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Heavy Barrel Percussion Target Rifle by J.H. Rector

This is a .45 Caliber percussion heavy barrel half-stock Target rifle in built by Mr. J.H. Rector in the 1850's. Don't let the pictures fool you, its graceful look is deceiving.  Very few people out there could or would have wanted to shoulder. Top of barrel marked "J.H. RECTOR SYRACUSE NY  306".  Its my understanding that Rector built quality target rifles in Upstate New York from approximately 1845-55. Over the years, we've seen a couple of other rifles made by Rector with smaller barrels also with serial numbers in the low digits. He probably built a few hundred in all. While quite limited in examples seen, my basic impression of his rifles is that they tend to be well-thought out designs and of better than average quality both in construction and choice of materials.  The stock is a little darker than the walnut we're used to seeing, possibly rosewood. Wrist is nicely checkered.   The furniture on this rifle is impressive and made almost entirely of German silver w/engraving.  This includes the trigger guard, buttplate, ramrod pipe, key escutcheons, lockplate screw escutcheon, and dual oval inlays on each side of the stock.  Only exception is the forend cap which is made of more traditional pewter. 

The rifle has 32 Inch Heavy bull octagon barrel that turns to round for 1/4" at the muzzle for attaching a ball starter device. No false muzzle. Barrel measures 1 3/8" thick at the breech and tapers slightly to just over 1 1/4" at the muzzle. See comparison photo of the muzzle next to the NC built Jamestown Rifle.  The overall gun weighs in at hefty 17 lbs. The 19th century shooter could drink all the coffee he wanted. Its doubtful even the worse case of caffeine jitters could budge this cannon!

Mechanically speaking, Rector seems to have been up with the times. The back-action lock he chose was sort of en vogue on percussion rifles back in the 1840s...not just on American percussion rifles and shotguns, but also incorporated into English and French military designs.  The first pattern 1837 Brunswick rifle issued to sharpshooting brigades like the 60th and 95th Rifles is one in particular that comes to mind.  The 45 Caliber bore is dirty but has very strong 6 groove rifling and should clean up nicely. In addition to the furniture, the back action lock plate, hammer, breech, and tang are engraved.  Given the weight of this rifle, Rector showed some intelligent foresight by anticipating potential problems with the wrist area.  Not taking any chances, he re-enforced the stock with the longest barrel iron tang I believe I've ever seen on a percussion rifle measuring 6 1/2".  You tend to see long tangs on Southern-made percussion rifles but given the heavy barrel, this would have been prudent of a gunsmith who built quality rifles.  Being a target weapon, he added a hole in the middle of the tang for a lollipop tang sight (no longer there or perhaps it never had one to begin with).  Sights consist of a low adjustable rear sight and German silver blade front sight.  Note in the photo of the front, that the barrel just in front of the dovetail is graduated with little lines for making windage adjustments.    Rector also incorporated a more advanced hooked breech so the barrel could be easily lifted from the stock simply by tapping out the barrel keys while the tang stays safely in the wood.  This design is identical to most early percussion double barrel shotguns and if desired, would make this rifle suitable for being broken down for storage in a wooden case.  Another interesting feature on this rifle is the barrel bolster which is heavily hooded around the sides to prevent sparks and corrosive percussion cap fulminate from injuring the wood and surrounding metal...common on 1850's era target and sharpshooter's rifles. 

Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Very Good.  The iron has turned over to a brown patina overall that's mostly smooth with some light pitting down in the ring that surrounds the bolster.  Nice sharp engraving on the lock, breech, and upper barrel tang.  German silver mountings have sharp engraving...as you can see in the photos..its all hand-done in somewhat of a folk-art interpretation of floral engraving with a somewhat heavy zig-zag border.  The engraving is even carried right through many of the screws.  Wood is in good shape with a very nice solid wrist.  Checkering is somewhat worn but all visible and still shows the pattern well.  Right side of the stock had a rather long check mark that ran several inches up from the edge of the lower part of the buttplate upwards on rt. side....appears more like poor climate or storage conditions brought this about as it is confined to one side and not through the wood. Has since been mended and doesn't distract.  Another minor check mark just past the toe plate on the bottom comb.  There is a scratch on the left side of the wood opposite the lockplate...going by the pictures, I'm sure some of you may ask whether its a crack.  It isn't, just a scratch.  Lock works with hammer connecting on both half and full cock positions.  Double set triggers are in working order as well.  Ramrod is a newer replacement with a brass tip that appears to be made from an old cartridge case. 

All in all, a nice example of a 19th century percussion half stock target rifle by a known and well-respected maker.  A similar heavy barrel target rifle by J.H. Rector's recently sold at a Greg Martin Auction for $3200. This one is a lot of rifle for the price!  Note: Given the weight of this rifle, a cardboard box would be no match vs. a 1 1/4" thick Iron barrel w/momentum.  Shipping will be actual cost on this item as it will require a wooden crate with barrel and stock packed separately to insure safe transit.

Item# 0638




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