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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi. We have an old rifle that has been passed on through my wife’s family from, we believe, the Ciivil War. Her ancestors fought for both sides, however, the gun in question arrived to us through her late father who grew up in rural Mississippi (born 1940s) and moved to North Carolina in the 1970s. The gun is 50” long and 36” from the business end to trigger. Anything you can tell us about it would be much appreciated. We’re really interested to find out what it is and maybe gleen some additional history that might be associated with her family. Thank you.
 

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It appears be a percussion muzzle loading shotgun, not a rifle. Are there any stamping on the barrels or locks?
 

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Jason, welcome to The Firearms Forum. I don't know anything about your "rifle" except to tell you that it is NOT a rifle, it is a double barreled shotgun.
 

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This is most definitely a sporting arm and not a military arm. It MIGHT have been fired during the War - but was NOT a war weapon - it was used to hunt birds, rabbits and squirrels. It is a nice family heirloom, Congratulations!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for the quick and enlightening responses. Admittedly, I know almost nothing about guns (a fact that’s obvious to you). There are no markings on the “shotgun” whatsoever aside from some very faint decorative etchings and a couple of tally marks carved into the side of the wood. Again, thanks for taking time to provide us your feedback, it is much appreciated!
 

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Any identification marks are most likely on the bottom of the barrels, under the wood. If you don't know anything about them, I would not recommend trying to take it apart to show them. It is a nice looking shotgun as far as I can see.
 

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There's a barrel key in the forearm. Remove the ramrod, put the hammers on half cock, remove the key and lift the barrels up. The key may be pinned and not come all the way out. The hammers look homemade and while it's probably old enough to have been used in the war it is very highly unlikely. Some shotguns were used in the very beginning, mostly by southern troops but were discarded after the first battle or two when better weapons were acquired from the dead. Some southern cavalry and guerrillas used shotguns but their barrels were cut off short.
 

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The old gal looks rode hard and put away wet. Typical appearing 1840's to 1860's/early 1870's double barrel muzzleloading shotgun. If it's US made, which appears likely, it may or may not have any stampings on it. My gut feeling is that when new it was at least a middle grade gun. I say that because of the blow out plugs which one normally doesn't see on lower grade guns.

Civil War use? Maybe, who knows but, not very likely unless as previously described, very early in the war or as a home defense weapon.
 

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There was an article in a very recent edition of Man at Arms Collector magazine on shotgun use in the Civil War. Guns like these did see use and were preferred by some. Some good pictures to go along with the article. Now trying to prove this gun saw use is a whole different story and most likely can not be done. I would guess the gun originated in Belgium. It may have English proofs. Some guns made in Belgium were proofed and sold as English as they would bring better money. We did not manufacture guns of this nature in the US. The back action lock is European for the most part and even US made guns for the most part used imported locks. It looks like the wood has been sanded and refinished. I can't tell from the pictures if the barrels are Damascus or not. Many guns like this have " twist steel " barrels. If they are twist steel the gun may be an earlier example. I must admit I have never seen a pair of hammers like those before. They may be raw castings that were never finished.
 

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Check to see if it is still loaded. A common practice was to load them and leave precussion cap off. If needed all that had to be done was put the caps on nipples and it was ready to shoot.. I learned this the hard way.
 

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I was working on a double barreled shotgun. Suspected it was loaded. Pulled wads, shot and powder. Trying to remove nipples and they would not budge. Took a propane torch to heat them and I had not removed all the caked in powder. Went off and smoked up the shop
 

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I have unloaded a few old doubles myself . One of the things we used to do was collect up everything that came out of the barrels to see how and what they were loaded with. Most of the time it was chopped up pieces of steel and newspaper wadding. We would take the wadding apart and lay it flat and turn it into something like a jigsaw puzzle. The last one I did had printing on it . It was a advertisement at a market. I could clearly see the add of "eggs-10 cents a dozen."
 
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