In 1812 the US military began the process of improving and upgrading the design of the “Charleville Pattern” muskets then in use by the army, which were being produced at Springfield, Harpers Ferry and by various contractors. The project would take some three years, involve the production of a number of model and sample guns, and would involve ideas gleaned from Eli Whitney’s state contract arms from the first decade of the 1800s as well as innovations from all levels of the US government, from the director of procurements (predecessor to the chief of the ordnance department) to input from arms inspectors and workmen at the national armories. The resulting Standard Model of 1815 would be the first truly “American” designed military musket to be put into widespread production. As the name of the pattern implied, one of the primary motivations in the adoption of the new design was to standardize production. Up until this point, the arms of “Charleville Pattern” (US M-1795 muskets) manufactured at Springfield and Harpers Ferry were different enough that for a very long time collectors thought they were actually two different patterns. No level of standardization existed in the arms delivered by contractors either, as in the era of non-interchangeable parts, the contract arms were produced by copying a pattern arm supplied by one of the armories, and thus the contractors working from a Harpers Ferry pattern musket produced a gun different from those working from a Springfield pattern! The goal of the Standard Model of 1815 was to rectify this, improve upon known deficiencies in the “Charleville Pattern” arms, and to take the first baby steps towards interchangeability of parts. The pattern went into production in 1815 and like most US arms of the era, immediately went through a number of small changes (noted as Type I-Type IV) by collectors, over the next three years, with the “Standard Model” being produced from 1815 through 1818. These are the muskets that have long been misidentified as the Model of 1812, based primarily upon the fact that the design process that resulted in these muskets had started in that year. The evolution of the Standard Model of 1815 soon resulted in the identification of areas of design that should be addressed and improved. Most notably the stock design, which had been radically altered from the “Charleville Pattern” by making it more robust and adopting a lower comb and thicker wrist, was further altered by lowering the comb even more and extending the rail of the butt. A multi-year debate about band spring placement and type was finally resolved, and a new, rounded lock plate was adopted. Even though the new stock profile would begin to appear on muskets produced in 1816, the newly adopted Model 1816 would not really go into full production (with all newly made parts, not using older pattern parts on hand) until January of 1818, when it was noted that the guns being produced at Springfield were “All of the new model.” The US Model 1816 Musket would remain in production through about 1840 at the Springfield Arsenal and 1844 at Harpers Ferry and more than 800,000 of the muskets would be produced during that period between the two national armories and the various contractors who provided the arms as well. Over the years collectors have divided the 1816 into three types, Type I, II and III. More recent scholarship has indicated that the more appropriate terminology is probably Model 1816 (Type I), Model 1822 (Type II) and Model 1828 (Type III). However, the primary changes between the three variants are extremely minor and focus on a change in the attachment of the rear sling swivel (Type I on a stud, Type II on the triggerguard bow), a change in finish (Type IIs “National Armory Brown”, while most Type Is and Type IIIs are “National Armory Bright”) and a push to make the dimensions of the musket consistent enough that major components (locks, stocks and barrels) would be able to interchange. It is interesting that the push towards a greater level of interchangeability was a driving force behind the adoption of the Model 1828 (1816 Type III), as this very lack of standardization and inconsistency in parts production had been a driving force in the design of the Standard Model of 1815 more than a decade earlier. While some authors suggest the technology of the period placed inherent limitations on the potential to manufacture arms with interchangeable parts, the process had been applied successfully to firearms by the beginning of the 1820s by John Hall, Simeon North, and to some extent Eli Whitney. In the case of the National Armories, I think it was the slowness of the bureaucracy that kept the armories improving machinery and production techniques that prevented them from achieving this goal. In fact, John Hall would establish the rifle works at Harpers Ferry and produce fully interchangeable Hall Rifles there some two decades before Harpers Ferry would be able manufacture its first muskets with interchangeable parts, the US Model 1842. During the early part of US M-1816 production it was determined that the guns were to be serial numbered, a process that had never been in place at Springfield before, but had previously been at Harpers Ferry during the much of the production of the “Charleville Pattern” musket, as well as for pistols and rifles. The system, adopted in 1820 and abandoned in 1832 used an alphanumeric marking to serialize the guns in lots of 2,500 and had the ability to number some 60,000 arms before repeating. It utilized a capital letter to indicate the series, for example “A”. The guns in the “A” series would then be numbered from “0” to “99” for a total of 100 “A” guns. An additional lower case letter would be added next, so the next series of 100 guns would be marked A/a 0-99. This would be repeated with A/b, A/c, etc. until the lower case letter options were exhausted, with the exception of the letters “j” or “v”, which were not used. With a single upper case letter without a secondary lower case letter and then 24 additional lower case letter options for each 0-99 guns, this allowed a single uppercase letter to be used for 2,500 total muskets. When all of the “A” combinations were exhausted, the uppercase letter advanced to “B” until all 2,500 combinations had been used for that letter, then advanced to “C”, and so on. It is important to note that these serial numbers were not applied as soon as the arms were completed, but rather after some period of time in storage, usually prior to being shipped to another arsenal or being issued. In fact, once the period of National Armory Brown finish was entered, it was standard practice for the arms to remain in racks for some 5 years and allowed to cure with air circulating around them prior to being packed into cases. The cases were organized by date of manufacture, with the oldest guns on hand always being slated to be issued prior to newer arms. The US Model 1816 Musket was a single shot, muzzle loading smoothbore flintlock musket that was nominally .69 caliber. It had a 42” barrel, that was secured to the American black walnut stock by three flat, spring retained barrel bands and a single screw through the breech plug tang. With the exception of the National Armory Brown period, the metal parts of the musket were left “in the white” and polished bright. The locks were case hardened and were typically polished to bright, but examination of high condition early production M-1816s as well as guns from the National Armory Brown period indicate that the locks were sometimes left with their original mottled colors from the hardening process visible. When the US Ordnance Department officially adopted the percussion ignition system for all long arms with Model 1841 rifle and Model 1842 musket, a process of analyzing and evaluating the now obsolete flintlock muskets in store was undertaken during the years of 1842 through 1845. Those guns manufactured after 1831 that were in good repair were considered 1st Class and were to be retained in storage and only issued upon special orders. Eventually almost all of these guns would be altered to percussion. Those muskets manufactured between 1822 and 1831 that were in good repair were classified as 2nd Class and would be issued as needed in their current flintlock state, marked with inspectors’ initials and a “2”, and most would eventually be altered to percussion after the newer muskets rated as 1st Class had been so altered. Those muskets manufactured between 1812 and 1820 were considered 3rd Class arms and were not considered suitable for use as flintlocks, and were not considered satisfactory to be altered to percussion, but were to be retained in storage should some exigency require that they be altered and issued. These guns were marked with inspector initials and a “3”. Finally, those muskets produced prior to 1812 were considered unserviceable and were to be culled from inventory and sold as surplus. As a result of the active percussion alteration program that took place during the first half of the 1850s at the various US arsenals, as well as those alterations performed by contractors, original flintlock US M-1816 muskets are rather scarce. When encountered they are typically early guns (usually “Type I” muskets), but are still usually marked with the classification cartouche and “3”. While it was generally assumed that the US military went to war with Mexico in 1846 carrying the newly adopted US M-1842 percussion musket, more recent scholarship has revealed that the Ordnance Department was concerned that insufficient quantities of the new musket were available for issue to all troops, and as such a combination of flint and percussion muskets would have to be used. This would create an ammunition supply issue, as the paper cartridge for the M-1816 contained extra gun powder for priming the pan, powder that was not required for the percussion M-1842. The Ordnance Department was concerned that with a mix of guns and ammunition in the field, the flintlock cartridges might be issued to men with percussion muskets, resulting in overcharged (and potentially hazardous) loads. More concerning, if the percussion cartridges were issued to men with flintlocks there would not be a sufficient powder charge for the load once the pan was primed. As a result, it was decided that only the flintlock musket be issued to the troops embarking for Mexico. As a result, the M-1816 musket was the mainstay infantry arm for the US forces during that war.
Offered here is an exceptionally attractive example of a US M-1816 Type I Musket in its original flintlock configuration. The gun is in VERY FINE condition and was manufactured during the second full year of Model 1816 production at Springfield Arsenal, 1819. According to Peter Schmidt’s research in US Military Flintlock Muskets & Their Bayonets - the later years “ 1816 through the Civil War some 13,000 US M-1816 muskets were manufactured during that year with 12,000 stands of arms being delivered into stores. The lock of the musket is clearly marked in three vertical lines behind the hammer: SPRING / FIELD / 1819 and with a spread winged eagle over US between the hammer and the pan. The tang of the breech plug is marked with the matching date, 1819 and the left upper quadrant of the breech is marked with the early US M-1816 Springfield inspection marks, reading from the breech towards the barrel: a V view mark, followed by an eagle head, followed by a raised P in a depressed oval proof mark. The top of the breech is marked with the alphanumeric serial number I / k followed by 41. This translates to gun number 20,942. As there were 2,500 guns in the each of the series from A through H (20,000 total), the “I” indicates that we are starting a series that begins at number 20,001. The “k” is the 10th letter (they didn’t use “j”), so “a” through “i” represent 100 guns each, or 900 total. That means that “i 41” is the 42nd gun in the “i” series which started at 901, represented as “I 0”. Thus 41 is the 42nd gun in that range, and with all the numbers added together it stands for musket number 20,942. The buttplate tang shows the usual U.S. mark stamped into it deeply. The gun shows small sub-inspections and armorer’s marks throughout. The the initials J.B. are found inside the lock plate. This may be the mark of Jonas Butterfield, a Springfield Armory employee who is shown in armory records being paid for “finishing locks”. The interior of the lock is also marked with a large, sideways S and a J, with a B on the interior of the brass pan, an H on the tumbler, an N and a B on the sear, and a C or G on the bridle, which was stamped at an angle with the bottom portion of the letter not readable, a G on the interior of the hammer neck and an M on the top of the top jaw. The lock is assembly marked with a single punch dot on all of the internal lock parts, and the internal and external parts. The bottom of the barrel is marked with the initials SP as well as a J and the number 2, the initials GH on the rear of the breech plug. An externally a small capital H is found in the wood behind the triggerguard and a capital L on the forward tang of the triggerguard. The inspection cartouche of armory sub-inspector Luther Sage is found on the stock flat, opposite the lock, a script SL within an oval. During this era only a single cartouche was applied to arsenal produced muskets, with the second cartouche (the mark of the accepting officer of the Ordnance Department) not being added until around 1830. As noted the musket is in VERY FINE condition and remains in its original flintlock configuration. The lock retains about 80%+ of the original case hardened coloring from arsenal hardening and was not polished to bright. The case coloring is not the vibrant type of color associated with high condition Colts, but rather the more muted grays, blues and browns that occurred naturally as part of the heat treating and hardening process. The markings on the lock remain crisp and clear and fully legible. The lock is mechanically excellent and functions perfectly on all positions. The springs all remain stiff and tight and the hammer and frizzen both function crisply. The brass pan shows some old discoloration and oxidation, primarily in its recesses. The touchhole is original and appear unmolested, though it does shows some erosion and minor metal loss with a widening of the opening at the exterior. The hole is well centered in the pan and retains the correct tapered entrance to the chamber of the barrel. The barrel and the furniture of the musket have been lightly cleaned long ago and a handful of widely scattered tiny surface pinpricks are present on the barrel’s surface, mostly around the breech area. There are also some scattered flecks of lightly oxidized age discoloration distributed on the metal. The metal has a medium bright gun metal appearance, as if the musket had been carefully polished a couple of decades ago and has been allowed to tone down slightly with age. The bore of the musket is in about VERY GOOD condition. It is somewhat dark but remains relatively smooth with some scattered pitting and light oxidation along its entire length, with somewhat more moderate oxidation and pitting in the last two to three inches closest to the muzzle. A good scrubbing would probably improve the barrel somewhat. The stock of the musket remains in VERY FINE condition as well and matches the condition of the metal perfectly. The stock is solid and full length with no breaks or repairs noted. There is a tiny grain crack that is almost invisible running from the rear most lock mounting screw to the barrel channel. This is a commonly encountered defect, the result of the lock screw being over tightened and applying too much pressure to the thin wood in the area. The stock is very crisp throughout with no signs of having been sanded. It retains extremely sharp lines and edges throughout. There are a couple of areas of light discoloration that initially looked like they could be wood filler along the lower leading edges of the lock mortise and the opposite flat, but under more rigorous examination it appears to be some natural variations in the wood tone and color, as wood filler cannot exhibit matching grain to the surrounding wood. The stock does show some lightly scattered bumps, dings and minor mars from handling, use and storage, but shows no signs of abuse or mishandling.
Overall, this is a really wonderful example of a 100% original and correct US M-1816 Type I Musket in its original flintlock configuration. The gun is incredibly sharp throughout and retains excellent markings everywhere. It is a mystery how this musket escaped a classification inspection cartouche during the 1842-45 period, as the condition of this gun certainly warranted it being placed in emergency reserve for issue or conversion, with the only factor making is a “3rd Class’ gun being its year of production. Realistically this gun is probably in better shape nearly 200 years after it was manufactured than many of the flintlock muskets that were examined only a decade after being built. It has to be assumed that this musket was issued to one of the states under the Militia Act of 1808 and somehow escaped being re-inspected, possibly by being liberated from the local arsenal, thus explaining its fine condition with minimal indications of field service. Fine condition original flint 1816s like this don’t come along often, and are highly prized when they are found. This will be a great addition to any serious collection of US martial arms and will no doubt be a gun that you will be very proud to display in your collection.SOLD