I don't know where this post should be. It's partly collecting, partly building, and partly shooting. Advice needed and welcome.
I just acquired a 42 caliber heavy barreled rifle that was built by Nelson Lewis of Troy, NY (in business from 1843 into the 1860s, at least). It's kind of a beater, with a cracked and repaired stock, some pitting on the metal, a slightly wobbly hammer, and a crudely replaced barrel wedge. The lock needs some work. The nipple has been replaced with a modern one. It looks as if someone inletted a brass blade just in front of the dovetailed front sight and then later cut it flush. There are a couple of holes behind the rear sight that look as if they were for another rear sight.
Still, the bore is decent for its age. The previous owner slugged the barrel and found it to be .420 land to land and .425+ groove to groove. Shallow, but definitely there, and sharp.
I took it out and shot it with some undersized, poorly cast balls (all I had) and had some trouble trying to find the sight picture. It shoots right down the center but high. With some bore polishing and a taller front sight I think it has potential.
I took the barrel off to clean it and imagine my surprise when the breechplug turned out to be less than finger tight. Loads of fouling down in the breechplug/tang block junction. No surprise - serious gas leakage. Still, it wasn't about to pop out. Ok, dumb of me to shoot it without taking it all apart and checking it out first.
So, here I am with a loose-threaded breechplug on a rifle that feels like a joy to shoot. It fits me beautifully, hangs on target nicely, has minimal recoil (dodgy shoulder says thank you), and despite the wear and tear is a beautiful thing. What should I do?
Perhaps get a machinist to make me a tight breechplug and keep the old one should anyone ever wish to restore it to original? Hang the rifle on the wall? Something in between?
All $0.02 welcome.