Author Topic: Harpers Ferry Model 1803  (Read 17818 times)

Offline Curt Larsen

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Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« on: January 17, 2013, 06:32:26 PM »
I know that there has been plenty of controversy about the Model 1803 and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I wondered if anyone has ever seen an 1803 lock plate with an actual 1803 date.  Most of the repro locks have an 1803 date.  TRS has an interesting write up on what he has called the 1800 Harpers Ferry that he consideres the prototype for the 1803.  The 1800 is marked as number 15 which has been suggested to have been one of the original Lewis and Clark protypes.  I've recently read the Merrit Smith book on the history of Harpers Ferry and just bought the Hartzler and Whisker book on HF that TOW has had on sale.  Smith's book shows no Model 1803 production numbers until 1807 and Hartzler and Whiker show 772 of them produced in 1804.  I saw the HF number 15 exhibited a few years at the Baltimore show, but wasn't really up on the history then and I didn't take a look of the lock.  I know that Don Stith has done a lot of research on this and maybe some of the rest of you have as well.  I'm just curious and wanted to get some more thoughts.  I don't have a dog in the fight over the Lewis and Clark rifles.  The 1803 lock seems to be a scaled down version of the 1795 musket lock and it would seem natural to have used it as a model for any prototype.  While the number 15 rifle may be one of 15 commissioned by Lewis in 1803 is possible.  It's also possible for this new style lock to have been fitted to surplus 1792 contract rifles.  It certainly wouldn't have been any big deal to do this and shorten them and maybe refit them for slings.  It's still an interesting topic.

timM

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2013, 08:26:38 PM »
I haven't handled a 1803 pattern rifle with a 1803 lock date although I recall one being offered in the distant past....as thin as that is (smile).  Great topic and a old interest of mine, now I need to round up the reading you mentioned. 

There was an ancient article written for Man at Arms by a Mr. Frank Tait titled “US Contract Rifles Pattern of 1792”  This article makes a convincing argument of  1792 / 94 pattern rifles being the basis of the HF rifles “built” for the expedition. 

Regardless of how valid this article is today it is a great read and I would be happy to forward a pdf of this article to anyone interested.  tim

Offline Don Stith

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2013, 04:43:51 AM »
Actually Frank Tait did all the serious research on the 1792 contract rifles and some of it was included in the Man at Arms article. Ten years ago does not seem that ancient to me. Frank was kind enough to share all his research with me.  His conclusion was that the 1792 was used for the L&C  adventure except for Lewis personal gun which was also outfitted with the new lock being developed at HF with interchangeable parts. He found documentation for the addition of slings. He did not find any reference to modifying the barrel length or bore. In fact he found references that led him to conclude they were not shortened. There was a follow up article in M@A where Frank responded to some of the questions raised by readers of the first article.
Frank and I examined the supposed No 15 rifle several years before Jesse had acess to it.  It is hard to believe it was an arsenal built rifle but I guess all things are possible. Unless someone perfects a time machine, we will never be able to verify exactly what path things took. The seven or eight known surviving 1792/1794 contract rifles all have 1812 dated HF style locks including one restocked model that turned up.
 They all have the original length barrels and do not have sling accomodations.

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2013, 06:59:40 AM »
I know that there has been plenty of controversy about the Model 1803 and the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I wondered if anyone has ever seen an 1803 lock plate with an actual 1803 date.  Most of the repro locks have an 1803 date.  TRS has an interesting write up on what he has called the 1800 Harpers Ferry that he consideres the prototype for the 1803.  The 1800 is marked as number 15 which has been suggested to have been one of the original Lewis and Clark protypes.  I've recently read the Merrit Smith book on the history of Harpers Ferry and just bought the Hartzler and Whisker book on HF that TOW has had on sale.  Smith's book shows no Model 1803 production numbers until 1807 and Hartzler and Whiker show 772 of them produced in 1804.  I saw the HF number 15 exhibited a few years at the Baltimore show, but wasn't really up on the history then and I didn't take a look of the lock.  I know that Don Stith has done a lot of research on this and maybe some of the rest of you have as well.  I'm just curious and wanted to get some more thoughts.  I don't have a dog in the fight over the Lewis and Clark rifles.  The 1803 lock seems to be a scaled down version of the 1795 musket lock and it would seem natural to have used it as a model for any prototype.  While the number 15 rifle may be one of 15 commissioned by Lewis in 1803 is possible.  It's also possible for this new style lock to have been fitted to surplus 1792 contract rifles.  It certainly wouldn't have been any big deal to do this and shorten them and maybe refit them for slings.  It's still an interesting topic.

If they used Contract Rifles on the expedition they would have been relocked and shortened as you state.
There are number of things that make me question the Contract rifles. They reportedly were not all that good and Lewis would have known this. HF made 15 more rifles in the first run of 1803s than was called for. AND the 1803 with its 1/2 octagonal barrel was prone to failure in the round portion. Two of the L&C rifles failed in this manner. So there are valid arguments for 1803 or 1803 prototypes.
People need to READ the related articles and make a decision on their own. Taits article was not very convincing to me. The argument for the Contract rifle is "they were there so they must have used them". This is not documentation its supposition.  Pretty good idea but still supposition.  The 15 extra rifles, the burst upper barrels, the "short rifles" all point to 1803s at some level.
I would not say that EITHER was wrong for someone wanting a L&C Rifle. There is not enough to prove either to me conclusively enough to start telling someone one or the other is wrong.
Lewis had a letter that basically said "Make this guy anything he wants" so??
Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Offline Don Stith

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2013, 07:52:04 PM »
Dan
 Your comment that the contract rifles were not all that good intrigues me.
  Can you give me some reference material for the comment?
 There was minimal or no field use of the contract rifles prior to the expedition. They were made and signed by the best gunsmiths in Lancaster. I have examined ones by Dickert, Gumpf, Feree, and Messersmith. The quality of work on them was equivalent to civilian versions I have handled by the same smiths. Measurement of the bores show remarkable consistency in size. The only deficiency I can visualize is the possibility of lock quality.  I suspect the relocking had more to do with field interchangeability than a quality concern.There was apparently no reluctance to issue them for the war of 1812.

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2013, 08:19:00 PM »
My only trip to Cody's Museum and I thought I saw an 1803 there but cant remember if it had 1803 on the lock. Maybe someone close or who have also been there can elborate on the dated lock.

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2013, 09:15:48 PM »
 I have examined a couple of 1803 model rifles made for the war of 1812, supposedly. Both were not dated 1803, and were dimensionally different from the model 1803, primarily in barrel length. One was dated 1811, and the other was dated 1814. Both had been converted to percussion, which, if they were weak in the barrel, or breech, would have shortened their working lives, and made them unlikely survivors.

                     Hungry Horse

Offline Don Stith

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2013, 10:20:29 PM »
The earliest dated actual  1803 model HF I have handled was an 1805 pistol and an 1807 rifle.. Had a friend that hunted deer in Missouri with an original HF dated 1809 until the mid 1990's. Don't know where it went after he passed. He used arrow head flint fragments in the lock

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2013, 07:20:49 AM »
Dan
 Your comment that the contract rifles were not all that good intrigues me.
  Can you give me some reference material for the comment?
 There was minimal or no field use of the contract rifles prior to the expedition. They were made and signed by the best gunsmiths in Lancaster. I have examined ones by Dickert, Gumpf, Feree, and Messersmith. The quality of work on them was equivalent to civilian versions I have handled by the same smiths. Measurement of the bores show remarkable consistency in size. The only deficiency I can visualize is the possibility of lock quality.  I suspect the relocking had more to do with field interchangeability than a quality concern.There was apparently no reluctance to issue them for the war of 1812.

I'm glad you asked about reliability.
After some digging through the usual suspects in the book case I find its not there.  After some thinking I also have an idea of where this may have been impressed on my memory some years back and have decided its "rumor" until I can get some documentation. Keller-Cowen calls them "obsolete" which I think is something of a stretch. Its not as though the 1803 or its prototypes were some new or different technology afterall. Even the new Harpers Ferry locks were identical technology to the 1790s and in fact were not state of the art for the flintlock of the 1790s.
I also found some things in "Firearms of the American West 1803-1865" that raised some suspicions... Though most of their stuff is pretty well documented. Their research on L&C  had apparently included contemporary writings of people using  the "improved" version of the L&C Journals leading Garavaglia and Worman  to state that Harpers Ferry built the rifles for L&C.  Which I don't think can be documented. Quoting some 20th c authot quoting someone else who had changed the original text, Elliott Coues did this in his version,  is not a good idea.  They cite Thwaites in the same chapter and should have read the relevant sections of HIS version before quoting Brown quoting Coues on where the rifles were "manufactured".  
Anyway....
In looking through this volume this I did find some information on Zebulon Pike's first expedition into the West that was concurrent with L&C (from Pike apparently not "editors"). His hunters had a lot of trouble killing game and was not the careful planner that L&C obviously were (or he had far less time, L&C was in planning for a long time). He complained that the rifle balls were too small for Buffalo and Elk, something L&C did not mention other than in reference to their personal rifles . I would guess that he was using the Contract Rifle in 50 caliber, though later experience right to this day shows the 50 will do the job if used right.  So maybe his hunters were poor shots. He stated that a ball of 30 to the pound was as small as should be used.  His later Expedition which was apparently armed with the 1803 had no problems killing animals, or it was not noted. Also they DID have some burst barrels as did L&C. This is something that makes me wonder about HFs barrel welding or the quality of the material they used. I assume this was corrected in later production. But HF was pretty new at the time of the 1803 and they may have had teething trouble?
Its irritating that L&C were not a little more concise concerning firearms. But there are pretty good inventories of what they took along and wood ramrods/blanks were not a part of this. Nor is there any mention of broken rods on the expedition. Given the level of planning the use of metal loading rods might have been a requirement. Even the Mountain men were known to carry a spare rod in the bore of their rifles by some accounts since there is nothing out here that is suitable.  But this is more supposition.
Back to the reliability of the Contract rifles. If there was a problem this would surely have been related to the locks and variations in material or variations in the hardening of the parts. I always figured this was the reason they were relocked over time with Gov't locks though the "interchangeable" HF lock would also have been a good reason to relock them. It's almost a sure thing that the contract rifles came with Birmingham locks and Birmingham could make a sows ear look like a silk purse as W. Greener indicated in the 1830s. So this could have been a factor. Shallow case on an iron frizzen would be problem since this can fail in 20-30 shots in some cases. A too hard steel frizzen would be another. Locks were always the primary concern for guns in hard or remote service. I would have been surprised if there was not a problem with at least some of the locks.

I always learn something during a discussion of the L&C rifles, either from someone's perspective or doing more looking,  this was no exception.
Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2013, 07:27:03 AM »
I have examined a couple of 1803 model rifles made for the war of 1812, supposedly. Both were not dated 1803, and were dimensionally different from the model 1803, primarily in barrel length. One was dated 1811, and the other was dated 1814. Both had been converted to percussion, which, if they were weak in the barrel, or breech, would have shortened their working lives, and made them unlikely survivors.

                     Hungry Horse

That there were barrel failures with early production is pretty well documented. This does not mean ALL of them failed.
Poor material was a problem until the late 1850s. There was another improvement in steel making in the late 1860s.
The Colt Walker revolver of the 1840s had a very high failure rate in service, barrels and cylinders were prone to failure. Yet there are some survivors.

Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2013, 08:56:16 PM »
 I seem to remember ( come on guys it happens) that years ago, in the old Buckskin Report (maybe), there was a partial Harpers Ferry found in Missouri that was speculated to have been one of the Corp of Discoveries HP's Jaegers. It had no barrel,or lock,, but it had a poured nose cap, that appeared to be original.  It was a half stock, and appeared to have been built that way. The patchbox, and  fittings were 1803's, and the stock dimensions were right.
 The speculation at the time was that the original plains rifles, may have taken their design from the old HF, if the Corps of Discovery dumped their equipment in St. Louis at the end of the journey, and they were sold to trappers going up river. There's a lot of parallels between the old HF and the later half stocked Hawken's, and Dimick's.

                     Hungry Horse

Offline halfstock

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2013, 11:32:25 PM »
Hungry horse : Yuuuuup on the similarity's.

Offline Don Stith

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2013, 02:07:53 AM »
Don't know when poured nose caps came in to vogue, but they were not on the 1803's. Threw my old pile of Buckskin reports out in the last move nine years ago, so can't look  up your remembered article.. Don't know what furniture you refer to but the patchbox and side plate on the 1792 contract rifles are similar to the 1803's. Butt plate and Trigger guards were quite different. The use of a poured nose cap became commonplace when converting a full stock to a half stock, but again I can not tie down a time period.
 I suggest that Jakes years at the HF arsenal had more influence on the Hawken design than a relic that might have floated by. Couple that with the oft mentioned influence of English sporting rifles and you get closer to the truth. We really need that time machine I mentioned earlier. These discussions are fun but proving anything may be impossible.

Offline Longknife

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2013, 03:29:02 AM »
The article referred to was in the "American Rifleman" mag. May 1985 by Kirk Olson.  The rifle Olson describes bears many similarities to an "early" 1803 HP rifle in shape, style and hardware. There were subtle changes in production rifles over the years and he explains it all in the article. Olson also states that the lead nose cap was fitted at a later date and not during production. There are no signs of it ever having an entry thimble like the standard HF rifles. (To speed up production?) The entire lock is missing now with only a hole in the barrel where drum was installed when it was converted to percussion.  The lock apparently was held on by only one lock bolt (To speed up production and make it easier to change locks in the field?).  The barrel is very similar in overall shape to standard issue rifle and does have US proofmarks but no serial number next to them. HMMMMMM And then we have the #15 rifle!....Ed  
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 03:39:29 AM by Longknife »
Ed Hamberg

Offline Don Stith

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 04:07:57 AM »
I threw out thirty years of AR when I left StLouis in 93.  Sounds like a lot of supposing was going on there.

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2013, 07:43:11 PM »
 The early St. Louis Hawkens rifle built by Jake seem to be, for the most part, long barreled, and full stocked. Since sales are usually dictated by the customers desires, it appears that the customers must have requested a gun with a shorter barrel, and half stock. Maybe after seeing the old HF Jaegers floating around on the frontier.

                        Hungry Horse

Offline Longknife

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2013, 11:18:56 PM »
I threw out thirty years of AR when I left StLouis in 93.  Sounds like a lot of supposing was going on there.

I would "suppose" that without the afore mentioned time machine that "supposing" is all we can do. 
Ed Hamberg

Offline Curt Larsen

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2013, 08:29:49 PM »
Well, I guess I got the discussion going again.  This has been an interesting thread and I have learned a lot.  For those seriously interested in the history of the HF armory/arsenal I recommend the Merritt Roe Smith book "Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology--the Challenge of Change" published by the Cornell University Press in 1977.  It is a decidedly scholarly work but filled with great information.  One of the things that struck me in our discussion was the topic of the locks.  The first superintendent of HF was Joseph Perkin who was trained in the firearms trade in Birmingham prior to emigrating to America in 1774.  During the Revolution he worked at the Rappahannock Forge armory in Falmouth, VA where he was primarily assigned to "gunlocks."  After the war he worked in Philadelphia where he set up a gun shop.  He eventually became the supervisor at the New London government arsenal in VA until it closed.  He then was assigned to HF as suprvisor.  His expertise with locks interests me and clearly the development of the 1803 lock with possible interchangeable parts would have fit into his expertise.  One the the threads that goes through Merritt Smith's book is the reluctance of HF to adopt more modern technology throughout the first half of the 19th century.  Perkiin must have pioneered interchangability there, but eventually may have been styimied by the work force available to him.  The staff was mainly made up of "craftsmen" like ourselves.  I guess after Perkin died the good old boy system took over which further kept HF behind the technological changes being made the Springfield armory.  It seems that the whole concept of interchangability had to be forced on HF by ramming the Hall Rifle Works down the throat of the post Perkin management.  In any event, if the 1803 locks were truly interchangeable they were among the earliest attempt at this in the U.S.

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2013, 06:54:31 AM »
Just to throw in a few more ideas on this topic, Geroge Moller in his sholarly work, (two volumes) on early American arms, puts I/J Perkin in Philadelphia as armorer during the Revolution. His 'IP' stamp is found on the side plates of a number of muskets repaired there. Also, the now famous Christian Oerter
1775, griffin rifle has an I. Perkin lock which is signed. There may be one or two other locks that have turned up, as well. It would be nice to know what Perkin's origins were.
Dick

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2013, 01:53:02 AM »
The early St. Louis Hawkens rifle built by Jake seem to be, for the most part, long barreled, and full stocked. Since sales are usually dictated by the customers desires, it appears that the customers must have requested a gun with a shorter barrel, and half stock. Maybe after seeing the old HF Jaegers floating around on the frontier.

                        Hungry Horse

I think the 1/2 stocked guns were a response to the 1/2 stocked English sporting rifles that came through probably by the 1820s if not before. When you look at a 1/2 stock English rifles from about 1800 on you see a 1/2 stocked Hawken from about the trigger forward. They simply put a lighter American buttstock on the rifles. Reduced the caliber from something in the 62-72 range and increased the barrel weight.
So far as supposition... Where the L&C rifles are concerned thats all there is unless someone comes up with a better description from one of the missing Journal's.
So people need to read the documentation from the time, which is limited to perhaps a paragraph as far as I can see. Look at what contemporary researchers have found and decide what makes the most sense.
There simply is no adequate primary source material that I know of. Other that the rifles were short and they had locks made in Harpers Ferry its a dead in. I someone has other information from a member of the Expedition or from Harpers Ferry I have not seen or heard of it.
Dan
No, sir, I don't give 'em $#*!, I just tell the truth and they think it's $#*!. Harry S Truman

Offline Curt Larsen

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2013, 05:48:15 PM »
I guess we've run the discussion into the ground.  Thanks for all the info.  As I said above, I've learned a lot from it.  We still didn't get to my original question though.  Has anyone really had their eyes on an 1803 lock with an 1803 date?
Curt
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 10:47:16 PM by Curt Larsen »

Mike463

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2013, 01:21:17 AM »
  I researched and wrote the article "The Short Rifles of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" for Muzzleloader magazine back in Mar/Apr 2000. There are many misconceptions about the "short rifle", the name used by the arsenal, the War Department, and Meriwether Lewis for the rifle we now know as the Model 1803. It was also called the "short rifle" and "iron ribbed rifle" in later ordnance correspondance.
  
  The contract long rifles in stores were in unsatisfactory condition, with many problems as pointed out by Michael Carrick in his article on an apparent early "short rifle". Many of these contract long rifles had poorly made locks, rusted locks, lacked depth in the rifling, and many failed proper proofing.
  
  The fact is, Lewis had new rifles, locks, and parts manufactured at Harpers Ferry. We know this by reviewing his letters, and ordnance correspondance from Secretary of War Henry Dearborn and master armorer Joseph Perkin. As for the notion they used slings, this is based on a listing for musket implements procured from the Schuykill Arsenal (Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition). No mention is made in the L&C journals of slinging rifles, and they aren't pictured in Patrick Gass's 1807 journal with slings. While Lewis was later drawn with a rifle with a sling and swivels, it's a long rifle or fowling piece, and certainly not a "short rifle".

  Dearborn aptly describes the short rifle (Model 1803) in his May 25th, 1803 letter to Harpers Ferry master armorer Joseph Perkin.
  
  As for the Model 1803 featured by Kirk Olsen in his American Rifleman article, it has a Type II patchbox and Type III barrel from the 1815 production run, so it's not a Corps of Discovery piece.
 
  Being supplied by at least a dozen Pennsylvannia gunsmiths, the contract long rifles were run of the mill long rifles following the contractors personal patterns (or school of style, if you will). The only specifications were that they were to be a specific barrel length and caliber.
   We know that it took two months for the arsenal at Harpers Ferry to manufacture Lewis's rifles, and that he mentions progress on his "arms".
  
  Carl P. Russell presented journal documentation on the Expedition's "short rifles" in his 1957 book "Firearms, Traps, and Tools of the Mountain Men. The ordnance correspondance in James E. Hicks "Notes on U.S. Ordnance, Volume I" bears this out, as does the letters of Meriwether Lewis and Henry Dearborn, and later Tench Coxe. There is no documentary evidence that contract long rifles were ever modified to become Meriwether Lewis's "short rifles", which we know as the Model 1803. The "short rifle" is mentioned four times in the L&C journals by Lewis, Clark, and Sgt. John Ordway (and this is before two burst and the barrels cut short).
  
  Jess Melot of The Rifle Shoppe documented two of the earliest known 1803 dated specimens, numbers 14 and 94. Michael Carrick and others have thoroughly documented nearly every part of a suspected early production rifle. He graciously sent me pictures and it's quite intriguing.  

  Finally, it should be noted that Lewis's short rifles differed only slightly from the Harpers Ferry production pattern, for in December 1803 Dearborn suggested several improvements to the design- a larger rear sight, a brass band to the forestock, and a wider bell entry pipe.

  The differences in the types can be read here-

http://therifleshoppe.com/catalog_pages/us_arms/(500)_History_Facts_Description.htm  
« Last Edit: July 26, 2013, 01:30:41 AM by Mike463 »

Offline DaveM

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #22 on: July 27, 2013, 03:52:17 AM »
I assume that arms made at Harpers Ferry by 1803 - at least new ones, would have had iron or steel ramrods by that time, given what they were doing with musket production.  I wonder if these early examples mentioned as possible expedition guns from HF and dated 1803 still have their original iron / steel ramrods?  Sorry to stir the pot yet again on this debate,  :)

Offline DaveM

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2013, 04:57:29 PM »
As a follow up to my previous post, I have a bit of "new" information to offer as I've spent some time on and off looking into this.  In reading the original journals, it is mentioned that by July 1805, a little over a year after the expedition started in earnest, the corps was replacing their hickory ramrods (and axe handles) with those made of cherry.  Being just a year, it would seem to me that this would mean that the hickory ramrods were original to the rifles.  I would not think steel ramrods would need replacement in the field.  It is kind of a really short note, and written in a way that makes it really easy to miss in the journals but is unmistakable.

So if anyone wants an accurate Corps rifle reproduced, at least start with a hickory or cherry ramrod! :D

Knowing that muskets used steel ramrods at that time it seems that this had to refer to the rifles.  And it is written in plural fashion, so it was not just one rifle.

It is interesting that when you read Dearborn's original letter of May 25, 1803 to Perkins at HF about creating a new US rifle pattern, he directs Perkins to use steel ramrods for a new US pattern rifle.  Also in the May 25, 1803 letter, he also instructs Perkins to begin production on the new rifles "as soon as may be after completing the muskets now in hand" .  Actually the entire original letter reads to me as if Perkins is completely unaware of the various technical specifications of what ultimately became the 1803 - to the point where Perkins could have justifiably been a bit insulted if he already had created such a rifle. This correspondence was all well after the preparation of Lewis's guns at HF was underway (or possibly complete). 

I'm interested others' thoughts on what they really used, and don't have a preferred  theory on any of this at all.

Mike463

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Re: Harpers Ferry Model 1803
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2013, 09:55:05 PM »
We know the Corps of Discovery had a wide range of firearms, from personal long arms, fusils, and a pair of pocket pistols, to the military issue short rifles, Charleville pattern muskets w/bayonets, a pair of horseman's pistols, and possibly some contract long rifles. Several of the French engages brought along their trade guns. 

  There is also mention of wiping sticks on one occasion (29 July 1805).

  Clark made a reference to using cherry wood for ramrods on 10 July 1805, when the expedition had finished portaging the Great Falls of the Missouri (note that he does not specifically mention rifles)-

" we ar much at a loss for wood to make ax  hilthes, [5] 13 hath been made & broken in this piece of a day by the four Choppers, no other wood but Cotton Box elder Choke Cherry and red arrow wood.    we Substitute the Cherry in place of Hickory for ax hilthes ram rods, &c. &c."

Yours, &c.

Mike