Author Topic: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction  (Read 28758 times)

mkeen

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #50 on: April 13, 2012, 07:26:19 PM »

But were all the values in the same currency?
There were Colonial Pounds and British pounds and figuring what was what can be difficult, I have read.

Dan
[/quote]

Dan

A good question. Yes those values would be in the same currency, both are in the Pennsylvania currency. The value in British pounds would be different, as would the value in another colony, say Virginia or New York. It is possible to convert between the various locations. There are published tables on the values of the various currencies during the colonial period.

Martin
« Last Edit: April 13, 2012, 07:27:38 PM by mkeen »

Offline wallace gusler

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #51 on: April 14, 2012, 03:56:21 AM »
Brass Barrel Rifle Gun at Cowan’s Auction, May 2, 2012
By Wallace Gusler
In response to the questions and commentary recently posted here:
I wrote the Cowan’s entry and did the research, etc. It is a shortened version of sections in my book (still not published.) I also added the provenance and the letters from Joe Kindig, Jr., regarding the repair and conservation work I did at the Colonial Williamsburg gun shop in 1969. It is important to document this account, which would otherwise be lost at my passing.

Regarding the Musician’s Rifle: I first started studying it in 1981. Its box is pictured in my Muzzle Blast article (March 2005, pages 55-56) on the Bathabara Rifle (Shumway #42). The scratched-on inscription “1756 NJ” is visible on p. 55. The date was done, I believe, by a later owner of the rifle and the “NJ” notation is probably the initials of the scribe or of an ancestor. Often families back date objects as a result of oral tradition. This movement was very popular in the 1876 celebration of the centennial of the founding of the United States. One Virginia rifle received an inscription on the barrel stating King’s Mountain battle service by the rifle and an ancestor. This was cut over the Virginia maker’s name. [The maker was one year old when the battle of King’s Mountain was fought.]
I believe the date of production is later than 1756 because the wrist carving in front of the cheek piece on the Musician’s Rifle was executed by John Valentine Beck during his time in Christian Springs, 1761-1764. I published a comparison of this carving in an article in Muzzle Blast in connection with the Bathabara rifle attribution (#42.)  The Bathabara Rifle was made in North Carolina; I will publish another article with important evidence uncovered since the last series.
 
I have never handled the Deshler rifle (published by Erich Kettenburg), but do not trust its brass barrel as American. The rifle may be completely European, except for the extensive repairs and additions.

There is strong evidence that the brass barrel of the “Brass Barrel Rifle,” which I attribute the rifle to Hans Jacob Honaker, is American and was made in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  It is in the American long rifle style in regard to its dimensions.  The extensive porosity and repairs of the brass in the last 12” to 15” at the muzzle end point to American workmanship. The placement of its hindsight (10” from the breech) fits into the evolution of the American longrifle. [The Brass Barrel Rifle is dated 1771; 1760s examples are 5” to 7” from the breech.] Additionally, the placement of the rear barrel loop ahead of the ramrod entry step coincides with other early Shenandoah Valley longrifles. The later rifle (circa 1775) from the Honaker shop (shown in back of Shumway, vol. II, and in a Muzzle Blast article I wrote) originally had the long rear pin placement just ahead of the step down to the fore end at the tail piece. When I published this rifle in Muzzle Blast I was not aware of the barrel loop change from pins to draw loops. In recent times I had an opportunity to study the rifle for a couple of hours and noticed this change. It was changed (probably in the 18th century) to the current draw loops that are placed in the more usual positions. The hook breech was probably added at the time of the loop change.
 
To my knowledge the Brass Barrel Rifle patch box and the side opening detached example Eric Kettenburg owns are the earliest hinged boxes with a date put on by the maker. This is what the article in Cowan’s catalog is about. Additionally, the Brass Barrel Rifle’s box is the most primitive of those known, it never having a kick-open spring. There are other examples of brass patch boxes that I believe are earlier, based on circumstantial evidence connected with them. These are: the Musician’s Rifle box dates to the 1761-64 period and the early George Schroyer with the two-piece box (Shumway, vol. II, #92) [I donated a large portion of the value of this rifle to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation] dates to the 1761-65 period when Schroyer was working in Reading. The Bathabara Rifle is also about this same date. The Brass Barrel Rifle box may represent the style of the 1750s, or it may be an isolated example of one man’s way to handle the hinged box production. At this time there is ample evidence that the hinged metal box was spreading through the back country and frontier at a faster rate than would have been possible by apprenticeship trees. Experimentation was happening over wide geographic regions; the longrifle did not develop in one place and then methodically spread to other areas as has been the theory.
W.B.G.



Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #52 on: April 14, 2012, 05:03:38 PM »
Wallace thank you for taking the time to join in!

Have you ever considered putting your continually-forthcoming book online?  It's a LOT faster, easier, cheaper and if you want to make money on it (obviously, a researcher would like to paid for all the dedicated work!) it can very simply be set up as a subscription or pay site.  It will reach a wider audience, will last indefinitely and will allow the author to tend it constantly, something you definitely can not do with print.  Well I had to say to say it because we're all waiting for whatever it is you're going to publish!

Obviously this itself could go on indefinitely so I will try to be concise.

If I may be blunt, the notion of someone randomly picking a date of 1756 to scratch on a rifle in the 19th century is just plain weird.  Of course it's a possibility, but I have to be blunt and express the opinion that there is really does not seem to be any evidence either way whether it was scratched on in 1756 or 1956.  To fit your proposed timeline, it is more fitting for you to declare it a later addition.

You are also making declarative statements that RCA42 "was made," not "might have been made" by Beck, and that the musician rifle was likewise, based upon one small area of wrist carving, there otherwise being no apparent similarities between the two rifles.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but to do so in such declarative fashion, I have to assume you have a signed JV Beck rifle.  However, to do so also completely ignores the Allentown buttstock Ernie Laudenslager sold in Carlisle in 2002 or 2003 (where I photographed it) which for all intents and purposes must have been made by the same maker as RCA42 - I should say, the same guy, or his twin.  Ernie also claimed he had a barrel and some other pieces too, although I never saw them, so possibly it has been put back together and restored by this point in time.  If you make some inquiries I'm sure you could find the current owner and get some better photos.  I do not know who currently owns it.  I'm certainly not averse to the notion that Beck may have been a hugely important figure in the storyline of the 1760s and somewhat of a bridge between PA and NC, however I feel that you are attempting to force the straightjacket of a linear progression upon these pieces, and to do so necessarily then brushes aside these "outside quirks" i.e Leyendecher's box, the Allentown buttstock etc. that do not seem to fit the timeline.

In regard to David Deshler's alleged rifle (I have not yet been able to completely verify that declared ownership), I would hesitate to myself make an absolutely declarative statement of it's American manufacture, but all indications point thus.  The stock is American black cherry; the buttplate is thin, hammered brass sheet and quite crude; the triggerguard is a identifiable type which is found on a number of other early PA pieces, filing/shaping variations aside, and despite the interesting cheek carving, the tang carving at the least is certainly near-identical to a number of solidly identifiable pieces of American manufacture.  And of course, the brass box, which is obviously first work.  In regard to the discussion of brass barrel manufacture, I can not say one way or the other whether it is an American or European barrel and what is left of the original barrel may not be enough to make a determination.  If we are to use crude manufacture as a guide, then it certainly may fit the American slot as it is cruder than any European barrel I have yet seen; furthermore, I do not personally see any reason one could cast the BBR barrel here but not the barrel upon the Deshler rifle; given the massive proportions of the Deshler breech, I suspect it originally was of a shorter length and so likely easier to cast than the BBR barrel.  It is quite unfortunate that the entire rifle has been thoroughly molested.

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Offline Stan

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #53 on: April 16, 2012, 10:58:16 PM »
If my memory is correct & I believe it is, I remember Walles giving a disortation about the Musicians rifle at the KRA a number of years ago in which he stated the rifle was made by Andreas Albrecht in the 1750s at Bethlehem & also had found the locksmith as an immigrant in the mid 1750s.

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #54 on: April 17, 2012, 12:44:42 AM »
... In regard to David Deshler's alleged rifle (I have not yet been able to completely verify that declared ownership), I would hesitate to myself make an absolutely declarative statement of it's American manufacture, but all indications point thus.  The stock is American black cherry;

Eric,
Can you elaborate on the wood identification process used to make that determination?
Gary
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Online rich pierce

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #55 on: April 17, 2012, 12:57:56 AM »
I have never handled the Deshler rifle (published by Erich Kettenburg), but do not trust its brass barrel as American. The rifle may be completely European, except for the extensive repairs and additions.

For that hypothesis to be supportable, I guess we'd have to assume that the side-opening patchbox is a later addition to the Deschler smooth rifle?  The buttplate gives no signs of having been slotted for a sliding wooden patchbox but this smooth rifle could originally have had no patchbox, I suppose.  I am pretty sure nobody wants to propose the side-opening patchbox, which seems to have sprung to life in eastern Pennsylvania, has European roots.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that American black cherry was a common stock wood for European gunmakers as it was somewhat restricted in use even here.  

Regarding other aspects of the Deschler rifle that may be European, it seems that many/most? rifles or smooth rifles of that era had barrels and locks of European origin, so that would not make the Deschler rifle any more European in origin than a Christians Spring rifle by Albrecht, I suppose.  It may also be less than usual to see European hardware so plain as is on the Deschler rifle.

Finally, EK's research has identified a clearly American rifle carved by the same hand from the same geographical region.  All in all, this is pretty convincing to me that the Deschler rifle was stocked in eastern Pennsylvania.  We cannot know what was and was not first work but there is not compelling evidence that the patchbox is secondary, unless we also want to propose a buttplate replacement, at which point we are building a complex story.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 12:59:53 AM by rich pierce »
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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #56 on: April 17, 2012, 03:06:45 AM »
(1)  About J. Heinrich Fessler:  over in the languishing other thread, I noted that Dave uncovered a German document noting a man of this name as a gunmsith in Baden in 1712.  Certainly early, however if he was a young man at the time he may have had a long career into the 1740s-1750s anyway.  A Heinrich Fessler arrived in Philadelphia in 1733 with his wife and daughter but thus far I have not really put a lot of work into trying to track him any further.  I *think* iirc he was in his early/mid 50s at that time.  Also a Johan Heinrich Fessler arrived in 1766, again I don;t know anything else about him.  There were Fesslers that arrived in the 1750s but no Heinrichs of whom I'm aware.

Hey, we're a bunch of smart people here!  Somebody go and find Master Heinnerich!

(2)  Gary I unceremoniously dug a chunk out of the lock mortise and sent it to USFS just so I could say that I did.  I also dealt with a local guy here who works for Penn State.  Before I am crucified for doing this, let me explain that the mortise was already buggered by a restorer when a replacement lock was fitted.  While they ideally wanted a bigger piece, it was opined that the wood was consistent with north american black cherry, which it certainly looks like anyway.

(3)  The Deshler box is original, or at least it looks original, including the weird mortise and holes.  The only replacement thing in there is the kick spring.  All else is very, very old.  If we are going to question it's originality because it may not be convenient for it to be original, then I suppose were could just as easily question the originality of RCA42, which is equally weird, or even (in honor of this thread) the BBR with the box appearing to chop into an otherwise nicely carved flower.  I tend to go along with Rich's logic here:  it's one thing to question something that blatantly looks out of place and/or later work and/or too new.  On the other hand, if something looks right and we have to create lengthy, elaborate scenarios to explain something or otherwise kill it off, it seems to be to be akin to a scientist approaching a study with a DESIRED outcome in mind.

(4)  If I can be blunt, the Deshler piece is owned by a bunch of squabbling idiots.  I offered to do a better restoration (and it wouldn't take much to do a better restoration, despite my not wishing to speak ill of really nice guys who are now deceased...) FOR FREE, including the making of a new lock and new replacement barrel segment.  I suspect it is going to be auctioned as is.

(5)  Finally just as a side note, am I the only one who finds the barrel marking on the underside suspiciously similar to the Neihart snowman?
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 03:11:17 AM by Eric Kettenburg »
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Offline debnal

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #57 on: April 19, 2012, 10:51:01 PM »
Since Eric brought it up, can anyone expound on the fact that the patchox does in fact interupt some flower petal carving?
Al

Offline Fullstock longrifle

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #58 on: April 20, 2012, 01:24:18 AM »
I never really noticed that before Al, but I just looked it up in Shumways book and part of the carving is cut off by the patchbox, interesting.

FK

Offline heinz

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #59 on: April 20, 2012, 02:31:19 AM »
If you look closely you will see there is a raised molding around the matchbox  The molding also cuts off the flower.  So, even if the molding was originally for an original wooden patch box lid, the original wooden lid also cut off the flower. It would be highly unlikely that the raised molding around the box was a later addition.  And if the metal patch box is not original what does that do to the 1771 date? 
I believe Wallace Gussler has the best interpretation.  And it is a truly awesome rifle with some interesting rather free form carving.  Not unreasonable to associate it with someone who apprenticed as a cabinet maker.
kind regards, heinz

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #60 on: April 20, 2012, 03:22:59 AM »
If you look at the carving behind the cheek and down in the corner by the toe you will see that these details are not being used as the petals of a flower. The lens (football) shaped details are used as leaves or leaf like features, singly or in groups of three. Same use in the tang carving.

Heinz is right on in pointing out that the box has a raised molding carved around it. This blends nicely with the molding across the stock at the butt piece. Also there is no evidence of a cut in the butt piece for a wood box so I don't know how that even came up for discussion.

Gary
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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #61 on: April 20, 2012, 03:37:26 AM »
I guess it came up in an off-hand manner; similarly, I would say, to the same type of off-hand manner details upon other pieces can be arbitrarily called into question simply due to inconvenience.

I guess for the box to be unoriginal, the buttplate must necessarily have been replaced in entirety.  Surely that's not a stretch?  ::)
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Offline Tom Currie

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #62 on: April 20, 2012, 04:52:00 AM »
I don't have the expertise to comment on most of this thread but I'll jump in on the snowman. It's not often when a detail that we know as unique to a secific maker, shows up on a earlier piece and provides us insight into what the maker might have done earlier in his career prior to the onset of what we know as schools today. I know EK refrains from attribution, however there are certainly other attributions out there on rifles we all love that are based on less convincing evidence and  speculation than the Desschler rifle. 

I for one would have liked to have been there when that barrel was flipped over.   

Online rich pierce

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #63 on: April 20, 2012, 06:44:59 AM »
I agree the snowman is an amazing finding on such a piece.  It would be an unlikely coincidence for it to appear regularly on the work of one specific maker and not others from the same era and then by chance on the barrel of a earlier gun by another, unrelated hand.  Surely many who uncovered such evidence would be inclined to make a strong attribution.  There is  a thrill to discovery and detective work.  In the lab, when one of my proteges observes something previously unseen and unknown, I often wish I'd done the experiment myself, to be the first to see.  But I am thrilled nonetheless.  A raw student with fresh eyes may find something a seasoned researcher might never discover- and everybody questions the findings of a master as much as they would a raw student.
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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #64 on: April 20, 2012, 01:33:01 PM »
You can view the little snowman two different ways; one would be to essentially "back date" Neihart's carved snowmen on his post-Rev War work and view it as the same thing, OR one could view it as a symbol which had some type of meaning now lost - perhaps religious or otherwise - and that Neihart's later carved symbols were derivative.  Obviously, lacking more information or evidence, we have no idea.  It is *remarkably* similar to the 'Neihart snowman,' down to the triangular markings perpendicular to the circles, however there is a difference in that the circles stamped into the barrel overlap.

As an interesting side note, I remember a number of years ago, when my kids were little, we used to take them down to Knoebels (amusement park) in Elysburg.  Somewhere along the way, on the back roads down south of Bloomsburg, there was an area wherein there were a number of old brick houses - probably very late 18th century or early 19th century - and up in the gable ends of a bunch of these houses was a weird little symbol worked into the bricks that also looked like Neihart's circles in the form of the number "8."  The entire area also was home to a strong religious presence as witnessed by a bunch of Jesus Saves type signs posted along the road.  I used to wonder, when we went through there, if there was any kind of similar significance in those symbols....

I wonder if there is a simple way to estimate the amount of raw brass, and crucible size, needed to cast a barrel in the 36-46" range, including all venting and gating?  When I cast small items like buttplates, boxes etc. I typically just eyeball it and always run enough in the melt that there will be leftover to run into ingot molds.  In a charcoal forge with a hand cranked blower, it's not a quick or thoughtless job, so it seems to be that in order to run a rifle-sized barrel, a fairly extensive foundry would be required; at the least, I would think that something a bit larger than a typical blacksmith's hearth would be requisite, especially if burning charcoal?







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The other DWS

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #65 on: April 20, 2012, 03:25:05 PM »
I have hesitated to comment, though the topic fascinates me and the way the discussion evolves shows how a lot of the ALR research is accomplished.  However . . . . since this thread first came up I have been wondering about the economic level and technology required to produce a viably functional brass alloy long gun barrel in Colonial America.  Small scale brass casting for parts like buttplate and triggerguard blanks would have been fairly common to anyone with a blacksmith forge and the ability to make a basic sand cast mould. setting up a small business to cast them would have been limited more by economics than technology.  Even pistol barrels might not be too big a reach.  however doing a long gun barrel seems to me to be a significant leap.
I have a couple questions:
What is the speculation as to the "why" of this and other "brass-barrelled" long guns
Has the brass itself been analyzed to find out what the alloy is and how that matches to other colonial produced brass products?
Is there anything that indicates if it was cast hollow and reamed out or of it was cast as a solid bar and then drilled out?

Brass/bronze alloy barrels were not uncommon in marine and other all-weather applications

Offline heinz

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #66 on: April 20, 2012, 03:42:44 PM »
The technology would not have been that match of a challenge.  I would guess less than a ten pound brass charge in the crucible would be sufficient.  The technology existed to cast bells, canon barrels and lead pipe.  The heat for that size crucible may have been a challenge to a small gun shop, but not to foundries and iron works.  There are some quirks to the calamine brass that was commonly used in the time period.

An interesting thought is these one off items may have been cast using a clay core - lost wax process.
kind regards, heinz

Offline Avlrc

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #67 on: May 02, 2012, 09:44:44 PM »
What did it go for?

Offline louieparker

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #68 on: May 02, 2012, 10:20:34 PM »
I don't think it went...LP

Offline Avlrc

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #69 on: May 02, 2012, 10:25:57 PM »
Do you mean no one bid on it at the starting/minimum bid?
« Last Edit: May 02, 2012, 10:27:12 PM by Avlrc »

Offline louieparker

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #70 on: May 02, 2012, 11:01:19 PM »
I  saw no bid posted, then I believe it said, passed  ..Now it seems to have been removed from the site. It's  not shown in the prices realized...At least I can't find it ....??

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #71 on: May 02, 2012, 11:26:23 PM »
The web pages says "return to consignors."

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #72 on: May 03, 2012, 12:40:56 AM »
What was the opening and/or estimated low on that again?
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Offline JTR

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #73 on: May 03, 2012, 01:00:12 AM »
I don't know the opening, but the estimate, I believe, was $275,000 to $350,000,,,,,,,.......

John
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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Brass Barreled Rifle coming up at auction
« Reply #74 on: May 03, 2012, 01:56:24 AM »
Hmm.  Well, I have to say, that rifle is about as unique as it gets when it comes to pre-Federal (pre Rev, for that matter I should say) American rifles, *and* it is really a fantastic piece of folk art in a sense.  Plus the date in the box, the brass barrel...  I personally would simply chalk it up to the current tightening of the belts when it comes to disposable $$ for luxury items.  This attitude certainly has permeated other (unrelated) areas in which I have an interest.

On the other hand, though, that is one mighty chunk of change.  The pool of potential buyers is decreased very dramatically as opposed to the "typical" upper four to low five figure market, and unfortunately - as time passes - that pool of buyers continues to shrink due to changing times and changing interests.

Alternately - maybe Wallace just couldn't bring himself to unload it?

Doesn't change my admiration of the rifle either way.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2012, 04:28:18 AM by Eric Kettenburg »
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