Phoning it in

Hall Rifle

I could do some nominal research to make sure I get the details right, or I could just turn this into a virtual ad for commenter and enabler John (Not The Armorer) who brokered the acquisition of this fine example of the Hall rifle via his website, Oldguns.net, where you can find great stuff. Some spendy, some not so spendy. What you can rely on is an honest assessment of your stuff and honest descriptions of the stuff this evil man will entice you with. So, plagiarism being the sincerest form of flattery, I just took John (NTA)’s website description, as well as the photos which accompanied it, and turned it into this post. Phoning it in…

U.S. MODEL 1819 HALL BREECHLOADING RIFLE MADE IN 1831- PERCUSSION CONVERSION (SUPERB!) – The American Rifleman had a great article on John Hall, the inventor, a few months ago. The first breechloading rifle adopted by the U.S. military (or any other nation!), and the first to be made to 100% interchangeable standards, under the supervision of the inventor, John H. Hall. Hall was authorized to set up and run the “Rifle Factory” at Harpers Ferry Armory, separate from the regular operation where the workers and managers bitterly opposed any attempt to change from their traditional hand made non-interchangeable autonomous and insubordinate habits. Adopted in 1819, total production was a very small 19,680 with delivered by Harpers Ferry in 1819, 1823-24 and 1827-1840. About 35,000 more Hall rifles and carbines of various models were delivered up through about 1853 by Harpers Ferry or by Simeon North of Middletown, CT, who was held to the same tight tolerances as the National Armory. These are unusual in having very shallow sixteen groove rifling, at a time when other military rifles has seven deep grooves. Also, these had about 1.5 inches at the muzzle bored out slightly oversize (and removing the rifling) to facilitate loading from the muzzle in an emergency. Because these loaded from the breed by dumping the powder into the breech then pressing the ball into place, the ball could be the correct diameter to engage the rifling, rather than undersize or fitted with a patch and rammed down from the muzzle. Because the hammer is located in the center of the breechblock, the front and rear sights are offset to the left. You will sometimes see M1816 style bayonets that have a small “V” notch offset on the bridge at the back of the socket. Those are actually Hall rifle bayonets (and quite scarce!). Considered quite the innovation at the time, Hall’s breechloaders were fairly well received, especially the carbine used by mounted troops where they were far more convenient to load on horseback than the traditional muzzle loaders. Hall rifles were used in the Blackhawk, Seminole and Mexican wars, and 15 were presented to Japan by Commodore M.C. Perry in 1854. However, the novelty eventually wore off, and chronically cheapskate Congresses objected to the high cost of these patent arms when cheaper muzzle loaders were good enough. Many of the late production Hall rifles remained in storage and were converted to percussion before (or early in) the Civil War, and several thousand were issued (by both sides). However, by the end of 1862, all the Halls seem to have been retired from service. Overlooked initially, it was later realized that if powder spilled while loading it tended to accumulate under the breech- and then ignite when the gun was fired, often burning hands or destroying the stock. By the 1860s far better breechloaders were being made, ending the 40 year service life of the Hall design. This rifle is one of the ones converted in federal arsenals near the start of the Civil War, but never issued. It has conversion match marks “HHH VI” marked in the stock, (and presumably on several other parts as well) which falls in the most typical “Type I” conversion as classified by Peter Schmidt in his superbly researched “Hall’s Military Breechloaders.” This rifle is a beautiful example, one of 800 made at Harpers Ferry in 1831. About 95-97% of the original lacquer brown finish remains on most parts, even the buttplate. The breech block was polished bright at the time of conversion. The bore is like a mirror and probably unfired since leaving the Armory in 1831. The stock shows assorted handling and storage dings and bruises picked up over the last 165 years, including one screwhead shaped ding on the right side of the stock, probably from another Hall falling against it when they were doing the conversions. There is one spot behind the middle band, along the barrel channel on the right side, where the wood has been scraped down a bit, done long ago. Stock is unsanded and has the original oil finish and distinctive raised grain of a military arm that has not been messed with. Most of the finish wear is around the muzzle and a spot on the left side of the barrel behind the middle band. Some minor staining or patina near the head of the bright finished ramrod. This comes with a high quality replica of the correct buff leather sling. The M1819 Hall is a very important milestone in U.S. small arms history, and this is a truly excellent plus example that will be hard to improve on.

Click here for more views of the Hall rifle.

I was a gunblogger, once

A blast from the past – August 2014 at the old space…
“I’ll let you guys provide all the data, like you did last time…!conversions2.jpgOh, no I won’t, if only for the innocent who wander in. I got asked a question about transition breeches from muzzle-loading to breech-loading, and I rattled off an answer – but pictures speak in ways words don’t. Like, I can talk about comparing Remington’s rolling block the, tipping, or “trapdoor” block of the US M1873 or Austrian Wanzl, the turning block of the Austrian Werndl, or the flipping block of the Snider…”

conversions1.jpg

[Hint: If you click the pic, you can get a much better view.  Well, perhaps except for you people looking at this on postage-stamp phones.]