The photos below were taken in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and show an antique full stock percussion long rifle that was made by a Mier of Somerset County (see barrel engraving). This graceful Somerset County rifle is featured on page 300 of Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle". For reasons listed below related to the barrel signature, the incised carving below the cheekpiece, and the patch box piercings, I propose that this antique rifle was made by Jacob Mier.
The first photo, below, provides an oblique view of the entire right-hand side of the full stock Mier percussion rifle. As interesting as it is as an antique firearm, I think its flowing lines make this rifle merit consideration in the realm of Appalachian folk art.
The next image is an enlargement of the forearm that shows the entry pipe and ramrod ferrule components of the Mier long rifle. The ramrod thimbles are relatively long, compared to those on many rifles. The rear sight is mounted over the rear half of the ramrod entry pipe. The gun stock has a light honey-colored finish.
The next photo is zoomed in on the patch box, trigger guard, and lock areas of the Mier-marked full stock muzzle loading rifle. The lock plate of the gun lock has a rounded-tail configuration. The gracefully shaped buttstock has no comb per se. Instead, the top edge of the buttstock blends smoothly into the wrist. The narrow top to bottom depth of the buttstock seems to dictate the use of a narrow patch box. This photo also shows that the trailing edge of the lock panel of the stock has a little "beaver tail", for lack of a better term. The beaver tail decorative element is also used on muzzle loaders that were made by Somerset County riflesmiths Jonathan Dormayer and Charles Monroe Knupp. The rifle also has a spurred trigger guard.
The following photograph is zoomed in on the engraved four-piece brass patch box of the Mier-marked muzzle loading rifle. The symmetric finial has two piercings, and each side plate has a single piercing. The P-shaped piercings on the side plates resemble the piercings on the two Jacob Mier rifles shown on page 113 of the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties". The stock incorporates an incised line that parallels the subtly-curved lower edge of the stock. The wrist incorporates incised carving that mimics the relief carving sometimes found on antique long guns from this region of Pennsylvania. The patch box release button projects from the toe plate on the belly of the stock. At the right of the photograph, the metal cross-pin is visible that secures the rear of the trigger guard to the rifle stock.
The next photograph shows the commercial cap lock and the mating repaired lock panel of the stock. The lock is obviously a commercial product based on its difficult to see lettering and tail area imagery. The clunky-looking hammer appears to be a blacksmith or gunsmith-made replacement, rather than commercially manufactured. The forward-facing surface of hammer spur is concave, which facilitates hammer manipulation. The percussion nipple is mounted on a drum. The nose of the hammer seems poorly aligned with the nipple. The repaired damage to the lower side of the lock panel may have resulted from mainspring breakage. Peering inside the bow of the cast brass trigger guard, the set trigger has more curvature than the hair trigger, which is typical on Pennsylvania long rifles.
The next picture provides a bottom view of the trigger guard on the Mier rifle, to display some of the decorative elements that are cast into the guard. The incised beaver tail carving at the tail end of the lock panel is visible, as is the incised carving on the wrist of the gun stock. This picture also provides a close up view of some of the curl in the maple stock, and shows that the underside of the stock has an incised line that parallels the lower edge of the left-hand stock panel, which is for the lock bolt plate.
The next photograph shows the gunmaker's engraved cursive signature on the top flat of the full octagon barrel on this 19th century muzzleloader. I interpret the first initial to be a "J" because of the right-to-left direction of the start of the stroke for the loop at the top of the initial. In addition to the surname "Mier", the barrel inscription also includes the place name "Somerset".
The next photograph shows the crude, generally obround silver cheekpiece inlay, which does not match the overall quality and elegance of the rifle. Based on the poor-quality engraving and the irregular peripheral shape of the inlay, it was probably not made and installed by the same individual who built the rifle and signed the barrel. The top and bottom words are "union" and "Liberty". The inlay is retained to the stock with silver nails.
The next photo shows the forestock, nose cap, and forward ramrod thimble of the Mier long rifle. The nose cap has the same cross-sectional dimensions as the forestock, which in my opinion accentuates the sender appearance of the rifle. This photo reveals that the ramrod thimbles and the barrel are retained to the full-length stock with laterally oriented pins. This photo also shows that the forestock is decorated with parallel incised lines. The ramrod thimble is faceted, and incorporates decorative annular bands at each end.
The next photo highlights the left-hand side of the buttstock of the Mier rifle. This buttstock has one of the most graceful profiles I have ever seen on an antique muzzle loading black powder rifle. The decorative incised carving on this Mier rifle is interesting and reasonably well done. I do not mean to damn with faint praise with that statement, because the truth is I've seen a heck of a lot worse incised carving on otherwise nicely executed Somerset County long rifles. This photo gives a good view of the rear of the panel for the lock bolt plate, and a good view of the grain of the stock wood. I forgot to take a picture of the lock bolt plate, but you can see enough of it here to know it is nicely engraved. To me, one of the defining features on this stock is the pair of curved incised lines under the cheekpiece, which matches the Jacob Mier rifle at the top of page 113 of the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties".
The profile of the stock on this Mier rifle is very similar to that of a Jonathan Dormayer rifle that was sold at auction on March 11, 2014. It also bears a resemblance to the rifle that is pictured on page 42 of the Whiskers' 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" and attributed (perhaps erroneously) to John Altfather. The deeply curved crescent buttplate was cast from brass. The upper line of the buttplate is well-aligned with the subtly-curved upper line of the buttstock. Not every gunsmith achieved such excellent visual alignment.
For additional photos of antique black powder rifles and information about the gunmakers who created them, visit the Gunsmith Index.
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