Author Topic: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle  (Read 19255 times)

westbj2

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A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« on: January 25, 2010, 02:58:43 PM »
This circa 1875 rifle by John Belknap reflects a composite of early Victorian glitz with a patchwork of details that Belknap must have saved for one rifle.  The mounts are silver with an accent of gold, even a piece of Mother of Pearl centered in the sideplate.  Stock is Rosewood, notice the ramrod with 6 strands of silver wire spiraled down its length and the cheekpiece detail with a 'swirl'.  While I have not had time to disassemble the gun yet and look at the insides, the quality of workmanship on the outside is impressive even if the overall feel is quite garish.












Yes, that is a compass forward of the hinged butt trap.
















The other DWS

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2010, 03:35:05 PM »
truly a most elegantly gilded lily.

For a newbies sake (who has an abiding interest in the schuetzen and similar formal target rifles)  who when where was Belknap?

 can you give any specs on bore, rifling twist, etc.  it appears that the rear sight is adjustable for elevation in a fairly "lollipop sight" manner but I do not see any adjustment for windage in either the front or rear sight

have you tried shooting it?

Offline Majorjoel

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2010, 05:15:13 PM »
Very stunningly beautiful piece of work and in superb condition. There must have been a sale on ramrod pipes for Belknap to have used 6, but that shows some of the excesses of the victorian era! Thank you for showing us this one!!
Joel Hall

scooter

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2010, 11:49:49 PM »
This surely should be included in the visual library. One thought on why no engraving on inlays, patchbox. They are surely german silver and fragment under a graver. It is far easier to chase iron than engrave german silver. The gun is a wonderful example of late gunmaking.

Offline Curt J

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2010, 08:02:27 AM »
What a grand old rifle!  I know guns like this are not everyone's cup of tea, but I love this kind of stuff! As for the german silver mounts not being engraved, Jim is right about it being difficult, although my take on it is a bit different. German silver is basically the same as the nickel-silver we still use in the jewelry trade. It is extremely tough stuff, more likely to fragment the graver than the other way around.  No fun to engrave, tough on tools, and very difficult to cut with fine detail. It's not hard to understand why Belknap left it alone.

westbj2

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2010, 02:49:02 PM »
Belknap worked in St Johnsbury Vt. until 1880.  The rifle is .36 caliber and the barrel is 28".  Don't know the twist but suspect it is made to shoot a small picket style bullet.  When the snow leaves the tundra here, I plan to go with the owner and shoot this rifle a bit.  Should be fun.
As some may have guessed, the stock has been cleaned lightly resulting in a surface that has lost its original depth of varnish finish.  Kind of looks "hazy" and like tru oil now.  Too bad. Correspondingly, the mounts were also cleaned losing any patina on the silver (not german) mounts. 
As to the engraving and absence of it on the mounts, it must have been Belknap's preference.  Apparently there is another rifle known, virtually the mate to this one, which shows the same decorative treatment.  I forgot to mention that the barrel shows a good deal of remaining silver plating on the quartering flats adjacent to the rib. 
I am going to take the barrel and lock off today and have a look inside.  I hope the work there is as good as the outside.
Jim Westberg

Offline westerner

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2010, 10:37:58 PM »
On Rosewood I use Walnut colored Old English furniture polish and a soft cotton cloth. Rub like $#*!.

Neat rifle. Some parts of it are made correct to original rifles of the type. Some parts like the six pipes and sights are , are....." Victorian abstract "??   Its easy to see the man enjoyed the work.  :)



  Joe.
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The other DWS

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2010, 01:03:38 AM »
I like most of it,  but its a it like trying to drink a cup of honey at one go.


 a few less ramrod pipes,  the silver "flames" next to the buttplate, but mostly that sideplate.

  Of course, maybe it was a gamesmanship rifle--all the reflections off all that polished silver might blind your competitors :D

Offline Blacksmoke

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2010, 08:18:54 AM »
westbj2-- Hi Jim,  I may have found the other J.Belknap rifle that you mentioned in your post.  During the mid 90's I happened upon several catalogues from Butterfield's auction house in CA and low and behold there was a cased Belknap rifle so I made a copy of the page and it is posted below.  His wokmanship is unbelievable and I envy you who has actually had the pleasure of handling one of his guns.   H.T.
H.T.

Offline westerner

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2010, 10:10:33 AM »
It doesnt surprise me he made only eight rifles.  They kinda grow on ya. Looks better every time I look at it /them.


            Joe.
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exTNer

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2010, 10:55:57 PM »
Third time looking at this one, and just noticed the 'muzzle cap'?  Also see something that look similar in Blacksmoke's pic of the cased gun, just in front of the trigger guard.  Or is that a powder measure?  Was this cap to protect the muzzle during loading, cleaning, transport, or just somewhere else to go crazy with more "cost-up-Joe"s?  Never seen one before.  The more you look at that gun, the more you see.   Amazing.

Offline Blacksmoke

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2010, 12:25:40 AM »
exTNer--  I think what you are referring to is the "false muzzle" which was an attachment used to "swage" or "engrave" the projectile to the bore size and at the same time force the rifling configuration on the bullet.  This is the same procedure that is used on a cartridge gun just ahead of the chamber-- called a "throat' or "forcing cone". This would negate the use of a "hollow base" bullet and make the projectile a "mechanical fit" when being fired.  The "false muzzle" system was in vogue , circa 1870-- 1900 and used, primarily, in competition shooting.    I wonder what price John Belknap charged for his fancy rifles when he finished them?    I am shocked at the est. price listed in the posted catalogue page.         H.T.
H.T.

Offline westerner

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2010, 12:38:28 AM »

 H.T. Is correct. The false muzzle also protected the muzzle from wear and damage when loading.

It was invented by Alvan Clark and patented in 1840.  Here's a couple more. The small one is for a .33/47 cartridge rifle. The big one is from a heavy slug gun.




   Joe.  :)
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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2010, 01:12:36 AM »
Joe's pics show the false muzzles and their associated "plunger starters".   The false muzzle has dowels that fit into holes bored in the flat of the muzzle. If you run into a heavy barreled target rifle with holes bored in the muzzle parallel to the bore the odds are it originally had a false muzzle.

the hole pattern was usually not perfectly square so that the false muzzle could only be fitted in one alignment.  They often had a tab or disc mounted on the side that blocked the sight picture so you could not inadvertently fire the rifle with the false muzzle still attached.
the plunger starter was a mechanical version of a "short starter" that was precisely matched to the bore and the false muzzle.  the bullet end could be made with adaptors machined to precisely fit the profile of a given bullet.

Offline westerner

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2010, 02:10:34 AM »
The rifles are gorgeous. I get the feeling they were never meant to be used.

The front sight is held on with two screws and is made to conform to the shape of the octagon barrel preventing windage adjustment.

The rear sight is lacking windage adjustment also.  Seems mighty queersome to me.   ???  Could there be a way to adjust for windage and I'm not seeing it?


                 Joe.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2010, 02:12:11 AM by westerner »
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exTNer

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2010, 07:38:15 AM »
Thanks for the tutorial on 'false muzzles'.  I'd heard the term, but thought it was a section of barrel without rifling at the muzlze, to do the same thing.  Somebody was thinking when that was developed.  I can see why you wouldn't want to shoot the gun with all that extra hardware in place!!  Talk about ruining your day, and your gun. 





The other DWS

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2010, 05:05:00 PM »
That was a primary purpose, to prevent rifling wear at the muzzle on top grade competition rifles. At the time of their popularity,professional and semiprofessional rifle competition was one of the most popular sports in America.  only prizefighting and horse racing generated more $$$.  Baseball was just starting to go "pro" and football and baseball were undeveloped

False-muzzles could be "coned" to ease starting and they could be slotted to allow precise fitting of two strips of paper to form a cross patch.  Often they were made by cutting off a short segment of the barrel blank itself, drilling it and the barrel, and fitting them with the alignment pins.
This was an expensive and difficult process and was obviously used only for very high grade target rifles in competition, or where a complete and ostentatious rifle was desired

Offline Curt J

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2010, 07:10:25 PM »
It's also worth mentioning that guide bullet starters were also used on a great many light target rifles and "hunting & target" rifles that were not equipped with a false muzzle. These rifles have a lathe turned section at the muzzle, for the starter to fit over. Rifles like this were usually intended to shoot a picket bullet, which had very little bearing area, and that right at the base. The end of the plunger in the guide bullet starter was recessed to fit the nose of the picket bullet.  Without a guide bullet starter it was nearly impossible to center the nose of the picket bullet so that it was not tipped.

The other DWS

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2010, 04:34:13 AM »
Just an update


I am pretty sure that we saw the 2nd rifle pictured today during our visit in the Frasier Museum exhibit gallery

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2010, 05:13:53 AM »
Very impresive guns. Makes me wonder who they were made for. Did any of you find any provenece or past history of the two in question.  I also think the false muzzel was rifled at the same time as the gun so lands and groves would match up .   Gary

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2010, 05:33:38 AM »
Gary, that was the way most of the false muzzles were made.  The reamed and polished smooth bore had a set of small holes drilled in the barrel walls parallel to the bore but slightly irregularly spaced, though they may look fairly square to the eye.
  Then the barrel was cut off so that these holes were divided between the two sections.  Pins were precisely fitted into the holes in the short section so that the piece could be put back into perfect alignment with the bore in its original position.  With it clamped in place it could be rifled at the same time as the main barrel.   False-muzzles usually had a post or post mounted disc attached to the side that would block the line of sight to prevent them from accidently being fired with the false muzzle in place.
   They were most often used in conjunction with a mechanical plunger starter to insure that the sugar loaf-shaped picket bullets were inserted into the bore without getting tipped out of alignment.
Some rifles were made for use with a plunger starter without a false muzzle---My Grimm-made percussion schuetzen rifle is of this type

Offline Curt J

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2010, 06:30:26 AM »
"GRIMM"? As in "R. GRIMM CHICAGO"????  I have a percussion schuetzen rifle by him also. I'd love to know whether that is what you have, and if so, to know more about it.

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2010, 12:47:12 PM »
Curt,  that's what mine is too.  The book  On American Muzzle-loading Schuetzens by Rowe shows another one though the one illustrated is a bit more utilitarian-looking than mine---which is far from fancy.  It has a plain unengraved bar-lock simply stamped  R. Grimm Chicago, with the same stamp on the Remington-marked barrel.  It has a nice nickel (I assume) plated schuetzen trigger guard and buttplate and an attractive but not knock-your-socks-off grade walnut stock.    I took a bunch of less than expert pictures of it last summer right after I got it that I'll send you a PM about.  I'll try to get some better ones and post them here later this week.

Rowe's book has very little info other than identifying him as a Chicago builder in the 1870's and 80's.  I spent a lot of time searching the web for him but all I found was some German language (which, sadly, I don't read) newspaper pages which seem to indicate his participation in schuetzen activities in the Chicago-area vereins.

JT Coyoté

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2013, 08:14:44 PM »
westbj2-- Hi Jim,  I may have found the other J.Belknap rifle that you mentioned in your post.  During the mid 90's I happened upon several catalogues from Butterfield's auction house in CA and low and behold there was a cased Belknap rifle so I made a copy of the page and it is posted below.  His wokmanship is unbelievable and I envy you who has actually had the pleasure of handling one of his guns.   H.T.

Blacksmoke,

I have been searching on line for some information on John Belknap and his rifles. This search was fostered by the memory of an article I read a while back by David Wood recounting his search for a particular rifle a friend had told him about that was fabled to reside in St. Johnsbury Vermont.

He said it was a wonderfully engraved, small caliber percussion target rifle with a short full octagonal barrel, mounted in a piece of exquisitely crafted rosewood, beautifully inlaid with figures, intricate designs, butt-plate, toe-plate, forearm cap, and thimbles, all tastefully fashioned from solid coin silver.

After a long search he found the rifle residing in its rosewood case along with it's loading and cleaning accoutrements, minus the powder flask, resting on the mantle piece of a local St. Johnsbury antique collector's home. He bought the rifle for what he said was a rather "substantial" price and returned with it to Colorado. This was about 1960.

I had found nothing on it until my most recent search turned up this thread and your picture from a mid 1990s auction showing the rifle I had read about, still in it's case, still missing it's powder flask, looking more beautiful than described...

Thanks

JT
« Last Edit: December 14, 2013, 08:12:12 AM by JT Coyoté »

Offline Dphariss

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Re: A late John Belknap percussion target rifle
« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2013, 05:14:56 AM »
Schuetzen rifle by the looks of it.

Dan
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