No Model Rifle Regulation

Although, in the very founding of the United States, regiments of volunteer civilian infantry, armed with their own Kentucky rifles, proved again and again infinitely superior in battle to regiments of veteran soldiers armed with smooth bores, nevertheless the new United States let nearly twenty-five years go by before attempting to make military rifles.

But the prospect of war with France, at the close of the 18th century, awoke the martial spirit of the new little nation, and revived old romantic tales of the days of 1775 to 1783. Memories awoke to the feats of skill of the " Mid Colonials," feats which had seemed so remarkable not only to the trained British soldiery, who were their opponents and victims, but also to that other part of the American Army which had been armed with just muskets. Whereupon Congress in 1799 passed an act authorizing the addition to the regular army of " A Rifle

Regiment." And, since our regular army, a mere

The courtesy of Major Charles C. Foster, M. D., is gratefully acknowledged for permitting the comparison, by picture and examination, uf anus in the Sawyer Collection with arms in the specialized Foster Collection of U. S. Military Arms. There being no previous compiled data of any moment to serve as a basis for this work, the cross-checking was of great value in eliminating errors. This applies to carbines a? well as to rifles.

handful of soldiers then known as the " Military Peace Establishment/' was supplied with arms made in government shops, it was a logical outcome that the new rifle regiment also should be supplied with rifles made in the shops of the government.

The birth of our first military rifle required about a year. The issue was a cross between the heavy carabine of the French, the short gewehre of the Germans, and the strongly individual American all-purpose rifle. That Model 1800 rifle was, and it still is, a curiosity. In ballistic qualities it was also, according to the old saying, " a mixed breed of cats.99 Accuracy, high speed and low trajectory were expected of its bullet. But with its relatively short barrel, to burn all of its large charge of powder it was necessary to use powder of fine grain; that caused tremendous recoil, which, in turn, induced flinching and consequently inaccurate shooting. So our first military rifles embodied a portion of the bad qualities of the German rifle which was the prototype of the Kentucky, and were, instead of a modified Kentucky, of a perverted Kentucky type.

As the expected war with France failed to materialize, the first mention of any distinguished service performed by this model of arm is contained in a record of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which in 1804 left St.^ Louis to explore the new Louisiana purchase. The members of this party, besides the leaders, consisted of forty men, half of whom were trappers and voyageurs armed with their own Ken-

tuckies, and half of enlisted men of the regular army armed with " the new short military rifle.''

The scarcity of Model 1800 rifles at present in collections, dated earlier than 1812 War time, probably indicates that a few per year were sufficient to equip the slowly forming " rifle regiment." The earliest of these arms which is widely known is in the Pugsley Collection and is dated 1803.

Considering the individuality which is necessarily expressed in the output of various workmen following a model merely by sight and rough measurements, and permitted latitude according to their abilities, the 1803 specimen, and others of succeeding years, and the specimen illustrated, which is dated 1814, all undoubtedly are intended to be of one model. There are, however, considerable variations. For instance: while the calibre remained constant to the extent of using a half ounce ball, the styles of boring and grooving seem to have been left to the choice of each individual barrel maker, perhaps because the arm was for many years in the experimental stage. One specimen has an hep-tagonal instead of a circular bore; and, among many others, no two have lands and grooves exactly alike, but are found of almost every imaginable shape, depth and pitch. Different lengths of barrels also occur, varying from 32 to 36 inches: and some of these rifles were equipped with set triggers, while nearly all of them were made with plain triggers: but these details evidently belong in the " made-to-order M class, and were individualities granted the requests or demands of certain noted marksmen who enlisted; for in those days a noted rifleman was a little king who honored the service by enlisting in it, and it was necessary to placate him to get him.

AJ1 Model 1800 rifles were marked on the lock plate with the date of manufacture, Harpers Ferry, and a spread-eagle bearing U. S. on a shield. The specimen illustrated is dated 1814. Its total length is about 4 feet If inches; the length of its barrel is 33H inches. It was called .54 calibre, but as the grooves are each 4 one-hundredths of an inch deep the real calibre is .62. However, like other .54 calibre rifles, it used a half ounce ball, the diameter of which was .525, and the difference was adjusted by the thickness of the patch. There are seven grooves with pitch of one-half turn in 32f inches, which is the distance from the flat front end of the breech pin, which is flush with the rear of the touch hole, to the muzzle. The workmanship of the inside of the barrel is nowhere near up to that of the best Kenluckies of the same period; the bore is slightly untrue and the lands are not all of the same width, the cause of the latter being either poor construction of the rifling machine or wear in its moving parts; and the edges of the lands are too sharp — sharp enough to cut the patch to pieces as soon as the bore became reduced by fouling. There is no formed chamber and the grooves run to the breech pin. The official charge for the Model 1800 rifle was 90 to 100 grains of fine grained rifle powder and a half ounce pure lead ball loaded with a greased patch of either linen or buckskin. The muzzle velocity was about 2,000 f.s. The trigger pull is about 7 pounds. The rifle and its steel ramrod weigh 9\ pounds.

This specimen apparently never had much wear and the finish of its exterior may be the same as when new, barring the darkening produced by age. The wood was filled and then coated with successive rubbings of linseed oil until it became slightly polished. The furniture, which is of brass, was polished bright; the lock, trigger and ramrod, all made of steel, were also polished bright. The ramrod is threaded for a wormer on the small end and at the head end slightly cupped to fit the ball. The barrel, rear sight, rod thimbles and the iron rib to which they are soldered were treated with chemicals until they became a rich plum-brown. The brass cover of the patch box opens by pressure upon a spring-stud set into the top of the brass butt plate. The small and simple sights do not permit any sort of adjustment for distance or drift but are rigidly fixed; their relation to the bore indicates that they are set for SO yards.

Model 1800 rifles were used wherever and whenever there was trouble with the Indians, by the navy to some extent in the expeditions against the West India and Barbary pirates, in the War of 1812, and, in a small degree, in the Mexican War of 1847. They were made until 1819, when their manufacture was discontinued and Model 1817 rifles were issued instead. The number made is unknown, as the records of the Harpers Ferry Armory were destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War and no duplicates have ever been found. From time to time attempts have been made by army officers and others to reproduce the Harpers Ferry records from fragmentary outside sources and compile tables of the arms made there in the first quarter of the 19th century. Such lists are both incomplete and inaccurate; they omit arms from years when existing specimens show that they were made; and they exaggerate the number made there during certain years by incautiously jumbling Model 1800 rifles, Snipper rifles, Wall pieces, Whale Guns, and barrels only which were furnished both to contractors and to militia companies, all in one list. At present there is but one certainty as to their number and that is that it was small; for during the War of 1812 it was necessary once more to have recourse to citizen soldiery armed with their own Kcntuckies.

No. 2, Officers' Model 1800 Rifle. Regulation.

As the officers of a rifle regiment carried rifles in: stead of swords the government provided them with weapons slightly lighter in weight and somewhat more ornamental in respect to engraving, checkering and the shape of small parts than the arms of the enlisted men. Otherwise the specimen shown follows the generalities of No. 1.

No. J, Rampart Rifle. Called also Wall Piece. Regulation.

These heavy, large bore rifles using a ball from three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a quarter in diameter were made at Harpers Ferry in 1806 and-1807, and probably also before and after. They weighed from 20 pounds upward, and were used principally on the ramparts of wooden forts scattered along the frontier.

In building a frontier fort if a strategical position was not already in the midst of a large open area, all trees, bushes, and bowlders that might offer cover to the savages were cleared away for a distance exceeding ordinary rifle range. These rampart rifles, with accurate range about double that of shoulder rifles, therefore gave the defenders of the fort considerable advantage.

Contract-made rampart rifles were in use by the United States before 1800. In a tabulation of military stores made in 1802, 465 rampart rifles, not including those in use, were listed. During the Civil War very heavy rifles, under different guise, reappeared for military use. See " Snipper Rifle " of 1861 to 1865 described further along.

The flint lock rampart rifle illustrated has a rear sight which is adjustable both horizontally and vertically, with set screws to hold it. Between this sight and a type developed in Switzerland during wheel lock days there is so strong a resemblance as to indicate a considerable knowledge of arms on the part of the political appointee who at that time was in charge at the Ferry Armory.

No. 4, Model 1817 Rifle. Regulation.

Marks: " Harpers Ferry, 1817 " and a spread-eagle with U. S. underneath. Total length about 51§ inches. Length of barrel about 36 inches. Calibre of bore without grooves .52. The bore is heptagonal and the seven narrow grooves are at the apices. Of course they are quite unnecessary. The depth of the grooves is one-hundredth of an inch. The pitch is one turn in 50 inches. Weight of the rifle with its steel ramrod 10 pounds. It was not at first supplied with a bayonet, but later a ten-ounce socket bayonet was issued with it for certain special demands of service. The charge was 90 to 100 grains of fine grained powder and a half ounce spherical bullet loaded bare. Loading became difficult after fouling accumulated. The muzzle velocity was about 2,000 f.s.

The original finish was — wrood not filled but treated with several coats of linseed oil; polished brass pan; bayonet and ramrod polished bright; all other metal, which was iron or steel, heat blued except the barrel, which was browned, and the friz-zen, which was case hardened gray.

The ramrod has a threaded small end and a cupped large end. The patch box wras furnished with a paper wrapped parcel containing a wormer to screw on the ramrod, a combination screw driver with a lever for turning the jaw-screw, and a piece of machine-stamped sheet lead called a " flint cap " correct in size and shape to help hold the flint in the jaws of the cock. The rear sight is similar to that on the Model 1800; the front sight is on the front band; they seem to be set for 50 yards.

The workmanship of the exterior, and of the lock, rivals that of a fine sporting rifle. The interior of the barrel is but little, if any, better than that of the preceding model; but there is a formed chamber, which possibly is a slight improvement. The specimen described is in nearly new condition.

This rifle was, according to contemporary statement, expected to place about 30 per cent of its shots in a 10-inch circle at 200 yards; this was when fired from the shoulder with a rest and included the errors of the rifleman, which may have equalled those of the rifle. This particular specimen probably was incapable of that amount of accuracy, but the rifles modeled on it and made by contractors were better bored and grooved and may have fulfilled expectations. .

In addition to 7,817 believed to have been made at Harpers Ferry and 250 made at Springfield Armory in 1819, many thousands of Model 1817 rifles were made between 1820 and 1830 by contractors S. North, N. Starr, and R. &. D. Johnson, all of Middletown, Conn., and H. Deringer of Philadelphia. The price, paid for each averaged close to $14.50; money was valuable in those days; in present currency the price would amount to about $100.

These rifles have, erroneously it appears, been called Model 1819. The date on the specimen illustrated sets the model 2 years earlier. Those made in the government shops were issued to the regular army and also sold to the states for issue to militia. It is believed that all that were made by contractors were issued only to militia. Model 1817 rifles served against Indians, and in the Mexican War, and in the first year of the Civil War on both sides. In the Civil War both the North and the South used flint lock and other antiquated arms in the beginning of the struggle.

No picture. Officers1 Model 1817 Rifles. Regulation.

Specimens and data lacking.

No. 5, Model 1819. (Breech loading.) Regulation.

Marks: "J. H. Hall, H. Ferry, U.S. 1838." Total length about 53-g- inches. Length of barrel about 32| inches. Calibre of bore without grooves .50. Depth of grooves two-hundredths of an inch. Number of grooves 16. Pitch 1 turn in 8 feet. At the muzzle the lands are reamed out for a distance of an inch and a half, which is as far back as the rear edge of the front sight: looking into the muzzle the rifle could easily be mistaken for a smooth bore. Presumably the object was to facilitate loading at the muzzle in case the arm became defective as a breech loader. Possibly it was intended to increase accuracy; in either case the depth of reaming seems excessive.

The rear of the bore is funnel-shaped to prevent the ball being sliced when it enters from the movable breech. A space equal to the thickness of a sheet of writing paper was left between the front of the movable breech and the rear of the barrel for the accumulation of powder residue. The gas leakage wras considerable and there was some loss of power.

Without bayonet the weight of the rifle w7as 10 pounds; with the socket bayonet, lOf pounds. The charge was 100 grains of rifle powder, and 10 grains more'were used for priming. The bullet was spherical and. weighed ^ an ounce; its normal diameter was .525; it was shot bare. Owing to the escape of gas at the breech the muzzle velocity wras several hundred foot seconds less than that of Models 18C0 and 1817. Ammunition wras furnished to the soldier in the form of paper cartridges, and up to about 1820 he loaded the rifle by biting off the end of the paper, pouring the powder into the breech, pressing in the bullet with his thumb, and using the paper for a wad, or discarding it if he chose. Later the paper envelope was made combustible writh nitre and the cartridge then w7as thrust into the breech entire.

This specimen, apparently never used, gives the following data as to its original finish. The pores of the wood were not filled and the surface received the usual protective coatings of linseed oil. The breech block and the external lock parts show dull colors of case hardening. The ramrod and bayonet are of polished steel. All screw heads are blued. The barrel and all other steel or iron is coated with browm lacquer. As lacquer does not appear on

U. S. government arms after the destruction of the Harpers Ferry works in 1861 presumably the formula was lost with the other burned records, because this lacquer is an admirable preservative and of excellent wearing qualities; it is not affected by water, oil, or acid; it is tough, hard, and so adhesive that it can only be removed by scraping.

The Hall breechloader was the first regulation army rifle loading at the breech. Its inventor was John H. Hall, of Yarmouth, Maine, who patented it in 1811. During the next five years he produced a few fowling-pieces, pistols, and sporting rifles, on this principle, and earnestly besought the government to adopt his invention. In 1816 the government decided to try it, and during that year 100 were made and issued for trial. They proved satisfactory, and so during 1817 another lot of 100 was made, but these were made percussion to test the copper cap invention of Joshua Shaw. These 200 rifles were hand made, their parts were not interchangeable, and their general appearance differed slightly from that of the specimen illustrated, but their operating principle was the same.

The government having decided to use these rifles in quantities, accepted the inventor's suggestion to make them by machinery with parts interchangeable, and a model piece was constructed like the one illustrated, and in 1819 officially adopted. But the invention and construction of the requisite machinery occupied a considerable time, so that the first thousand Model 1819 rifles was not finished until 1825.

Thereafter they were produced constantly at the Harpers Ferry works until 1840.

Meantime, in 1828, the government contracted with S. North for 5,000, and in 1829 with Reuben Ellis, of Albany, N. Y., for 500, to be made exactly like the Harpers Ferry ones. Those produced at the Ferry cost the government about $21.00 apiece; Mr. North, however, wras paid only $17.50 each, and this price included bayonet, flint, wiper, bullet mold, screw driver, and spring vise.

Model 1819 rifles were used to considerable extent in the Black Hawk, Seminole, Mexican, and Civil Wars; previously a few had been used unofficially in the Creek War of 1813.

No picture. Officers Model 1819 Rifles. Regulation.

Specimens and data are lacking.

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