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WONDERFUL 19TH CENTURY MUSKET SHOWING STRONG EVIDENCE OF INDIAN OWNERSHIP AND USE – OLD HEAVILY WORN BRASS TACKS – NATIVE REPAIRS – ALL THE FEATURES  OF A TRULY GREAT INDIAN GUN:   At first glance, this mid-19Th Century Musket speaks volumes of its time on the frontier in the hands of a Native American.  The overall appearance including heavy wear, brass tacks, excellent patina, primitive but effective repairs, and that special “feel” these genuine Indian guns have, speaks volumes this musket is indeed, as very special piece.   

There are no visible lock or barrel markings to definitively identify this musket or the country in which it was manufactured.  There are probably proof marks on the bottom of the barrel which would provide additional information, but as noted further on in the description, removing the barrel is not an option.  From the various characteristics such as the stock profile, lock, and length and weight of the barrel, I suspect the musket may very well be one those produced in Belgium, France or the Netherlands as “second class” military muskets, intended for sale to other than the major world military powers, and would be the type of inexpensive muskets purchased by traders to market to Indians on the western frontier.  It is also worthy to note that muskets of this type were also supplied to militia or provincial guard units in Mexico during its occupation by the French, and were lost to Indians during pitched battles with such tribes as the Comanche and Apaches as they raided the target rich environment of Northern Mexico. 

The stock shows the desirable heavy wear one expects to see in an Indian gun, without being fragile or in relic condition, and the wood has a wonderful aged, hand rubbed feel and very nice coloring.   The wear is apparent where one would expect to find it on the high edges of the barrel and ramrod channels, the upper point of the butt, the wrist and in particular, between the middle and lower barrel bands, and between the middle and upper bands, where the musket would have rested across the neck of horse or the pommel of a saddle. The wear along these two sections of the stock is so pronounced that not only is the wood worn and polished below its normal profile, but the brass heads of the tacks are worn away, significantly reducing the diameter and height of the heads.   

The section of the stock forward and below the lock was badly broken as would happen if the fore end and barrel were flexed against the grain of the butt section as the result of a fall or a really bad wreck on a horse (…..as if there is such a thing as a good wreck on a horse, but I digress.)   The stock was repaired by setting a thin, hand carved wood splint on the underside of the stock, pinning it in place with some small nails, and reinforced by a single wrapping of a double strand of thin iron wire.  The area of the break is very sound and only has a slight movement when pressure is applied.  It is interesting to note that the large splinters that broke out on the left side of the stock were retained and set back in place under the wire wrap in an effort to keep as much wood as possible to support that area of the stock.  All of the pieces of wood are well polished through handling over the years, and are certainly period to the use of the musket.  Further, the wood under the wire wrap is stained in a thin line where the corrosion of the wire colored the wood which serves as additional proof of the age of this repair.   

The stock is nicely tacked, obviously done during the period of use in the 19Th Century.  The tacks are applied in designs on both sides of the butt stock, and in lines surrounding the wrist, the left side flat opposite the lock, along the bottom of the butt which continues up to surround the trigger guard, and in small concentrations along the fore stock.  The tacks are a mix of solid brass and brass head-iron shanked tacks, and all show evidence of having been in the wood for a very long time.  There is consistent heavy wear to the brass heads, some to the point that the heads are worn down to less than 25% of their original size.  This wear has occurred gradually over a long period of time shown by the original imprint of the tack head rim that is still visible in the wood, and the wood that was protected over time by the head of the tack stands above the surrounding wood that was not protected.  Some of the tacks are worn to the point that the heads now consist of a small halo of brass around the iron shank.   Those tacks showing the heaviest wear are located on the portions of the stock that would receive the most handling and abrasion, so the wear patterns are consistent with true use and not some attempt at fakery.  The wood around all of the tacks is worn significantly more than the wood that is protected by the tack heads, and the edges of the tacks appear to be imbedded in the wood, evidence that the wood has swollen around the edge of the tack heads.  This is one of the characteristics that knowledgeable collectors look for to determine if the tacks have been recently applied.  Where the few tacks are missing, the wood that was beneath the tack heads shows appropriate coloring and the imprint of the tack head.  This is not a recently tacked gun where someone attempted to “sweeten” an old, worn out musket, rather these tacks were certainly applied during the period of the rifle’s use and show the same wear and character as the rest of the musket.  

In addition to the tacks, the left side of the butt stock, just forward of the butt plate, was decorated with a pictograph line image carved into the wood.  What it represents is lost to history with the passing of the Indian who carved it, and is now left to our imagination, but it is definitely intentionally executed and not a collection of aimless or accidental scratches.  There is also two sets of numbers stamped forward of this carving that are likely evidence of this musket’s former life as part of a military unit’s inventory before passing into the hands of the Indians.     

The lock and trigger assembly are functional, operate properly, and here again, incorporate another example of the Indian’s ingenuity and ability to adapt available parts to repair their arms.   At some point during the period when this musket was still in constant use and deemed valuable enough by the owner to repair it, the threaded nipple hole in the bolster must have been shot out to the point it would not hold the nipple, or the nipple was damaged and the owner could not find a replacement that would fit the threaded hole.  Not a problem – he simply hammered a nipple, cone first, into the hole and shaped the threaded section that would normally be screwed into the barrel to a size that would accept the percussion caps.  A primitive fix, and one that may well have resulted in some exciting ignitions, but based on the wear of the existing nipple, it must have been one that functioned quite well for some time.      

The musket has an overall length of 54”, with a barrel measuring 39”, which is from all appearances full length.  The wall of the barrel at the muzzle is quite thin, evidence of long term use and wear, and measures approximately .75 caliber – another indication of this being a European musket.  Stamped on the top left flat of the barrel at the breech is the legend “C F (or P) 6005”.  What the significance or meaning of this stamping is unknown, but it may date back to when the musket was still in a military unit’s possession and this was a unit applied inventory number.  There is a small square section of the top of the barrel missing at the muzzle, perhaps where the bayonet stud was located, and was broken off in some unknown mishap.  The rear sight is gone, the point where it was attached still visible, however the twist of the wire holding the stock repair just forward of the lock projects vertically from the plane of the barrel and is positioned at the point where the original rear sight was set and is aligned with the top center line of the barrel – an awkward spot for carrying the musket as it seems it would catch on your hand.  However, this twist of wire, when viewed down the barrel as you shoulder this musket, is positioned in such a way that it serves fairly well as what could pass for a rear sight.  Not the best, and there is no front sight to align with the twist, but in the absence of any other sights….well, I leave it to you to decide.   

The iron surfaces of the lock, hammer, trigger guard, butt plate, barrel bands and the breech area of the barrel all have the same brown surface – not encrusted with rust, but lightly pitted and with a nice even color.  The balance of the barrel has the remains of a coat of black paint; a treatment that has been noted on a significant number of Indian used guns and is well documented in such recognized references such as “Custer Battle Guns” by John DuMont.  Around the bases of the tacks can be seen traces of the same black paint, so it appears the stock was painted as well – perhaps the entire gun – but with handling through the years, the majority of paint has worn off of the stock.   

While the butt plate is present, the heel of the plate is completely worn away; leaving two separate pieces of the butt plate, and this wear extends down into the wood.  The flat of the butt plate is held in place by the original lower screw and a single iron nail on the upper end, and the butt plate tang is held in place by the original screw.  

This musket shows all of the classic characteristics of hard use and decoration in the hands of an Indian, having a great appearance that literally talks to you as you hold it, and is no doubt a veteran of fierce determined and desperate battles, and untold numbers of buffalo kills in the hands of a warrior.   

Guns that have not been sullied or ruined by the recent addition of 1950’s upholstery tacks, modern leather wrappings and other enhancements have never been common, and as more collectors are recognizing their historic value, genuine Indian guns of this quality are now becoming increasingly difficult to find on the market.  This is an opportunity to obtain an honest Indian gun that has not been tampered with since the day it passed from the Indians into that first collection.  If you hesitate, and miss this one, for many years to come you will regret it as the one that got away.   $3750

 

  

 
 

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