This is an interesting piece of early California history and a true part of the American West. This .50 caliber Plains Rifle was retailed by A.J. Plate in San Francisco during the 1860's. The rifle was built back East by Slotter & Co. of Philadelphia (1860-71) who were also well known for their copies of Henry Deringer pistols. AJ Plate was one of Slotter's best customers on the West Coast, as a number of their rifles, including this one, along with Slotter-marked Deringers have turned up with Plate's San Francisco retail stamps across the barrels (see photo). From there, these Plains rifles were used throughout California and across the West in the hands of frontiersmen, hunters, wagon freight haulers, homesteaders, etc.
The rifle is a well-built half stock with heavy octagon barrel, back action lock, brass furniture, along with a nice oval patchbox with a long spine. The wrist of the stock still wears its original checkering just behind a pair of double set triggers. During my search for information about Slotter rifles, I came across an interesting excerpt of a Slotter advertisement from 1867 which is quoted on page 79 of The Plains Rifle, copyright 1960 by Charles E. Hanson, Jr. See photos. This is what Slotter had to say about their rifles:
"Our Rifles are made in the most perfect manner for strength, symetrical appearance and accuracy of shooting. The barrels we use are of Remington make--all the other materials are made in our factory. We make our RIFLES to suit our customers in weight and quality, from a plain Rifle to the finest, with cast-steel barrels, globe or telescope sights."
Slotter used Remington barrels, I thought? Sure enough, I pulled the barrel from the stock and there it was: "E. REMINGTON" along the bottom flat of the barrel underneath the wood. Many people don't realize that Remington Arms was started by a young man named Eliphalet Remington II who began making barrels for the central NY arms trade in 1816. Their barrels were high quality and in strong demand among gunsmiths in the northeastern U.S. In a strategic move, Remington relocated to Ilion, NY in 1828 along the Erie Canal...enabling it to ship its products ALL over New York and beyond. Since the Erie Canal feeds into the Hudson River...it wouldn't have been difficult for Remington to ship barrels entirely by water to Slotter in Philadelphia.
The rifle is in Very Good condition overall. The metal has turned to mostly to a light brown patina with nice markings and strong edges. The lock is marked "Slotter & Co. PHILA". Even the interior of the patchbox has Slotter markings cast into the interior of the brass lid. The number "21" appears on the various parts of this rifle...barrel, lock, trigger guard, etc. etc. The stock is in nice shape and while it shows a fair bit of frontier usage, it's solid and has never been cracked through the wrist like so many Plains rifles we find. There are a couple of small splice repairs to the walnut...one just above the lock plate screw escutcheon on the left side and the other along the bottom toe of the stock at the buttplate (see photos). While the gun is mostly brown patina on the outside, the interior surfaces of the gun show quite a bit of original finish...with case colors inside the lock plate and original browned finish along the bottom of the barrel. This rifle would have looked fantastic back when it was new. If you've been searching for a true early Western rifle, here is an excellent opportunity to add a piece of Western America to your collection. This would look perfect on display over your fireplace mantel!