This is a mint condition example of one of the rarest of Civil War rifles from one of the most famous manufacturers of the 19th Century. This is the Deringer Original Percussion Rifle, sometimes referred to as the 1861 Deringer Rifle, in .58 caliber. These rifles are similar to the Model 1817 rifles manufactured by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia years earlier. It is believed that these Deringer rifles were either purchased by the state of New Jersey or by some of the private militia companies formed in southern Pennsylvania at the outbreak of the Civil War. This particular rifle was in the personal collection of George Moller and is documented in his third volume of the definitive work on U.S. Military long arms.
There is yet another mystery surrounding these rare rifles and that relates to whether any were purchased by the U.S. Government during the Civil War. Deringer traveled to Washington, D.C. with a sample rifle in July 1861 and offered to furnish 500 to 600 rifles to the Ordnance Department. General James Ripley, Chief of Ordnance, wrote to Deringer on July 11, 1861, stating that the rifles could not be purchased unless there were sufficient numbers to arm an entire infantry regiment and the purchase was authorized by the secretary of war.
Surviving correspondence from General Ripley to Deringer on July 28, 1861 (Deringer’s letter, probably written to General Ripley on July 26th, has not survived) directed Deringer to contact the Ordnance Department’s purchasing agent, Captain Silas Crispin, in New York City, who would then determine “if the arms are of a kind and quality which it is desirable to obtain for the U.S. service,” and if the price was appropriate. No additional information about any U.S. Government purchase of Deringer’s rifle has surfaced.
The Deringer Rifles known to exist are in either .54 or .58 caliber with the .58 caliber versions being the more common of the two. Deringer Rifle examples are also known with both brown and bright metal finishes. All rifles manufactured by Deringer are believed to have been produced in 1861 and only 100 to 200 are believed to have been manufactured, making this one of the rarest of Civil War rifles.
As noted, this particular Deringer Rifle is in the rarer .54 caliber, and it has a bright finish. The diameter of the bore at the muzzle is .5345”. The length of the rifle is 51 ¼” and the Barrel is 36” in length and is round and gradually tapers to the muzzle, which has a flat crown. The bore is rifled with seven .085” wide by .03” deep grooves. These barrels make one right hand turn in 48”. The bore is in mint condition with a mirror finish throughout and crisp rifling. The barrel has a deeply struck “P” proof stamp on the left, rear, which indicates this was an original percussion barrel. The barrel tang is in mint condition retaining all of its original armory bright finish, and the tang screw has an unmarred slot.
The top of the barrel has the original 1” sight dovetailed into the barrel just under eight inches forward of the breech. The rear of the sight has a standing leaf sighted for 100 yards. The leaf and the base both exhibit the majority of the original armory bright finish. The front sight is iron and measures ¼” by 5/16” at the base and it is located approximately 1 3/16” behind the muzzle.
The original nipple is present, and it is in fine condition with no corrosion noted. The firing channel is unobstructed to the breech chamber. The nipple bolster has the Deringer-characteristic long 1 ½” profile without a cleanout screw. The bolster is flush with the side of the lockplate. The bottom edge of the bolster has a serif “G” inspection stamp.
The lockplate is the earlier Deringer version originally manufactured for a flintlock. This lockplate has the drilled and tapped holes for the frizzen and frizzen spring screws. The lockplate measures 5 3/8” by 1 1/8” and has a flat surface with beveled edges forward of the hammer and has a convex surface to the rear of the hammer. The lockplate has the correct “US” stamp over “DERINGER” over “PHILADA” in three horizontal lines forward of the hammer. The markings remain as crisp as the day they were stamped. Deringer lockplates do not have the date stamp to the rear of the hammer. The lockplate is in mint condition, exhibiting all of its original armory bright finish. The Hammer is 3 ½” tall and is the same style as the Model 1842 Muskets with a straight, checkered thumbpiece. The checkering is formed by ten intersecting lines. The Hammer and Hammer Screw are in mint condition exhibiting all of the original national armory bright finish. The cap recess exhibits no wear from firing, giving further evidence that this rifle was probably never issued.
The interior of the lock assembly is also in mint condition. The interior surface of the Lockplate retains almost all of its original oil-quenched finish. The inside is marked with a serif “G” inspection stamp. The original Main Spring is present, and the Main Spring Screw retains all of its heat-tempered blue finish with an unmarred slot. The Bridle retains the majority of its original heat-tempered blue finish and has a serif “G” inspection stamp. The two-position Tumbler retains the majority of its heat-tempered blue finish and has a serif “G” inspection stamp. The Sear also retains the majority of its heat-tempered blue finish and has a serif “G” inspection stamp. The Sear, Bridle and Sear Spring Screws all have unmarred slots, and all retain the majority of their original fire blue finish. The inside of the hammer arms has two crisp serif “V” inspection stamps. The lock works perfectly. Both original Lock Plate Screws have unmarred slots with an armory bright finish on the slightly convex heads, and the barrels still retain the majority of their original oil-quenched finish with serif “G” inspection stamps.
The trigger guard assembly has a trigger suspended from a lateral pin. The guard bow is riveted to the trigger plate. Both single-slot screws are present and are in fine condition. The original lower sling swivel is riveted through a circular plate on the front branch of the trigger guard bow. The sling swivel moves freely. The Trigger retains the majority of its original dark, oil-quenched finish and the plate and bow still retain virtually all of the original national armory bright finish.
The Stock is a beautiful oil finished black walnut stock that is 48 ¼” in length. The stock has never been sanded and only has a few minor dings and scratches with no cracks noted. The interior of the lock mortise is in fine condition and has three serif “G” inspection stamp. The bottom of the stock wrist, just to the rear of the trigger guard plate is a serif “H” inspection stamp. The original buttplate is present and is convex-surfaced with a straight rear profile that measures 4 1/8” by 1 7/8”. The tang is 2 1/8” long and is round ended. Both the tang and buttplate screws have unmarred single-slot screws and the buttplate is in mint condition retaining all of its national armory bright finish.
The original patch compartment is present, and the lid still exhibits almost all of its original national armory bright finish. The patch door measures 4 3/16” by 1 11/16” and has a convex contour and oval shape. The cover has the original small piano hinge secured by two single-slot screws and is solidly attached. The original 3/8” lid catch is present and secures the cover. The inside of the patch box has the correct “LXV” assembly stamp, which is commonly found on the extant Deringer Rifles. Inside the patch box is the original Combination Tool. The tool has an integrated nipple wrench and two single-slot screwdrivers joined by a rivet. The tool still retains considerable original oil-quenched finish.
The Lower Band measures 9/16” wide at the top and extends forward at the bottom to just under 1” and it retains the majority of its original armory bright finish. The lower band spring is present and measures 1 7/8” and also retains the majority of its original armory bright finish. The Middle Band measures 9/16” wide and is secured by its 1 7/8” band spring, both of which retain virtually all of their original armory bright finish. At the bottom of the middle band is the upper sling swivel, which is secured by a rivet through a circular plate on a lug at the bottom of the band. The upper sling swivel moves freely. The Upper Band has a rectangular cut-out area between the front barrel ring, which is 7/16” wide, and the rear ring, which is ½” wide. The total width of the band at the top is 1 11/16” and the bottom extends to the rear to 2 9/16” overall length. It is secured by a 1 5/8” long band spring that has a lug at the front to secure the band through a hole on the right side. Both the band spring, which extends to the rear of the band and the band itself both retain the majority of their original armory bright finish. The Upper Band has the number “183” with serifs stamped on the top, forward band, which I believe is the serial number used by Deringer as I have observed another Deringer rifle with the number “94” stamped in the same location.
The Rifle has its original Ramrod that measures 35 7/8” in length. The front end has a 7/8” long brass, slightly cupped trumpet head. The rear of the ramrod is smooth. The brass shows an old patina, and the balance of the ramrod retains virtually all of its original national armory bright finish. The ramrod is secure when stowed.
The Side Plate is an “L” shaped plate with parallel sides and circular ends and it measures 3 7/16” long. Both sideplate screws are the correct convex head, single slot type and both are unmarred. The sideplate and screws retain all of their original armory bright finish.
This rifle carries a period correct Civil War leather sling with single brass hook. The original leather keeper is present. The leather is in very fine condition. This rifle also comes with an original wood Tampion in very fine condition.
This is one of the rarest of all Civil War rifle muskets and this particular rifle is documented in the definitive book on antique American long arms, American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume III: Flintlock Alterations and Muzzleloading Percussion Shoulder Arms, 1840-1865, by George D. Moller, Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2011. Moller describes these rare rifles in pages 352 to 355 of his book and this very rifle is pictured on page 354. This rifle was in the personal collection of George Moller and has his personal collection stamp “GDM” on the bottom of the butt, just forward of the butt plate. Given the immaculate condition of this rifle, it is undoubtedly one that was never issued during the Civil War, and it has remained in a perfect state of preservation since 1861. This rifle still functions perfectly.