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Arsenal Altered US M-1822/28 - National Armory Brown

Arsenal Altered US M-1822/28 - National Armory Brown

  • Product Code: FLA-3339-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a really outstanding percussion alteration of a US M-1822/28 Musket produced on contract by Nathan Starr, and subsequently altered to percussion at a national arsenal. For years, collectors have referred to this model as the US M-1816 Type II, but more recent scholarly research by author Peter Schmidt has revealed that the US M-1822 was the new, replacement for the M-1816 musket, and in 1828 it was decided to try to make the guns more uniform in terms of interchangeability and parts uniformity, thus the US M-1816 Type III muskets are really US M-1822/28 muskets. To muddy the waters further, the old Type I, Type II and Type III system noted that Type I and Type III muskets were finished “National Armory Bright”, while the Type II guns were “National Armory Brown”. Unfortunately, this over simplifies the reality of the situation. During process of adopting the physical changes that would be incorporated into the M-1822, the discussion of a finish being applied to prevent rust was pursued, with the final decision taken to adopt the English system of browning. By mid-1822, this was the standard finish for US muskets. National Armory Brown meant that the barrel and iron furniture received a deep, dark, lacquer brown finish to protect the metal from oxidation and corrosion. Additionally, the locks were left with their mottled, case hardened finish, rather than being polished to bright. The browning of muskets remained in general practice through at least late 1831, and was not fully abandoned until at least mid-1832. In fact, the letter to Nathan Starr, directing him to stop browning contract muskets is dated July 23, 1832, and reads in part: “I am instructed by the Ordnance Department to inform you that after the browning materials now on hand at your armory are expended, that the browning of muskets will be discontinued and the musket will be left bright for inspection.” Depending on how much of the various chemicals Starr had in inventory, it is reasonable to believe that browning continued at his manufactory least through the summer of 1832 and possibly well into the fall of that year. Thus, the old designation based upon finish are simply incorrect, as M-1822/28 muskets (aka “Type III” guns) were being produced for three to four years while brown finishes were still being applied. It is interesting to note that during the “National Armory Brown” period there are numerous letters and accounts of the finish itself causing corrosion and rust on the muskets, and it appears that this was one of the primary motivations to abandon the time consuming and costly process, as it apparently provided no more protection (and possibly less) than leaving the guns in their polished state. It is further worth noting that browning was never abandoned during the period of production of Hall rifles at the Harpers Ferry Rifle Works, and again letters exist commenting not only on the quality of the browned finish, but upon its protective characteristics and superiority to the browning done on muskets. Further study will note a difference in the color found on the Hall Rifles and the original arsenal brown on M-1822 or M-1822/28 musket, as the latter will have a very dark, almost black color to the brown, while the Hall will be a brighter brown with a slightly reddish tinge. The slightly different formula, and possibly the method of washing the barrels at Harpers Ferry appears to have contributed to the difference in the durability and color of the two finishes.

In 1841, the US Ordnance Department officially adopted the percussion cap system to replace the flintlock ignition system. The Ordnance Department then turned their thoughts to the process of converting the thousands of flintlock muskets currently in stock (nearly 300,000 in 1841) at the arsenals and armories around the country. In June of 1842, Lt. Col. George Talcott of the Ordnance Department sent a letter to Capt. James W Ripley at the Springfield Armory directing him to inspect and classify all flintlock arms manufactured before 1832 “in deposit at the several arsenals and depots throughout the country.” He further directed that the work was to be done by “two Inspectors from the National Armories, under the supervision of an Ordnance Officer”. Guns produced after 1831 were not to be inspected and were considered 1st class, unless damaged or excessively worn. Those guns that were produced between 1821-1831 were to be rated as 2nd class arms, and those produced between 1812 and 1820 were considered 3rd class arms. The guns so classified were marked with a cartouche containing the initals of the inspector and a rating number “2” or “3”. Those produced prior to 1812, or later production guns that were in poor condition, damaged or “not worthy of repair”, were all classified as 4th class and were to be collected and then sold “under future order”. Like the 1st class guns, the 4th class guns were not marked with any inpsction cartouche. These inspections were preformed between 1842 and 1845, in preparation for the process of altering many of the older flintlock muskets to percussion.

Several percussion alteration systems were considered and even experimented with, but in the end nearly all US arsenal alterations to percussion were preformed by the Belgian or Cone-in-Barrel system. This process essentially inserted a percussion cone directly into the breech of the musket, removed the external flintlock battery (and plugged the associated holes) and replaced the hammer with a new percussion hammer. The alteration work took place between 1849 and 1854, with a few exceptions. Initially, the work was performed at the Springfield, Harpers Ferry, Watervliet and Watertown Arsenals, but after completing the guns in store at those arsenals, much of the alteration machinery was shipped to other arsenals to convert additional muskets. In 1850, the machinery from Harper’s Ferry was sent to the St. Louis arsenal. In 1852 the machinery from Watervliet was sent to Kennebec (August, Maine) and in 1853 Watertown’s machinery was sent to Frankford Arsenal (Philadelphia). Throughout the alteration process, Harpers Ferry and Springfield supplied all of the hammers and cones (nipples) for the alterations. Since the M-1816 series of muskets were not manufactured with interchangeable parts, each arsenal developed its own system of marking the components during the conversion process to insure the right parts went back together with the right gun. The system used at Springfield was an alphanumeric one, with one or two letters stamped above an Arabic number. Harpers Ferry used a similar alphanumeric system with a capital letter followed by a number. It appears that each arsenal developed its own variation of a marking system for reassembly, but not each of the arsenal’s marking systems has been identified.

This particular arsenal converted Starr M-1822/28 Musket is in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The gun retains the large majority of its original, arsenal refurbished National Armory Brown finish on the barrel and iron furniture, rating around 90%. The loss to the brown is primarily light wear along the high edges and points of contact, and at the muzzle from the fixing and un-fixing of the bayonet. There are also some flecks of minor oxidized discoloration that are shot through the finish, the most notable being some tiny patches around the percussion cone seat. The lock retains about 90%+ of its brilliant, original casehardened finish as well. The Harpers Ferry produced conversion hammer remains “in the white”, polished bright, with an old coating of dried oil that gives it a brownish appearance. The buttplate and lock mounting screws remain appropriately case hardened, although they have a dusky gray color and are not vivid like the lock. Starr, located in Middletown, CT, delivered US M-1822 and M-1822/28 muskets on multiple contracts for a decade, from 1829 through 1839. During this time Starr delivered slightly more than 19,000 muskets to the US government. Of those guns, only his initial contract for 5,000 arms (delivered between 1829 and 1831) would have definitively been National Armory Brown. It is likely, as noted above, that many of his 1832 deliveries from his second contract would be browned as well. With 2,260 muskets delivered in 1832, it is possible that Starr manufactured as many as 7,260 brown muskets, but the number is probably somewhat smaller than that. Finding an arsenal altered US M-1822 musket with brown finish is incredibly uncommon. In a letter from Watertown Arsenal dated October 12, 1849 Capt. William Anderson Thornton, the commanding officer there, noted that “in forming the Cone Seat in Percussioning Muskets, the browning become so much defaced as to render it needful to re-brown the barrels.” Thornton goes on to note that in order to re-brown the barrels the guns must be polished, and the finish applied by skilled workmen. He also noted that it was very messy work. As a result, he concludes with the following statement: “I respectfully recommend that the alterations may be finished by polishing the parts & may have to brighten.” It appears that eventually Thornton’s recommendation was followed, as it was decided that the re-browning of the muskets was not worth the time, effort and cost, and the guns were struck bright as part of the process. The proof of this is in the absolute paucity of “National Amory Brown” percussion altered muskets. Those guns that were re-browned during the early days of alterations (and have survived with some of that finish) have a distinctly different color brown than those muskets that retain their original browning from production. The refinished guns have a lighter brown with a slightly reddish tone that resembles the brown found on the Hall Rifles and Carbines that were finished brown. This can be attributed to changes in the formula of the browning solution to make it less caustic, and to reduce the issued with rust and corrosion that plagued the original arsenal brown finishes.

The lock of the musket is clearly marked MIDLT / CONN / 1831. / * (an eight pointed flower) vertically in four lines behind the hammer, and the matching date 1831 is present on the barrel tang. Forward of the hammer, the lock is marked with usual Nathan Starr motif of a Rising Star, with the letters US over it, and N. STARR in an arc under it. The inside of the lock retains the large majority of its original finish as well, including brilliant fire blue on the various small parts. The breech of the barrel is clearly marked with a US / LS over a “Depressed P in a circle” proof mark, and the date 1831 on the tang. The “LS’ mark is that of armory sub-inspector Luther Sage, who spent twenty-three days inspecting contract arms and components at Starr’s manufactory during 1831, thirteen in June and ten in August. He likely inspected the barrel at that time, or when he returned for fourteen days in February of 1832. Sage’s mark also appears on the underside of the barrel, along with the reassembly mark O 6. This same mark is found stamped in the wood between the counterpane of the stock and the barrel tang. This system of reassembly marking is consistent with the marks applied at Harpers Ferry while percussioning muskets. However, it appears that Harpers Ferry primarily altered muskets in store there, rather than contract arms that were shipped to them. It is more likely the musket was altered at one of the arsenals where the alteration coding system has yet to be determined. One possibility is the St. Louis arsenal, whose code is as of yet unknown. However, as St. Louis received their percussioning machinery from Harpers Ferry, and likely received the instructions for the process from that arsenal as well, they may well have adopted the same type of marking system. A Harpers Ferry manufacturing inspection mark is present on the reverse of the hammer nose, a capital W. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions perfectly in every way. The original percussion cone is in place in the breech of the musket, and retains sharp edges and 85% of its original blued finish. The musket also retains both of its original sling swivels and its original ramrod, which is full-length and fully threaded at the end. The .69 caliber bore of the musket is mirror bright and perfectly smooth, retaining nearly all of its original polish. The bore only shows some scattered light patches of dust and dirt accumulation. The stock is VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well. The stock is really wonderful, with sharp, crisp edges and perfect wood to metal fit. There is no indication of the stock having been sanded. There are two inspection cartouches on the stock. The first is the script LS of armory sub-inspector Luther Sage on the flat, opposite the lock. This was applied by Sage to the completed musket, rather than his other marks which were applied to components during their manufacturing process. The second cartouche is the final acceptance cartouche for contract arms, applied to the comb of the stock, in front of the buttplate tang by an Ordnance Officer. At Springfield, this mark was applied behind the triggerguard during this period, but for contract arms it was applied on top of the comb. The script DT mark is that of Lt. Daniel Tyler of the Ordnance Department. In 1831, Daniel Tyler was assigned to the “duty of superintending the proof & inspection of small arms manufactured on contract”. This had previously been the responsibility of the Chief of Ordnance, but the job of supervising the inspection of small arms had grown too large for a single Ordnance officer to handle. Inspectors Asabel Hubbard (AH), Justin Murphy (JM) and Luther Sage (LS) all worked under Tyler to perform contract arms inspections during this period. Tyler’s cartouche remains crisp and clear. It is interesting to note that no reinspection cartouche rating the quality of the gun is present. While guns produced after 1831 were immediately designated as 1st Class (as long as they were not damaged) and were left unmarked, an 1831 gun was supposed to be inspected. After due research, it was discovered that those guns in storage at state facilities that were not “National Arsenals’ were not inspected and categorized. Thus, we know that this gun was in the possession of a state, and not in Federal inventory during the reinspection period. The stock does show a handful of minor handling marks, bumps, and dings, but nothing significant or worth mentioning. The stock is simply gorgeous and retains much of its original “feathery” texture.

Overall, if you are a condition collector and want to own a truly outstanding example of a US M1822/28 (1816 Type II/III) flintlock musket, altered to percussion, you will have a very hard time finding a better one. The pictures below do a fine job of showing the fantastic condition and state of preservation of this really lovely musket, but it is even better looking in person. There is no need for a sales pitch here. When you want the best, this is the gun that you want in your collection. This is a gun that I am truly proud to offer for sale, and I simply cannot remember seeing a better example.


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Tags: Arsenal, Altered, US, M, 1822, 28, National, Armory, Brown