This is a nice very nice example of a very scarce and early production US martial flintlock rifle. The US M-1814 Rifle was produced in very limited quantities by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia, PA and Robert Johnson of Middletown, CT. Each maker was awarded a contract for 2,000 rifles. The rifles were intended to arm additional regiments of riflemen that were raised during the War of 1812, however only a handful (probably less than 100) of the rifles were even delivered prior to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. The rifle was designed by Marine T Wickham, who was at the time a US arms inspector working at the Schuylkill Arsenal (aka Philadelphia Depot) and had formerly been the chief armorer at Harper’s Ferry. Wickham subsequently left the Ordnance Department to go into arms production himself, and it was George Flegel (who Wickham had trained) that eventually inspected the rifles Wickham had designed and Deringer had manufactured and delivered. The US M-1814 Rifle was a flintlock ignition, muzzle loading rifle with a .54 caliber bore that was rifled with 7 deep grooves. The rifles had a half-octagon, half round iron barrel, and the transition between octagon and round took place at the rear barrel band. The rifle’s 33 ½” barrel was retained by three iron bands, the upper one double strapped, and the bands were retained by spring loaded studs set in the stock, instead of the more common band springs that are typical of 19th century US military long arms. These spring-loaded studs also appear on the US M-1812 Type II muskets, which were produced during the same era. The M-1814 Rifle was produced from 1814 through 1817 and was superseded by the US M-1817 Common Rifle. The term “Common Rifle” came into use after the adoption of the M-1819 Hall’s Patent Breechloading Rifle, and was used during the period to differentiate between the muzzleloading “common rifle” and the new breechloader. The M-1814 can be seen to be a stylistic bridge between the earlier M-1803 flintlock rifle produced at Harper’s Ferry and the later M-1817. The M-1814 retained the 33 ½” barrel of the early production M-1803 rifles, but introduced the wooden forend and oval iron patchbox that would typify the later M-1817 rifle. The M-1814 incorporated some very new features for a US rifle that had not previously been seen on American made military rifles. These included the use of barrel bands to retain the barrel, the use of sling swivels and the use of a detachable brass flash pan. These were all key features in Wickham’s new design.The US M-1814 Rifle offered here is in GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition. The gun is complete and correct and in its original flintlock configuration. The rifle is well marked throughout, both on the metal and wood. The top flat of the barrel is clearly marked in two lines: H. DERINGER / PHILADA. The lock plate is marked forward of the hammer in three horizontal lines: U.S. / H. DERINGER / PHILDA, although part of the markings are worn off. The left breech flat is marked with George Flegel’s inspectors F, as well as a P firing proof and the surcharge US. The stock flat opposite the lock is marked V / GF, the viewing (inspection) mark of George Flegel of Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia. The letters F.P.R.M. are branded into the toe of the stock, behind the iron, finger grooved triggerguard. The meaning of these initials is not currently known, but it is likely they stand for a militia rifle regiment or company. Further research could well prove fruitful in further identifying this rifle. There is also another inspectors mark, RU behind the triggerguard. The initials J.L are carved upside down, into the wrist of the stock, right behind the lock mortise, likely the initials of the man who carried the gun at one point. The gun has a mostly smooth brownish-gray patina over most of the iron components, with some light to moderate pitting present on the lock plate and around the breech area. The balance of the metal shows mostly scattered light peppering and pinpricking, although the buttplate does show a moderate amount of pitting and roughness. The rifle retains both original sling swivels, as well as the original full-length ramrod. The rod retains its threads at the end. The original brass blade front sight is dovetailed into the top of the barrel, near the muzzle and the original rear site sits in its dovetail near the breech. The gun is in its original and correct flintlock configuration, although there do appear to be a couple of replaced screws in the lock system. The flash / pan frizzen screw appears to be a replacement, as its patina does not quite match the rest of the gun. It is a period screw, not a modern one, and the difference in patina may be explained by the fact that it projects further than any other part of the rifle, subjecting it to the most contact and rubbing. The very edge of the brass flash pan shows some light flattening and loss of patina as well, so the contact and wear may be the reason the screw does not exactly match the rest of the lock assembly. The front lock plate screw appears to be an old replacement from an US M-1816 musket. The head is slightly larger and flatter than the correct lock screw, and the screw bears Springfield Armory viewing marks. Whether the screw was replaced during the period of use of the rifle is hard to tell, but the screw had clearly been with this rifle a very long time and is contemporary to it. The frizzen functions correctly and frizzen spring remains strong. The angled brass flash pan shows some minor erosion and a lovely mustard patina, mixed with old powder fouling. The touch hold appears unmolested, with the expected erosion around the edge. The touchhole is well centered near the bottom of the pan and appears correct in every way. The interior of the lock shows that all components are correct and original. The lock remains tight with a very strong mainspring. The hammer holds well at half cock, but does not always stay cocked at full cock. The lock functions much better when removed from the stock, so the action problems may be the result of the fit of the lock after some cracks around the mortise were repaired. The bore of the rifle retains very fine and deep rifling, but is dark and dirty and is lightly to moderately pitted along its entire length. A good scrubbing might improve the bore somewhat. The oval iron patchbox has a brownish gray patina that matches the balance of the gun, but the very tip of the release is broken, making it difficult to open, without using a thin metal object to depress the catch. The stock of the rifle rates about GOOD+ and were it not for some repaired cracks around the lock mortise, the stock would rate nearly fine. The stock is full length with no splices or breaks. It retains a sharply defined cheek rest and good markings in the wood. The stock shows no signs of having been sanded. However, the stock has a crack that runs from the rear of the lock mortise up and around to the barrel tang. Initially I thought this was a surface crack, but after removing the lock it appears that this section of wood may have actually come loose from the stock and been glued back on. The repair appears to be old and was not done in a manner as to deceive or to conceal the repair, as the surface portion of the crack is still visible. There is a similar crack running along the belly of the stock, under the lock mortise, which travels up and around the mortise, entering it from the middle rear and middle front. This area may not have been repaired, and although it seems fairly stable, a quality antique arms restoration expert should probably further stabilize the crack. Both of these cracks should be readily visible in the many photos below. There is a very tiny patch of old synthetic wood filler present on the top edge of the lock mortise, just forward of the frizzen. The stock has a wonderful deep reddish-brown tone and is very attractive. Were in not for the cracking around the lock mortise, the stock would surely rate about fine overall, and the price of the gun would be dramatically higher.
Overall this is a really attractive and essentially complete and correct (except for a couple of screws) example of a very scarce and very desirable US martial flintlock rifle. With only 2,000 of the Deringer contract rifles produced (at the most – Robert Reilly felt that only a few hundred were delivered), these rifles are rarely found for sale on the collector market. When they are the guns are usually in very rough shape or are reconverted to flint from percussion. Finding one of these scarce guns in original flint, with the correct original ramrod and all of the small parts (like sling swivels) does not happen very often. This gun has a great look to it and displays wonderfully. The mortise cracks do not significantly detract from the display of the rifle, as the most unattractive portion is the crack under the mortise – a part of the gun not normally seen when a rifle is displayed. With a little work by a good antique arms conservator, this area could be further stabilized and made much less obtrusive. I could have had this work done, but did not want it to appear that I was trying to hide anything – I will let the new owner decide if they want to proceed with any repairs or restoration. For any collector of early US martial long arms, this is gun that is probably missing from their collection, and the chance to purchase one again may not happen any time soon. This is a really wonderful example of a scarce rifle that will simply look great hanging on your wall. SOLD