of the pan and is clear to the chamber. The vent has a high fence and it retains a mixed plum and blue patina with no pitting at all.

The original Frizzen is present and measures 1 5/8” by 7/8”. The Frizzen pivots on a flat-head machine screw that extends across two bridles in the forward portion of the integral pan. The front face of the Frizzen has a vertical medial ridge and curves towards the muzzle at the top. The Frizzen Spring is a reverse “Z” shaped spring with two leaves that bear down on the two bridles at the front of the integral pan. The Spring is retained by the original flat head screw in the middle, which also permits adjustments to spring tension. The Frizzen and Spring both exhibit a mixed pewter and plum patina with no pitting at all. The entire flintlock assembly still functions perfectly.

The original Trigger is suspended downwards and to the rear from a lateral machine screw inside the breech block. The Trigger extends through a slot in the stock and trigger plate. The Trigger is still very clean and exhibits a pewter patina with generous traces of the original brown finish in the protected areas. The Trigger still functions correctly and still crisply releases the cock.

The Trigger Guard is 13/16” wide and is riveted to the square ended Trigger Plate that is 8 ¼” long. The Trigger Plate is flat with beveled edges at the front. Towards the rear, the plate forms a skeleton pistol grip. The Plate is secured by two original single-slot screws that are unmarred. The rear sling swivel is still securely riveted to the stud at the front of the Trigger Guard and it still moves freely. The Trigger Plate exhibits a very clean finish with traces of the original browning present in the protected areas with the balance exhibiting a brownish-pewter patina with no pitting noted.

The original Butt Plate is present and measures 4 5/8” by 1 ¾”. The tang measures 1 ¾” long and has a rounded end. The Tang Screw is present and it has a convex head and an unmarred single slot. The Butt Plate Screw has a slightly domed head with single slot that is lightly marred. The Butt Plate and Tang exhibit a dark plum and pewter patina with generous amounts of the original browned finish remaining.

All three flat surfaced Barrel Bands are present. The Upper Band has a rectangular space between the 3/8” front barrel band ring and the 7/16” rear barrel ring. The Front Band is 1 5/8” long at the top and extends to the rear at the bottom for a total length of 2 3/8”. The Middle Band is 9/16” wide and has a sling swivel lug on the bottom. Attached to this lug is the original front sling swivel and it remains securely riveted to the lug and still moves freely. The Lower Band is ¾” wide. All three bands exhibit a mixed pewter and plum patina. All three bands are secured to the stock with the correct lateral pins through the bands, which was introduced at Harpers Ferry to replace band springs in 1831. All three lateral pins are present and all three bands remain secure to the stock.

The original and fine condition black walnut stock is present. The length of the stock is 49 ½”. As noted, there were gas escape vents on the side of the stock just below the frame rails. These gas escape vents or “ports” measure 3/32” deep by 4” long. The stock is in very fine condition and retains its original oil finish. There is a serif “V” inspection stamp on the bottom flat of the stock wrist.

The original Ramrod is present and exhibits a largely pewter and plum patina. The head of the ramrod exhibits a plum patina and the threads on the opposite end remain sharp.

This rifle comes with a rare and original Model 1819 Bayonet. The bayonet for the Model 1819 Hall Flintlock Musket is nearly identical to the bayonet designed for the Model 1816 Flintlock Musket and has a 3 inch socket and 16 inch blade. The principle difference between the two bayonet models is that the Hall bayonet has an offset cut through the mounting slot which was necessary for the adaption of the barrel lug/sight base. This bayonet is in very fine condition and retains 95% plus of its original browned finish. The bayonet secures tightly to the rifle. These bayonets are almost never encountered.

It is documented that US Model 1819 Hall Breech-Loading Flintlock Rifles were used by regular US Army troops during the Mexican War, to include the 4th US Infantry Regiment, which fought with the Hall Model 1819 Rifles at Palo Alto. There is also some evidence that some US Model 1819 Hall Rifles were used by the Texian Army during the War of Texas Independence.

Very few US Model 1819 Hall Breech-Loading Flintlock Rifles were manufactured at Harpers Ferry and the majority of those were later converted to percussion. There are very few known surviving examples of the Model 1819 Hall Rifle in its original flint and even fewer with an 1838 date. This flintlock rifle still functions perfectly.

This rifle is an antique and can be shipped to anyone. This rifle will also come with an historic writeup and a CD containing all of the photos in the listing. I accept Visa and MasterCard and charge NO FEES. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like additional photos posted.


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