Half-stock Jacob Snider cap lock rifle

The following photos, provided by Nola Williams, show a 19th century percussion muzzle loading rifle that is signed with a "J*S" barrel inscription. As discussed in the captions to the pictures that are included below, the cheekpiece inlay and lock bolt plate match known rifles by the Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith Jacob Snider and the patch box is like one on a rifle made by Jacob's brother Tobias Snider. Blanked off dovetails on the underside of the barrel indicate that the barrel was originally fitted to a full-length stock. Several details suggest that the current stock may be a replacement, rather than original to the rifle.

The first picture below provides an overall look at the right-hand side of the firearm. The long barrel does not have the customary under-rib, so the ramrod thimbles are attached directly to the barrel. As a result, the thimbles are misaligned with the ramrod hole in the stock, and the ramrod is bent when stowed. Attaching the thimbles to the barrel, rather than to an under-rib, appears to be an economy measure that was taken to make the gun serviceable when it was converted to half-stock configuration. While the result looks crude, it is the last authentic historical configuration of this rifle, and a testiment to the frugality of our forebearers — in other words, an authentic part of our American muzzleloader heritage. I do not know if there are any indications (e.g., solder or tapped holes) that an under-rib was ever fitted to the barrel.
An overall look at the right-hand side of the firearm.

The next picture provides an oblique view of the crescent-shaped brass buttplate. It also provides a closeup of the engraving on the rear portion of the patchbox lid, and shows that the unpierced patch box side plates are retained with brass nails, some of which are missing. It also reveals that a toe plate is fitted to the belly of the buttstock (I don't have a photo of the face of the toe plate). The buttplate appears to be loose from the stock — a condition that could most likely be easily repaired. Unlike the stocks of so many antique rifles with crescent buttplates, the fragile pointed wooden toe of this stock is unbroken.
An oblique view of the crescent-shaped brass buttplate.

The next photo features the four-piece patchbox, and also shows the profile of the buttstock. The high rounded comb of the buttstock is decidedly not harmonious with the Bedford County, Pennsylvania school of gunsmithing. The shape of the buttstock may indicate this muzzle loading rifle was built (or rebuilt with a new stock) someplace far away from Bedford County, where this style of buttstock may have been customary.

The upper side plate of the patchbox is separated from the lid by an exposed strip of wood, but the lower side plate is not. As a result, the lower edge of the forward end of the lower side plate is badly misaligned with the finial. To me, this suggests that during a restocking process, the gunsmith wasn't very familiar with this style of patchbox, and mispositioned the lower side plate. Does that unfamiliarity mean he was handed a pile of metal parts without a stock, and asked to restock them to make a new rifle? I don't know, but it's the best theory I have, because I can't imagine the original maker of the patchbox making this stocking mistake. After all, Jacob and Tobias Snider were accomplished gunmakers.

The hinge of the patchbox is unlike the long raised hinges that are typically found on Bedford County patchboxes. Instead, the hinge is more like the flush Huntingdon County style of hinge that was favored by Jacob and Tobias Snider.

The asymmetric Q-shape of the patchbox finial is very common to muzzleloader rifles that were made in Bedford County, but the round piercing is not so typical. A Jacob Snider rifle and a Tobias Snider rifle on this website have Q-shaped patchbox finials with a round piercing. The slots of two of the finial screws appear to be significantly worn. The lid engraving shares similarities with the patchbox lids of a Tobias Snider rifle and a Jacob Snider rifle that are on this website. The engraving on the side plates matches a Tobias Snider rifle on this website that has the side plates separated from the lid by exposed strips of wood. I wonder if Jacob Snider obtained this patchbox from his brother Tobias, but there is no way to prove that he did.
the four-piece patchbox

The next photo shows the patchbox lid in the open position, revealing the patch storage recess in the stock.
The patchbox lid in the open position.

The next photo is zoomed out a little, to show the wrist of the stock, which incorporates an engraved teardrop-shaped silver inlay. To me, the cast trigger guard seems thicker than what I have typically seen on Bedford County rifles. This is harmonious with, but does not prove, the theory that the stock may be a replacement. The belly of the stock is substantially straight.
The wrist of the stock.

The next photo is zoomed in to highlight the double set trigger arrangement and the wrist inlay, which is retained with silver nails. As is typical, the set trigger (rear) is much more curved than the hair trigger (front). The adjustment screw is visible between the triggers. The straight configuration of the hair trigger helps to concentrate the force of the light trigger pull for greater sensitivity. The photo also reveals that the barrel tang of this old black powder rifle is exceptionally long (I don't have a top view of the tang).
The double set trigger arrangement.

The next view shows the gun lock and the mating raised panel of the stock. This is a commercially produced percussion lock with decorative stamping or engraving on the flat, unbeveled round tail lock plate. The percussion nipple is mounted on a drum that incorporates a vent screw. The drum does not appear to have wrench flats. Forward of the drum, wood is missing. It appears that the wood deteriorated (i.e., became punky) from long exposure to the flash of percussion cap detonation.
The gun lock and the mating raised panel of the stock.

The next picture provides an oblique view of the lock region, showing the cast in place texture on the spur of the hammer. The picture also shows much of the length of the exceptionally long barrel tang. Such a long tang is not typical to the Bedford County school of gunsmithing, but is compatible with the theory that the gun has been restocked.
An oblique view of the lock region.

The next photo provides a straight-on view of the trigger guard area, to show the thickness of the bow.
A straight-on view of the trigger guard area.

The next photo shows more of the forearm, up to and including the brass escutcheon for the transverse metal barrel retention pin. The medullary cells that are visible in this and several other photos suggest the stock is made from Walnut. In contrast, the stocks of most Bedford County muzzleloaders are made from curly Maple.
The forearm, up to and including the brass escutcheon for the transverse metal barrel retention pin.

The next photo is the best one I have that shows both engraved initials of the barrel signature.
The engraved initials of the barrel signature.

The following composite image was prepared by Nola to compare the individual characters of the barrel inscription to an 1800s handwriting chart. The first character appears to be a J, and is definitely not the "T" that Tobias Snider used in his barrel signatures. The second character is definitely an "S". The initials on this barrel inscription match the "J" and the "S" of the lock signature "J Snider" on the Jacob Snider rifle depicted on page 140 of Whisker & Yantz's 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties".
Comparing the individual characters of the barrel inscription to an 1800s handwriting chart.

The next picture provides a side view of the dovetailed rear sight, and its relationship to the forearm cap. The forearm cap appears to be of the cast pewter variety — note the casting defects from insufficient casting temperature. On some computer monitors, a blanked off dovetail can be seen near where the bent ramrod converges with the underside of the barrel.
A side view of the dovetailed rear sight.

The next photograph provides an oblique view of the rear sight and the projection of the transverse barrel pin. The juncture of the forearm and nosecap is uneven, and looks like the nose cap was cast in place.
An oblique view of the rear sight.

The next photo provides a closeup of a soldered in place ramrod thimble.
A closeup of a soldered in place ramrod thimble.

The next picture shows the forward portion of the barrel, and the forward ramrod thimble. On some computer monitors, a blanked off dovetail is visible on the underside of the barrel, a short distance to the rear of the front sight.
The forward portion of the barrel, and the forward ramrod thimble.

The next photo highlights the eight-groove cut rifling in the bore of the full octagon barrel. The tip of the ramrod is uncapped.
The eight-groove cut rifling in the bore of the full octagon barrel.

This picture clearly shows a blanked off dovetail on the underside of the barrel. This is proof that the barrel was originally attached to a full-length wooden stock. This picture also shows that the muzzle of the barrel is decorated with a circular pattern of small circles.
A blanked off dovetail on the underside of the barrel.

The next picture provides a side view of the dovetailed blade-type front sight.
A side view of the dovetailed blade-type front sight.

The next picture provides a top view of the front sight. The front end of the barrel is heavily corroded from the corrosive action resulting from ignition of the percussion cap and the powder charge.
A top view of the front sight.

The following picture provides an overall look at the left-hand side of this half stock percussion rifle.
An overall look at the left-hand side of the rifle.

The next photo shows the cheekpiece side of the buttstock of the rifle. The cheekpiece is decorated with an elliptic-lanceolate-shaped silver inlay that features an attractive engraved spread wing eagle. Eagle-themed cheekpiece inlays are common on Bedford County long rifles, and the specific designs that various gunmakers used are helpful for identification purposes.
The cheekpiece side of the buttstock of the rifle.

The next picture provides an enlarged view of the cheekpiece inlay. The engraved eagle is an excellent match to the eagles on two other Jacob Snider rifles that are depicted on this website. Click here and here to see the rifles.
An enlarged view of the cheekpiece inlay.

The next photo shows the wrist and lock bolt plate area of the rifle. It also shows the thick character of the bow of the cast brass trigger guard.
The wrist and lock bolt plate area of the rifle.

The next photo is an enlargement of the engraved, flat and unbeveled lock bolt plate, which is secured by three threaded fasteners and appears to be substantially flush with the surrounding surface of the gun stock. The engraving and peripheral shape of the lock bolt plate are nearly identical to another Jacob Snider muzzleloading rifle that is featured on this website. The engraving and peripheral shape are also a reasonably close match to the lock bolt plate on the Jacob Snider rifle depicted on page 143 of Whisker & Yantz's 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties". The engraving is also similar to a rifle by George Fay (Jacob Snider's teacher) that is featured on this website.
The lock bolt plate.

The next picture is zoomed out a little, to show the raised wooden panel for the lock bolt plate.
The raised wooden panel for the lock bolt plate.

The next photo shows the left-hand side of the forearm, including the barrel pin escutcheon and the nose cap. It also shows the general profile of the back sight.
The left-hand side of the forearm.

The next image shows the left-hand side of the front portion of the barrel, including both ramrod thimbles.
The left-hand side of the front portion of the barrel.

The next picture provides an oblique view of the front sight, which appears to be made from brass.
An oblique view of the front sight.

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