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Harpers Ferry M-1841 Mississippi Rifle - Fine & Unaltered

Harpers Ferry M-1841 Mississippi Rifle - Fine & Unaltered

  • Product Code: FLA-2099-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a very crisp, fine condition example of the US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle as produced at the National Armory at Harpers Ferry. During the production run at Harpers Ferry, from 1844 to 1855, the armory produced 25,296 of the rifles, while an additional 66,500 were produced by a variety of contractors for the US government. The M-1841 was the first percussion ignition rifle adopted by the US military. It was also the first large-scale production long arm to be manufactured with interchangeable parts by a National Armory. While the M-1819 Hall breech loading flintlock rifle (as produced at the rifle works at Harper’s Ferry) was also an interchangeable parts weapon, it was produced in limited quantities and was not intended for the level of widespread issue that the M-1841 was destined for. As originally designed, the M-1841 was a .54 caliber rifle intended to fire a patched round ball and was equipped with a fixed rear sight. As was typical of most rifles during that time, it had no provision to accept a bayonet. Under Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (who served in that capacity under President Franklin Pierce from 1853-1857) the national armories were tasked with the job of modernizing US military small arms and munitions. Davis had direct personal experience with the effectiveness of the M-1841 rifle from his fighting experience during the Mexican American War, and felt that arming all of the US military with rifled arms would put the army at a distinct advantage over those armies that still relied upon smoothbore muskets. During the mid-1850’s Harper’s Ferry started experimenting with a variety of modifications to the M-1841 rifle to make it a more modern and useful weapon. During these experimentations, a variety of adjustable rear sights and bayonet lug configurations were tried, in an attempt to find the best possible improvements for the rifle. These series of experiments, with the additional modification of adding the Maynard automatic tape priming system, eventually resulted in what would be the replacement for the M-1841 rifle; the M-1855 rifle. In addition to alterations to Mississippi rifles performed at Harpers Ferry, many of the rifles in state arsenals (both north and south) were altered during the early days of the American Civil War. The alterations typically involved adapting the gun to accept a bayonet, and often included the addition of improved rear sights and re-boring the guns to .58 caliber. As a result, it is quite difficult these days to find an unaltered, original configuration .54 caliber US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle, especially one from Harpers Ferry.

This particular example of a Harpers Ferry US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle is in FINE condition. The gun is 100% complete and correct in every way. The gun retains its original .54 bore, with 7-groove, rapid twist rifling for use with patched round balls. The lock of the gun is clearly marked in three vertical lines to the rear of the hammer HARPERS / FERRY / 1853 and with a (Spread-Winged Eagle) / U S forward of the hammer. The barrel tang has the matching date 1853 as well. The left breech of the rifle is marked with the typical Harpers Ferry inspector marks: W W / P and with a V / P / (Small Eagle Head). These marks are clear and legible. A small S is stamped on the right barrel flat, in front of the bolster. This indicates that the barrel is steel, instead of iron. Harpers Ferry began producing steel rifle barrels in 1850 and did so through the end of production in 1855. It is difficult to find steel barreled Harpers Ferry M-1841 rifles that have not been altered with upgraded sights and bayonet lugs, as the armory preferred to alter the steel barreled guns instead of the earlier ones with the iron barrels. The Harpers Ferry stock bears the usual three router pilot holes in the patch box, as well the block inspectors initials J L R. The stock flat opposite the lock shows very faint block letter inspectors initials J L R as well. The JLR mark is that of Harpers Ferry armory sub-inspector John L Reseler, who inspected M-1841 “Mississippi” Rifles at Harper’s Ferry from 1850 to 1855. The flat also shows a faint OHIO mark, indicating that this was one of the long arms sent to Ohio by the Federal government in fiscal years 1862-63. As is correct on Harpers Ferry produced Mississippi rifle, there is no US mark on the buttplate tang, and it is appropriately blank. The lock has a pewter gray patina, with some very light traces of bluish case coloring and some scattered areas of scattered oxidized discoloration. The lock shows some lightly scattered peppering and pinpricking, and appears to have been lightly cleaned, but retains very strong and crisp markings. The hammer retains some minor traces of case coloring as well, most which has faded to a smoky silvery-gray patina. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions very well. The barrel retains about 30% of its original arsenal brown finish, which has faded and thinned and has taken on a somewhat streaky appearance under strong light. The finish has blended with a smooth brown patina, which is almost inseparable from the browning, unless examined under severe lighting. This gives the gun the appearance of retaining much more finish than it really does and makes it even more attractive. There appear to be a couple of areas of old touch up brown mixed with the original finish and patina, and this may be the result of the rifle being “touched up” prior to being sent to the state of Ohio. The barrel is almost entirely smooth, with only some very tiny patches of lightly scattered oxidation, and some very minor scattered pinpricking around the muzzle and bolster. The original cone (nipple) is present in the bolster and remains crisp. The original spare cone is present in the patch box of the rifle as well. The bore of the rifle rates NEAR FINE. It retains its original deep, 7-groove, moderate twist rate rifling and is mostly bright. The bore shows only light pitting along its length, with a couple of small patches of more moderate pitting near the muzzle. The gun retains both of its original sling swivels. The original rear sight is present as well, as is the original brass blade front sight. The original and correct, brass tipped, trumpet shaped iron ramrod is in place in the channel under the stock. This pattern of rod used until 1855, at which time an all steel rod (designed for use with the Mini” projectile) was adopted. These all steel rods were also used on many of the rifles that were altered for conical projectiles, and had upgrades sights and bayonet lugs. The ramrod is full-length and retains its original threads at the end. The brass furniture has a lovely, deep ochre patina. The top of the buttplate tang is stamped with the rack number 30. The stock of the rifle is really in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The block letter marks remain crisp and legible in the patchbox, but are barely legible on the flat opposite the lock. The stock flat appears to have been rubbed (not sanded) to reduce the visibility of the afore mentioned “OHIO” mark, suggesting that at some point in time someone acquired it and did not want the Ohio mark to be visible. An old collection number is present on the upper rear edge of the reverse buttstock. The number appears to have been written on a small amount of clear nail polish. This could almost certainly be removed easily with some nail polish remover. The edges and contours of the stock are in very crisp condition, with fine definition and no signs of having ever been sanded. The stock still has lovely open grain and is really attractive. The stock is full-length and is free of any breaks or repairs. There are only a couple of real condition issues even worth mentioning, as the stock is really so nice. There are a tiny chip of wood missing just forward of the lock plate, the result of improper lock removal. There is a tiny crack running from the rear lock mounting screw to the barrel channel, the result of over-tightening the lock mounting screw. There is also a scrape across the wrist of the rifle that is almost certainly from a period shipping or storage accident. The scrape appears to be where the hammer spur of another gun fell across this rifle, scraping the wrist. As would be expected, the stock shows a handful of minor bumps, dings and marks from handling, use and storage, but shows no real condition issues other than previously noted.

Overall this is really a wonderful and crisp example of a scarce Harper’s Ferry US M-1841 Mississippi Rifle in its original .54 caliber arsenal condition. The gun is the best of both worlds, showing light use and remaining in a very high state of preservation, but is not actually mint and unissued. The barrel has enough original finish and wonderful patina that when combined with the very sharp stock, and crisp markings allows it to display like a $7,5000 rifle. The gun is a 100% correct Harpers Ferry produced rifle. This is an important distinction, as Harpers Ferry locks are often found in M-1841 rifles made by other makers, in an attempt to increase the desirability and value of an otherwise less valuable contractor made gun. If you have been looking for an unaltered, .54 caliber Harpers Ferry Mississippi that saw some use but still looks fantastic, this would be a great gun to add to your collection.


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Tags: Harpers, Ferry, M, 1841, Mississippi, Rifle, Fine, Unaltered