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Breech-loading Rifle

ca.1755-1765
Origin: London, England
Overall length: 55"
Walnut, iron and steel
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2000-76
Walnut full stocked rifle made without a rammer, or provisions to mount one. Steel mounts including an engraved & chased rococo buttplate, sideplate and wristplate. Rounded, engraved lockplate of conventional form but screwed to the barrel through the forward end of the bolster. Breech-loading mechanism similar to the La Chaumette system, with a threaded breech block attached to the triggerguard/crank. Round barrel made with a separate hooked breech and held to the stock with a series of loops and keys. Carving is limited to an apron connecting the sideplate flat to the lock mortice, with a delicate shell behind the breech tang.
Label:Often credited to Major Patrick Ferguson, whose c.1776 infantry rifle bears his name, this type of breech loading longarm had been invented decades earlier. Cranking the triggerguard counterclockwise causes the threaded breech block to drop down, allowing for the projectile and powder charge to be loaded into the barrel through an opening in the top of the breech. Ferguson improved the design and equipped a short-lived company of marksmen with his specially made rifles early in the Revolution. Later in the war, Ferguson’s rifles are believed to have seen service in the hands of some of the Loyalists under his command fighting in the Carolinas. Ferguson was killed at the Battle of King’s Mountain, and today only a few of his original 100 rifles are known to exist. This pre-war civilian example was owned by Lord Dunmore, last Royal Governor of Virginia.
Provenance:History of ownership by the Dunmore family of Falkirk, Scotland, and therefore of John Murray, Lord Dunmore, last Royal Governor of Virginia.
Mark(s):Breech struck with the London Gunmaker's Company Proofmark (a raised Crown over a conjoined 'GP' within an oval cartouche).
Inscription(s):Barrel engraved GRIFFIN BOND STREET LONDON, and the lockplate is engraved GRIFFIN.