Author Topic: My first antique rifle  (Read 2040 times)

Offline charlie44gs

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My first antique rifle
« on: June 13, 2017, 03:09:47 AM »
I recently acquired this rifle and would appreciate any observations about it.  The barrel is 32 inches and .94 across the flats with a 40 caliber bore. I replaced the broken nipple by tapping for a - 28 tread. The relationship between the nipple and hammer seems off but it is the same angle as the original. It does does shoot.  I used a .375 ball with two .010 patches with 30 grains of 2f.


How safe is a rifle of this age (late 19th to early 20th centuries)? What ball should I use? Should I try to alter the relationship between the nipple and hammer? 
Thanks,
Charlie

















multiple photo upload

Online rich pierce

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2017, 05:48:48 AM »
I see you are considering it as a shooter.  That was something that happened a lot in the first years of the black powder revival, before good new parts and barrels were readily available. I can see there has been some stock restoration.  It can be fun to shoot an original but many would question whether that's wise even if you're convinced you won't diminish collector value.

I'm sure you will check the breech threads, the bore, and be sure there is enough mainspring tension to keep the hammer down after firing. I think the most common originals turned into shooters are double barreled percussion shotguns because new ones are not so available.

What size ball depends.  Precise bore and groove depth measurements would help.  Use your fired patches to tell you if you've got a good ball/patch combination.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 05:52:50 AM by rich pierce »
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2017, 03:31:29 PM »
Rich,
Thanks for your reply and warning. What I heard you say is that shooting an old rifle like can be risky. The ready availability of new barrels and parts makes that a better/safer route. I have several modern Hawken-style rifles I can shoot, a Sharon Trade Rifle and a Sears/Miroku kit from the '60's that I built last year.

My old gun does not appear to have any collector value since it is unsigned and I paid $225 for it. Would installing a new barrel make any sense?
For twelve years I have repaired old clocks as a hobby and enjoy bringing them "back to life." Of course the worse that can happen with a clock is that a main spring breaks and the winding key whacks your finger. Failures in old guns can have "deadlier" consequences.

I enjoy this site and all the knowledge it offers. Black powder shooting has added much to my retirement. As a former history teacher and current tinkerer it appeals me.
Thanks,
Charlie

Online rich pierce

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2017, 04:05:19 PM »
If it's well breeched and you've got solid nipple threads and all, then all you have to worry about is the barrel.  Shoot modest loads and have fun plinking.  I've shot a friend's original .36 cal antique, beat up and repaired, late percussion rifle worth about the same as yours.  Hard to keep all the shots on a soda can at 25 yards even after lapping th rough bore in that particular case.  But he was tickled because it was a family gun handed down and he felt that connection.  After the poor accuracy it was a wall hanger. Hopefully yours has a better bore. I'm sure you know from loading it.  A rough bore is tough to load.

If you find the bore is rough and you'd like to be more certain about safety a bore liner is a possibility.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline WadePatton

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2017, 04:22:56 PM »
If the bore isn't perfect, i'd only consider shooting it with a liner fitted.

I just don't take risks like I used to and I yet have all my fingers.

Neat gun, repairs and all. If it were mine, I'd not shoot it.  But it's not mine.
Hold to the Wind

Offline mbriggs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2017, 05:08:48 PM »
It is hard to be positive from just looking at a few photographs, but I believe your rifle was made in the Salem School in North Carolina.  It is a later example.  I have seen a number of similar rifles made by Timothy Vogler, William Dettmar, and George Foltz of Salem and Herman Butner & Elias Schaub of Bethania. I have a nearly identical rifle signed by Herman Butner for sale today. Best of luck.

Michael
C. Michael Briggs

Offline Ray Settanta

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2017, 05:22:55 PM »
I used to belong to the NSSA where everyone who could shot an original CW rifle. We also fired original CW cannons. I always heard people cautioning to check the rifle carefully before firing and many saying not to use it at all. I don't recall many mishaps though. Double barrel shotguns with damascus barrels are another story. Heard of many mishaps with them. I would be very tempted but I wouldn't shoot an original. I know people who have been harmed by muzzleloaders so perhaps I am overly cautious. I do like the idea of using a new barrel. You would retain the charm of the old rifle without worrying about any safety aspects. BTW did you belong to the NAWCC?

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2017, 05:55:37 PM »
Thanks for the advice. Not sure what I will do but checking the breech plug seems first order of business. Would a light load for a 40 caliber be 20 to 30 grains of 2f?

Ray,
I was a NAWCC member but let that membership lapse. I helped out at Classic Clocks in Atlanta and spoke on lighthouse clocks at the Mid-south regional. I enjoyed clock work but rifles have now drawn my interest. Still have too many clocks and they not sell well around here.

Charlie

Offline Ray Settanta

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2017, 04:06:04 AM »
I can't locate my Lyman Blackpowder Maual at the moment but my Hodgdon manual recommends 60 grains for a .40 caliber. It does not mention a starting load.

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2017, 02:59:41 PM »
Michael,
Thanks for your information on the Salem School. I found an earlier post of yours that contained much more material; I am glad you have helped preserve that history. I would like to see a picture of the rifle that is similar to mine. Where did Herman Butner sign your rifle? Mine has
"Hawkin 2" stamped on the top flat with the 'k' backwards.

Ray,
Think I will start with 20 grains and maybe work up to 30.

Charlie

Offline oakridge

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2017, 05:39:21 PM »
Michael,
Thanks for your information on the Salem School. I found an earlier post of yours that contained much more material; I am glad you have helped preserve that history. I would like to see a picture of the rifle that is similar to mine. Where did Herman Butner sign your rifle? Mine has
"Hawkin 2" stamped on the top flat with the 'k' backwards.

Ray,
Think I will start with 20 grains and maybe work up to 30.

Charlie



Could we see a picture of the barrel stamping?

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2017, 06:36:49 PM »
oakridge,
Barel stamp


Offline oakridge

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2017, 12:22:58 AM »
Charlie44gs,
Thanks. It appears to be done with individual letter stamps. I was just wondering if it might have been done after the fact. Hard to tell from the photos. Looks like it's been there a good while though.

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2017, 03:08:02 AM »
Shot the "Salem" rifle a few times today. Overall I was pleased with the accuracy. At least most of the shots were on the centerline of the 7-inch target. For me shooting off-hand I felt good. The trigger is very light and surprised me a couple of times.

Thanks to everyone who taught me about my rifle.




Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2017, 05:58:12 PM »
It is obvious from the position of the nipple, that the drum is either a replacement with a different orientation than the original, or has been overtightened beyond its index with the hammer. In either case I would not continue shooting it until it is disassembled and repaired.
 One of the most common misconceptions concerning shooting antique guns is, that as long as the metal parts show no signs of failure, you are good to go. But, the wood has been drying out over the hundred plus years the gun has been in existence as well, and is fragile. The sharp jolt produce by the firing of such a weapon can fracture the stock. This is especially true of a gun with a back action lock like yours.
 Although a gun may be considered not particularly valuable today, it can become quite valuable in the future. Guns that had no known history, were unsigned by their builders, or were simply a cheap gun in their time, have gained value as new information becomes available.
 Remember you are not the owner, you are the caretaker, and you should do your best to preserve this piece of history for the next generation.

 Hungry Horse

Offline charlie44gs

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2017, 10:44:06 PM »
Thanks for your thoughts, Horse. I was puzzled by the drum as well. If you envision the drum being rotated 10-15 degree CCW the hammer might miss it, or strike the cap with the hammer lip. To me the separation between the hammer and drum needs to be greater. There were some splits in the stock along the rr channel. Without using much force I glued in a few pieces of veneer. I am hopeful this will stabilize the stock.

Installing a new barrel and drum is still a possibility.

Thanks,
Charlie

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2017, 03:52:22 PM »
Charlie;

  I suspect this is a replacement hammer, with too long of a throw to work properly with the drum, and nipple.

  Hungry Horse

Offline heelerau

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2017, 02:13:28 AM »
 I agree with Horse, I to suspect a replacement hammer and the angle of the drum altered to suit.
Keep yor  hoss well shod an' yor powdah dry !

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2017, 11:44:16 PM »
The spit in the stock along the ramrod channel is like seeing a cockroach in your house. It's not alone, and it's not going to get better if you ignore it. Your gun is sending you a message. As a stock dries, and shrinks, it begins to break where it is bonded to the barrel, first, because that is where the wood is the thinnest, and the barrel is the most rigid part on the gun. The sharp recoil produced when an antique gun is fired even with a light load, will eventually destroy the gun.
 I am restoring a Lehigh with the same issue. My gun shrunk so much that it pulled the folded brass barrel tenions out of the shallow dovetails.

  Hungry Horse

Offline Three Steps

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Re: My first antique rifle
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2017, 03:09:49 PM »
Many years ago I had an original Somerset county rifle. Very plain and not very quality workmanship but was signed. It was small caliber with a good bore and good breechplug and drum threads. Was loading it and when I hit the short starter the wrist cracked all the way through. It was a fresh clean break, there were no signs of a crack before. I took care of the sharp edges and pinned and glued it up that day. The repair was almost invisible. I quite shooting that one and ended up trading it for a .36 caliber with a Leman lock that I have pictures of on another post. I like to shoot the old guns occasionally but be prepared to work on them.