A Rifle of Unknown Origin

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This robust rifle pays homage to the colonial period guns of unknown origin, guns that have turned up in America, but of uncertain provenance.  Heavy with overtones of Germanic descent, one might conclude that this is a Continental-made gun. However, there are undercurrents of colonial America running through the carving and form of the maple stock. I tried infuse all the speculation and mystery that accompanies these early rifles into my latest work, much like an historical novel written the language of the day.

While maple was often used in Europe for gunstocks, it was perhaps the most common wood for stocking firearms made in the American colonies.  The stock wood, then, proves nothing about the origin of this rifle-gun.

The round face lock would have been made in a German production shop. The barrel is swamped and rifled, a jaeger styled barrel. The reproduction mounts are definitely European, possibly Dutch, but probably German.

One could assert, and not wrongly, that this gun was made in Germany, using European maple. It could also have been stocked in America, with imported European parts, by a German immigrant smith.

The most compelling argument for this being a colonial-made gun is the two-piece brass patchbox. The complex sliding bolt closure instead of the usual, and later, simple latch and hook mechanism, indicates this is an early form of the hinged brass box.  A mortice is chiseled into the buttplate to receive the sliding bolt. A similar bolt mechanism can be found in the patchbox of the ‘Musician’s rifle’, or Fesler rifle, thought to be a very early colonial stocked rifle.

Warmest regards,

Tom Curran

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Breathtaking photography by the very talented Jim W.Filipski.

Barrel: made by John Getz, .60 cal, 35” long
Lock: Davis Jaeger lock, heavily modified
Mounts: reproduction, brass, lost wax cast
Patch Box: fabricated from sheet, rod, and iron bar
Wood: New York sugar maple


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American longrifle, a copy of an original

When I first saw the original rifle, I had a strange feeling about it. It’s style did not fit the typical Pennsylvania made gun, nor a Southern made gun, tho’ it has elements that are found in guns from both regions. It has a Dutch flavor in the ‘inflated’ buttstock, round wrist and carving; in the triggerguard , buttplate and lock, Germanic influence. There is a hint of ‘Hudson River Valley’ in the odd sideplate.

This appears to be a very simple gun, perhaps made in a hurry. I would estimate it to be from about the time of the American Revolution, judging from the triggerguard and buttplate styling.

How did the original survive so well? So many working guns got used up and recycled. I have more questions than answers, yet feel so very fortunate that I had the original to study.

Photography by the very talented Jm Filipski

The buttstock has a patch, just like the original. Probably this was done at the time the rifle was built. I did the same, patching in a piece as close to the original size and placement as possible.

To enlarge a photo, just click on it.

There is a sliding wooden patchbox, with its endplate missing.

Note the extreme fullness of the stock when seen from above and below. This is very unusual. It’s quasi-military, a bit musket-like.

Take note of the underside of the cheekpiece, how flat it is…again, very unusual for a Pennsylvania made gun, or an American gun for that matter.

The patch is ‘nailed on’ with square wooden pegs, just as the original gun is.

I find this gun so very fascinating just because it raises more questions than it answers.

Barrel: Robert Hoyt, .54 cal, rifled.

Lock: R. E. Davis Colonial

Castings: patterns taken off original rifle

Trigger, sideplate, thimbles, nosecap, etc, made by T Curran

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An early American rifle

This gun represents a melding of continents and cultures. It has the brass hardware of a German hunting rifle, Germanic lock, combined with short, large bore barrel in the Jaeger style. It has American wood, stock shaping, and folk art decorative carving.

This rifle shows some traits that show in later Lehigh Valley guns: a wrist that’s wider than tall, and a Vee shaped forestock with an open end nosecap.

From a sugar maple tree came the wood for the stock, harvested from my own woods, scavenged from a storm damaged tree. It’s carved in a folk art manner, reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch Fractur art. Aqua Fortis was used to stain the wood, a dilute mixture of nitric acid killed with iron filings.

Part of the fiction of this rifle is that it had a sliding wooden patchbox cover at birth. Some time during its life, the slider was replaced with a metal box, perhaps to ‘fancy the gun up’. The dovetail for the sliding cover in the buttplate had to be fitted with a filler plate. The dovetail grooves for the original sliding cover remain.

Barrel: Douglas, 31″ long, .62 caliber. Tapered and flared octagon

Lock: Jim Chambers ‘Early Germanic’ lock

Castings: Reaves Goehring’s early German trigger guard and buttplate

Patchbox, thimbles, sideplate, and nosecap handmade by T Curran.

Photography by Jim Filipski, who makes my art look really good.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

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