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Original 1861 J. Henry & Sons Saber Rifle, only 70 made

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Our Price: $2,895.00

Product Code: ORI-4

Original J. Henry & Son Saber Rifle, only 70 made

One of the 70 Saber Rifles made between October/November 1861, J. Henry & Son provided these to the Catasanga Home Guard, an unidentified Pennsylvania Militia Unit. This example is in great condition, mechanically sound, with the distinctive J. Henry & Sons stamp on the lock plate and top of barrel. Due to a lack of a number on the barrel, this weapon was made without a matching saber bayonet when sold to the Home Guard.

In Depth Look:
The gunmaking firm of J. Henry & Son was established by William Henry in Lancaster, PA, prior to the French & Indian War. During that era Henry produced arms for the use of British colonial militiamen, and even took the field himself as an armorer during the campaign to recapture Fort Duquesne during 1758. In the years after the French & Indian War, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. By about 1760 he had left the gun trade and become a successful Lancaster based iron monger, but his son John Joseph Henry took up the family gunmaking business sometime around 1775 and the firm continued operation under his leadership until 1811, when John Joseph Henry II took over. During the early 1800s, the firm relocated to Boulton, PA. The firm became known generally as the Boulton Gun Works (some references spell it “Bolton”). After John Joseph’s death, his son James took over, and in 1859 James’ son Granville joined the firm and the name was changed to “J. Henry & Son”. During their nearly six decades in business prior to the name change, the Henry family had produced guns for the new United States government, for the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland and numerous fur trading companies engaged in commerce with the many American Indian tribes. They also worked as manufacturers for other gunmakers and retailers like Philip S. Justice of Philadelphia, selling that firm both completed arms and parts to manufacture arms from. It is also likely that the Henry firm provided gun parts to other local Pennsylvania gunmakers like John Krider and possibly Henry Leman. With the coming of the American Civil War, and the calling for 100,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion, (not to mention the calling out of Pennsylvania militia units for the defense of the state) Henry looked to produce military arms to cash in on the need for guns. He produced two patterns of military style rifles and a cadet musket. The rifles were offered with either a socket or a saber bayonet, and were known respectively in the Henry company records as “Minié Rifles” or “Saber Rifles”. Both patterns of arms were brass mounted rifles with 35” barrels in .58 caliber. Most had a unique “recurved” trigger guard that is commonly associated with the arms made (or sold) by both Henry and P.S. Justice. It appears that much of the brass furniture was probably obtained from Bernard Leman of Philadelphia in 1861. It is not clear if both Henry and Justice purchased brass furniture from him or if Justice acquired the parts from Henry. Both patterns of Henry rifle also included a brass patchbox that is also associated with arms made by Justice and Krider. It appears that these patch boxes were left over parts purchased from the Sharps Firearms Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. In 1859 Sharps had transitioned from brass mountings to iron mountings, and apparently a large number of brass patchboxes in varying states of manufacture were sold as unneeded surplus. It appears that the 285 “Minié Rifles” produced by Henry during the summer of 1861 were sold almost entirely to Justice, who sold them to the US government to help satisfy his contract for rifles. However, Henry sold 40 of these rifles to the Bethlehem Home Guard in August of 1861. Henry also produced some 952 “Saber Rifles” during the summer of 1861, most of which (876) were also sold to Justice, with deliveries starting in September of that year. However, 70 were sold to Henry to the Catasanga Home Guard in October and November, and another 6 were used as sample rifles in an attempt to obtain other military contracts.

This is one of the very scarce J. Henry & Son Saber Rifles. The 876 guns sold to Justice were Justice marked (either by Henry or Justice), and only the 70 “home guard” saber rifles and the 6 samples were marked with the Henry name. This rifle is clearly marked in two horizontal lines: J. HENRY / & SON, on the left angled barrel flat near the breech and J. HENRY / & SON in two vertical lines on the lock plate, behind the hammer. The standard finish for the J. HENRY & SON Saber Rifle was a color case hardened lock and browned barrel, with all small iron parts blued and the brass mountings left bright. The standard production rifles also included a long base, long-range rear sight similar to those found on some Whitney long range sighted arms and some Harpers Ferry altered Mississippi rifles. The 35” octagon to round barrel is full length and has a dark brown patina. The metal of the barrel is mostly smooth, with some scattered areas of pinpricking and some light pitting that is mostly confined to the breech and bolster area. The 4 groove bore of the rifle is in FINE condition, retains crisp rifling with light rust along its length. The original front sight is in place near the muzzle, as is the original saber bayonet-mounting lug. The original and correct ramrod is present in the channel under the barrel, and is full length, with fine threads on the end. The lock of the rifle is in EXCELLENT mechanical condition, and operates crisply on all positions. The brass furniture has a lovely, mellow ochre patina. The patchbox opens and closes smoothly and the brass trigger guard and upper barrel band retain what appears to be the original sling swivels. The stock of the rifle is in FINE condition, showing no indication of having been sanded, and the sharp edges remain sharp as they should be, with good definition and fine wood to metal fit throughout. There are the usual bumps, dings and minor surface mars from handling, use and storage over 150 years, but nothing serious or abusive. There are two significant cracks opposite of the lock plate. This is a typical crack for Civil War era muskets and is the result of the lock screw being over-tightened. The crack is tight and stable and does not detract from display in any way, but it is mentioned for exactness.

Overall this is a very scarce example of a rare J. Henry & Son Saber Rifle in very crisp and original condition. With only 76 of the total production of these rifles being sold or delivered by Henry to someone other than PS Justice, and with the rifle being Henry marked instead of Justice marked, it is a very rare gun. Even including the 876 delivered to Justice, less than 1,000 of these rifles were produced. This is a great rifle to add to a collection of Pennsylvania made military arms, Civil War secondary martial rifles or just a collection of J. Henry firearms. This is a fine condition, very crisp and complete example of a rather scarce Civil War rifle that you will be very glad to add to your collection.

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  • Due to state law in New Jersey, we are unable to ship firearms there.
  • We can not ship our Firearms outside of the United States.
  • Must be 18 years of age to purchase any firearms.

NOTE: ALL black powder musket and revolver shipments require an adult signature for delivery! Due to Legal Restrictions we do not ship firearms to New Jersey or outside the U.S.

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