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Willis & Brothers Percussion Long Rifle

RPiratzkyRPiratzky Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
edited March 2015 in Ask the Experts
Recently I had someone stop by to show me a Percussion Long Rifle
that they owned. The rifle was not marked as to the makers name but they said that it was made by Willis & Brothers and was from the 1820's. The gun had engraving on the lock and also on the patch box. However on the barrel I noticed that the word "Warranted" was inscribed. I would have to think that gun makers in the early 1820's did not mark their barrels with the word "Warranted". I checked the book of American Gun Makers and there is a reference to a John Willis who made flint locks in 1775 but there was no other reference to any Willis & Brothers. Online I did find that Rock Island Auctions had a percussion long rifle that was marked C.B. Willis and was from 1933. With the wording of "Warranty" I have got to think that the rifle is not 1800's but at the very least 1930's or post 1930's. Has anybody ever heard of a Willis & Brothers percussion long rifle? If so could you please let me know any information that you might be aware of.

Thank you

Comments

  • fordsixfordsix Member Posts: 8,722
    edited November -1
    some one made the gun from parts
  • Hawk CarseHawk Carse Member Posts: 4,296 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    "Warranted" locks and barrels were quite common in the mid and late 19th century as mass produced gun parts became available and the individual gunsmith did not have to make everything himself.
    Think Brownells 150 years ago.

    If the rifle is not marked "Willis & Brothers" how does he know the maker?
  • RPiratzkyRPiratzky Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    The owner said that he had found a printed document that listed the maker of the rifle but when asked to see it he could not locate it.

    Since doing this post we have discovered that there is a worn makers name on the barrel. We put chalk on it and what we found was it reads,: cannot make out & cannot make out CO Warranted"
  • Spider7115Spider7115 Member, Moderator Posts: 29,604 ******
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Hawk Carse
    "Warranted" locks and barrels were quite common in the mid and late 19th century as mass produced gun parts became available and the individual gunsmith did not have to make everything himself.
    Think Brownells 150 years ago.

    If the rifle is not marked "Willis & Brothers" how does he know the maker?

    Yep, a commercially-made barrel.
  • nordnord Member Posts: 6,106
    edited November -1
    I'll first suggest a trip to Americanlongrifles.com as it's a totally non-commercial site dedicated to the education of those interested in the long rifle. That said, I happen to be one of the administrators and developers of the Virtual Museum featured at ALR.

    So...

    Photos would be a great help of course. Since there are none I'll generalize.

    Locks, even early locks, were quite often stamped with the name of the manufacturer. With few exceptions (Bedford School) the name stamped on the lock will have little or nothing to do with the maker of the rifle.

    Locks with a single crossbolt are most often associated with percussion ignition. Two bolts usually indicate either flint ignition, or a conversion to percussion. Quite often the easiest way to tell is to look for the empty pin holes on a flint lock which held the pan and spring before conversion. Otherwise you'll look for modifications where a new lock has been inlet into the stock.

    Barrels and locks were generally available east of the Mississippi as early as the 1830's and even somewhat before. Percussion ignition came in about that same time but didn't really take hold until about 1835. Commercial barrels will usually be stamped in an area hidden by the stock. Remington being the most common but there were lots of makers.

    You fail to say whether half or full stock. You also omit any reference to a patchbox. Generally a halfstock will be a midwest piece. Usually Ohio and westward but not unknown in PA. Patchboxes ranged from ornate to very simple and often assist us in identifying the area of manufacture. A round or oval patchbox is usually a commercial product and will indicate a rather late rifle.

    Then style. The architecture of the piece will often determine where manufactured. Here the wildcard is that by 1830 makers in the east were moving west with the trade. It's not unusual to find a rifle that looks for all the world like a PA gun, but was actually made in Illinois.

    Makers generally signed their products on the top barrel flat. On an unmolested gun the signature will be midway between the breach plug and the rear sight. Offsets indicate a shortened barrel. Cuts at the breach were often part of a conversion to percussion. Muzzle cuts are also common and usually have to do with use and wear. In the case of such you'll find that the ramrod guides will often not be equidistant from one another.

    Photos please. They'll be a big help.
  • nordnord Member Posts: 6,106
    edited November -1
    I forgot to mention... I suspect a very late rifle. You may even be correct that this is an early contemporary piece. Usually we can pretty much tell just by a quick look.
  • RPiratzkyRPiratzky Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I will try to submit some photos

    Willis1_zpstdhmnfym.jpg

    willis2_zpslybnfihb.jpg

    adirondack%20053_zpsx9mujwyb.jpg
  • nordnord Member Posts: 6,106
    edited November -1
    Only one photo really made it. Not enough to say much, other than I suspect an original and not contemporary. I'll add a few comments below based on what little I can see.

    Here's what's needed:

    Full shots from both sides.
    Muzzle detail.
    Top barrel flat detail.
    Patchbox and obverse shots from butt to forward of lock.
    Trigger group detail... Especially good shots of the trigger guard.

    Given the half stock and what I can make out of the patchbox I'll guess an Ohio rifle. If otherwise "right", then I'd have to say mid 1830's onward to about 1860. Obviously there are later examples made after the war but they're rare. (Not valuable rare as a rule.)

    Lock appears original to the rifle and I'd guess always percussion.
  • nordnord Member Posts: 6,106
    edited November -1
    If...

    If a large bore rifle, then possibly Missouri. The name fits as do the dates. Born in 1820 and listed as a riflemaker. Went to prison in 1850 or thereabouts for theft. No mention past that.

    Style suggests an eastern rifle but this is by no means set in stone. Large bore is a characteristic of west of the Mississippi as big game was still common there in the 1840's and beyond.

    If I'm correct about the maker, then the gun was very likely made in the 1840's which is consistent with what I could determine from the images supplied. "Warranted" during that period is rather expected.

    The Willis you mention was an immigrant to NY in the late 1700's. Too early and in the wrong place to have a hand in this piece.
  • RPiratzkyRPiratzky Member Posts: 30 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Thank you for the information. We will get the additional
    pictures but will not have them posted until Monday or Tuesday
    of next week. I will put the pictures on the forum as a new
    post with the same title of Willis & Brothers.
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