identify odd percussion rifle


July 13, 2003, 06:28 PM
Dad likes his weird guns. It has a really short stock like it was meant for a kid, and is peculiar in that the "barrel" actually starts more than halfway down from where you'd expect. You remove the insert (see pics) load, and re-insert, locking in with the pin. Was this manufactured this way, and to what purpose, or was this somebody's Frankenstein project? What is the history of this piece and it's estimated value?

The only markings on it read:

The only info I've been able to find is that an Andrew Wurfflein was a manufacturer & importer of firearms in Philadephia. He closed shop in 1895.

We fired the rifle, and it works just fine.

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July 13, 2003, 07:28 PM
There WAS a "William Wurfflein" active in Pennsylvania (don't have the book right now, but I'll check for you later), and it looks like this is an early attempt to make a quick-loading percussion rifle. My guess is that the owner of this rifle would have 2 or more of the inserts, so he could load them up ahead of time, and when he wanted a "quick" second shot, all he'd have to do is slip another (pre-loaded) insert in, put another cap on the nipple, and he'd be back in business.

July 13, 2003, 07:50 PM
We thought about the "quick loading" theory, but somehow it just doesn't make sense to make something that looks like a rifle, but not even half it's barrel length is the actual barrel. It seems like a waste.

The fastening pin is crude, which is a stark contrast to the detail on the rest of the rifle - making us suspicious that this may have been a later modification, or the original pin was lost. If it was a later modification, we wondered why in the world somebody would spend the effort to hack a gun in that manner.

Mike Irwin
July 13, 2003, 11:14 PM
Kauffman's book lists two Wurffleins working in Pennsylvania, an Andrew and a John, at different addresses in the 1850s, but no W.

Ross' Auctions of Colorado Springs has several listings for firearms by W. Wurfflein, but no specifics on the firearms themselves, or dates.

Jim Watson
July 14, 2003, 12:01 AM
Is the actual barrel a very small caliber?
Looks like a muzzleloading ancestor of the 4mm Zimmerstutzen used for indoor shooting before precision air rifles. A lot of Zimmerstutzen have about 8" barrels at the muzzle end of a long false barrel.

July 14, 2003, 12:48 PM
My copy of "American Firearms Makers" by Carey, says that William Wurfflein was the son of Andrew Wurfflein, Philadelphia, PA; he took over the family gunsmithing business in 1871, and ran it until 1910 at 208 North Second Street. HTH.

Mike Irwin
July 14, 2003, 01:05 PM
Ah, that explains why Kauffman's book doesn't list William.

Kauffman used the Civil War as the cut-off.

Jim K
July 14, 2003, 09:04 PM
I agree with Jim Watson about the resemblance to the Zimmerstutzen rifles that have the loading port partway up the barrel. Given the general appearance, I rather wonder if this rifle is an experimental of some kind, maybe made up to see if the idea would work. I can't be sure, but the lock looks older than the rest of the rifle. I suspect that (like the 4mm) there was no powder used, the ball being propelled only by the force of the percussion cap, which would necessitate the short barrel.

Given the dates for William Wurfflein, I can't think this was a standard rifle for sale. It was more likely a "one off", made by him or by someone else at the request of a customer or just for the heck of it.


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