This is an excellent example of an original Miller Model 1861 .58 Caliber Cartridge Conversion rifle from circa 1865. The story of these unique and rare conversion rifles begins during the Civil War.
In January 1862, James Mulholland sought and received a government contract to produce 58,000 .58 caliber percussion Model 1861 Rifle Muskets. The order was reduced to only 25,000 rifles in February 1862. Mulholland was the superintendent of the Reading Railroad, however, and not a gun manufacturer so he subcontracted production in June 1862 with Parkers’ Snow & Company of Meriden, Connecticut. Parkers’ Snow & Company hired William H. Miller to oversee rifle production and Miller’s younger brother George was hired to manufacture the lock mechanisms. Parkers’ Snow & Company’s factory on Cherry Street in Meriden took some time to convert to manufacturing rifles and the first 5,502 rifles marked “Parker Snow & Company” were not completed until October 31, 1863, and all of these rifles were dated “1863” on the locks. The balance of the contract was not completed by Parker Snow & Company and may have been completed by the Savage Revolving Firearms Company. Curiously, however, Parker Snow & Company received a second government contract for the production of 15,000 rifle muskets on September 28, 1863. All 15,000 of these rifles were manufactured by Parker Snow and all are dated “1864” on the lock.
Charles Parker renamed the factory on Cherry Street the Meriden Manufacturing Company in December 1864. It was under this name that the breech-loading conversion system for rifled muskets designed by William H. and George W. Miller, the Triplett & Scott repeating rifles and carbines and the first Parker Brothers shotguns were manufactured in 1865.
The Miller modification to existing Model 1861 Pattern Rifle Muskets was intended to provide the Union Army with a breechloading rifle but the Civil War ended before the Miller Rifles could be issued. The Meriden Manufacturing Company only manufactured about 2,000 of these firearms and they were made in both 2 band and 3 band designs. This particular rifle is a 2-band rifle. What happened to all of the Miller Modification Rifles but it is known that 50 were issued to the Maryland Militia as late as 1876, and the famous New York dealer Schuyler, Hartley is known to have purchased 45 rifles from a New York militia arsenal as surplus.
The Lock on this rifle is in fine condition. The lockplate exhibits its original National Armory Bright finish and is dated “1864” to the rear of the hammer so it is part of Parker’s second Ordnance Department contract. The original Hammer is present and is correctly modified by bending the nose in approximately 20 degrees so it impacts the firing pin on the Miller device. The cross hatching on the thumb piece is still sharp. The original federal eagle is present as is the “U.S.” stamp and the sans serif “PARKERS’ SNOW & CO. / MERIDEN.CONN.” stamp is still crisp. The inside of the lock mechanism retains the majority of its original dark oil finish. The original Mainspring remains strong. Both original Lock Plate Screws are present.
As noted, this is the 2-band version and both bands still exhibit the majority of their original national armory bright finish. The Lower Band still has the crisp serif “U” stamp on the right side. The Upper Band also has a crisp serif “U” stamp and integrated lug on the bottom. This lug holds its original Sling Swivel, which is riveted to the lug, and the swivel still moves freely.
Unlike the Model 1861 Pattern Rifle, the Miller Modification’s barrel is secured by a screw that secures from the bottom. The Barrel Screw is present and the single slot is unmarred. This screw secures to the bottom of the barrel through the forward portion of the trigger plate. The original Model 1861 Rear Sight Assembly is present and remains in the white. Both the short leaf, with 100-yard and 300-yard notches and the long leaf for 500 yards are present. The original spanner nut secures the rear sight base to the barrel. The leaf screw’s slot remains unmarred. The left side of the rear sight base has a serif “W” inspections stamp.
The rotating Breech Block is in fine condition and is numbered on the back edge “303.” The Firing Pin Block is also in fine condition and the Firing Pin still works correctly. The Hinge Block has the matching serial number “303.” The Extractor still works perfectly. The Extractor Spring still works correctly and rides in its brass tube, which is brazed to the bottom of the barrel. The Breech is very clean and the bore is in fine condition with a mirror bore and strong rifling. The Barrel measures 32” long. The top of the Breech is still crisply stamped “W.H.&G.W.MILLER / PATENT MAY 23.1865” and “MERIDEN MAN’FG.CO. / MERIDEN.CONN.” The bottom of the barrel has the matching serial number “303,” as well as a serif “P” proof stamp and the barrel inspector initials “C.D.R.” The Breech Block and Release recesses are still crisply machined into the bottom of the barrel. The original Front Sight remains tightly brazed into its dovetail at the front of the barrel.
The Ramrod measures 32” long and has a slotted head with seven cannelures. The Ramrod retains considerable original national armory bright finish that exhibits a mixed plum and pewter patina. The ramrod secures tightly in the stock.
The original American Black Walnut Stock is present. There is some wood loss at the top of the lock mortise, which was necessitated by the change in the profile of the hammer to operate with the new Miller modification. Where the tang was on the unmodified rifle is the Miller modification recess for loading the .58 caliber cased round. The original tang screw hole was plugged during modification to the Miller system. On the bottom of the stock wrist, just to the rear of the trigger guard, is a “34” rack number stamp. The original Trigger Guard and Plate is present and it retains most of its original national armory bright finish. Both Plate Screws are present and both have unmarred slots. The Rear Sling Swivel is still securely riveted to the lug on the front of the Trigger Bow and it rotates freely. The Trigger still retains considerable original blued finish. Both original Band Springs are present and both exhibit a pewter patina. The original Nose Cap is present and it exhibits a pewter patina. The Nose Cap Screw is still present. There is a grease pencil “3” written in the barrel channel. The interior of the barrel channel shows crisp modification for the Miller Ejector and Ejector Spring assemblies as well as a mortise for the breech block that protrudes through the bottom of the barrel when the action is in battery.
The original Butt Plate is present and still retains considerable original national armory bright finish that now exhibits a slight plum patina. The tang is rounded and has a serif “U.S” stamp and the tang screw is still present. The Rear Butt Plate Screw is also present. Both Side Plate Washers are still present.
This is a scarce example of a late-Civil War breechloading rifle modification, of which only 2,000 examples were produced. This rifle still functions perfectly.
This rifle is an antique so it can be shipped to anyone. This rifle will also come with an historic writeup and a CD containing all of the photos in the listing. I accept Visa and MasterCard and charge NO FEES. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like additional photos posted.