U.S. Model 1803 Harpers Ferry Rifle,
.54 caliber, 33" octagon-to-round barrel,
walnut, brass trim, antique, reconverted lock dated 1814
Part Number: AAS-989
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This antique U.S. Model 1803 Harpers Ferry Rifle is dated 1814 on the tail of the lock plate. This rifle is stocked in walnut, trimmed in brass, and fitted with a 33" octagon-to-round barrel. The book The Southern Arsenal - Harper's Ferry by Dr. James B. Whisker, describes this rifle as the second variation of the U. S. Model 1803 rifle. Originally produced at the Harpers Ferry Armory in Virginia, over 4,000 of the rifles were made from 1803-1807 with over 15,000 additional rifles produced in the years leading up to 1820.

The 33" octagon-to-round barrel is still the original .54 caliber, unlike many examples that were reamed to a larger caliber. The bore is rifled with seven lands and grooves. The bore is very dark, but does have visible rifling the full length of the barrel. The exterior of the barrel has aged to a textured gray brown patina, it has numerous small pits visible. The octagon breech is 11-1/4" with a single band, which is typical of the second variation. The front sight is a low brass blade. the muzzle and the rear sight is 8-1/2" forward of the breech. The breech end of the barrel is stamped with a US and upraised eagle's head over P.

The stock has straight grain through the buttstock and wrist, giving this rifle good strength at the wrist, a desirable feature in a military firearm. The walnut stock has a few drying checks from drawing down against the metal furniture as it aged, notably at the breech to rear lock bolt. The walnut has a very dark patina. The butt view shows the classic 1803 style brass patchbox with iron push button release in the comb of the buttplate. The post 1814 production guns have a longer door than earlier production, and this example has the longer door. Push the button to allow the patchbox lid to open under spring tension, revealing a large oval patchbox cavity. The button release works smoothly and latches, but the lower edge does now stand proud of the wood. The door does have some movement when closed. The triggerguard grip rail approaches closer to the wrist that earlier versions. The top view shows the buttplate comb extension, with the iron patchbox release button clearly visible. Notice the subdued square Kentucky rifle style cheek piece. The tang bolt is missing on this rifle.

Made with a rounded toe, no toeplate is used. The brass triggerguard is attached with two pins, note very wide bow on this variation. The stock has WH and D stamp just below the triggerguard. A single iron wedge key retains the barrel. The key is slotted and captured. The brass ramrod pipe has the single ring on the front and center, typical of later production rifles. The original steel ramrod has been lost and a replacement fitted. This late production gun would have had a brass tulip tip fitted as suggested by the purveyor of public supplies Trench Coxe in 1811. The brass band that secures the forend of the stock is missing. A simple military style brass sideplate retains the two lock bolts. The side panel has very nice inspection marks that are clearly visible.

The lock has been reconverted to flintlock. The tail of the lock has the original markings HARPERS FERRY 1814 and with a rear facing eagle. The flint cock, top jaw, top jaw screw, pan, frizzen, and frizzen spring are all old replacements. The splice on the pan is visible inside the lock plate. The flint cock is slightly too large for this model and should have a flat neck moving into the double throat vs. the rounded neck to double throat. It is very likely this flint cock came from a U.S. Model 1817 Common rifle.

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