Rare US Model 1817 Flintlock Common Rifle c. 1826

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10/16/2019 5:51 PM
Item 823051865
Location Tyrone, GA 30290
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Rare & Fine US Model 1817 Common Flintlock Rifle, Nathan Starr c. 1826, Massachusetts Surcharged

Please check out my website at newmarketarms.com FIRST for this and other antique military firearms.

This is a very fine and scarce Nathan Starr & Son contract U.S. Model 1817 Flintlock Common Rifle from 1826 that is Massachusetts Militia marked. This rifle would have been issued to one of the Rifle Companies assigned to each Massachusetts Militia Regiment prior to 1842.

This particular Model 1817 was manufactured by Nathan Starr as part of his first Model 1817 Contract with the Ordnance Department of only 4,000 rifles and was manufactured and delivered in 1826. Starr only manufactured 1,460 rifles that year under the US Government contract.

Rifle development in the early years of the United States was based on the frontier use of Kentucky and Pennsylvania rifles. The first regulation U.S. rifle was the US Model 1803, manufactured at Harpers Ferry in 1803, firing a .54 caliber ball from a relatively short (compared to earlier civilian rifle designs) 33" barrel. The Model 1803 Rifle was manufactured until 1807 and several of these rifles are known to have accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the west coast. Model 1803 Rifles were also carried by Zebulon Pike during his southwest expedition in 1806-1807. Slightly over 4,000 Model 1803 Rifles were manufactured during their five years of production at the national armory at Harpers Ferry. The Model 1803 was a half-stock weapon with the ramrod exposed along the bottom of the barrel.

Effective use of Rifles during the War of 1812 solidified its battlefield reputation amongst soldiers and officers alike and that brought about a plan to create three new regiments comprising Riflemen. In 1813, four pattern rifles were designed, all of which were nearly identical copies of the earlier US Model 1803 Rifle. This led to Harpers Ferry producing the Model 1814 Rifle, which was essentially a very slightly modified US Model 1803 Rifle. The Model 1814 was also produced under contract beginning in 1814 by Henry Deringer and Robert Johnson. While there was considerable variation in the final production rifles, most had barrels from 32" to 36" in length and the barrels were octagonal in shape.

This led to the US Rifle, Model of 1817, also known as the Common Rifle. While the origin of the name "Common Rifle" is somewhat murky, it is generally believed that the name is derived from the fact that the Model 1817 Rifle, which was being produced at the same time as the Hall's Patent Breech Loading Rifle, was the more "common" muzzle loading type of rifle then being manufactured (the Hall Breech Loading Rifle was undeniably "uncommon" for that early period).

While Model 1817 is now the generally accepted designation for this rifle, it has been referred to by several different names over the years, including simply "Rifle," under Ordnance Department contracts up until 1840, "Common Rifles," from 1840 until 1845, "Common Rifle, Full-stocked; 1819," in the 1841 Ordnance Manual, and the "1819 Rifle."

The first official reference to the Model 1817 Rifle is from a letter from the Chief of Ordnance, Colonel Decius Wadsworth to Harpers Ferry Armory Superintendent James Stubblefield on January 16, 1817, when Colonel Wadsworth wrote, "I hope you are going on with the Model of the Rifle, & hope to see it before the Rising of Congress." It is unclear when the Harpers Ferry design was approved by the Secretary of War, but records indicate that five pattern rifles were manufactured at Harpers Ferry in 1818 and two additional rifles were manufactured at Harpers Ferry in 1819, all of which were to be the "pattern" of the rifle used by contractors when manufacturing the rifles under contract with the Ordnance Department.

The Model 1817 Rifle is significant in that it was the first US Model firearm manufactured exclusively by contractors and not by one of the national armories. Although the design, and pattern models, came from Harpers Ferry Arsenal, all rifles were manufactured by one of five contractors: Henry Deringer, Robert Johnson, Robert & J.D. Johnson, Simeon North and Nathan Starr & Son. All of these contractors were located in Middletown, Connecticut, except for Deringer, whose factory was located in Philadelphia. The Model 1817 Flintlock Common Rifle was manufactured from 1819 until 1846 with only 38,267 produced.

This particular Model 1817 Flintlock Common Rifle is from the first contract awarded to Starr on December 9, 1823, for a total of 4,000 rifles. Starr delivered his first 800 rifles in 1824, 1,540 rifles in 1825, 1,460 rifles in 1826 when this rifle was delivered, and 200 rifles in 1827. Starr also had a second contract for Model 1817 Rifle production entered into on March 17, 1840. This second contract was for 6,000 rifles and they were delivered in 1840 through 1845.

The original 36" barrel is present and is in very fine original condition. The original touchhole is present and has not been enlarged or otherwise modified. The Barrel still retains 95% plus of its original acid browned barrel finish with the balance exhibiting a largely pewter and plum patina with a few small areas of old pinprick pitting on the upper, exposed portion. The top, rear portion of the Barrel has numerous stampings including a serif “M.S.” state of Massachusetts militia stamp, a raised “P” proof stamp in a sunken oval, the serif "US" stamping and the serif “AH” stamp of Asahel Hubbard, who was a civilian inspector at Springfield Armory responsible for contract inspections during this period. The bottom of the barrel has the serif “GG” stamp and a “6” stamp.

The original Breech Plug is present and the tang is correctly marked with the date “1826,” still crisply stamped. The bottom of the tang has a witness line adjacent to a corresponding witness line on the bottom of the barrel. The back side of the tang exhibits old corrosion. The tang is secured into the stock with its original slotted screw. This screw has a matching serif “GG” assembly stamp. The original v-notch Rear Sight is brazed to the top of the barrel approximately 2 1/2" to the rear of the Lower Band. The bore exhibits considerable original rifling with seven grooves and with normal pitting in evidence and the bore is clear to the touchhole. The bore measures .5535” in diameter at the muzzle. The original Front Sight is present and is an iron blade integral to its iron rectangular base that is brazed to the barrel approximately 1 ¼” to the rear of the muzzle.

All three original Barrel Bands are present. The Upper Band retains the majority of its brown finish throughout and is the standard two-ring type with rectangular open space in between and is 1 11/16" long at the top and 2 9/16" long at the bottom. The original Upper Band Spring with integrated post is present on the stock and it secures the band properly.

The Middle Band retains the majority of its brown finish throughout as does its original upper sling swivel, which remains riveted in place and rotates freely. The Middle Band Spring is present and properly secures the middle band.

The original Lower Band also retains the majority of its brown finish and measures 9/16" long at the top and 1" at the bottom. It has a serif “G” assembly stamp on the interior surface. Its original Band Spring is present and also retains considerable original brown finish. All three Barrel Bands secure tightly to the stock and barrel when assembled.

The Upper Band secures the original Trumpet Head Brass Ramrod that is not threaded at the end. The brass portion shows an attractive dark mustard patina. The balance of the Ramrod exhibits an even pewter finish along its entire length. The Ramrod secures tightly into the stock.

The original Trigger Guard furniture is present and it is in fine condition retaining the majority of its browned finish. This Trigger Guard has the skeleton pistol grip, which are rather unique to most of the Model 1817 Common Rifles. The Lower Sling Swivel is present and is correctly riveted to the skeleton pistol grip itself and rotates freely. The Original Trigger Bow measures 1" across at the widest point and retains the same finish as the Guard. Both Trigger Guard Screws are the slotted type and both slots exhibit slight marring. The original Trigger, which is suspended from the lateral pin in the stock, exhibits considerable original heat-treated blue finish and it moves freely.

The Lockplate retains the vast majority of its browned finish. The Lockplate measures 5 7/16" by 1 3/16" and has a flat surface with beveled edges forward of the cock and has a convex surface to the rear of the cock. The rear of the cock is correctly marked “1825 / MIDDN / CO.” Forward of the Cock is a serif “U.S. / N.STARR” stamp. Both original Lockplate Screws are present and both have the matching “CC” stamp on the barrel. The heads of both screws retain the majority of their brown finish. The original modified “L” Side Plate retains the majority of its browned finish.

The original Cock, or Hammer, is 2 15/16" tall and has a convex surfaced body with heart-shaped hole in the throat. The Cock retains virtually all of its brown finish. The Upper Jaw retains the same finish and the cock itself and the adjustment Screw, with slotted head and hole still turns and adjusts the Upper Jaw smoothly. The inward facing sides of the cock and upper jaw are both stippled to hold the flint. Currently the cock holds a piece of flint between two pieces of lead. The opposite side has a serif “R” in a circle, a “13” stamp and a serif “L” stamp on the neck.

The original round-bottomed Flash Pan is inclined upwards (to the rear, to direct the flash away from the firer) without a fence and is made of brass and exhibits a beautiful burnt mustard patina. The Frizzen measures 1 3/4" by 7/8" with the top portion inclined towards the front of the rifle. The front face is convex and the tail is straight. The front, convex portion of the Frizzen and the rear, flat striking surface both retain most of the brown finish. The Frizzen Spring remains very strong. The Frizzen closes securely over the Pan and it opens crisply and stays secured when in the forward position. Both the Frizzen and Frizzen Spring Screws are single slotted and both have unmarred slots.

The interior surface of the lock generally exhibits a dark patina with generious areas of the original color case-hardened finish remaining. The back of the brass pan has a “GG” stamp. The original Tumbler is in the white. The original Sear and Sear Spring both exhibit old corrosion on the surface. The horseshoe-shaped bridle retains most of its original bright color tempered finish. The lock mechanism still functions perfectly.

The original black walnut stock is in fine condition. The original steel oval Patch Box Lid on the right side of the stock measures 4 3/16" by 1 11/16" and it retains the vast majority of its browned finish. The interior of the lid has matching “GG” stamps. The Hinge is the correct and original 1 13/16" piano-style hinge at the bottom and is secured by its original single slot screws. The Hinge is very secure and there is no play in it open or closed. The 3/8" wide catch at the top is secured by a single, slotted screw in unmarred condition.

The interior of the compartment also has the matching “GG” stamp into the wood. On the left stock flat is the original inspection cartouche of an oval with script “AH,” which is the inspection stamp of Springfield Armory civilian contract inspector Asahel Hubbard. The top of the wrist of the stock, just forward of the comb, is the serif “MS” Massachusetts militia stamp. There are a few small areas of wood loss along the barrel channel and a few small cracks but the stock remains strong.

The original Butt Plate measures 4 1/16" by 1 7/8" with straight side profile and convex surface and the 2" Tang has a rounded end. Just to the rear of the tang screw is the serif “U.S.” stamp. The Butt Plate Screws are both single slotted and both are unmarred. The Butt Plate still retains the majority of its original browned finish with wear at the butt plate shoulder.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful U.S. martial arms ever manufactured. This particular rifle remains in its original flint in every respect and is a fine example of these rare and important early 19th Century military flintlock rifles. This rifle is even more rare in that it is one of only a few known to have Massachusetts militia markings.

This rifle is an antique and can be shipped to anyone. This rifle will also come with an historic writeup and a CD containing all of the photos in the listing. I accept Visa and MasterCard and charge NO FEES. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like additional photos posted.

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