Here's a very interesting Westley Richards "Commercial" musket based on the British Pattern 1842. The concept of commercial muskets was developed by British Arms contractors. Throughout the 18th and much of the 19th Centuries, England obtains its military arms primarily through contracts given to private firms, rather than a large state-owned arsenal like Springfield in America, or St. Etienne in France. The country did maintain large armories for arms research and production at Enfield Locks and the Tower of London, but the bulk of actual arms production was done in Birmingham by members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade - a conglomerate of private firms that served the majority of the countries need for arms.
As private contractors, the members of the BSAT could also choose to make and market arms for nongovernment use. In fact, Westley Richards, the maker of this musket, eventually became the most well known producers of sporting shotguns. In addition to sporting arms BSAT guild members also produced military arms for private interests; most notably the East India Trade Co. These guns typically conformed to the general design of whatever pattern arm that was currently in production for the British military. However, because these arms were not subject to official government inspection or strict cost parameters, modifications could be made to their design based on the needs of the client.
This particular Pattern 1842 musket has all the earmarks of such a "commercial" gun. It is nearly identical to the standard pattern 1842, yet it has several distinct features; the most obvious being the distinct "hand hold" cut out in the butt stock. This type of alteration was experimented with at several times throughout the 18th Century by the British government. The idea being that a hand-hold in the stock would provide a better grip when thrusting a bayonet; especially if the stock became slippery. Ultimately, the government-tested designs were thought to weaken the stock to an unacceptable degree; and the "bayonet-charge" stocks were never officially adopted for military use. However, a weakened stock did not seem to be of much concern to whomever ordered this particular stand of muskets; as a large cut out has been neatly removed from the stock and is just large enough for a man to wrap his hand around. Other "non-pattern" features of this stock include the engraving of the maker's name on the lock plate - a typical feature of commercial muskets; as government-owned guns were required to be marked "TOWER". This musket also features a civilian-style hooked breech, rather than the standard breech plug tang.
While it is unknown who ordered this musket, it is clear that they were of some means, as these additional features would have added to the cost of the gun considerably.
This mysterious musket survives in excellent condition. The stock is very good with nice crisp edges and no cracks or splits.
The lock holds solid on both full and half cock and a light salt and pepper pitting covers all steel surfaces.
The barrel is full length and the bore is as found - uncleaned but with no major pitting.
In all of our research we have never encountered another Westley Richards musket with a "bayonet-charge stock". This rare piece is sure to be a great source of discussion for your collection.