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Nov 04

Antique Muzzleloading Firearms

When trying to incorporate antique muzzleloading firearms in to this site there were several considerations. First we only wanted to do cartridge firearms. Then approx halfway through development it was decided that was not going to be acceptable. There are many customers that collect antique arms and modern arms and we wanted to be able to take care of all of their needs. Since they use different types of ammunition we had to determine how to best list the cartridge or caliber. The lack of standardization was another problem not to mention the number of backyard gunsmiths that have altered such firearms since they were manufactured. Barrel lengths, calibers and other features varied as much as the terrain from of the U.S. from one side to the other.

In the end it was necessary to maintain some sense of standardization so it is important to know how to use the site when searching for antique firearms. It is very important to first determine the maker and the caliber. These are the two things that have likely not been altered since the gun was new. The problem is many antique guns are not marked with a makers name or may be marked with initials. An example would be Blunt & Syms which is often abbreviated B & S. (Yes I know what that sounds like but keep in mind we are talking the 1840’s)

We’ll take each choice one at a time. The first of type of firearm should be self explanatory. The action type is generally self-explanatory also but single shot muzzleloading firearms are listed as single-shot as the action type. Next the manufacturer should be chosen if known. If not choosing the caliber will narrow down the list of choices. Caliber can also be a variable so if your caliber is not listed it may simply be that all of the reference material for this maker is incomplete. Simply choose the caliber closest to yours. There is usually not a great deal of value difference from one caliber to the next and when there is those choices will be there. All muzzleloaders are listed as the diameter in inches and followed by the abbreviation Cal for caliber. As an example it you measure the bore at 3/8” and 3/8 as a decimal translates to .375 it is a reasonable assumption that the firearm is 38 caliber. After that it becomes difficult. All the antique muzzleloaders use open sights and wood as a grip or stock material with very rare exceptions. This can make identification difficult. Barrel lengths are always a variable for two reasons. The first is the makers themselves. Machining metal was not nearly as easy or done as quickly as it is today. One barrel cut off a ¼’ longer or shorter than needed was not to be wasted. The other thing is these firearms had to be cleaned from the muzzle which resulted in wear at the crown which would result in a drop off in accuracy so the barrel would be cut off and recrowned. Finish is also a tough one because so few of these weapons have any original finish remaining. The general rule of thumb is iron was generally blued and brass was either brass or may have been silver plated at one time. Looking in protected areas around the trigger guard or grips may reveal a slight trace of silver if it was ever there.

The last thing that can throw you is guns that are marked with the names of sellers that were not the actual maker. As an example we’ll use is Sears. They don’t build anything but rather things are built to their specs by other manufacturers that then attach the Sears name. A firearms example is the name A.W. Spies. They are believed to have been a retailer in the 1840’s and 1850’s and many guns so marked exist today. On our site if you look for A.W. Spies you will be redirected to look under Allen Firearms or Ethan Allen since they built many of the firearms for this seller. The problem comes with the example a friend of mine inherited from his father. The single shot A.W. Spies single shot pistols are mostly underhammer designs but this one is an above hammer and marked London and finished in silver on the frame. This gun was probably not made by Ethan Allen but as of now we have been unable to identify the actual maker. The point being there are some examples that we do not have. In these cases we recommend you take advantage of the custom appraisal part of this site and we will get you all the information we can locate.

Keep in mind we are constantly adding guns and updating prices, usually on a daily basis so check back from time to time. Also if you are a member and get a value on a particular firearm we will send you an email stating the value has been updated when a pricing change occurs.

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