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Home > Gallery - Previously Sold Custom-Built Firearms > Confederate Montgomery Arsenal-Modified Harper's Ferry M1842

Confederate Montgomery Arsenal-Modified Harper's Ferry M1842

Alabama's Montgomery Arsenal was one of the first National Armories founded by the Confederacy in 1861 during the brief period when the Confederate Capitol was located in Montgomery, Alabama. At first, it was little more than a repository depot for the CSA's arms and ammunition. However, as the war escalated, the CSA's arsenal grew into a fairly large arms complex complete with a major manufacturing division. 

While Montgomery's arms manufacturing ability was limited (the only guns manufactured there were a relatively small number or Mississippi-type rifles between February and March of 1864), it is clear that the arsenal operated a fairly substantial machine shop capable of producing parts to repair Southern-owned muskets. Among these repaired muskets, a number of uniquely marked smoothbores survive today which were re-worked by the arsenal. Of those original examples, the most intriguing are the M1816 and M1842s that were worked over by the arsenal. These smoothbore muskets are, for the most part, in their original configuration except for the fact that they have replacement locks that were manufactured entirely in-house by the Montgomery Arsenal. These distinctive locks are marked "MONTGOMERY ARSENAL, CS" over a large star, with the date, "1863" stamped on the tail. These muskets also contain a myriad of other replacement parts, including parts that were both "cannibalized" from other muskets, or manufactured by the arsenal. While original records are unclear about how many muskets were repaired with Montgomery-produced locks, only a handful survive, making them extremely desirable on the collector's market.

Original records by the arsenal's Chief Ordnance Officer Charles G. Wagner indicate that muskets repaired by the arsenal were shipped, along with water-damaged import muskets that the arsenal regularly refurbished, to Richmond where they were kept for general issuance to Confederate troops. 

This musket, built by David Stavlo, is a copy of the Montgomery altered M1842 found in Howard Madeaus and John Murphy's book Confederate Rifles and Muskets. David started with an Armiport M1842 as a base. The stock was first re-shaped to the dimensions of original '42s. Special attention was paid to the moldings around the lock and thinning out the wrist and forend. The result is a perfect copy of the original m1842 stocks; not only in appearance but also in feel. The bulky squared Italian stock is gone; replaced by the graceful lines of America's most handsome smoothbore. 

David continued by fitting one of our custom Montgomery Arsenal-marked lock plates into the mortise. This is a slow and tedious process because it requires a lot of hand-inletting to allow the plate to sit at it's proper depth not only in relation to the stock, but to the bolster as well. David purposely left a small gap between the bottom of the bolster and the top of the lock as this is a feature found in original Montgomery-altered '42s whose locks weren't fit as perfectly as those produced by Federal arsenal in the North. Surviving examples of Montgomery-altered '42s also feature hammers that were taken off M1816 Conversion muskets. In keeping with this style, David modified the existing Armisport hammer to copy the appearance of the hammers found on many conversion muskets. The resulting hard lines and wide arc of the hammer give the lock a look all it's own. The finished lock fits well and the lock plate is a perfect copy of the original Montgomery marked locks.

The work continued by removing the Italian markings from the barrel and stamping "1863" onto the breech; another feature found on original Montgomery guns. The historically inaccurate steel front sight was also filed off the front barrel band and replaced with a proper brass blade. David completed the defarb work by installing the correct tape pins in the swivels and filing them flush. 

In researching this project, David came across an original Montgomery '42 that featured a replacement trigger assembly from a M1840 Nippes contract musket. A third wood screw was added to the trigger plate to insure the assemblies' stability.  David copied this detail by installing an original M1840 Nippes trigger assembly onto this musket. He also added a third screw to the stock, just like the original. 

David finished the project by lightly patining all the metal parts. This was done for two reasons. The first is that it provides the musket with an element of realism; as many of these Montgomery-altered '42s were battlefield pick-ups and thus would have patined on the battlefield for a few days before they were picked up and sent to the arsenal. Patining also gives a musket a layer of rust resistance, making maintenance much easier in the field. David also lightly patined the stock to match the metal before sealing it with several applications of hand-rubbed oil finish. Finally, David added Harper's Ferry inspector James A. Schaeffer's "JAS" cartouche to the lock panel to replicate the inspector's mark that would have been applied to the stock when it was originally built by the Harper's Ferry Arsenal. He then added the number "57" to the lock panel to replicate the assembler's numbers that were added by the Montgomery Arsenal to the muskets it repaired.

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