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US M1840 Nippes-Maynard Alteration Musket

US M1840 Nippes-Maynard Alteration Musket

  • Product Code: FLA-3429
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $5,995.00
  • $4,750.00


With the adoption of the US M1842 Musket, the US military officially embraced the percussion ignition system as standard for all small arms and as the ignition system to be used for the foreseeable future. While the percussion system had been introduced experimentally with Hall Patent Carbines c1833, it was the adoption of the US M1841 "Mississippi Rifle" c1841, and then the M1842 musket that cemented the system as the current standard. Almost immediately the Ordnance Department began to consider the method best suited to alter the huge stocks of flintlock muskets in inventory to the new percussion system. Hundreds of thousands of older US M1816/22/28 pattern muskets were currently in stores around the country, and even worse, brand new US M1835/40 flintlock muskets were still being delivered by contractors, even as the new M1842 percussion muskets were being produced at the national armories at Springfield and Harpers Ferry. In 1842 a group of Ordnance Department inspectors began the laborious task of inspecting and classifying the nearly one million flintlock rifles and muskets in storage around the country for the purposes of determining which were suitable for alteration to percussion and in what order the alterations should be accomplished. In 1844, an Ordnance Department board of officers was convened to consider the best method by which the percussion alterations should be performed, and it was at this time that the "Belgian" or "Cone in Barrel" alteration system was officially adopted. By early 1848 the necessary machinery had been produced, and the percussion operations were underway at the national arsenals at Springfield and Harpers Ferry, as well as at four regional arsenals: Watertown, Allegheny, Watervliet and Washington.

Nearly simultaneously, with the constant pressure to "build a better mouse trap", another Ordnance Department board was convened in February of 1845 to consider a newly invented automatic priming system. The system had been invented by dental surgeon and firearms innovator Dr. Edward Maynard. His Maynard Tape Priming Systemwas an automated priming system that utilized a varnished strip of paper with small amounts of fulminate of mercury sandwiched between the two layers, similar to a modern-day child's cap gun. The system advanced the roll of primers each time the hammer was cocked, and upon firing, the hammer cut off the spent cap. Despite the fact that the ordnance board felt that Dr. Maynard's system as experimental at best, in March of 1845 they paid him a $4,000 royalty for the right to adapt up to four thousand small arms to his system; US Patent #4,208, issued in 1845. These experimental weapons would include 200 Sharps M1851 carbines, and 2,000 US M1840 muskets. Interestingly, the US Navy agreed to try out the system as well, paying Maynard $1,000 to use his system on 1,000 US Jenks Naval Carbines that would be manufactured by Remington. The mostly positive results of the experimentation with the system result in further trials, with the US government paying Maynard an additional $50,000 in 1854 and applying an improved version of his automatic priming lock to the alteration of some 20,000 flintlock muskets. These Remington-Maynard altered muskets performed well enough that the US government would subsequently pay Maynard an additional $75,000 for the use of his priming system on the US M1855 series of arms. However, this pathway to the adoption of the Maynard automatic priming system for universal issue by the US Ordnance Department began with the alteration of 2,000 US M1840 flintlock muskets by Daniel Nippes during 1848-1849.

The selection of Daniel Nippes of Mill Creek, PA to perform this work was appropriate for several reasons. First, Nippes was a long-time US Ordnance Department contractor, having been involved in the production of arms on contract for the previous decade and having previously been employed by ordnance contract Marine T. Wickham, who was a formed Ordnance Department small arms inspector. Nippes' father had also been an Ordnance Department contract back to the US M1808 musket contracts, so he was a second-generation arms maker, involved in the family business. Additionally, Nippes' small initial contract for 4,000 US M1840 Flintlock Muskets had not been issued until late in 1840 and deliveries had not begun until 1843. He had received an additional contract in 1846 for another 1,600 guns, and some 600 of these guns had yet to be delivered when he was approached to handle the alteration of 2,000 US M1840 muskets to percussion via the Maynard Tape Priming system. As a result, of the 5,600 US M1840 muskets that Nippes had been contracted to produce, only 5,100 would be delivered in flint, and as many as 500 of the 2,000 altered muskets would be provided from previously undelivered muskets. In fact, some of these muskets were never completed in flint, and were actually produced as automatic tape priming muskets, meaning that at least some were not actually "alterations".

The alteration from flintlock to percussion was relatively simple, with minimal changes made to the actual musket. The guns retained their original 42", round, .69 caliber smoothbore barrels, secured by three flat iron bands. Unlike the later alterations to the Maynard Tape Primer performed by Frankford Arsenal with Remington locks, the Nippes alterations did not use a patent breech. Instead, a long round bolster was threaded into the original flintlock touch hole, with a spanner style percussion cone positioned to receive the primer tape. The external flintlock battery was removed from the lock and some of the original screw holes were used to install the tape primer magazine, while others were filled. The primer magazine had a door that pivoted downward to open, rather than a hinged door like those used on later Maynard primed arms. The uniquely shaped flat sided hammer had a small projecting edge on the lower face to cut the primer tape after it was used. Mating marks, consisting of an alphanumeric such as J 7were used to mate the parts of the musket during the alteration process, with the marks being found in the lock mortise, on the side of the barrel in front or behind the drum bolster and sometimes on the hammer. Although the M1840 was technically an "interchangeable parts" musket, it was still felt necessary to mate original barrels and stocks for the best fit and finish. Nippes initially received a contract to alter 1,000 US M1840 muskets on February 9, 1848, and these guns were delivered in three lots beginning with 300 in November of 1848 and with two lots of 400 and 300 respectively, delivered in January and February of 1849. A second contract for 1,000 guns was issued on November 18, 1848, and these guns were delivered in lots of 500 in June and August of 1849. It appears that the initially delivery of 300 guns on November 4, 1848 were probably unfinished, yet to be delivered US M1840s and it would be some of these guns that would have been produced as percussion arms and never have had flintlock batteries on their locks. The majority of the other 1,700 guns appear to have been sent to Nippes from storage at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. Nearly all of these US M1840 muskets were guns that Nippes had originally produced, although a few Pomeroy produced muskets were included in the shipments as well. In nearly all cases, these Pomeroy guns received Nippes marked altered locks, and only the inspection marks reveal that the stock or barrel originated on a Pomeroy contract gun.

Offered here is a VERY FINE condition example of a scarce US M1840 Nippes-Maynard Altered Musket. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original and even includes an original, Watervliet Arsenal marked Civil War period US M1857 musket sling. The musket retains clear markings throughout, and the tape priming system remains completely functional. The lock retains its original markings to the rear of the hammer, which reads in four vertical lines: MILL / CREEK / PA / 1842. The door of the tape primer magazine reads in three horizontal lines: EDWARD MAYNARD / PATENTEE / 1845. The breech plug tang is dated 1841, and the breech is marked in three lines: US / EB / P, with the "P" proof in a depressed sunburst. The "EB" mark is that of arsenal sub-inspector Elizur Bates, who inspected contract arms and components for Lemuel Pomeroy during that year. Bates also served as the sub-inspector for 300 stands of arms delivered by Pomeroy in 1841, with Captain William Anderson Thornton serving as the approving inspector. As the counterpane of the musket is clearly stamped with Bates' script EB cartouche in the sub-inspector position and with William Anderson Thornton's script WAT in the final inspection position, we know that the gun was originally one of the 300 Pomeroy contract M1840 muskets delivered on November 23, 1841, which was subsequently sent to Nippes for alteration to the Maynard system, and there received a Nippes made and Maynard modified lock. The counterpane also includes very tiny block SK And script WAT inspection marks, which were applied after the alteration to the Maynard system, accepting the modified musket for service. The "SK" mark is that of arsenal sub-inspector Samuel Knous, who was dispatched to inspect Nippes-Maynard altered muskets in 1848. The tiny script WAT is again the mark of Captain William Anderson Thornton. This musket is important as it one of only a handful of verifiable examples of a Pomeroy contract M1840 altered by Nippes to the Maynard Tape Priming system. The alphanumeric reassembly mating mark J 7 is present in the lock mortise and on the edge of the barrel, behind the bolster, which is only visible when the barrel is removed from the stock.

As previously noted, the musket remains in about VERY FINE condition and is 100% complete, correct and authentic in every way. The metal has a slightly dull pewter patina, the typical softened gray associated with a National Armory Bright gun that has aged gracefully. There is still some old grease present in the nooks and crannies of the metal, indicating the gun was greased for storage long ago, and some of this is still present; particularly along the edges of the barrel bands. The metals shows some small areas of minor surface discoloration and light oxidation, as well as some lightly scattered pinpricking and some minor pitting around the breech and bolster area. There are a very old set of vise marks on the breech area of the musket, on the flats, forward of the bolster. How, why or when they were applied here is unknown. The lock as has a similar patina to the barrel and furniture. As noted, the lock remains mechanically EXCELLENTand functions perfectly on all positions with the Maynard mechanism remaining fully functional as well. Even the original spanner wrench cone (nipple) remains in the drum bolster and is still in crisp condition. The bore of the musket remains in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The bore is mostly the same dull gray color as the metal on the exterior, and shows some scattered light pitting along its length. The original trumpet head ramrod remains in the channel under the barrel. The rod is full-length and retains good threads at the ends. Both original sling swivels remain in place as well, the lower mounted on the front bow of the triggerguard and the upper on the middle barrel band. The original brass blade front sight is in place on the front strap of the upper barrel band. The stock remains in about FINE overall condition. It is solid, full-length and free of any breaks or repairs. The stock retains crisp edges and lines and as noted has two very crisp cartouches as well as two additional inspection marks on the counterpane opposite the lock. The stock does show numerous small bumps, dings and handling marks, but is free of any major damage or indications of abuse. There is a small chip of wood missing from the front edge of the lock mortise, but this is rather old and the result of improper lock removal. As previously noted, an original Watervliet marked sling accompanies the gun. The sling is in VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition and retains a clear and legible arsenal mark. The sling remains supple enough to be handled and to be carefully removed from the musket. The sling does show some crazing and finish loss, and like all 150+ year-old leather, it is fragile and should be handled with care.

Overall this really outstanding example of a very scarce US M1840 Nippes-Maynard Alteration Musket. With only 2,000 produced, these are inherently very scarce guns, but their survival rate appears to be particularly low. We know that 200 of the guns were re-altered to conventional percussion muskets by P. Bouron of New Orleans for the Confederacy during the early part of the war, leaving only 1,800 to have potentially survived in this state, and few appear to have managed to make it into modern day collections. From a historical standpoint this is a very important musket as it was the first of the automatic priming percussion muskets to be tested by the US military and was the direct forerunner to the Remington-Maynard alterations and the US M1855 family of arms. In all reality, an advanced collection of US M1855s needs one of these guns as the first of that line. Rarely do these guns come to market, and even less often in this wonderful state of preservation. This is a great example of a rare gun in wonderful condition that will be a fantastic addition to your collection.

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Tags: US, M1840, Nippes, Maynard, Alteration, Musket