A percussion conversion rifle attributed to Samuel Spangler

The 1920 and 1921 photos on this page show an antique full stock percussion conversion rifle that was then in the Marc Woodmansee rifle collection (Des Moines). The 1920 photos are from Volume III of Charles Winthrop Sawyer's book "Our Rifles" and the 1921 photos are from Horace Kephart's article "Early American Rifles De Luxe" in the December, 1921 issue of the "All Outdoors" magazine. The barrel engraving is reported as "Rusily" in the 1920 book and "Ruslin" in the 1921 article. These two publications, and the fact that the rifle descriptions in the 1920 book are accidently reversed, may be why page 185 of the 1953 book "American Gun Makers" lists Jacob Ruslin and Jacob Rusily as separate gunsmiths. Collectors now believe Ruslin was the owner of the gun and Samuel Spangler (whose name is on the lock) was the maker.

This handsome rifle has silver furniture. Even though the photos are fuzzy, it's clear that the frizzen spring is still present. According to the 1921 article, somehow the frizzen spring is used in regard to a cap protector, which is unique.

This rifle is also pictured on page 42 of the Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania". I am sorry to report that the photos in that book show a flintlock rifle with a waterproof pan/fence/bridle configuration, which means that we may never get to see clear photos of the percussion conversion, and the interesting cap protector that used the flintlock frizzen spring. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I'm not impressed by flintlock reconversions. To me, a percussion conversion is an authentic part of the history of a rifle and the rifle should should be preserved in that authentic working state. Oh well, what fun would life be if we never got to gripe about anything! Given that this black powder gun was originally a flintlock, it was probably made in Somerset County, Pennsylvania before Spangler moved west.

I suspect this rifle is also included in Robert Wilson's 2015 book "The History and Art of the American Gun: The Art of American Arms", but I haven't seen Wilson's book yet.

Photos from Sawyer's 1920 book
The following images and related caption are from Sawyer's 1920 book "Our Rifles". The images show an antique Pennsylvania long rifle with a 58-3/4-inch overall length. This full stock flintlock rifle is stocked in curly maple and the barrel is 44 inches long. The bore size is 80 balls per pound (about 0.385-inch diameter balls). When viewing "Plate 1, Right" and "Plate 2, Left" in Sawyer's book, be aware that the rifle images are numbered backwards from the rifle descriptions, and description six goes with rifle three.
This is a 1920 halftone image of a percussion conversion muzzle loading rifle that is believed to have been made by the Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmith Samuel Spangler.

This is a halftone image from 1920 that shows the left-hand side of a muzzle loader gun marked 'Jacob Rusily'. This gun is attributed to Samuel Spangler, who was a gunsmith in Somerset County, Pennsylvania before moving to Wisconsin.

Description of the percussion conversion muzzleloader that is shown in Plate 1.

Photos from the 1921 article
The following images and related caption are from the 1921 article, and the first image is a bit clearer than its counterpart above. The first image shows the entire right-hand side of the rifle. The piercing in the finial of the patch box is very complex. The lock plate seems relatively wide top to bottom and has a rat tail. The tail of the lock panel of the stock has a tapering streamlined shape and there is a trailing edge panel finial with a teardrop-shaped inlay, as often seen on rifles from Bedford County. The cap protector can be seen in its open position. There is a wing-shaped inlay just in front of the lock panel. The forearm escutcheons are shaped a bit like birds flying directly toward or away from the viewer. In the second image, the cheekpiece has a very complicated inlay, a very complicated inlay is located below the cheekpiece, and the region aft of the cheekpiece is carved.
This is a 1921 halftone image of a silver-mounted rifle that is marked 'Jacob Ruslin'. It is believed to have been made by Samuel Spangler, a gunsmith who worked in Somerset County, Pennsylvania before moving to Wisconsin.

This shows the left-hand side of the buttstock of a long rifle marked 'Jacob Ruslin' that is attributed to Samuel Spangler, a gunsmith who practiced in Somerset County, PA before moving west.

Description of the percussion conversion rifle that is shown in the 1921 article.

More on Jacob Ruslin
Plate 141 of Hetrick's book "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers" shows a double rifle with mule ear hammers that is engraved with the name "John Jacob Rusley" somewhere, and is engraved "S. Spangler" on the rat tail-shaped lock plates. One of the 37-1/2-inch long octagonal barrels is 46 caliber and rifled, and the other is 50 caliber and smooth bored. The rifle is 53-1/2-inches long and weighs ten pounds. That rifle was attributed to Rusley by Hetrick and others, but now is attributed to the gunsmith Samuel Spangler.

The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" indicates that:

  • John Jacob Ruslin's name is included in the records of the Saint Thomas Catholic Church in Bedford, Pennsylvania.
  • John Jacob Ruslin was a sheep farmer.
  • John Jacob Ruslin owned and operated a woolen mill.
  • John Jacob Ruslin owned and operated a tavern.
  • The guns bearing the names of Jacob Ruslin and Isaac Wendle were probably made by Samuel Spangler.

    This Somerset and Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith project is intended to be a collaborative effort with gun collectors, historians, genealogists, etc. who may have information or photos to share.

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