Sunday, October 23, 2016

A. B. Smith Belted Ball Rifle

This original Abias Butler Smith flintlock long rifle has a most unusual feature: it is designed for a belted ball.

Belted balls are believed to have been first experimented with around 1725 in Spain but were not widely used until they were used in the Brunswick rifles designed by George Lovell in 1836. 
Belted rifling was never widely used in the U.S., and the system in general was made obsolete in the 1850s by the introduction of the Minie ball which was more accurate and easier to load. This rifling would have been an extreme rarity in the U.S. and ammunition would have been hard nearly impossible to come by without a mold specifically made for this rifle. 

The barrel is signed "A. B. Smith" in script. Abias Butler Smith (b. 1818- d. 1900) Tax records list him as a gunsmith in Clinton, Allegheny County (1838-66).

The lock plate is marked "M. MASLIN/ PARTRIDGE WARRANTED" and is engraved with scrollwork and a bird scene. Michael M. Maslin was a lockmaker located in Baltimore (circa 1822-1833) and in Philadelphia (1833-1847). The use of a Maslin flintlock and belted rifling suggest the rifle was manufactured in the late 1830s or perhaps very early 1840s. 

The rifle is pictured on page 157 of "The Kentucky Rifle" by John G. W. Dillin and on page 60 of "The Longrifles of Western Pennsylvania: Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties" by Richard F. Rosenberger & Charles Kaufmann  In the latter, the authors note "this is the only American longrifle of its type known" and was produced after the percussion system was widely available, but the fact that it is pictured in the earlier book indicates that it was almost certainly produced as a flintlock and not later enhanced. 


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