Author Topic: WHAT exactly is this?  (Read 19087 times)

Offline hawknknife

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WHAT exactly is this?
« on: August 09, 2009, 01:56:11 AM »

This smoothbore was purchased today from an individual at a Jackson, MS gunshow.  I think this is a British revolutionary war officer's fusil.   The barrel is 37 inches long, has never been cut, and has a dramatic flair at the muzzle as can be seen in the pictures.  The barrel is straight, not have round/half octagon.   There are no markings on the gun or lock other than the proof marks on the barrel.   On the tang of the buttplate is the capital letter "R".  The lock does work in both half cock and full cock but is sluggish.  There is an old repair to the side of the forearm that appears to be wood filler but was done many years ago.

I would guess the gauge to be about 20.  There is a a very faint date of "1803" dimmly carved in the side of the butt but is so weak you have to turn the stock just so for the light to hit it.

Any information would greatly appreciated. Any idea as to value?

thanks
hawknknife
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Offline Don Getz

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2009, 02:23:58 AM »
Nice looking gun, not quite as nice as the one Jim Chambers owns, but nice none the less.    You threw me for a loop when you said the barrel was "straight"...I couldn't imagine that.    It is actually octagon to round....the octagon part is
just at the breech and peters out in 4" or 5", kind of typical for this kind of gun.  It also appears to have a rather large
breech on the barrel.   Also, to everyone else, take note of the frizzen.....it's "GROOVED"..............Don

Offline Bill of the 45th

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2009, 05:32:16 AM »
Don, I noticed that right off, and it appears to be a resole.  The 1803 date might make it more of a war of 1812, and being in Mississippi that it was purchased, it would be worth trying to find history.  It's hard to tell but it could be a war trophy.  Stranger things have happened.

Bill


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Offline Acer Saccharum

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2009, 05:43:38 AM »
Looks Continental to me. English style stock, tang carving and buttplate but germanic sideplate, guard, lock.

neat gun.
Tom Curran's web site : http://tcurran.com/

Offline JV Puleo

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2009, 07:14:48 AM »
I would say that is English, a fowler and not a fusil (as it has never had any bayonet attachment) and probably a good deal older than you think...more like 1740-1750. A really clear picture of those barrel marks would help but when you get back before the middle of the 18th century there are quite a few good quality guns that are identified only by the maker's mark. I think its a very nice gun and I'd have jumped at it.

Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2009, 07:44:31 AM »
I think that is a nice  mid-grade  fowling piece of English origin.
I believe this was made as a dedicated fowling piece and not with intent for an officer's fusee.

All hardware and  stock profile  looks very English to me just of an early design.
I agree with JV Puleo about the date. With the lock, side plate and TG possibly a tad earlier. That type of side plate, wrist escutcheon and TG style is very much like guns of the 1720-35 time frame although they were used on later guns if not top of the line.

There is a  maker's mark between the proof and view marks and that would help with the dating to a degree.
Would also like to have a closer view of the lock.

Thanks for sharing this!
One I would love to own.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2010, 08:56:05 PM by James Rogers »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2009, 06:06:53 PM »
It's English and very early ca. 1720 give or take a decade. The lock is very curved which is a very early feature for British guns. In fact everything about this gun is incredibly early. pipes, guard , buttplate , thumbpiece, lock sideplate....EVERYTHING. It's really rare to see a gun this early, most you see are post 1750.
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2009, 06:41:34 PM »
Nice find, for sure.  English to me also.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2009, 08:02:41 PM »
Carl-Thank you for letting all of us out here have a look at your new find. You pretty much have the story on it so there isn't much I can add. It is a pretty great little fowler and is fairly early. The lock compares with the earlier Long Land muskets in shape and having a round face; say 1730-1750. Amazing that it has lasted this long in original flint and without serious damage to the wood. A good coat of wax and a little hand rubbing and it will brighten up to look like it must have two centuries ago.
Thanks again-Dick

Offline hawknknife

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2009, 11:05:35 PM »
Tomorrow I'll take some very close pics of the proofs, and the lock does have a maker's name but very hard to read.  It start with"Ro" and has the little engraved feather design on the tail.  I'll attempt to take the lock off to see internals and post all this.
   The proofs are the London builders 1702 marks but the the makers mark in the center is hard to make out.  Thanks to all you gents for the help..Carl

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2009, 11:33:36 PM »
Very nice, thanks for sharing.

I noticed that the barrel was secured with keys. Was this common on fowlers?

Would it be possible to get angling photo of the underside of the forestock and upper forearm from either the lock forward, or the muzzle back, to get an idea of the cross section of the  upper forearm?

Thanks and God bless

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2009, 12:38:56 AM »
Quote
I noticed that the barrel was secured with keys. Was this common on fowlers?
Very common on English guns.
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Offline Dan'l 1946

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2009, 03:19:46 AM »
It's English and very early ca. 1720 give or take a decade. The lock is very curved which is a very early feature for British guns. In fact everything about this gun is incredibly early. pipes, guard , buttplate , thumbpiece, lock sideplate....EVERYTHING. It's really rare to see a gun this early, most you see are post 1750.
I think you are right on the money Mike. This is a lovely old fowler in every sense of the word with emphasis on old.  I think it wears its age well and I'd love to see this one duplicated. Wouldn't it be nice if that trigger guard was availble today--and those thimbles and the entry pipe? That lock and and the furniture and even the barrel's profile indicate an early date to me. I think the quality is a bit higher than found on the usual mid-grade export fowler--especially considering the age of this piece.  The 1803  date may have had a significance to its owner, but I can't see any relationship to the fowler, besides it's being just another year it survived.

Thank you for sharing this beauty with us. Don't see one like this very often.      Dan

Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2009, 04:53:25 AM »
I think the quality is a bit higher than found on the usual mid-grade export fowler--especially considering the age of this piece.  

Most likely. My comment of "mid-grade" was based on the assumption that this piece was using older parts due to the fact it had a hook breech and keys which would most likely not give the whole gun a date as early as 1720. I was also using the fine pieces of silver mounting as found in Neal as the top and the Carolina type trade guns on the bottom.

I would love to see some of that hardware available. I had quite a time trying to get the thimbles like that on mine.


I have a few questions for those who know more than me.....

1. How far back do you believe the standing breech and keyed barrel go on English pieces? IIRC, Neal and Back did not think they went back as far as some of you are placing this gun based on it's hardware and lock. They felt the hook in breech began to be copied from a gun the French maker Chasteau made in 1722 in the mid 1730's and found favor quickly by the 1740's.

2. How many known "mid-grade" fowling pieces (pre-1770) do we have in existence out there today that have provenance of export to the colonies in America?
I have seen the Bumford fowling piece in Jim Mullins' book. How would you guys rate it's quality?

Thanks for the learning!
James



 
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 06:32:14 AM by Capt. Jas. »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2009, 02:25:58 PM »
Quote
1. How far back do you believe the standing breech and keyed barrel go on English pieces? IIRC, Neal and Back did not think they went back as far as some of you are placing this gun based on it's hardware and lock. They felt the hook in breech began to be copied from a gun the French maker Chasteau made in 1722 in the mid 1730's and found favor quickly by the 1740's.
I believe the French Huguenots brought the standing breech with them when they were chased out of France. So, 1720's or possibly slightly earlier is possible. Problem is these early guns are so rare it's hard top know for sure. I'm intrigued with the square tang, not something I would have expected on this gun. The reason I date this gun to possibly as early as the 1720 period is the lock. That curved lock is totally out of fashion for civilian arms much later than that. Even the Bess didn't use that lock into the 1750's, and the British military was slow to accept change.
Quote
2. How many known "mid-grade" fowling pieces (pre-1770) do we have in existence out there today that have provenance of export to the colonies in America?
I have know Idea exactly  how many , but Sir William Johnson was importing mid grade and high grade guns for his Indian allies as early as the 1750's.
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Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2009, 04:58:16 PM »
Thanks for responding  Mike. This is most interesting to me and I can now understand technical conversations like these that take place over Kentuckies.

For sure some of the best and creative gunsmiths came out of France and brought with them some of their own personal innovations. They introduced a burst of energy to English gunmaking in the beginning and it's intriguing to watch it evolve into British refinement as time progresses. This could mean though that the English could possibly lay claim to that innovation as the earliest French gun known with it is the aforementioned gun by Chateau in 1722.

At the very least, if this is not a restock or a restock along with a new barrel, then this will be the oldest English standing breech gun known to exist and surpass the prior English piece  by about 10-15 years.

No doubt the lock and hardware is older but I am still leaning to a restock/new barrel at or after 1740 ish. It's gotta be my conservative nature.  ;D ;D

Offline rich pierce

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2009, 05:47:21 PM »

2. How many known "mid-grade" fowling pieces (pre-1770) do we have in existence out there today that have provenance of export to the colonies in America?
I have seen the Bumford fowling piece in Jim Mullins' book. How would you guys rate it's quality?

Thanks for the learning!
James

Regarding the relative quality of the Bumford fowler  in "Of Sorts for Provincials" by Jim Mullins;  perhaps we can derive clues from records of guns ordered at the time by Sir William Johnson and others.  I'd guess it would be in the upper 10-20% of guns ordered for "the trade".  Johnson etc did order fowling guns but these comprised a small percentage of the totals.  I'd not be surprised if guns of this quality (Bumford, again) were readily available in shops in eastern seaport cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and  Southern ports.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2009, 07:15:19 PM »
Quote
No doubt the lock and hardware is older but I am still leaning to a restock/new barrel at or after 1740 ish. It's gotta be my conservative nature.  Grin Grin
I never considered a possible restock. I suppose it's possible. But still that's a real clunker of a lock for 1740's, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb even on a restock. But, never say never! ;)
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Offline Dan'l 1946

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2009, 10:17:15 PM »
Thanks for responding  Mike. This is most interesting to me and I can now understand technical conversations like these that take place over Kentuckies.

For sure some of the best and creative gunsmiths came out of France and brought with them some of their own personal innovations. They introduced a burst of energy to English gunmaking in the beginning and it's intriguing to watch it evolve into British refinement as time progresses. This could mean though that the English could possibly lay claim to that innovation as the earliest French gun known with it is the aforementioned gun by Chateau in 1722.

At the very least, if this is not a restock or a restock along with a new barrel, then this will be the oldest English standing breech gun known to exist and surpass the prior English piece  by about 10-15 years.

No doubt the lock and hardware is older but I am still leaning to a restock/new barrel at or after 1740 ish. It's gotta be my conservative nature.  ;D ;D


You, know, now that I look at that breech, there is something odd about it. The tang doesn't really match the style of the barrel or the rest of the piece for that matter. I wonder if the gun is original and the tang was fitted later along with a new breech plug to give this gun a hooked breech--maybe to keep up with the fashion of the day? I admit that I've never heard of such a thing but that doesn't mean much. Could explain why things don't quite look right there. Dan

Offline Telgan

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2009, 11:54:40 PM »
Hawknknife, intersting barrel profile. Any chance you would entertain us with some measurements of the barrel at the breach, waist muzzle, lengths, etc.? Really appreciate you posting this piece and especially the photos. Will look forward to more. What a great find. Tom

Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #20 on: August 11, 2009, 12:12:16 AM »
More than likely the barrel has a bore that is flared inside for the first few inches and then it goes down to true bore size. It may also have the breech area of the bore larger than bore size as well.

Offline hawknknife

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #21 on: August 11, 2009, 12:40:13 AM »
Gentlemen,
I appreciate all the information and comments and this has been most interesting to me.  These are some additional photos showing proof marks, lock markings, lock interior, and lock mortice.  After removing the lock and looking at the maker's name in good natural sunlight, the maker's name is Robert Harvey.  The proof marks on the barrel are the London Gunmaker's 1702 proofs.  The cartouche between the proofs is clearly an "RH" as can be seen in the pics.  According to the book, "Small Arms Makers" by Gardner, Robert Harvey was a maker in London from 1690 to 1722. 

I have not attempted to clean this fowler in any manner and the lock mortice is full of dirt, grime, and even a few cobwebs.

I'll take some exact measurements of the barrel as far as the muzzle, waist, and breech tonight and post them.

In agreement with Mr. Getz, I feel the breech may be wider than the bore size as the fowler is light in weight.

I honestly do not know about the restocking business as there are members who are far more knowledgeable than myself on this. I can say that if it were restocked, it was done by a gunsmith who really know his stuff and from the fit of the metal to wood has been done for many, many years.

The gun was bought from an old family in Pensacola, Fla.

Thanks for the info,
Carl























Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #22 on: August 11, 2009, 01:23:40 AM »
This is a super piece. :o
I thought this could be Robert Harvey. He apprenticed under Dafte
Neal reports records of him into the early 1730's.

Carl, The re-stock hypothesis I propose would have been early and done by a professional gunsmith.

If not a re-stock, I still want to believe the standing/hook breech system to  be added a decade or two later.

Offline rich pierce

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #23 on: August 11, 2009, 01:43:46 AM »
The lock uses an odd/old system for fastening the sear spring to the plate.  Thanks for the close-ups!
I don't know enough to comment on whether the hooked breech was original- but would love to see a picture of the breechface and the hook on the barrel if it could be safely removed.

If it was re-breeched then perhaps not everything would line up and something would have to be modified- the touchhole to the pan might not remain the same, the fit of wedges to the lugs might require some work.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2009, 01:49:04 AM by richpierce »
St. Louis, Missouri

Online James Rogers

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Re: WHAT exactly is this?
« Reply #24 on: August 11, 2009, 02:31:28 AM »
by richpierce

I don't know enough to comment on whether the hooked breech was original- but would love to see a picture of the breechface and the hook on the barrel if it could be safely removed.

If it was re-breeched then perhaps not everything would line up and something would have to be modified- the touchhole to the pan might not remain the same, the fit of wedges to the lugs might require some work.


Me either really Rich  ;D i am just trying to learn and maybe inspire some conversation from some of those in the know who have not posted yet.
Yes, something might come of light from the inside. The keyed areas on the barrel tenons might show something fore sure.
Interesting that the tenon mortises come all the way thru, a feature that I have heard many say did not exist on English made guns.