British East India Company Ferguson Type Breech Loading Rifle by Henry Nock of London
Original Item: Only One Available. A pair of these was found in the legendary Nepalese cache discovery of 2003. This example is our last remaining Ferguson type breach loading Flintlock Rifle expressly made for the East India Company by the London Gunmaker Henry Nock dated 1776.
Well documented in David Harding's wonderful book(s) "Smallarms of the East India Company 1660-1856" in 4 volumes, see pages 430-441. Clearly illustrated in Mr. Harding’s work is what is reported as the sole loan survivor of those 60 experimental breach loaders, 20 each, supplied to each E.I.C. Presidencies of Madras, Culcutta and Delhi for evaluation in the field. This single survivor is in Carbine form fitted with only a 29" barrel and is full stocked.
However, this example is Musket size with a 39" barrel and is also E.I.C. marked on the lock and dated 1776. Outwardly it almost appears as the regular E.I.C. smoothbore musket of 1771 however closer examination reveals the obvious differences of the Ferguson type breach loading action. When first found the unwinding brass trigger guard and steel under plate were missing and have been replaced with a standard musket trigger guard. The Breach plug without lever was jammed into the rear of the barrel, frozen, and it appears the bore, although clearly rifled, was somewhat converted to smooth bore.
The original early wood stock with bannister rail butt bears P/16 that we suspect are E.I.C. Regimental markings. The entire gun has been completely restored with a replacement correct style trigger guard winder and under plate. The breech plug now functions beautifully, and can be lowered with one complete turn of the trigger guard. The lock is tight and sound, holding on half cock perfectly.
Eleven starting threads on a tapered screw close the breech of the weapon, and the trigger guard serves as the crank to rotate it. One complete turn drops the screw low enough to drop a round ball into the exposed breech followed by a slight overcharge of powder which was then sheared to the proper charge by the screw as it closed the breech. Since the weapon was loaded from the breech, rather than from the muzzle, it had an amazingly high rate of fire for its day, and in capable hands fired six to ten rounds per minute.
With only the one "surviving" example in a Carbine form previously known finding a full size example was a great surprise. However, it has been pointed out to us that in an inventory return for Fort St. George in Madras listed just One Carbine Rifled Barrels" on 31st. January 1780. In addition the inventory goes on to mention a further Eight "Muskets with Screw Barrels" also being in store at that same date.
This rather suggests that the Experimental Henry Nock order was in fact for BOTH Rifled Carbines and full length Rifled Muskets. In fact, we discovered TWO such Rifled Muskets in the 1,802 assorted E.I.C. Brown Bess long arms we received from the Old Palace in Kathmandu. The second almost identical was sold to a private collection and had Nepalese Battalion Markings and the E.I.C. Regimental marking on the butt was different. This second Rifled Musket currently resides in a private collection in the USA.
Shamefully, no one thought to photograph either Musket prior to restoration that with hindsight would have been very useful. However as Members of the Victorian Riflemen's Association can attest I.M.A. still has several pallets of unsorted EIC Brown Bess Muskets to be sorted through which will happen in due time.
Learn more about the history of the Ferguson Rifle here:
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