Original U.S. Civil War Era Percussion Target Rifle by Nelson Lewis with Set Trigger & Brass Scope c. 1860

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Just purchased at a recent military auction! Here is a very nice "Bench Rest" Percussion Target Rifle, with a heavy octagonal .40" rifled barrel and 22" brass scope. The top of the barrel is marked NELSON LEWIS under the brass scope, a gunsmith who worked out of Troy New York circa 1843 to 1888 and was relatively well known. Unfortunately the location of the marking makes it impossible to photograph.

While usually intended for target shooting or sometimes hunting, these were sometimes put into service as sniper rifles during the U.S. Civil War. This rifle looks to have been made with several sight dovetails on the top, which originally might have had several different sights, which could be flipped up depending on the range. These were all removed, and now the brass scope uses a single dovetail, with an elevation adjustment tapped into the rear barrel tang.

We estimate that this very nice rifle was made about 1860, and features all "German Silver" cupronickel alloy mounts, many of which now have a lovely gold patina to them. There is engraving on many of the mounts, as well as on the barrel tang and on the lock plate. There are also two precious metal bands inlaid around the breech, commonly seen on bespoke target rifles.

The gun is half-stocked with lovely oil finished walnut, which is checkered around the wrist and has a cheek-piece on the left butt stock It is in very good condition, with the checkering well retained, and great looking grain. It is structurally sound, with only a small repair in front of the cap bolster on the right hand side.

As with most target rifles, this example is fitted with a "set trigger", where depressing the rear trigger first until it clicks and just touching the front trigger discharges the weapon, hopefully with great accuracy. It is fully functional at present, almost a "hair" trigger. The rifle can be shot without using the set trigger, but it definitely requires a longer and stronger trigger pull.

The bore is in very good condition, with a mostly bright finish and clear lands and grooves. The barrel still has the original cleaning rod underneath, which is fitted with a tool on the end, however the brass cap over it is currently stuck on, and we are unable to remove it, as we worry that the entire end fitting will come off. The scope is quite nice, though unfortunately nonfunctional at present, as the front objective lens is currently loose in the sight tube, and we do not have the tools to reseat it.

A very nice example of a mid 19th Century percussion target rifle with a possible Civil War connection, ready to add to your collection!


Year of Manufacture: c.1860
Caliber: approx .40" eight groove rifling
Cartridge Type: Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 38 Inches

Overall Length: 53 1/2 Inches
Action type: Back Action Percussion Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loading

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