Seeking Identity And Value of Kentucky Rifle

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by michaelv, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. michaelv

    michaelv New Member

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    I have a kentucky muzzle loader that was appraised at $600 about 17 years ago. There was no info about what type of Kentucky Rifle it was on the slip of paper that was given to my late father. There are no engraved initials of manufacturers on the barrel of the gun either, just engraved flying pheasants behind the trigger. I would like to find out more about the gun - I have looked though catalogs and online for close matches, but nothing totally exact that associates it with a locality or year. The wood is nice faded flamed maple, and the gun is in pretty good condition. I would be interested in any opinions about the current value too.

    Thank you for any assistance.

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  2. 3/2 STA SS

    3/2 STA SS Active Member

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    Could this have been a kit gun? Looks like some screws are missing or was it restocked?
  3. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    I think it is genuinely old, although the stock has been sanded and refinished at some time in the past. The lock appears to be factory (Elwell?) and the gun has the characteristics of a late rifle, vintage 1850's. I can't tell, but it should have a brass foreend cap.

    By that time, there were few if any real rifle makers. Barrels, locks, triggers, buttplates, patch boxes, and partly inletted stocks were being made in factories and supplied mail order to local gunsmiths who made what would today be called custom rifles. If you remove the barrel (carefully, please) you might find the stamp of the maker. A common one is J&D Little, of Pittsburgh, the Brownells of the day.

    Value, as a WAG, on a plain rifle like that, around $1500-1700, retail. Considering inflation, the $600 appraisal 17 years ago would have been low, but about right if the price was an offer, not an objective appraisal.

    Jim
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  4. michaelv

    michaelv New Member

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    Thanks for the info and details, it's been a wall hanger since around 1939 in my family - it was given to my grandfather at that time and no alterations or sanding were done to it since then - I don't know about its prior history. It does have a barrel end piece (see pictures).

    How would the barrel be removed on a gun like this? I only see some small nail-like pieces of metal that are spaced about 12 inches apart down the length of the gun that go into the wood sideways - apparently they go into the bottom of the metal barrel itself, but they don't have any nail heads - only the one nearest the end of the rifle is loose and only moves through the hole about 1/4" on either side before jamming. May not be possible to get these out safely. Thanks

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  5. 45Auto

    45Auto Active Member

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    To take out the barrel, knock the little pins out with a drift punch. If you have a hook breach, the barrel can then be lifted out muzle first. If the barrel does not lift out easily, then you must remove the barrel tang screw in order to take out the barrel.

    Under the barrel you may find a proof mark or the name of a barrel maker. Pictures of these markings would help date your rifle.

    In my opinion, unless the piece was made by a famous maker the above estimate is way too optomistic. The price of a gun like this is increased by things like a nice patchbox, excellent bore, the name of a known maker, a flintlock (original), etc. That being said, this gun has a full length stock and an interesting end cap, which are attractive to collectors, but in my opinion probably not attractive enough to push it over $1,000.00.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
  6. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    I think on that one you will need to remove the barrel tang screw and maybe the lockplate screw that goes in from the left side. Sometimes those go through the breech plug. The pic from the top shows a badly eaten away stock which doesn't help value.

    Jim
  7. michaelv

    michaelv New Member

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    Thanks again for the info and feedback.

    I have only basic carpentry tools and might need to see if I could punch out the pins (which seem arched) without scuffing the wood. The first two pins are a bit rusted in. I might have to see about purchasing some gunsmith tools it seems. I would use a penetrating lubricant first. It would definitely help to get info about the gun for a sale.

    Thanks for the instructions and the advice.
  8. michaelv

    michaelv New Member

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    Just an update: I Did manage to take off the barrel of this rifle without much trouble after using some lubricant and could not find any identifying marks for a gun maker.

    I have it up for auction at Auction Arms for a low cost because of having no identification benchmarks:

    http://www.auctionarms.com/search/displayitem.cfm?ItemNum=9947153
  9. fredd3039

    fredd3039 New Member

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    Hello,
    I have a problem and maybe you all can help. My father in law called me tonight and wants to know if a gun he found in his sisters house is valuable. As far as I can tell it is a Kentucky/Pennsylvania long rifle. The photos I have are poor quality because he is old and I used Skype snapshots of our video chat session where he showed me the rifle. A couple of things immediately stood out. One: there is not a single mark of any type anywhere on this rifle that can be used to identify its maker or origin. Two: the rifles stock is very basic in appearance with no brass or inlay at all except for the buttplate. Three: The rifles forestock length is not consistent with any of the pictures in any of my guides. What I can tell for sure is that it has two triggers, finger notches on a long curved trigger guard, an octagonal barrel both inside and out, rifling groves in the barrel, and there is a metal band that wraps around the tip of the forestock and the barrel like on a ruger 10/22 that is grey in color. Also my father in-law told me that there are two holes drilled in the underside of the barrel just in front of where the forestock ends. My question is... Is this a kit gun from way back or a broken restocked gun?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Frank

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  10. fredd3039

    fredd3039 New Member

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    This is an image of what his stock looks like

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  11. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Since the thread has already been "hijacked" and michaelv's questions appear to have been answered, this if for fredd3039.

    With only those pictures and no markings on the gun, it is impossible to tell even its approximate age, let alone anything else. Better pictures might help. The overall picture would indicate the gun is old as few repros use that style butt plate (meant to rest on the upper arm, not on the shoulder as we hold a rifle today).

    Jim
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2010
  12. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

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    I guess I should have spoken up before. While I thoroughly enjoy reading the responses for the many firearms I know little to nothing about and have great respect for those who do know and share their knowledge, I must confess I am sometimes bothered by what I read when flintlock or percussion arms are the subject. So, hence, my rambles below….

    These comments reference the first rifle pictured in this combined thread.

    The engraved flying pheasants on the lock plate are a clue to both the age and origin of the rifle. In general, that kind or style of decoration appeared in the latter part of the 19th century and continued well into the twentieth. Many people forget that percussion rifles were still commonly made and used in some of the more remote and less wealthy parts of our country right up through the depression years.

    The lockplate, as noted by others, is almost certainly a purchased component – probably as a complete lock. The other fittings, buttplate, trigger guard, sights, etc were probably also purchased components. They would have been received by the rifle builder ‘in the white’ – no finish, perhaps unpolished in the case of the brass elements. A typical rifle-maker in the Appalachians, for example, would buy the fittings if he could afford them, and expend his talents and time in creating a barrel and a stock. Of the two tasks, the act of making a barrel was far more important to the finished product and far more difficult to do well. Some of these back-woods gunsmiths did a fantastic job. Few signed their work.

    The stock pictured, while utilitarian, is certainly less decorative than the typical stock of a ‘Kentucky Rifle.’ Kaufmann was more accurate than most when he referred to the flintlock Pennsylvania/Kentucky rifle, but in my opinion, still missed the mark for the latter percussion era. This latter era I mention encompassed individual, frequently un-named, firearms made in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, California, Michigan, Tennessee and most every other state. If I were forced to apply a single name to them I would pick ‘Southern Rifle’ as being the most often correct.

    In case it isn’t obvious by now, this is also what I believe the pictured rifle from michaelv to be.

    I was surprised noone commented on the two ‘triggers.’ This is a set trigger lock. One of those triggers fires the rifle; the other makes it a hair-trigger. Some would say this makes it a target rifle – and perhaps it was designed for that purpose. Target shooting has long been a highly competitive sport in some of the rural parts of our nation. Another thought however, is that having a set trigger capability makes for finer game shooting. My personal belief, partly based on having seen so many of these southern rifles with double set triggers, is that the difference in cost at the time between a single trigger and a double set mechanism was small enough that the gunmakers thought it wisest to build a rifle that they could use to squeeze off a shot to kill a spooky buck AND take the bacon home from a neighborhood shoot-off.

    A few comments on other’s comments…
    /// The wood is nice faded flamed maple//// Be aware that flame maple can be the actual somewhat scarce type of figured wood or it can have been made from a burning process where tow was wrapped around the stock, set on fire and then removed after the wood had the required marks on it. One is more valuable than the other. From the distance from my armchair to that rifle I would guess the flame is applied rather than natural because the owner said it was ‘faded.’

    ///Could this have been a kit gun?/// No, not in the sense of the kits that have been made in Italy, Spain, etc that come in a box, get assembled overnight and later get offered for sale as an ‘antique flintlock.’ The relationship to what you call a kit gun is explained above as an assembling of purchased component parts with original parts.

    ///vintage 1850's/// I would suppose it to be somewhat later - probably 1870's at the earliest, up to as late as 1940 or thereabouts.

    ///In my opinion, unless the piece was made by a famous maker the above estimate is way too optomistic. The price of a gun like this is increased by things like a nice patchbox, excellent bore, the name of a known maker, a flintlock (original), etc. That being said, this gun has a full length stock and an interesting end cap, which are attractive to collectors, but in my opinion probably not attractive enough to push it over $1,000.00./// I agree.

    On the for sale page, the comment ///The loading stick is broken at the end. /// Usually the loading stick is called a ramrod.

    The rifle shown by Fredd3039 may be of the same type but more and better pictures would help.

    I sincerely hope I have not offended anyone by my comments.

    Bull Shoot - who has owned some of these in the past.
  13. fredd3039

    fredd3039 New Member

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    I am sorry for "Hijacking this thread" I thought this was a place to ask questions and get help. As far as the pictures go I will have to wait until Dec to get better photos. My father in-law doesn't know much about technology. We taught him how to use skype when we moved away and I took pics of the video conversation. A general question though. Were these rifles produced with stocks that stopped halfway up the barrel. There is no wood on the barrel past the halfway mark and there is a metallic gray band wrapping all the way around wood and barrel to hold it in place. I guess I am wondering if some of these were made this way or could it have been broken and repaired? All of the examples I have seen have wood that continues all the way to the muzzle of the barrel.
    Frank
  14. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

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    ///Were these rifles produced with stocks that stopped halfway up the barrel. ///
    Some may legitimately be half-stocks. Advantages were less weight and in many cases, better balance. I like half-stocks but, realistically, full-stocks sell for more.

    /// there is a metallic gray band wrapping all the way around wood and barrel to hold it in place. ///
    Without the pictures you won't have before December, it is hard to say. An originally wrapped barrel band would be uncommon but not unheard of. They were quite common on military rifles and muskets but unusual on American civilian firearms. Yours might be original, as made - or it might be a repair. I look forward to seeing the photos, Frank.

    BullShoot
  15. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Hi, Bullshoot,

    Some valid points there. In fact, even in the flintlock "Pennsylvania rifle" era, not many gunsmiths built guns from scratch. They obtained barrels, locks, ramrods, stocks, and furniture, from specialists in those areas and assembled guns, with custom touches, not that much different from what custom gunsmiths do today. Some authorities who talk about "schools" of gun makers don't realize that those were "schools" not because they worked or trained together but because they bought a lot of their supplies from the same sources. English locks were imported in quantity, and used. Later on, people like Elwell supplied locks, and J. & D. Little was the Brownells of the day, supplying barrels, stocks, locks, and about everything the gun maker needed except "elbow grease."

    I agree that percussion guns were made later than usually thought, but I have never seen any indication that they were being made as guns (as opposed to nostalgia items) into the 1940's or even into the 20th century. There may have been a few folks in the deep woods who hadn't heard of "cottige" guns, but they would have been few. While many folks at that time shot the old time guns, there were not many being built.

    I am not sure it is possible just to say that birds on a lockplate indicate a specific decade; birds and bird dogs were favorite lockplate motifs for years, more on shotguns than rifles, but they were common.

    While I don't claim to be an expert in those areas, I think it is safe to say that most flintlock manufacture in the U.S. ended well before the Civil War and that most percussion muzzle loader rifle manufacture ended prior to 1875. Percussion shotguns were around a while longer, but most of those were made in factories, domestic or foreign, rather than by individual gun makers. Percussion revolvers were around longest, not so much because of any advantage or desire to keep to the old ways, but because Civil War revolvers were dirt cheap compared to cartridge guns.

    True, muzzle loaders have advantages; special cartridges are not needed and powder and lead were available everywhere. But few pioneers chose muzzle loaders when they could get cartridge guns, and even the backwoods types who did use them knew they were old fashioned. (The movie depiction of Alvin York involved in a muzzle loading "turkey shoot" was undoubtedly accurate, even in the early 1900's, but they all knew the guns were antiques, and many would have had modern guns at home.)

    Jim
  16. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

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    Well Jim K, I hope we can agree to disagree on some points.

    /// even in the flintlock "Pennsylvania rifle" era, not many gunsmiths built guns from scratch.///
    'Not many?' I suppose in the later years of that era your statement might apply but most certainly not over the whole range.

    /// Some authorities who talk about "schools" of gun makers don't realize that those were "schools" not because they worked or trained together but because they bought a lot of their supplies from the same sources.///
    I am afraid you badly missed the mark on this one. The ‘schools’ we are talking about are similar to the various ‘schools’ of painting. In both cases, art of painting and art of rifle/pistol design and execution, the ‘schools’ were made up of artists who worked independently but were influential to each other. They had little contact with others in the surrounding areas because of the difficulties of travel. Many lived and died having traveled no more than a few miles away from their own home. Since you are referencing Pennsylvania rifles, look at some of the different ‘schools’ there. Try, for example, looking at two or three Bedford County rifles – you’ll find it pleasurable to do so. Then try looking over another two or three Lancaster rifles. You will see that the Bedfords all are recognizably similar. The same applies to the Lancasters. But a Bedford doesn’t come close to looking like a Lancaster. The appearance of the arms even within the same school changed over time – because of new innovations and because of newly-observed different-school rifles.

    /// percussion guns were made later than usually thought, but I have never seen any indication that they were being made as guns (as opposed to nostalgia items) into the 1940's or even into the 20th century.///
    I strongly recommend you acquire a copy of GUNS AND GUNMAKERS TOOLS OF SOUTHERN APPALACHIA. It is an inexpensive book. I imagine, based on your statement above, you will be amazed, perhaps astounded. All these guns were made for daily use, not as nostalgic mementos. After you finish the book, go back and see what a very small geographical area is covered by the gunmakers in this one book – as I remember, it is only one or two counties.

    /// I am not sure it is possible just to say that birds on a lockplate indicate a specific decade///
    Well, I certainly can’t do that either. However, I did not limit it to a single or even a specific decade. What I said was, ‘In general, that kind or style of decoration appeared in the latter part of the 19th century and continued well into the twentieth’. I stand by that statement as accurate. Can I tell you precisely what I see in that engraving that tells me what I know to be true? The answer is ‘no’ simply because it is the result of looking at literally thousands of flint and percussion firearms over the years. After a while, if one pays attention to what is being seen, you can develop that sense. The crudeness of the engraving is a part of it, the style of the engraving is a part, the common theme is a part, having seen similar work on pieces of known date is a part.

    /// flintlock manufacture in the U.S. ended well before the Civil War and that most percussion muzzle loader rifle manufacture ended prior to 1875.///
    Sure, why not?
    But after you read that book I recommended, you will better understand that ‘most’ does not mean ‘all.’

    Sorry, the 1850 date could be correct but not likely – IN MY OPINION.

    BullShoot
  17. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    I will try to find that book, but meantme, I'll agree to disagree a bit more. If you are discussing a few gunmakers in some remote areas, I agree. But I read your post as meaning that extensive making of muzzle loading rifles continued as late as 1940, and I simply don't see that. I was raised in the 1930's in a pretty backwoods part of PA and I can pretty well state that no hunters were running around with flintlock "Kentucky" rifles or even percussion long rifles. Surplus Krags and various Winchesters and Remingtons were more likely, with the usual miscellaneious thrown in. (A good friend's father "got his deer" every year with a Westinghouse Mosin-Nagant, sold by the government after WWI.)

    Even in more remote areas, I doubt many folks were totally unaware that breech loaders existed or really believed in the superiority of front stuffers. In 1870 or even 1880, yes. In 1920 or 1940, I can't see it. The backwoods just wasn't that backward. (Of course some people today think anyone outside Washington, Chicago and New York is backward, a bit retarded, and in need of help and guidance from our beloved government.)

    Jim
  18. azstubie

    azstubie New Member

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    If the birds shown on the lock are ringneck pheasants, that breed was introduced into the US in 1881 by Dr. Owen McKeason Denny. He had brought 30 pair from China of which 26 pair survived the journey. Apparently there were some black necked pheasant in New England in the late 18th century and those could be depictions of those. From my little research it doesn't seem they were very plentiful
  19. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

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    Oh, my goodness, Jim K. You have certainly 'read into' what I wrote.

    You said 'But I read your post as meaning that extensive making of muzzle loading rifles continued as late as 1940'
    Please reread my posts. Extensive making...? I just reread my own posts and can't see what could possibly have led you to that conclusion.

    You also said, 'I doubt many folks were totally unaware that breech loaders existed...'
    Please reread my posts. I just reread my own posts and can't see what could possibly have led you to that conclusion.

    Jim K, I am happy to discuss firearms with you and will always be willing to respect your opinion or your knowledge, but let us keep to what is actually written and leave out creative interpretations - unless we identify and acknowledge them as such.
    Oh drat. Now I have probably offended you and I really did not want to do that.

    AZSTUBIE, Thank you very much. You just added to my storehouse of knowledge. The 1881 introductory date would seem appropriate. I believe the pictured gun to be somewhat more recent than that anyway - whether the engraving is of a ringneck or not.

    Jim K - You said, 'I will try to find that book...'
    The book is currently listed on Alibris, Amazon, ABEBOOKS, and Biblio, all of which are available on the internet. Try Google or just go to ABEBOOKS.COM
    You can probably find it for under 10.00.

    BullShoot
  20. grampawmike

    grampawmike New Member

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    FWIW: Pheasant were introduced in the America's rather later, (one source says 1840's, others say later) BUT, they were introduced in Europe as far back as the 10th century. Early on (as BullShoot states) most of our locks and findings were imported from..... (drum roll).... Europe. Just my two cents. Mike
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