1st Model Kentucky Ballard Rifle - Rare & About Excellent
- Product Code: FLA-3274-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The Ballard Military Rifle was one of the best single shot, self-contained cartridge rifles to see use during the course of the American Civil War. In fact, arms historian and author John McAulay, in his book Rifles of the US Army 1861-1906, referred to Ballard military rifles as “the most advanced single shot rifles to see service in the Civil War.” Charles H. Ballard of Worchester, MA invented the Ballard rifle, and was granted patent number 33631 in November of 1861. The single-shot rifles utilized a dropping block action, actuated by an under-lever that doubled as a triggerguard and pistol grip. The action dropped and tilted out of the way to allow the loading and unloading of the chamber. All of the rifles were produced to use self-contained metallic rimfire cartridges. The fired cartridges were ejected with a manually operated extractor. A short lever, under the forend was drawn backwards when the action was open, extracting the cartridge. The extractor was tensioned by a coil spring, which returned the extractor to its resting position when the lever was released. During the first few years of production, five different companies produced the Ballard rifle, with Merwin & Bray of New York handling the distribution and sales of the rifles (at least on some level) for all five companies. Initially the rifles were produced by Ball & Williams of Worcester, MA, with production running from 1862 to 1865. In 1863, due to the inability of Ball & Williams to produce enough guns to fill contract orders, Dwight, Chapman & Company of Bridgeport, CT began producing the rifles as well, and did so into 1864. Post Civil War production of the rifles was handled by Ball & Company (the re-named Ball & Williams Company) from 1865-1866, by Merrimack Arms Company of Newburyport, MA from 1867-1869 and by Brown Manufacturing Company of Newburyport, MA from 1869 to 1873. When Brown went out of business in 1873, their assets were sold at auction and the buyers arranged to have John Marlin produce Ballard patent arms. In 1881 Marlin incorporated as the Marlin Firearms Company and Marlin continued the production of “Marlin-Ballard” rifles until 1891. During that decade, the Marlin-Ballard developed a reputation for being one of the finest single-shot rifles on the market. During the American Civil War era, Ballard arms were produced in several calibers and models. The earliest guns were .38 rimfire sporting rifles, of which only about 100 were manufactured. An additional 5,000 sporting rifles were produced during that period in .32, .38, .44 and .46 rimfire. Ballard’s greatest success came in the manufacture of military rifles and carbines. Some 6,600 .44 rimfire military carbines with 22” barrels were purchased for military service by the states of Kentucky and New York, with some also seeing service with Iowa cavalry regiments. An additional 1,500 military carbines were delivered to the US Ordnance Department. Ball & William also produced 4,000 Ballard Military Rifles with 30” barrels. All of the military rifles produced by Ball & Williams were sold to the state of Kentucky and are so marked. The first 1,000 were produced in .44 rimfire and had a half-octagon, half-round barrel with a carbine style forend, secured by a single barrel band. The remaining 3,000 were in .46 rimfire and had a traditional military full musket style stock, secured by three barrel bands. The .46rf rifles were originally ordered in 56-56 caliber (the same as the Spencer carbine and rifle), but the order was changed to .46rf to accommodate the tooling on hand and manufacturing capabilities of Ball & Williams. The Kentucky Ballards saw significant Civil War service, with many Kentucky cavalry and mounted infantry regiments being armed with the rifles and carbines.
This 1st Model Kentucky Ballard Military Rifle is in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The 1st Model Kentucky Ballard Rifles were delivered on April 5, 1864, in time to see about a year of service prior to the end of the war. These rifles were unique in that they had 30” half-octagon / half-round barrel with a carbine style forend, that was secured by a single barrel band. All of the subsequent military rifles had round barrels and full-length forends. The 1st Model Rifles were chambered in .44 rimfire. These first model rifles appear in the 7100 to 8500 serial number range. This rifle is quite possibly one of the very first 1st Model rifles delivered. It is serial number 7109. The serial number appears on the top of the faceted receiver and the top of the octagon portion of the barrel. The left side of the hammer and the interior of the forend are marked with the last three digits of the serial number, 109. The top of the barrel flat is boldly marked KENTUCKY. and BALL & WILLIAMS / Worcester, Mass.. The left angled flat is marked MERWIN & BRAY. AGT’s / NEW YORK and the right angled flat is marked BALLARD’s PATENT / NOV. 1861. The rifle retains about 90%+ of its original blued finish on the octagon-to-round barrel. The majority of the finish loss is along the sharp edges of the octagon barrel, along with some minor thinning and wear from handling and use. The barrel is almost entirely smooth, with only some tiny scattered areas of lightly oxidized freckling noted. The muzzle and front sight show some very minor surface pinpricking as well. The frame and operating lever retains traces of the original blue (less than 10%), with the loss apparently due to flaking. The frame has a smooth, lightly oxidized plum-brown patina, which is very attractive. The hammer retains about 85%+ of its original fire blued finish. The bore of the rifle is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. It is mostly bright with excellent, crisp rifling and only some very lightly scattered pitting along the length of the grooves and a few tiny patches of minor pinpricking on the lands. The single barrel band and the buttplate both retain traces of their original finish, with a smooth plum-brown patina over the majority of their surfaces. The action of the rifle functions crisply and tightly and is mechanically excellent. The block lowers smoothly and locks tightly into place. The hammer crisply engages at both the half cock and full cock positions. The rifle retains its original L-shaped aperture leaf rear sight, which is graduated to 100, 300 and 500 yards. The rifle retains both of its original sling swivels as well. The buttstock and forend of the rifle are in about VERY FINE condition. Both are full-length, solid and free of any breaks or repairs. The obverse buttstock shows a very minor surface grain crack, which runs from the rear of the action tang into the base of the stock comb. The crack is only a surface crack, is only about 2” long and is very stable and barely noticeable. Otherwise, the stock and forend show only a handful of minor bumps, dings and minor mars from service, use and handling. The interior of the forend and the bottom of the buttstock (covered by the buttplate) bear a period identification. Inside the forend, in pencil, is written: E. B. Bayley Esq. Boston. The same information is written in pencil under the buttplate, reading: Edw. B. Bayley Boston. Assuming the name is from the Civil War period, and since these rifles were issued exclusively to Kentucky military units, I have to assume that the word “Boston” refers either to the “Boston” neighborhood of Louisville or the town of Boston, KY. If the name is post-war, the location could be Boston, MA. A quick review of Kentucky Civil War units did not reveal an Edward B. Bayley, but the name could be misspelled and entered into Civil War records as the more common spelling of “Bailey”. One way or the other, the name is worthy of some additional research.
Overall this is simply an outstanding example of a scarce 1st Model Ballard Military Rifle. The gun is in a wonderful state of preservation and is 100% complete, correct and original. Only 1,000 of these rifles were produced and most of them saw enough service that finding a rifle in this condition is incredibly difficult. The potential period ID of the rifle makes the gun even more intriguing. For any advanced Civil War rifle collector, this would be a real gem to add to their collection. I doubt that another example in this condition will come to market any time in the near future, and this is a rifle that would be very difficult to upgrade. I am confident you will be supremely pleased when you add this scarce rifle to your collection.SOLD