Original U.S. Civil War P.S. Justice Type I Contract Short Percussion Rifled Musket made with Springfield Lock dated 1852

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Here we have a VERY interesting U.S. Civil War Short Percussion rifled musket, marked on the lock with P.S. JUSTICE / PHILADA, to the right of the usual Federal Eagle / U.S. marking. It is also marked SPRING / FIELD / 1852 on the lock plate tail, so it should be a lock from a Springfield Model 1842 Percussion musket.

This looks to be one of the early rifled muskets hurriedly assembled / made by the P.S. Justice company, which until 1861 had been known as Justice & Steinmann, a Philadelphia sporting goods and hardware retailer. The start of the U.S. Civil War meant income for suppliers, and Justice managed to secure some contracts in the early days of the War, and proceeded to acquire parts and complete guns to resell to the Federal government. It is interesting to note that the Justice firm was listed as a manufacturer of “railroad car springs” in the 1860 Philadelphia Directory, and while census data from 1860 suggests that they manufactured 2,500 guns between June 1, 1859 and June 1, 1860, author & researcher George Moller notes that the company was not considered a “manufacturer” by the US Secretary of the Interior, but only as an “assembler”.

In many ways, Justice oversold the firms ability to actually supply the muskets, promising they could arrange to manufacture large quantities before having any sub-contracts to actually produce them. This included both U.S. styled muskets, as well as "Enfield" pattern short and long muskets. Justice even alluded to a "superior" Army rifle in development, which in reality did not exist at all. Justice never did “arrange to manufacture” Enfield pattern arms but did manage to import some 3,000 “long” (Pattern 1853) and 1,000 “short” (Pattern 1856/58/60) Enfields.

The muskets that were eventually supplied by Justice ended up being a far cry from what was expected, especially the first of many "types" that the company supplied during the war. These “Type I” arms were manufactured with iron furniture and were generally made from obsolete, condemned and otherwise used parts, with some new components (especially stocks) sprinkled in among the guns. The parts used could come from other arsenals, or from stock that Justice had on hand, resulting in the Type I rifles having a multitude of different configurations. The later Type II and Type III rifles were more standardized, but still in general not well regarded.

Justice built his muskets inexpensively in order to maximize his profit. These muskets were so hastily and cheaply assembled that they were quickly given a reputation of being of extremely poor quality and even dangerous. One officer noted that the stocks were made of improperly cured wood which allowed for shrinkage and caused the stock to crack and the barrel bands to slide off. He also noted that the sights were useless and appeared to be soldered to the barrels with a fake screw head inserted into their bases in order to provide the illusion of a dovetailed and screwed sight. The bayonets provided with the muskets were "as soft as lead" and many bent and broke during bayonet practice drills.

As a result, P.S. Justice contract rifles of any type are rare, and we have only had a few over the years. This is what we believe to be an early "Type I" P.S. Justice contract short rifled musket, and it is the first of its type that we have had. It has all iron furniture, and features the distinctively shaped justice trigger guard, which was fitted to all of the contract muskets, both in iron and brass versions. The lock, as mentioned previously, is an obsolete Springfield M1842 Percussion lock dated 1852, most likely salvaged from a damaged musket. Instead of a side plate, there are two small iron escutcheons on the left side of the stock.

The barrel is somewhat interesting, featuring six groove rifling and a bore that measures approximately .55", definitely smaller than the standard ammunition used by the U.S. Army at the time. The barrel is made from a percussion breech section attached to the forward barrel section, a common way of producing barrels more economically. It does have some faded markings and proofs on the left side of the breech, but they are unfortunately illegible due to powder burn.

The barrel is held to the stock by two barrel bands, standard for a short rifle, and at first glance look very similar to those used on British Type III P-1853 Enfield Rifled Muskets. Close examination actually shows British proofs on the lower band, so these actually ARE P-1853 barrel bands, most likely parts on hand or acquired during the scramble to produce the Type I Justice Rifled Muskets.

Condition of the rifle is good, however it definitely shows wear and deterioration, probably resulting from a combination of use and original manufacturing quality. The stock in particularly is somewhat rough, and has a lot of cracking along the woodline on the left side next to the barrel. It shows a lot of wear into the grain, possibly because a softer wood was used than normal, or because it was not properly allowed to dry before being used. There is a standard type ramrod stored in the channel under the barrel. The lock still functions, but will fire at both half cock and full cock.

We checked the bore of the rifle, and it is actually in very good condition, with a mostly bright finish showing clear lands and grooves and just a bit of oxidation. It would appear that it did not see much use, or possibly the forward portion of the barrel was replaced when the musket was assembled, which explains why the breech area exterior has powder burn and oxidation but the bore does not show much use. The top of the barrel has the standard justice two leaf sight, though the second longer leaf is broken off just above the lower sight notch.

A very interesting early Civil War produced / assembled P.S. Justice Type I rifled musket, made from a variety of parts in the rush to get rifles to the field. Ready to research and display!


Year of Manufacture: circa 1861
Caliber: .55"
Cartridge Type: Ball and Powder
Barrel Length: 33 Inches

Overall Length: 49 Inches
Action type: Side Action Percussion Lock
Feed System: Muzzle Loading

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