Percussion altered 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Rifle
In 1798 the General Assembly of Virginia enacted legislation to organize and construct a state arsenal for the production of arms. Construction of the Virginia Manufactory as it would become known began in 1799 just outside of Richmond on the banks of the James River. From 1802/3 until the Armory's closing in 1821 a full complement of arms including muskets, rifles, pistols, swords, and cannons were fabricated at the Manufactory.
The rifle here is an 1818 dated example of what has been termed by collectors as a Second Model Virginia Manufactory Rifle. A grand total of 1,760 Type 2 Rifles were produced from 1812 to 1821; of which 405 were manufactured in 1818. Although production of this style of rifle began in 1812, examples will be encountered with locks showing pre-1812 dates, as a large supply of completed locks were still on hand after production of Type 1 and 1809 Pattern rifles was ended in 1809. The primary features of the Type 2 rifles are their 39 inch full octagonal barrel with nominally .50 caliber bore. The barrels are secured to the stock via three iron keys. The balance of the rifles' furniture is brass. The patchbox of these rifles is much simpler than the early production rifles. The wings of the patchbox are secured via two screws each. The shape of the patchbox head has been described as "bell shaped", a description I consider accurate. The patchbox release is located at the bottom of the butt in the heel plate.
From 1817 onwards the locks lack the word "Manufactory" which is found on earlier rifles. Excepting the markings, the locks are generally of the same dimensions are Type 1 rifles; being roughly 5.5 inches long and 1 inch wide. The rear sight is located approximately 13 inches from the breech. While the stamping of Regimental markings was commonplace for the Type 1 Rifles, Type 2 Rifles are not generally encountered with marked barrels.
The rifle offered here is a nice representative of a percussion altered 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Rifle. This example has a civilian gunsmith “drum” style percussion alteration. The rifle was further modified by the addition of a “set screw” installed near the tail of the lock that allows for trigger pull to be adjusted. The rifle's rear sight was also relocated about 3 inches to the rear of its former position to better suit a former owner. The patchbox was embellished with some engraving, although it is quite worn with age.
Other than the a fore mentioned modifications the rifle is in original configuration, and aside from pitting around the breech and on the front of the lock, is in quite good shape. The stock is particularly nice, with no breaks or cracks, and also appears to be free from any repairs. The rifle has been cleaned, and the brass components polished, but the gun still displays quite well.
Mechanically, everything functions properly. The lock functions well at both half and full cock and the patchbox release and clasp both work correctly. The rifle retains its original 39 inch barrel, which measures right at .50 inches. The muzzle has some starburst or flower-like shapes stamped on its crown. The barrel is mostly smooth, although there is quite a bit of pitting around the breech. The forward portion of the lock is fairly pitted as well, and the word “VIRGINIA” is mostly obscured by the pitting. The wood above the lock has a fair amount of burnout that is commensurate with the pitting on the barrel.
Overall this is a nice example of a 2nd Model Virginia Manufactory Rifle. Between their long militia service, and usage during the Civil War finding one of these in its original flintlock configuration is nearly impossible, and due to that rarity these have been targets for reconversion to flintlock for a long time, which makes even percussion altered examples hard to find.
Although this rifle has some detractors from its civilian alterations it is still a nice representative example of a very scarce martial rifle and displays very well. I have only ever seen one other Virginia Manufactory Rifle offered by a Civil War dealer before, and it is unlikely that I will see another one anytime soon.