Author Topic: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail  (Read 1126 times)

Offline beholmes51@gmail.com

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Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« on: July 09, 2024, 05:13:48 PM »
I am a member of the Oregon California Trails Assoc. On a recent field trip to locate the exact location of the Truckee Route of the California Trail I found this Gun Lock. See attached pictures. I need help identifying who made the Gun Lock and when. Everyone I've contacted said to contact this forum. I really appreciate any help you can give me. It most likely will end up in a museum, but we need to more about it before that happens. One more obvious note. You will notice there is a square nail jammed into the Gun Lock as a field repair. This helps date it as well. We believe it was lost in 1846.





Offline Bigmon

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2024, 05:44:03 PM »
was it in the ground?  Looks like some oil and elbow grease that thing could function.
I may be wrong but looks like and earlier lock plate and maybe converted from flint?

Offline beholmes51@gmail.com

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2024, 06:21:21 PM »
Yes, it was buried about 6 inches below ground. I cleaned it just enough so I could see any markings.

Online rich pierce

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2024, 06:42:19 PM »
Must have been an old gun or a re-used lock as it looks pretty early to me. Shape looks like the Chambers Germanic lock.
Andover, Vermont

Offline Seth Isaacson

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2024, 07:11:26 PM »
Its an antique European style lock, rather Germanic in style. At first glance, it looks like it reminds me of some of the 18th century flintlock jaeger rifles that were converted to percussion in the early 19th century such as this one (click to enlarge):


Without any identifying markings, its going to be hard to really narrow down exactly when and where it was made with much certainty. I cannot see any holes from a frizzen or frizzen spring to confirm whether or not it was converted from flintlock. Some percussion guns retained "pans" that supported the bolsters which can make them appear to have been converted from flintlock.

If you wanted a working example to use for educational purposes, the L&R Classic Conversion lock and Chambers Golden Age Conversion lock are fairly similar.

I am the Lead Historian and a Firearms Specialist at Rock Island Auction Co., but I am here out of my own personal interests in muzzle loading and history.
*All opinions expressed are mine alone and are NOT meant to represent those of any other entity unless otherwise expressly stated.*

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2024, 09:09:34 PM »
That was allegedly in the ground?  Or found elsewhere?  No way that was in the ground.
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline JTR

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2024, 09:44:08 PM »
I'm scratching my head on this one.
As far as I know, that area is very wet in the winter and very dry in the summer, and for this to be buried for 175/180 years, I would expect to see less lock and a lot more rust.
Also, the lock plate is an early Germanic style, but with no indications that it was ever a flintlock. No holes for frizzen, frizzen spring pin and screw holes.
Also, the screw on the top of the briddle looks to be attached to the lug on the lock plate, and not to the lock plate itself. 

I'm not disagreeing with the original poster in what he says, I just don't see the lock as being that old.
John 
« Last Edit: July 09, 2024, 11:49:37 PM by JTR »
John Robbins

Offline jdm

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2024, 09:56:25 PM »
The edges look to crisp to have been in the ground well over a hundred years.  Not much sign of use. The screw heads are somewhat buggered up.  It does have more questions than answers. 
« Last Edit: July 10, 2024, 02:35:05 AM by jdm »
JIM

Offline Old and Grumpy

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2024, 10:19:44 PM »
The lock was broken before the nail was added to keep the spring from falling out?I have used nails or pins just to keep things attached.  Was not on a gun when it got buried.Not a repair just keeping stuff together.   Dropped by  a gun smith with a box of parts on the trail? Lock failed and was saved for latter down the road? I am new to this. Looks like the spring has nothing to attach to the rest of the works.Don't know the names of the part it would attach to.  Rust? If I wanted to save it for latter I would grease it up and wrap it in something. Thus slowing up the rusting even in wet dirt. Could work for years.

Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2024, 10:23:39 PM »
It reminds me a lot in appearance of all the locks flooding ebay coming from India that are advertised as 'vintage' or 'original old' but are crisp despite being all rusted up on the surface.

I've been a metal detectorist since I was about 9 or 10 years old, and I seriously doubt this came out of the ground anywhere in this country.

Now maybe it came from somewhere else?  The OP did not specify where or how it was found other than general location.

There are aspects of it that look like an antique or hand-made lock (i.e not modern commercial) but other aspects that just seem weird.  Just as a quickie, I don't think I've ever seen lock nail holes this small on a lock that size (6" plus).  I'd expect @ 3/16 diameter(#10) which was fairly standard even on smaller locks, and these look like itty bitty @ #6.

And yeah, where the heck are any remnants of a frizzen or frizzen spring screws?
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!

Offline Old and Grumpy

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2024, 10:27:58 PM »
The hole the nail is in is for a lock plate bolt. This was not a repair but a salvage job. Save it  for latter.Spare parts?  On that trail if you broke something you did not toss it. It might save your life latter. There is always a workaround!

Offline beholmes51@gmail.com

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2024, 01:15:31 AM »


This is what it looked like right after I removed it from its resting place. Yep,178 years in the ground. The level of rust on it is exactly what I have found on other metal objects that have been in the ground for a similar time. Obviously different soils have different acids or other minerals that can rust objects at different speeds.

I found those Jaeger Gun Locks. Very close. Thank you for your professional help. If you can suggest a book  or web site that would be great.

Offline Hudnut

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2024, 02:13:09 AM »
You can see the screw which secures the remnant of the flashpan to the lockplate.  With carefully installed rivets, frizzen screw, frizzen spring screw and frizzen spring peg holes disappear.  Maybe the lock was on a flintlock gun that had been converted to percussion, maybe the lock had been repurposed when a percussion gun was made.

Online rich pierce

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2024, 03:26:49 AM »
You can see the screw which secures the remnant of the flashpan to the lockplate.  With carefully installed rivets, frizzen screw, frizzen spring screw and frizzen spring peg holes disappear.  Maybe the lock was on a flintlock gun that had been converted to percussion, maybe the lock had been repurposed when a percussion gun was made.

I think the same.
Andover, Vermont

Offline Tanselman

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2024, 03:48:36 AM »
It's always interesting to hear different perspectives on an item like this lock. I have a small collection of dug and surface found locks from the Midwest, all of which I know where/how it was found, but trying to say it entered the dirt at such-and-such a date turns into wishful thinking at times, particularly if an historic event occurred in the area that we'd like to assign the artifact to.

My reaction to seeing this lock is to be somewhat skeptical. From my experience, the first details to rust/erode on a buried lock, as well as on most surface find locks, are the sharp edges and/or ridges. On this lock, the remaining sharpness of the fine horizontal lines across the tail of the lock, the sharpness and cleanliness of the slot on the hammer screw, and the sharpness of the remnant of the faceted pan all appear too good to have been in the ground for many years.

If this lock is genuine, then based on its style, the plate would have been hand-forged. All the long-buried forged lock plates I have seen have a tendency to rust/pit a little unevenly, due to different compaction/compression in the iron across the lock's face during the forging process. This lock face looks almost perfectly level, plus or minus a thin layer of surface rust... so I find it hard to accept as having been in the ground for many years. We can all come up with reasons for why it may have survived in this condition, but just on the face of it, what we see and what little else we know, and knowing it came from an area with rain/moisture at least part of the year, it leaves me skeptical.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: July 10, 2024, 04:03:51 AM by Tanselman »

Online rich pierce

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2024, 05:55:19 AM »
What are you all seeing in this view of the internals?  I see a forged sear spring, a well-worn tumbler axle, broken off screw heads. A hint of a screw holding the pan to the bolster. I donít know how long itís been in the ground or how it got there. But Iím seeing an original lock. 

Andover, Vermont

Offline JTR

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2024, 08:35:35 AM »
Yes, it certainly a bit of a conundrum with the internal parts well worn, but with the lock plate and hammer having no wear what so ever.
If it was used as a percussion for a few years I would expect to see the nose of the hammer eroded away as well as what might be the remainder of the flint pan, burned away by the percussion caps, yet both are untouched. And then there is the upper bridle screw threaded into the lug part of the lock plate, which I don't remember seeing before on an old lock, but is common on a modern one.
And then there is that tiny forward lock bolt hole.

Maybe used a long time as a flint, then converted to percussion and not used much? But why would it be converted to percussion without changing out the very worn internals? They would have had to been worn out when used as a flint because the percussion parts show no wear.

I'm still scratching my head on this one.     

John
John Robbins

Offline 45dash100

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2024, 09:21:40 AM »
Anyone know what type of steel the lock plate and hammer would have been made from?  Springs would be high carbon, other lock internals were possibly case hardened wrought iron.

Dunno if any of that stuff rusts at different speeds.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2024, 09:26:57 AM by 45dash100 »

Offline AZshot

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2024, 05:39:12 PM »
Occam's razor is a philosophical principle that states that simpler explanations are usually better than more complex ones.  To me as soon as I saw it and read the original post, I knew it was a dug relic.  I've dug a lot of them out west, sometimes iron barely rusts in the ground.  I saw a Colt cap and ball 1849 revolver that was found near here which looked like with a little oil it would clean up enough to use.  Not every artifact sits in bogs or wet ground. 

Offline Hungry Horse

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2024, 10:22:14 PM »
 Since everybody seems to have an opinion, I might as well add my two cents worth. I have no doubt that the lock was buried in the ground. I have seen some remarkable ground finds as well. I do believe the lock was never on a gun after it was converted to percussion. The edge of the old pan is still sharp with no pits from early percussion caps, as is the contact area of the hammer. It is possible that it may have been a surplus flintlock that went unused, got converted to percussion, and then got lost before it could be utilized. A large lock like that already converted to percussion might have been an Indian trade item as well.

Hungry Horse

Offline 120RIR

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2024, 06:40:21 PM »
I've worked on a number of Emigrant and Gold Rush-era sites up that way and yes, agree on the condition being entirely consistent with steel/iron buried in that environment over a long period of time.  Even though rains/snows up there are seasonal and can be very heavy during the winter, its dead bone dry up there 4-6 months out of the year and the soils and rate of deposition are very different from the eastern U.S.   

Offline Tanselman

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2024, 07:48:49 PM »
That last reply begins to make some sense of the lock's better-than-expected condition for a long-buried piece of iron.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: July 12, 2024, 10:47:53 PM by Tanselman »

Offline JTR

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2024, 08:44:25 PM »
I've worked on a number of Emigrant and Gold Rush-era sites up that way and yes, agree on the condition being entirely consistent with steel/iron buried in that environment over a long period of time.  Even though rains/snows up there are seasonal and can be very heavy during the winter, its dead bone dry up there 4-6 months out of the year and the soils and rate of deposition are very different from the eastern U.S.   

Sounds good to me, and this guy should know!
I'm still scratching my head regarding the percussion/ internal wear conditions, but I don't doubt the original posters claim of digging it up, etc.
John Robbins

Offline AZshot

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2024, 08:33:02 PM »
Indeed, most of the West gets very little rain and is sandy soil that drains fast.  That's why they called everything west of the Mississippi The Great American Desert in the early 1800s. 


Offline beholmes51@gmail.com

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Re: Gun Lock found near emigrant trail
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2024, 04:12:55 AM »
Some of you have questions about the rust factor. I attached some photos of items we discovered last week in the same area. The white thing is lead. It had a white enamel cover over it. All items were catalogued, photographed and reburied right where we found them. It doesn't sound like anyone has an answer that jumps right out there about the gun lock.  I think it was probably early Jaeger of Germanic origin. I appreciate your help. I've learned a lot of new terms and know more about flint locks and percussion gun locks than I ever hoped to. My father was a black powder shooter. I wish I had paid more attention to him. If you have any good ideas I am still open to listening.