Calling all history detectives: RE Harpers Ferry

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Sep 18, 2007
Just got off the phone with a potential seller of an old rifle. Trying to figure out what it is, what its worth, and if its worth the half hour drive to go look at.

Heres the clues he gave me:

1: Says "Harpers Ferry 1844" Also says "US" on buttlplate

2. Says it has been converted from flintlock to percussion

3. Say it is all original except ramrod and nipple

4. Baynonnet still fits on end

5. Smooth bore, .69 cal (He said it shot two balls through it back in the 70's and .69 fit)

He says the metal is brown, the stock is solid, scratches and scuffs but no cracks. Hashamarks and his relatives name eteched somewhere in the wood.

Im thinking its a US Model 1816. Could it be anything else?? He wants 1K OBO. Although I would LOVE to have something like this hanging on my wall, I would only be buying it to resell. Lets assume all original in "fair" condition. Whats the "cant go wrong price" on this one?

Is this it? or could this be it? the description says that it was made from 1844-1855, smothbore, .69 cal.

Maybe it is a model 1835 or1840 that was converted, I just checked Wikipedia and that said that many of the 1840s and 35s were converted to percussion before they reached the field. I don't know how much you would trust Wikipedia, but.........

I really don't know the price that a real one would bring, so can't help you there, but maybe this will help you research it.
Hope it helps!

Ask for more details, maybe a picture; that should help.
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You know actually, it might be that also...hmmm. Thanks for the idea, for some reason I was stuck on the idea of it being an 1816. Ive done some more research on these since my original post, and Im thinking it could run anywhere between 400 and well over 1K depending on condition. Im probably just gonna have to break down and go look at it.
Any musket made at Harpers Ferry and dated 1844 was a Model 1842, made as a percussion smooth-bore musket. The Model 1840 was never made at Harpers Ferry. I would put a "can't go wrong" price of $600, in decent condition and functional (not cut down for a shotgun, no parts broken, and stock marks small and unobtrusive). The replacement nipple means nothing, the missing (or wrong) ramrod is important but not if everything else is OK. Be aware of cobbled together muskets, made from assorted parts with altered markings, that keep turning up and making "expert advice" look a bit foolish.

(I don't know what that is Cabela's has but it looks like a repro to me. I didn't know the Model 1842 was being repro'd but that gun looks too good to be original, though the picture can't be enlarged enough to give real details. A genuine Model 1842 in the condition that one appears to be in, still National Armory bright, would bring around $4000, not $799.)

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Thanks Hobie and Jim.

Jim, I see that you are correct about the 1840 not being produced at Harpers Ferry. So it rules out an 1840. But according to seller, it has been converted from flintlock...which would rule out an 1842, as those were originally percussion, right? Did they restamp date on them when converted? Who knows, maybe the guy thinks its been converted and it hasnt. Im going to call him today and ask him to e-mail pics. I need more info...

Thanks also for hazarding an estimation on value. Always good to get some confirmation on these things....
A musket marked marked "Harpers Ferry 1844" would be a Model 1842, made originally as percussion. The seller is wrong claiming it was converted from flintlock.

The Cabela's gun is a repro. These are fairly common in Civil War reenacting circles. The $800 price for a repro is not out of line.
Actually, I am half tempted by that Cabella's gun. I am going to see if I can find one at a local store. I have an original, but wouldn't mind a repro, either.

A story just for fun. I once had a man bring in a Model 1842 he had obtained at an auction. He had no idea what it was but wanted an "old gun" as a decorator. I checked it out and it was in excellent condition; he had gotten a real steal.

As I was getting ready to put it in the finished rack, I noticed I had (for reasons I don't recall) a .69 "minnie ball" on the shelf. So I loaded up the old-timer and went outside where a builder had left some junk laying around. I took aim at a piece of 2x4 about a foot long and let fly. The ball went through the wood (of course) and split it in half. I tied the wood to the gun. (Yes, I cleaned the gun.)

When the customer came in for the gun, I showed him the 2x4. His response was classic: "Jeeezzus, I didn't know an old gun could shoot through that wood like that!"

Edited to add: Sorry, Kdave for not responding to your questions. Yes, the Model 1842 was percussion, the first standard US model to be made for percussion. Further, the Armories were forward looking enough to make the barrels thicker than previous muskets so they could be rifled if authorized to do so.

No, lockplate dates were not restamped when guns were converted, but the conversion date was usually marked on the barrel or, less commonly. on top of the butt plate.

I do agree with getting him to e-mail pics. It could either prevent wasting a long drive, or add to the pleasure.

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Anybody else think that it could be an 1835? I don't know about years produced, but the errornet says that it was made in Harpers Ferry and that most of them were converted to percussion before the war between the states, and many were used during the war, some being rifled. And yes, the Cabelas gun is a reproduction. kdave, many people consider the firearms mentioned to just be modified versions of the 1816, that may be where you got the idea that it is an 1816.
Anybody else think that it could be an 1835?

I havent verified this with another source, but Wikipedia says 35's were made up until 1840, which would seem to be in contradiction with the 1844 marking.

No, lockplate dates were not restamped when guns were converted, but the conversion date was usually marked on the barrel or, less commonly. on top of the butt plate.

Good Info, gracias.

I do agree with getting him to e-mail pics. It could either prevent wasting a long drive, or add to the pleasure.

A phone call has been placed requesting pictures. It's always fun learning about these old guns, which is why I ask questions on these boards and try to dig up info. On the other hand, I have driven too many wasted miles to be over-anxious about something that may or may not be a good buy. I told him I would like to view it when I am in the area for some other reason anyway (probably will be in the next couple of weeks) but am hoping he will send pics in the meantime so I will know in advance if it is something I want to purse. Now I wait.
There is some question about whether there really was a Model 1835; apparently that was the designation originally intended for what became the Model 1840, but various delays and continuing improvements prevented starting mass production until the latter year and it became the Model 1840. During the intervening years, 1835-1839, Springfield continued to produce the latest Model 1816 version, sometimes called the Model 1822, another "model" that seems to have never existed except for collectors.

The seller didnt have a digital camera so I broke down and went to look at it, and came out with this. The bayonet lug is on the bottom, which I believe, according to Flaydermans rules it out as a 1816. I am convinced this is an 1842, and was not a conversion (although the Bolster (sp?) type conversion does look somewhat similar. If anyone knows different, let me know, but I think 1842.

JimK, do you think the $600 "cant go wrong" price still stand on this now that we know more about it? I saw some closed auction Springfields on GB. One had a bid on it for 775 (didnt meet the reserve) with a somewhat shortened barrel and missing bayonet lug (w/no bayonet). If that holds true, based on what I paid for this, I should come out ok.


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More pics.


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PS I know in the one pic it shows the pitting up on the barrel by the hammer, but pleasingly, most of the barrel is relatively smooth with a pleasing aged color.
It is certainly a Model 1842 and not a conversion. I am not sure what you mean you came out with (the gun or the pictures?) but if you got it for $1k you did very well as far as I can tell.

Thanks all. I meant I came home with the gun. Got it for less than 1K so felt good about the deal. It is the oldest gun I have ever bought, and as far as I can remember, the oldest gun I have handled. Pretty neat thinking about where its been. The guy who I bought it from was a real nice guy. He said he found it playing in his attic when he was a little boy and asked her about it. He thinks it was his great grandfathers but wasnt sure. He said he shot it in the 70's when everyone was watching Jeremiah Johnson and into blackpowders. He stated he tested it with a string first in case it blew up, then fired one or two more .69s out of it, cleaned it, put it away.
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