Percussion Altered Model 1819 Hall Rifle
With the exception of a single rifle altered at the Mount Vernon, Alabama, Arsenal in 1856 there are no records to indicate that the Federal Government undertook any effort to percussion altered Model 1819 Hall's Rifles prior to 1861.
In 1857 all Hall's patent arms owned by the Federal Government had been declared obsolete and instructions were sent to the various Depots and Arsenals to collect them for future sales. Although some number of Hall's patent arms had been sold prior to 1860 the majority of the rifles, some 12,563 according to "Hall's Military Breechloaders", were still in storage at Federal Arsenals.
Although records concerning the percussion alteration of Model 1819 Hall's Rifles by Federal authorities are almost non-existent the large numbers of surviving examples indicates that signifant numbers of them were percussioned in the early stages of the war, almost certainly prior to 1863. The alterations on these "Federal Hall's" as they have come to be known are essentially identical. The rifles' breechblocks were removed from the frame and the external flint components detached. The frizzen toe was then filled and the flint pan was then ground flush with the top of the breech block, leaving the fence at the rear of the pan, as well as an overhang on the right side of the block. A percussion cone was then threaded into the receiver, to the right of the original flint vent. Finally, a new made percussion hammer was installed and the breech block was reinstalled.
Federal alterations all show a high level of workmanship relative to many Confederate altered Hall's Rifles. The almost identical nature of the Federal Alterations tends to point to a central operation for the alterations, or that the work may have been farmed out to smaller contractors reporting to one larger operation. Generally the only variations encountered on Federal altered Hall's Rifles entails the reassembly numbers found on various components through the guns. Peter Schmidt in his monumental book on Hall's Rifles, "Hall's Military Breechloaders" lists four distinct variations in Federal alterations based on the combination of letters and numerals, both Roman and Arabic. Based on the possible quantities altered using the various letter-number combinations, Schmidt estimates that no less than 5,000 Model 1819 Hall's Rifles, mostly Harpers Ferry produced rifles dated 1830 to 1832, were altered for use during the war.
The rifle offered here is a really nice example of a Federal percussion altered Model 1819 Hall's Rifle. The rifle retains 60% or better of it's original browned finish, with the balance showing some light patina in areas uncovered by wear, mainly around the muzzle from fitting the bayonet as well as the buttplate and triggerguard. The breech block shows a large amount of its original fire blued finished and is quite attractive, with only slight pinprick pitting around the percussion cone. The top of the breech block is clearly marked J.H. Hall over H. Ferry over US over 1831. Since no rifles were delivered in 1831, we can be sure that this one was one of the first rifles delivered in 1832. The bore is quite good with strong 16 groove rifling. The rifle is complete with its original sling swivels and full length cleaning rod.
Mechanically the gun is excellent. The hammer is very springy and holds well at half and full cock. The breechblock lifts easily and locks securely into place as well. Both chocks are also operable.
The stock is in about good condition with scattered handling marks and bruises, but retains well defined shoulders and has not been sanded or otherwise messed with. A small "W" is stamped behind the rear triggerguard extansion.
Although I have not disassembled this rifle to look at the markings on the breechblock, the presence of the reassembly number "80" stamped on the lest side of the barrel bands indicates this is a "Type IV" alteration described by Mr. Schmidt. The "Type IV" alteration is the most uncommon of alterations listed in "Hall's Military Breechloaders" and it is estimated that as few as 100 rifles were altered and marked in this manner.
All in all this is a very nice example of a Federal percussion altered Model 1819 Hall Rifle. Hall's rifles and carbines occupy a very important position in the history of American arms, and every collection of Civil War era breechloaders needs at least one.