Home Again…

2862 miles, 12 days, 11 states; no incidents, accidents, tickets or problems (other than a flat ass from all the driving)…

Got to see old friends, new friends, family, shoot things (golf and hogs), and see a real piece of history!

This rifle was built sometime between 1810 and 1815 by Jacob Young (born on 18 May 1774 in , Essex, Virginia. He died in 1842 in , Robertson, Tennessee). Ironically, when he originally moved to what is now Tennessee, it was called North Carolina! This particular gun was a working gun, bought by Isaac White, who brought it to Arkansas some time after 1825. He settled on 160 acres near Murfreesboro, AR (home of the Arkansas Diamonds) and among other things, farmed, was a justice of the peace and later judge in Pike Co, AR. The gun is still owned by his descendants, and was (according to the family) still fire-able, and was shot as late as the 1930s/40s according to the current custodian. It was delivered to a gunsmith friend of mine, who has reassembled it using the original components.

This gun was a working gun, originally a flintlock Kentucky Rifle, and later converted (guessing in the 1840s) to a cap and ball by cutting the original butt of the barrel off (appx 2 inches). It appears to be roughly a .50 cal rifle and it is STILL a LONG barrel! It has a sliding wooden cover over patch box (just below my right hand), and had a rudimentary cheek piece on the left side of the stock.

Here is a picture of the lock work and double triggers (note the forward ‘set’ trigger). You can see from this pic the amount of corrosion caused by the poor quality gun powder available during the life of the rifle.

Not a great picture, but here is a closer look at the trigger set…

Here is a closer look at the lock work and the corrosive powder effects…

And the business end of the rifle, appx 50 cal and there actually is still some rifling in the barrel…

Note: The estimate of two inches being cut off the barrel is based on the length of the ramrod, which is the ORIGINAL one!!! The silver bump on top of the barrel is an inset blade front sight!

Two of Jacob Young’s presentation rifles HERE, and apparently one more has been located somewhere in New Orleans.

I truly hope this fine weapon ends up in an appropriate museum, with due credit to the family and a lot better documentation than what little I have here…


Home Again… — 14 Comments

  1. Welcome home!
    It’s amazing that a “working gun” like that has survived all these years.

  2. drjim- Yes it was, and I’m just glad I got to see it.

    CS/Supi/Fuzzy/Nancy- You’re welcome

  3. Must have been a bi*** running through the woods shootin’ at Redcoats and fast moving deer!

  4. My maternal grandfather had a BP cap rifle that his grandfather carried in the western mountains. His Grandpa was a mountain man early in the 19th century.

    I don’t know what happened to it. Probably one of the other kin-folk got with Grandpa died in the 1950s. All that I remember is that with the butt on the ground, the muzzle was at Grandpa’s shoulder height.

    Such rifles, when original, are pure treasures.

  5. Ev- It would ‘definitely’ have been interesting!

    BZ/Crucis- Agree!

    WSF- I wondered the same thing! If only it could talk!

    ADM- thanks!

  6. Nice looking piece. One question, however. . .

    Um, why would they cut the barrel to convert to percussion? Especially the powder chamber end, where the barrel is supposed to be extra thick – trimming the back 2” off the barrel will almost ALWAYS weaken your gun’s powder chamber significantly! Plus, you would then have to replace the breech plug and tang and would also have to restock the gun entirely if there was ANY taper or profile changes (such as “round to octagonal”) on the barrel.

    You would be looking at

    All you have to do to convert a flintlock to cap lock (percussion) is drill out the flash hole (or unscrew it if it’s a separate screwed in piece – but that is more of a modern thing for easy touchhole replacement when it rots out), change the cock* to a hammer*, remove the pan and the hammer* (unless you went ahead and did a replacement lock altogether, which is not “drop in” and locks aren’t free – although hand fitting it to the mortise and adjusting the sear length is simple if you have any skill with hand tools like a file and wood chisel), and thread in a caplock nipple assembly where the touchhole used to be. Done that way, you only have to do a simple modification to the barrel, another to the lock, and very likely one to the stock – which is probably the most difficult part!

    I’ll lay money it’s a replacement rammer, probably from a fowler. (A fowler is a smoothbore muzzleloader like a military musket, but made for civilian use like a modern shotgun. They generally are sturdier than equivalent rifles because of a sturdier lock and fittings – the smoothbore means there’s no point in the more precise and delicate components used in rifles).

    * NOTE for modern shooters. On a flintlock, that thing you cock is called, weirdly enough, a “cock” – NOT a “hammer”. The “hammer” on the flintlock is the part that the flint hits (the modern term for a flintlock hammer is “frizzen”). The thing you cock became known as a “hammer” with the introduction of the percussion cap. People started calling the “hammer” of a flintlock by the name “frizzen” after percussion guns came out, to avoid confusion with the percussion gun’s “hammer”. Welcome to the pedantic world of historical gun terminology. {grin}