Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Model 1817 Common Rifle

The rifle was referred to as the "Common Rifle" to distinguish it from the breech loading Model 1819 Hall rifle that was also manufactured and used in the same period. 
All rifled military arms are relatively rare in this time period. Most of the U.S. and world military men were still armed with smoothbore muskets until the invention of the Minie ball/bullet increased the speed of loading rifles.
The U.S. was at the forefront of rifle use and even fielded riflemen units during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
The Model 1817 was the standard U.S. infantry rifle from 1817 until the adoption of the U.S. Model 1841 Rifle around the time of the Mexican War.

Interestingly, the rifle is one of the only primary U.S. muzzleloading longarms manufactured entirely by contractors instead of the national armories.
The Harper's Ferry Arsenal produced a pattern model, which was replicated by gunsmith Henry Deringer, of Philadelphia and supplied to the other four different gunsmiths to be copied. A total of 38,400 were manufactured by the five firms from 1817 to 1842.

The pictured rifle is one of 5000 that Robert Johnson of, Middletown, Connecticut, produced in the early 1820s. The lock plate has "R. JOHNSON/U [eagle motif] S/MIDDN CONN. At the center of the lock and a small vertical "1824" stamp on the tail offset towards the top.

As a side note
When converted to the percussion system, using the drum method, some of these rifles saw use during the American Civil War. Company ‘A’ of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry carried these rifles.


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