French Model 1822 Percussion Altered Rifled Musket
- Product Code: FLA-3718-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a solid example of the French Model 1822 flintlock musket, converted to percussion and subsequently rifled. These upgrades technically make the gun a French M1822T bis, where the “T” stands for “transformed”, altered to percussion, and the “bis” essentially meaning “again” (literally “encore”) indicating another transformation, which was the rifling of the bore. These obsolete muskets were imported to the US Ordnance Department by the thousands during the first twelve to eighteen months of the American Civil War.
The French Model 1822 was the last flintlock infantry musket to see widespread use in the French army and remained in production for about 2 decades, finally being officially replaced by the very short lived Model 1840 percussion musket. As originally produced, the M1822 was a flintlock with a conventional (“forward action”) lock, a .69 caliber smooth bore, and a 42 ½” barrel for the line infantry and a 40 ½” barrel for the Voltiguers (light infantry). All were iron mounted with three flat spring-retained barrel bands, with the upper one being double strapped. The M1822 was the pinnacle of flintlock infantry musket development in French service, and so impressed the US Ordnance Department the US Model 1835 (eventually the Model 1840) flintlock musket was based upon the French M1822.
As with most military powers, the French started to experiment with the percussion ignition system for military arms during the 1830s. In 1837, the first French percussion military arms were issued for field trials, and in 1840, the percussion system was officially accepted by the French with the adoption of the Model 1840 “back action” lock percussion musket. As with most of the military powers in the world, the French quickly found themselves with hundreds of thousands of now obsolete flintlock military muskets and no easy or inexpensive way to replace them with the new percussion models. To that end, in 1841, the French entered into a large-scale system of altering flintlock M1822 muskets to percussion. The alteration system was very similar to that used by the United States for most of their alterations. While the US “Belgian” conversion system simply “upset a lump” to form a cone seat for the percussion cone (nipple) to screw directly into the breech, the French system typically used a somewhat more substantial and bulbous cone seat. Both systems then used newly fabricated percussion hammers to replace the flintlock hammers. All external flintlock battery parts were removed, and the attendant holes in the lock were filled, usually by simply cutting off screws flush after the holes were plugged. Several variations of the percussion altered bolster were used by the French, with some of cone seats more nearly resembling those used on the French M1840 and M1842 muskets, and some being quite similar to the US “cone-in-barrel” Belgian conversion system. After the muskets were altered to percussion, their barrel tangs were marked with a “T” for “transformed”, after the model designation Mle 1822. After the French adopted the rifled arms for general issue to the French military, many of the M1822T muskets were altered again to .708 caliber and rifled with four lands and grooves. These arms that had been altered a second time were usually marked bis after the Mle 1822T designation on the breech plug tang, meaning “again”, as in “transformed again”. The barrels that were bored up from .69” (17.5mm) to .708” (18mm) were marked Cde 18 for “caliber 18mm). The general rifling of the M1822T muskets began in France in 1860, but soon proved to be less than satisfactory, as had been the case with similar US attempts to rifle percussion altered flintlock muskets. The thin barrels walls, rendered thinner by the increase in caliber from .69 to .708, and the subsequent rifling often left the guns too weak to be safely used with Minié style ammunition. The French tried to fix the problem by using newly made barrels for these altered muskets, but the results were still far from stellar. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the French saw a perfect opportunity to dispose of the thousands of obsolete and now potentially hazardous arms to the American belligerents. During the first eighteen months of the war, the US government obtained some 147,000 “French & Belgian Muskets, caliber .69-.71” from a variety of sources. Due to poor record keeping, and the fact that the average ordnance officer could not differentiate between the various French patterns, let along distinguish whether the guns were made in France of Belgium, it is impossible to know how many of these 147,000 muskets were French M1822T muskets. It is believed, however, that more than half of those guns were French M1822 muskets or Belgian made copies thereof. Amazingly, the US Ordnance Department classified the percussion altered and rifled French muskets as 2nd class arms, when similarly rifled US Model 1816/22/28 muskets were generally considered unsafe for issue! Even the smooth bore, percussion altered French muskets were considered 3rd Class arms. The guns were treated as being nominally .69 caliber and issued the same .69 ammunition that was used for US smoothbore and rifled muskets of that caliber. While many of the muskets were well worn and in less than great condition, the only major complaint about them listed by the Ordnance Department was that their recoil was “objectionable” due to their caliber. One small group of Belgian made M1822T muskets can be positively identified as being delivered by international arms dealer Herman Boker. His Sample #17 guns consisted of 640 Belgian made percussion altered rifled muskets with locks that were described as “front action”, indicating that they were not the later M1840, M1842 or M1853 patterns. Even though the inspecting officers described the guns as “worn out”, they were still accepted, and Boker was paid $7.98 each, as the gun “might be of some use”. While hardly attractive or 1st class like the English Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle musket, these French and Belgian percussion altered muskets saw a significant amount of service with early war US regiments until better arms became available. Even though the Confederacy concentrated on buying higher quality arms like English Enfields and Austrian Lorenz rifle muskets, they too obtained at least some of the large bore French and Belgian altered muskets and some were still in service at the end of the war, particularly in the Western and Trans-Mississippi Theaters of operation.
This is a VERY GOOD condition example of a French Model 1822T bis Rifled Musket. The tang of the musket is clearly marked Mle 1822T, with the “1822T” marked upside down from the “Mle” marking. The lack of the the word “bis” in the model designation suggests that the gun may not have been rifled in France, but possibly in Belgium on its way to US buyers. Additionally, the gun has a chambered breech alteration, which is somewhat uncommon on French altered arms, again suggesting that the rifling may have taken place in Liège.
This is the “Heavy Infantry” model with the nominally 42 ½” barrel, that measures very slightly longer due to the chambered breech. The gun was originally manufactured at the famous St. Etienne arsenal and is marked on the lock in script: Mre Rle / de St Etienne (manufactured at the Royal Armory at St. Etienne). The musket was altered to percussion and subsequently rifled, and but it is not clear where the operations took place. The gun is weakly numbered 1762 on the left barrel flat forward of the chambered breech and the reverse of the stock, to allow the reassembly of the non-interchangeable parts musket after the percussion alteration process. This “serial number” is also present on the buttplate tang. The barrel is dated 1862 on the upper right quadrant, forward of the chambered breech. This date likely refers to the rifling of the bore. The barrel is marked Cde18, indicating that it is the new French standard of 18mm (.708”). The nocksform of the barrel is stamped with an illegible two line name that may be the dealer or company in Liege who handled the sale of the gun to one of the US arms brokers or possibly performed the refurbishment and further upgrades to the musket. An H mark is also present on the top of the breech as well as on the nocksform of the barrel. The bore is rifled with four-grooves and is nominally .708 (18mm) caliber.
The gun appears to be 100% complete, correct and original in every way. The metal was cleaned at some point in time, leaving the barrel and iron furniture a dull pewter gray color. The metal is mostly smooth, forward of the breech area, with no significant pitting or surface roughness over most of the barrel. There is some moderate pinpricking and light pitting around the chambered breech and bolster area, as would be expected. The balance of the metal is mostly smooth and shows only some lightly scattered areas of minor pinpricking and peppering. There are also some thin patches of lightly scattered brownish surface oxidation here and there that could be cleaned. The lock of the musket is in FINE mechanical condition. It remains very crisp and works well on all positions and has a very strong mainspring; probably the original flintlock spring. The lock has had a third notch added to the tumbler, necessary for altering the flint tumbler to percussion if a safety notch was to be added. While in America the half-cock notch on percussion arms was always in about the middle position of the hammer throw, allowing for easy capping of the cone, this system required the soldier to pinch the cap or cover it with his thumb to avoid it being lost when marching or running. In Europe, the half-cock notch of percussion arms was a safety position located just above the cone, that helped keep the cap from being lost. However, this meant European muskets needed to be brought to full cock for capping and then had the hammer lowered to the safety notch. As the half-cock of a flint tumbler was further back an extra, lower, safety notch had to be added to most European percussion altered arms. The bore of the musket is in GOOD condition and retains strong and very visible four groove rifling along its entire length. The bore has a moderately to heavily oxidized dark brown patina and shows light to moderate pitting along its entire length. The bore is somewhat dirty and might be significantly improved with a good scrubbing. The musket retains both of the original sights from the rifling alteration in 1862. The correct pattern fixed block rear sight with a notch is present on the breech plug tang, and correct iron front sight blade with a low rectangular base is present on the barrel, behind the forward strap of the double-strapped upper band. The musket retains both original sling original swivels, as well as an original button head shaped iron ramrod. The rod is full-length, with the threads still intact at the end. This is the early, smoothbore pattern ramrod and many muskets rifled in France received new trumpet head rammers with recessed tips. In other cases, the face of the button head rods were machined to a concave profile for use with conical projectiles. Since this rod is not altered, it suggest it may be a replacement from the period of use or that the rifling was done in Belgium and the rod was not modified. The stock of the musket is in about VERY GOOD overall condition, with no breaks or repairs. The stock is relatively crisp with good edges, but the serial number on the reverse butt is weak and the roundel around the French military ownership boxwood plug in the obverse stock is gone due to light sanding. An old thin coat of varnish is on the wood, and much of the varnish is still present, although there is some flaking and loss as well. A light cleaning with denatured alcohol would likely remove the added finish. The stock does show the expected bumps, dings, rubs and mars that would be expected on an early 19th century military musket that probably saw many decades of service both in flint and percussion and likely on two different continents!
Overall this is a nice, solid, complete and correct example of the French M-1822T bis Rifled Musket that displays very well. It is a very good example of the early large caliber, percussion altered rifled arms that the US purchased in huge quantities in order to arm the volunteers of 1861 and 1862. This would have probably been among the last of the large caliber, percussion conversion European rifled muskets to have been imported by the US, as the date of rifling on the stock is 1862. The late arrival of this “2nd Class” musket and its quick replacement by better arms by the end of 1862 probably account for the relatively nice condition it has remained in over the years. This would be a great example of an early US Civil War import musket to add to your collection. I know you will be proud to display this attractive example of a typical Civil War import rifled musket in your collection.