Original Rare U.S. Civil War P.S. Justice Type II Contract Three Groove Rifled Musket in .69 cal - Circa 1861
Original Item: Only One Available. Offered in wonderful condition, this is a rare early Federal Union Contract Rifle-Musket originally ordered in 1861 by a contract awarded to the firm of P.S. Justice of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is one of 2,000 produced by the firm early in the days of the Civil War, when outfitting thousands of new troops was an emergency. An extremely elegant musket in appearance, which reaches back in style to the Mississippi Rifle of the 1840's. It has full brass mounts and is fitted with a patch box in the butt stock.
The percussion lock is stamped with P.S. JUSTICE / PHILADA, which is repeated on top of the breech of the barrel. There is P / 2192 marking on the trigger guard. Usually there would be other markings, but they have been worn off the metalwork over the years.
This rifled musket is one of almost 2,200 muskets contracted by P. S. Justice early in the war to meet the needs of the Union army and his deliveries were among the fastest from any American arms producer during the war. Justice used a variety of parts which were purchased from a variety of sources. Often using obsolete parts from older arms which were then repurposed for use with his firearms. The Justice Rifles were not held in high regard by the soldiers who carried them, nor the Ordnance Department. These weapons are very scarce today, as few of the original 2,000 survived the war, and the decades following.
This single-shot muzzleloader is the PS Justice Second Type model, which has shallow three groove rifling, brass mountings including a patchbox and brass barrel bands, no barrel springs and the distinctive double-curved brass trigger guard. Round barrel measures 39” long and is fitted to a black walnut one piece stock. Barrel has the two-piece rear leaf sight and a brass blade front sight. The bore is in good condition, and rifling can still be seen throughout with a bore light. The front sight appears to have been replaced at some point. The ramrod is the correct type of this weapon.
The stock is in very good condition, showing signs of honest wear and age, and still exhibiting a pleasing reddish coloration. The brass barrel bands are all in good shape, though the middle band is stripped, so it slides around on the stock. Both sling swivels are also missing. Metal shows “salt and pepper” surface pitting. Half and full cock of the hammer is in good order. The cap nipple cone is still in good shape, and has not been crushed by repeated dry firing over the years.
No collection of Civil War long arms is complete without at least one really odd-ball US musket and this one would be a great addition to any collection that centers on Pennsylvania troops, rifled large bore arms, or guns produced and sold by some of the less than scrupulous arms brokers of the American Civil War era.
A very nice example of a hard to find Civil War Rifled Musket, ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: circa 1861
Cartridge Type: Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 39 Inches
Overall Length: 55 Inches
Action type: Side Action Percussion Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loading
P.S. Justice was definitely a shrewd businessman, who saw an opportunity to make money and managed to secure a number of US arms contracts in the early days of the Civil War. Whether he was a patriot trying to assist his country with essential arms and materiel or simply an opportunist is open to debate. What is obvious is that Justice took a cue from Eli Whitney Jr.’s company and minimized costs as much as possible in order to maximize profit. This meant that Justice’s firearms ended up with a reputation for being of poor quality and unsafe. There was at least some basis in fact for the reputation, as Justice was brought before the 37th Congress to answer for his war profiteering and for providing shoddy and substandard guns. One officer, 2nd Lt, William H. Harris who testified about the quality of the Justice rifled muskets issued to the 55th PA infantry noted that:
“This regiment is armed with rifle muskets, marked on the barrel, 'P. S. Justice, Philadelphia, and vary in caliber (sic) from .65 to .70. I find many of them unserviceable and irreparable, from the fact that the principal parts are defective. Many of them are made up of parts of muskets to which the stamp of condemnation has been affixed by an inspecting officer. None of the stocks have ever been approved by an officer, nor do they bear the initials of any inspector. They are made up of soft, unseasoned wood, and are defective in construction. . . . The sights are merely soldered on to the barrel, and come off with the gentlest handling. Imitative screw- heads are cut on their bases. The bayonets are made up of soft iron, and, of course, when once bent remain set.”
Col. (later to be General) Thomas D. Doubleday noted of the Justice arms that he had inspected:
“The arms which were manufactured at Philadelphia, Penn., are of the most worthless kind, and have every appearance of having been manufactured from old condemned muskets. Many of them burst; hammers break off; sights fall off when discharged; the barrels are very light, not one-twentieth of an inch thick, and the stocks are made of green wood which have shrunk so as to leave the bands and trimmings loose. The bayonets are of such frail texture that they bend like lead, and many of them break off when going through the bayonet exercise. You could hardly conceive of such a worthless lot of arms, totally unfit for service, and dangerous to those using them.”
While it is true that Justice used a variety of obsolete and condemned parts in the construction of his arms (similar to the Whitney “Good & Serviceable” guns), he did also produce some arms of new parts. His greatest short fall appears to have been the use of wood for the stocks that was not sufficiently seasoned, which lead to shrinkage and multiple service issues.
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