This antique full stock rifle was made by Joseph Mills, an important Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunmaker who continued his gun making career in Ohio. The rifle was built with a rat tail flintlock that was later converted to percussion.
The rifle was obtained in 2020 from a Somerset County, Pennsylvania family it had been in for years. The lock, tang, and associated bolts were missing when the rifle was sold at auction, but were found loose in a box a few weeks later by the "Picker" who had originally put the rifle at auction. Thanks to the Picker, the lock was reunited with the rifle! And so, this marvelous example of the work of Joseph Mills has been saved intact for another generation to enjoy.
When this flintlock rifle was converted to percussion, a percussion drum and a commercial hammer were incorporated. Note that the drum has a cleanout screw. Also notice the vestigial remains of the pan, the filled-in hole for the frizzen screw, and the related lump along the lower edge of the lock plate.
The next photo is included because it provides a good view of the left-hand side of the trigger guard of the Mills percussion conversion rifle.
The following image provides a view of the lightly engraved lock bolt plate on this Joseph Mills muzzle loader rifle. Note the pointed front and streamlined tail on the stock panel.
The following photo highlights the sunburst relief carving aft of the cheekpiece on the Joseph Mills percussion conversion rifle. Joseph Mills was not afraid to experiment with design, and this wonderful sunburst design strays very far from the traditional vine carving.
The following photo provides a right-hand view of the trigger guard and provides a good view of the handmade lock plate, which is signed "JM" for Joseph Mills. The filled in hole for the frizzen spring and the related "lump on the lock, as well as the trace of the original pan that remains, prove that this gun was originally a flintlock rifle. This photo also shows the "streamlined" aft portion of the lock panel of the stock, and the lanceolate-shaped wrist inlay that trails the lock panel. Unlike some Joseph Mills rifles that were originally flintlock, the rat tail of this lock is well-centered in the streamlined tail of the lock panel.
The following photograph is provided to better show the Q-shaped finial of the patch box. The specific design of the the pointed element in the finial matches other known Joseph Mills rifles, which helps to prove that this stock was made by Joseph Mills.
In the following photo, notice that the comb of the Joseph Mills buttstock is minimal, and the lower edge of the buttstock is relatively straight. These are subtle features of the Bedford School of gunmaking.
The next photograph provides a closeup of the patch box on the Joseph Mills rifle. The engraved patch box door has an extra latch, apparently to ensure that the patch box remains closed. The patch box door is released by pushing in on the rear of the top part of the patch box, near the butt plate, where some damage is evident. Push in there, and the patch box flings open under spring power. The quality of the engraving seen here is excellent, compared to some rifles of the Bedford School. Joseph Mills was a multi-talented gunmaker.
The next photo provides a nice view of the left-hand side of the rifle from the lock bolt plate to the butt plate. When this photo was taken, the original lock had not yet been reunited with the rifle.
"The next photo highlights the well-executed engraving of an eagle on the elliptic cheekpiece inlay of the Joseph Mills muzzle loader. The specific design of the eagle matches other known Joseph Mills rifles, which helps to prove that this stock was made by Joseph Mills.
The following photograph shows the barrel signature on this Joseph Mills black powder rifle. Although faint, the signature on the 42-inch-long barrel is definitely that of Joseph Mills.
The following photograph provides a bottom view of the entry pipe of the Joseph Mills muzzleloader, and shows where the incised lines on the fore end commence.
The following photo shows several ramrod ferrules on the Joseph Mills muzzle loading rifle.
The next photo shows the nose cap and ramrod tip on a Joseph Mills rifle, and also shows a good side view of one of the ramrod ferrules. The photo also shows that the barrel and the ferrules are retained to the wooden stock with transverse pins.
The next photo shows the left-hand side of the entry pipe region of the Joseph Mills muzzleloader.
The following four screen grabs from a video show the patch box flinging open as the operator's thumb applies pressure to the rear of the upper patch box panel.
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