New ACW musket--show and tell

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by forward observer, Feb 22, 2022.

  1. forward observer

    forward observer Member

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    Although I've shot and collected black powder firearms for about 50 years now, I have never attempted to collect anything original from the ACW. I mean I have a couple of nice Italian-made muskets plus dozens of Colt 2nd gen revolvers but just nothing original.

    Anyway, I decided to rectify the situation and I had sort of set my sights on a Springfield Model 1863 Type I or II musket--still in shootable condition. Sometimes a type II gets called the model 1864 since most bear that lock date. For a month or more, I just couldn't find anything that met my price and condition criteria. I think the used market supply is a bit tight right now anyway.

    At one point, I had bookmarked a couple of prospects from an auction on Proxibid but then forgot to go back and really check them out. When I finally remembered over a week later and signed back on, the auction was already in progress with only one left. The one left was fairly nice but there was no mention of the bore condition and since it was about 30 minutes away from the block there was no time to message the auction house. Still, the barrel and metal surfaces were so nice, I took a chance--figuring that the bore might be the same ballpark.

    I put in a max pre-bid that was just above the middle of the auction house's min and max estimate and set back to watch what happened. I had also figured in the buyer's premium for my calculations. I use this method 95% of the time and try to avoid active bidding by letting the proxy system counter other bids for me. It keeps me out of trouble and helps avoid buyer's remorse for overpaying.

    This auction was mostly modern firearms so evidently, there were no ACW or muzzleloading fans bidding. I got lucky and won the musket for about $200 less than my max bid, which in turn covered the buyer's premium.

    It arrived last Thursday in good order appearing to be just like the many (20 plus) lightbox photos in the auction listing. More auction houses should do this.

    Below are a few of the auction photos that convinced me to bid.

    A lockside profile. It's an M1863 type 1. Note this musket has been blued which is incorrect for the wartime Springfield muskets. They were all produced in "armory bright" with the later 1863/4s having color case hardened locks and hammers. The rear sights were blued on most. They did generally not start bluing everything until the early M1868 Trapdoors.
    JdhWlY8.jpg

    A picture of the lock and hammer showing a bit of original case color
    KVYGNXd.jpg

    The opposite side still shows a readable E.S.A (Erskine S. Allin) the master Armorer at Springfield and a smaller less clear acceptance cartouche. I determined once I got it in from the lack of any real deep marks and the lightness of the cartouches that its wood had probably been lightly sanded and refinished at some point.
    k0xXiu8.jpg

    A top shot of the breech area with sharp metal edges and clear proof stamps. This was an indication that the metal had not been over polished prior to bluing. Some accumulated dust-- making the nipple look grungy but no rust. Note the color case showing on the hammer.
    Su4cpRL.jpg

    The muzzle area had an odd serrated jag-tipped ramrod. These should have a tulip-shaped tip on the ramrod. The bluing was likely period done since it was thin in places and also had started to have a plum/brown tone in others. There was no indication of rifling since the bore was not well lit.
    UFWy1bG.jpg

    The last auction shot of the buttstock bearing a stamp in the wood comprised of a spread eagle over the words: "Whitney Arms Co." Of course, the Whitney armory founded by Eli Whitney Sr. and later managed by Whitney Jr. was an important player during the war providing both revolvers and muskets to the Union. They had also produced the Colt Walkers for Sam Colt in 1847. Note some water staining next to the butt plate.
    uP19vqX.jpg

    The one book I had that mentioned any Whitney involvement with the M1863s was John Reilly's book titled: "United States Military Small Arms 1816-1865" At 265 pages it's not that comprehensive and only includes line drawings of all of the arms it describes. However, it did mention the Whitney marked M1863s. Reilly speculated that these rare examples might be proof that Springfield sub-contracted the fabrication of some of their stocks during this period. That made little sense to me as I couldn't imagine the Springfield armory using parts with such an obvious subcontractor's advertising logo on it.

    Consequently, I posted some of these pictures on an ACW forum that I occasionally visit to get some opinions. At first, everybody suggested that I simply remove the bluing, replace the ramrod with the correct tulip-tipped model and consider the stamp a bonus.

    Then, along came a single poster who knew the explanation for the Whitney stamp and who advised against making any changes. He had owned one of these and knew the actual background. It turned out that after the war ended the Whitney Armory purchased 6900 each of either unissued or lightly used M1863 type I Springfields at surplus prices from the ordinance department in order to refurbish them to sell commercially. All they did was to factory blue them and update the Ramrod to the Jag-tip. Theoretically, they would have been sold by Whitney to various retailers of the period. Then they would be sold to possible settlers headed west, maybe military schools for drill, or even GAR honor guards.

    His position was that to remove the bluing and change the ramrod back would devalue the historical value of the musket. This is usually the most acceptable position but there are other factors that support a pretty good opposing argument which I'll relate at the end.

    Anyway, the musket arrived late last Thursday in fine order. Externally, it looked pretty much like the auction photos but my first concern was the bore condition.

    I did run a couple of oiled patches down the bore followed by some dry patches. I got just a hint of surface rust, but it went away after 2 or 3 subsequent patches.

    I had purchased one of those tiny fishing lure lights that can be dropped down the barrel to light up a muzzleloader but after using it last I had put it in a safe spot---so safe that I couldn't find it. I used the next best method which was to wrap a small square of aluminum foil shiny side out around the base of an empty cartridge casing, then drop it down the bore with the shiny side up.


    Next, one simply shines a normal bore light down the barrel. It takes a little adjustment to both shine the light correctly and still see the bore but to my surprise, I was looking at what appeared to be an unfired, brand spanking new shiny bore with sharp-edged lands and grooves. It was still perfectly blued. I suddenly felt like I had won the blind auction Lotto. How many unused bores are found on 159-year-old muskets nowadays?

    I can only guess that it got sold to a military school or some marching honor guard who never did anything with the musket but close order drill.

    I did get to Bass Pro Sunday to buy another lure light. I could not get my SLR to autofocus and I was too impatient to deal with going through all the manual settings, so I snapped this with my iPhone. It's not totally in focus, but one can still get an idea of how smooth the bore is.
    AaGT0Yk.jpg

    Here's a close up of the lock and hammer with lots of case color still showing--mostly on the hammer
    YiUNT90.jpg

    I also got a chance to take the butt plate off and work on correcting the water stains. Here's a side by side before and after shot
    MxeObYo.jpg

    Lastly, here's a glamour layout with a repro bayonet and some appropriate leather accessories.
    I just got in an original bayonet and scabbard but too late to go back and add them to the picture.
    Yes, I forgot to include a cap pouch.
    Vhhrgyi.jpg

    Now as to the bluing and the ramrod. I am still tempted to take the gun back to its ACW configuration, but of course, if it going to ruin the value I won't.

    However, doing an internet search, I found 5 more of these that have sold in the last two years. Two were on Rock Island late last year, one on Cowans and two from antique firearms dealers. All but one had been returned to the ACW configuration but all still had the Whitney arms stamp. The one that had been left alone had been in the poorest condition but it still sold for $1800. The others which all had been returned to wartime configuration sold from a low of $2185 to the one linked below that sold on Rock Island for the ridiculous price of $5473 last September. One reason might be that it came out of the George Moller collection. Moller is the very man who wrote the book that provided the information about the sale of the muskets to Whitney.
    https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/83/212
    Even Rock Island who had the Moller books in their possession skirted around the story hoping to get the best price they could and they did. I am firmly convinced that the appraisers at RIA are either former carnies or snake oil salesmen.

    The Cowans auction from 2020 got $2900 for theirs--once again returned to ACW configuration

    In other words, because this information is so obscure many people who have purchased these rifles over the years have restored them to ACW configuration further increasing the rarity of the guns as Whitney sold them but paradoxically other subsequent buyers who also don't know or care, seem to be willing to pay more for the ACW version--totally ignoring the Whitney stampo_O

    Now I paid almost $400 less (including delivery) than the low of $1800 so I don't think I can get hurt regardless of what I do.

    OK, I know this was long and maybe boring to some but if you stayed with me this far --- any comments are welcome.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2022
  2. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    No way I would change it. I might possibly accumulate the correct pieces that would have been with it in military configuration, but I would also do my best to figure out what accessories would have been sold with it through Whitney and accumulate those as well. The story is worth more than the physical item, and this particular gun has a story to tell. It was built for the most important war in American history (not a country until after we won independence) and then was reformatted a bit for westward expansion but was quickly outpaced by cartridge guns.

    THAT THING IS AWESOME

    and gorgeous to boot.

    you did well sir!
     
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  3. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    No way I would remove the bluing. I have no idea what the cost would be to restore those charcoal blue colors, many hundreds I suspect, and it would not be original.

    My opinion, just how many unaltered Whitney muskets are there left in the world? Probably not a lot.

    I was told that during the Civil War, Whitney converted many obsolete round ball, and smooth bore muskets by rebarreling with a 58 caliber rifled barrel. Maybe did other things.
     
  4. JN01

    JN01 Member

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    That would be awesome with a red-dot sight on it. :evil:

    Seriously, if you were a hard core reenactor, I could see why you might want to strip the bluing, but otherwise, you should retain it for its rarity. You did a nice job restoring the butt stock.
     
  5. LaneP

    LaneP Member

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    Great pics, thanks for sharing.
     
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  6. hawg

    hawg Member

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    That's a nice one. There's no way I'd remove the bluing.
     
  7. 792mauser

    792mauser Member

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    Sweet looking piece with a interesting back story.
     
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  8. hrt4me

    hrt4me Member

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    nice!
     
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  9. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Very interesting story. I personally would leave it as is but understand the draw of the as issued point of view. Think of this like a Garand. There are only a handful of as issued condition samples out there and they have provenance to support their story and mostly reside in museums. There are thousands that have been corrected but without the provenance to support their story. I personally wouldn't pay more for a corrected Garand. But obviously some do and I'll never have one because they command a higher price. Now there aren't thousands of corrected Springfelds out there. But you have the provenance for what you possess. Its pretty obvious that rifle didn't fight in the war. So as it is, it is a beautiful example of the weapon with a story you can verify. I'm just rambling at this point. It's a beautiful example and I'm envious of what could be a museum quality piece.

    Can you determine if it has ever been shot? If not, even I wouldn't shoot it and I shoot everything I own. Even if it has been shot I'd be hesitant to shoot that one.

    I'd say buy a lottery ticket, but you have already won the lottery.
     
  10. JT-AR-MG42

    JT-AR-MG42 Member

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    That is one nice rifle and should be fun to play with.
    Congrats!

    JT
     
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  11. Shortgrub

    Shortgrub Member

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    Just shooot it! and then smile while your cleaning it. Nothin else.
     
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  12. forward observer

    forward observer Member

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    Gentlemen, thanks for all the comments and kind words. The consensus seems to be to leave it as is and I'm inclined to agree. As mentioned there was no powder residue on my first swab--just some very light surface rust that disappeared after several patches and no residue with the nipple of the bolster. If it was ever fired, I don't think it happened after it left Whitney. I can only speculate that it became a drill rifle for some military school or an honor guard for a GAR organization.

    As mentioned, I now have a decent original bayonet (no pitting--just a little staining) and scabbard (fair for 150-year-old leather) to go with it so I'm going to search for a complete standard set of original tools or accessories such as a tompion, worm/wiper, pin punch tool, combo nipple wrench/screwdriver, etc. Anyway, I've still got a reproduction model Springfield 1861 that I still take to the range occasionally so it's not like I don't have anything else in .58 cal to shoot.

    Cheers
     
  13. AlexanderA
    • Contributing Member

    AlexanderA Member

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    For future reference, get a MagLite Solitaire. It's a tiny, but bright, flashlight with an outside diameter of .500". Small enough to drop down the bore of most military muzzleloaders. Also very durable with a metal body.
     
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  14. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    Just to nitpick, your eagle breast plate is on the wrong end of the cartridge box shoulder strap. The cartridge box would be worn on the right hip with the strap going over the left shoulder. The plate would be at the center of the chest. No exception would be made for southpaws.

    (I used to do CW reenacting.)
     
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  15. forward observer

    forward observer Member

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    Well, I am a southpaw but that plate is not actually mounted. In fact, it's not even filled but is simply a hollow brass stamping with no method of even attaching. I picked up a bunch of breastplates and buckles once in a large auction lot of stuff. Most of the plates were filled with hooks or wire loops so I sold them off on eBay but was left with a couple that had never been filled. I just use them as photo props

    I actually thought about checking to make sure about the correct strap as I was setting up the layout but was in a hurry and was too lazy to redo the layout to make it kosher.

    Cheers

    P.S. Thanks for the tip on the mag light. However, the fishing lure light is only .158 inches in diameter so it will even fit a .22 cal. The light and battery are all one component that goes inside a plastic lure. Of course, they have no other practical use for most non-fishermen as the Maglite would. The only real issue is that they only come in yellow, red, or green. They are also so bright that I have to drop them in the bore with the light pointed to the chamber.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2022
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  16. Captain*kirk

    Captain*kirk Member

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    Looks to me like you won way more than just the auction!
    Great gun; even better story!
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2022
  17. AlexanderA
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    AlexanderA Member

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    The eagle plate (when finished) will have a double wire loop embedded in the lead filling. I've seen 2 types, differing in the distance between the protruding wire loops. The wider type will span the shoulder belt, while the narrower type requires holes to be made in the leather belt. With either type, you secure the plate to the belt by putting a brass bar (rod) or leather thong through the loops. I like the wider type because it doesn't require putting extra holes in the belt.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2022
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  18. Acorn Mush

    Acorn Mush Member

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    Congrats on your unique find!

    Would you mind sharing how you removed the water stains from the butt of the stock? Thanks.
     
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  19. forward observer

    forward observer Member

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    I am not going to guarantee that this will work for all cases but it has several times for me.

    I knew that I could probably just re-oil the wood but that it might still leave discoloration and/or the dark lines around the edges of the stains showing. Of course, I removed the butt plate first and checked it for rust. It wasn't particularly rusty but I went over the underside with a non-scratch Scotchbrite pad and some oil, then wiped it down.

    Rusty water can react with the tannins in the wood to create dark stains. Also, if the coloring stains used on the wood are water-based, to begin with, that can cause the stain to migrate and make dark lines around the edges of the areas left grayish by the water. I had determined that this stock had been refinished at some point and probably not with the time-honored method of multiple successive treatments of BLO which can take a lot of time. To speed things along a stain was probably used by a previous owner and one that was water-based to boot.

    First, I swabbed the affected wood area with Acetone on a clean rag to remove any surface varnish. As mentioned this stock had been refinished at some point but it also had a light coat of glossy varnish added. The varnish is only shiny in places but the acetone cut through it around the area to be repaired. A minor bit of color came off on my rag which was a bit of the surrounding varnish and surface stain.

    The acetone lightened those edge lines but they were still there so I decided to tackle the area with a solution I read about years ago to reverse the discoloration of the tannins. It consists of a paste made with oxalic acid powder and water. Oxalic acid is the main ingredient in common kitchen sink cleansers like Comet. However, Comet has bleach in it so a better choice is a product called "Barkeeper's friend". found in most large grocery stores. You can buy powder oxalic acid from industrial supply houses but only by the pound. A can of the commercial cleaner is much more economical unless you have a lot of staining. I've read that it can be used to also treat oak floors from the staining effects of both rusty water and/or pet urine.

    The Barkeeper's Friend brand cleaner is mainly used for stainless steel sinks so it has no bleach and it helps with rust stains. I made up a wet paste with isopropyl alcohol (clean water probably would have worked as well but I went with alcohol) and dabbed it along and inside the stain lines with Q-tips, then let it dry to brush off the white dried residue. I repeated this process twice. Once I was satisfied that the dark lines and the gray was gone, I got out some Old English lemon oil, put some in a mixing cup, and added a drop of Fiebings "Russet color" water-based leather dye that I got from Tandy's leather. (I use this dye also to re-dye the blond colored reproduction slings that one gets from some sources)

    This mixture created a lightly tinted oil that I could apply until I got a shade that matched. Once again I used Q-tips to apply so as to not also darken the areas around the area I was treating. I would dab on and just as quickly wipe off with a clean rag so as not to over-stain. After several of these applications, I ended up with what you see in the "After" photo. I sprayed a bit of regular lemon oil on the stock to wipe down and so far the watermarks appear to be gone. Amazon carries a couple of products designed to remove water stains but I've never tried any of them.

    One last note:
    One of the most common problems that one sees on old firearms is from previous owners over-oiling the metal parts after they've discovered rust--especially butt-plates so the excess oil gets soaked into the end grain of the wood resulting in oil darkened wood. This seems more prevalent with the types of less refined types of machine oils used back in the day firearms. The method for that is to extract the oil using a paste of calcium carbonate and a solvent such as Acetone. The chemical powder is sold by Browells under the trade name of "Brownell's old-fashioned whiting powder" You make a paste, apply it like spackling, use a heat gun to dry it out which in turn sucks out the oil. Then brush off the dried paste. This can take several treatments if there is a lot of oil. That wasn't the problem here but it's worth mentioning if you run into it. Once one is satisfied with the finish or stain on any firearm, it's a good idea to seal the end grain under the butt-stock against moisture if it's going to be exposed much to the weather. There are several products for this that one can find at home Depot.

    As mentioned, I can't guarantee that this method will work in every situation but I have used it several times over years to successfully avoid a complete refinish.

    Cheers

    P.S. Be careful with acetone, it's classified as a paint thinner, but it can eat through some finishes pretty easily. It's the main ingredient in fingernail polish remover except the latter has some oil in it to help protect the cuticles.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2022
  20. Shortgrub

    Shortgrub Member

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    Thanks for the info, forward observer. It will come in handy.
     
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  21. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    +1 for leaving it "as is"- it's a beautiful gun!
     
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  22. Acorn Mush

    Acorn Mush Member

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    Forward observer, thanks for taking the time to explain your stain-removal process. I will keep it in mind and am sure others will find it to be of benefit as well.
    My best to you!
     
  23. ThomasT

    ThomasT Member

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    I think you should sell that fake gun and get a REAL ACW gun. I will buy it from you and even let you make $50 on the deal. How about that?:evil: Just kidding of course. There is no way I would change anything and would love to own a gun like that. I think you just got a once in a lifetime deal with a great story. And if you can prove what you know I would think your gun just took a big jump on value. :thumbup:

    And since you mentioned the pioneers buying these type of guns I found that interesting because I just watched a show on YT last night called "West To The Oregon Trail". I am interested in that time period and the westward migration. It started right after the Fur trade ended and went well past the Civil War. In a couple of Backwoodsman Magazines there have been articles on what they called Sod Buster guns. These were surplus civil war guns that had the barrels bored smooth and converted to shotguns that folks could buy cheaply and have a versatile gun on a budget. Henry Leman also made a lot of guns that served the same purpose.

    That was a great bit of information. And in case you don't know Calcium Carbonate is nothing more than common chalk. I needed some because a fuel tank on one of my RC model planes leaked and soaked the wood in the nose area. As a former insurance adjuster I used a lot of sidewalk chalk for drawing circles around hail hits on shingles so I could verify roof damage. So I used a wood rasp and made myself a pile of white chalk dust and spread that thick on the balsa wood where it soaked the fuel out of the wood. The fuel is a mix with synthetic and some castor oil in it and it took it right out.

    And looking at my WM version of Tums antacid chews the bottle says they are calcium carbonate. So I guess if I run out I can run some sidewalk chalk through my bandsaw and cut some disc and chew those. Or not. :barf:
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2022
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  24. forward observer

    forward observer Member

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    Thanks, I just never made the connection. In fact, when I wrote the explanation I had to get out the tub of Brownell's powder to look up the real name of the stuff. On the tub, there is a printed warning to avoid breathing it.

    Man, I suddenly thought back to my grade school days when I would get chosen (punished) by my teacher to have to go outside and clean all the classroom erasers by banging them on the sidewalks or the wall bricks to get the chalk dust out. No telling how much chalk dust I inhaled. Man, if it wasn't for the fact that all of those teachers probably have been dead for over a half of a century now, I'd sue the pants off of every last one of them.:D

    Actually, there is a low-level hazard warning for over ingesting or inhaling the powder but it doesn't seem all that life-threatening.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2022
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  25. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Wow, just wow! Beautiful gun, FO!
     
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