1858 Harpers Ferry Rifle Musket

The newest weapon in the Civil War Arsenal is an Harpers Ferry U.S. Model-1855 Rifle Musket. I’ve been looking for a 1855 Model Harpers Ferry in fine condition for some time now without and luck. Then recently Tim Prince from College Hill Arsenal listed this beauty. Within minutes I was on the phone with him negotiating a deal. The Springfield and Harpers Ferry Arsenals made 59,273 of these rifle-muskets, with the Harpers Ferry Arsenal making a total of 12,158. Because of the Confederates capturing of the Harper’s Ferry Armory in April of 1861 many of the standing weapons were captured and or destroyed by fire leaving us with few good (Harpers Ferry) examples to examine and study.

What makes this weapon so unique is the Maynard Tape Primer designed by “Edward Maynard” for more rapid firing of the weapon. Dr. Edward Maynard, a dentist with an interest in firearms, embedded tiny pellets of priming material in thin strips of paper, then glued a second strip of paper on top of the first, creating a “tape” of primer (similar to a cap gun you would have played with as a child). The tape could be manufactured quickly and cheaply, since paper was much less expensive than copper. Maynard also developed an automatic feeding system that would advance the tape when the musket’s hammer was cocked. The hammer not only detonated the primer, but would also automatically cut the paper, thus removing the spent portion of the primer tape. The system worked well under controlled circumstances but proved to be unreliable in the field. The tape was delicate and would tear but the biggest problem was the paper strips were susceptible to adverse weather and even humidity.

This model proved one of the staple arms of the Civil War, and was the first U.S. martial arm firing the Minie bullet in .58 caliber.

This example is an early model (Type 1) because of the long base adjustable rear sight, similar to the 1853 Enfield’s, brass nose cap and the lack of a patch box.

If you have any questions about this weapon or any of the other weapons in the Civil War Arsenal feel free to contact me at civilwararsenal@yahoo.com attn: Gene West

18 thoughts on “1858 Harpers Ferry Rifle Musket

  1. Good Afternoon,

    I have an original in excellent condition.. I can send you pictures, I wonder what the value is? I will not pert with it as it is 3 generations or more handed down in my family, but seek insight on value and collectability? Can you advise or would you know whom to contact?

    Regards,

    Randy

    • Randy, please provide high resolution photos of Rifle and all markings on it, the more photos the better. I will do my best to answer any and all questions you have about it.

      Sincerely Gene

  2. Hey Gene, stumbled on to your website a while ago , very impressive collection you’ve got there. Anyway I recently traded for a model 1855 Springfield, was very happy with it at first, then upon closer inspection it appears to be a put together, or somebody’s project gun. Three or four different patina’s, its barrel band sling swivel does not match the trigger guard sling swivel, barrel date was described as obliterated, however under a loupe and very good lighting I think it’s dated 1862, clearly has a 8 and a 2 at the end, so of course it can’t be a model 1855 barrel, It does have the T-slot under the rear site though. On the plus side, It looks” badass” original fully functional maynard lock plate, with a dark patina, seems to match barrel patina ,and butt plate. Everything else barrel bands, trigger guard, trigger guard plate, nose cap, and knife edged hammer and ramrod clearly do not match barrel or lock plate. Nothing looks cleaned. Stock is anyone’s guess, has one very faint cartouche, Contacted the very reputable dealer, it was a pretty good trade deal. Don’t know if I should trade it back, or keep it, very Puzzling musket. Your opinion or advice would be appreciated. Tom Smith Pennsylvania

    • Thomas, without seeing high resolution photos of your weapon I can only give personal opinions as to what my thoughts are…..and I will try my best.

      Model 1855 Springfields were made from 1857 – 1861…..a total of 47,115 were made at the Springfield armory. As far as I know none we’re manufactured with 1862 barrels, however that doesn’t mean there wasn’t….that’s just what I know…..which sometimes ain’t much, lol.
      Unlike Harper’s Ferry made barrels which had the t-slot that you mentioned, the Springfields “did not” have the slot…they used slightly different rear sights…..the front nose cap on a later made Springfield should be made of steel not brass…..however you didn’t mention what yours is….but that’s another detail to consider.
      As far as the patina goes, that’s where the handler of the weapon has to make judgement calls on…..experts handle hundreds if not thousands of weapons to learn the art of evaluation…….I’ve made some mistake over the years of collecting, we all do.
      The bottom line is if your happy with the weapon then enjoy it…….we all buy antique weapons for different reasons……I will forward an attachment from “Flaydermans Guide to Antique American Firearms”.
      Regards, Gene West

  3. Hi,

    My name is Arielle. I’m not sure if I have come to the right place but I saw an article you wrote online and figured I’d ask.

    My father passed away a few years ago and I came across 2 guns that look pretty old. They are not in great condition at all and I don’t even know if they are real so I figured I would try to find out any information I could. I’ve been holding onto them for a while without ever inquiring. One of them is stamped with Harpers Ferry and 1860I believe?. The second is stamped with ‘1800 tower’ and 6/203 on the butt of the rifle. I will include images. But have to send in two different emails as the images are too large for one. Would be really grateful if there’s anything you can tell me about these. Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Arielle

    • Arielle,
      The weapon that’s marked “Tower” has been modified at one point and is in bad condition……there’s not much value, the only value it has is in parts.
      The other weapon marked Harper’s Ferry 1860 if it were in fine condition could be worth as much as $5000.00……but unfortunately it’s in bad condition as well and does not have much value……it’s a parts gun……
      Looks as though they’ve been exposed to moisture for sometime and that’s never good for antique weapons. Sorry for the bad news, I wish they were in better condition.

      Kind Regards, Gene West

  4. Thanks for the response. Good to know they were real. Never know with my dad… Could you tell me what the ‘proper’ way to get rid of them if I didn’t feel like holding onto them anymore? I’d feel terrible just tossing them out but unfortunately they don’t mean much to me. Is there a place that would take them, do you think?

    • Arielle,
      As far as the tower Musket is concerned I’m not certain……it’s not a weapon of the American Civil War so it’s outside my wheel house…….the Harper’s Ferry weapon I would be interested in…..but there’s not a lot of value in it and I’m not certain you would entertain my offer.

      Gene

  5. I have an 1858 Harpers Ferry Maynard tape rifle. It is in great shape the question I have is on the side of the stock it is stamped invalid malitia. Is this something you have seen on a gun before. The gun is tube and stamped 13 on different places of the gun and has U stamped on the Rings.

  6. I was wondering if you would give me some guidance. My husband passed away and I am downsizing and selling our civil war collection. We have a Harpers Ferry rifle that we purchased in Harpers Ferry about 30 years ago. I had someone local look at it and have been told it is untouched and no changes have been made to it. Can you tell me what to list this for? If you need any more info just let me know.
    Terry

  7. Hey Gene,

    I obtained your email address
    off some website while trying to figure out what my rifle is worth. Just inherited it and my grandpa has no clue. I don’t know anything about this kind of stuff either and was hoping you could point me in the right direction to see if it’s something worth getting appraised and insured or if it’s just wall decor. This thing has “1831” and “Harper’s Ferry” ensrcribed on the handle and belonged to a confederate relative of mine. Attached is the only picture I have at the moment. Is this enough information to determine a ball park value or could you suggest somewhere where I can get it assessed? I’m in the south TN/north GA so there are plenty of civil war museums and stores but don’t know where to take this thing.

    • Jacob, you’d have to provide better quality images of the weapon before I could give you any direction……when possible please provide pictures of the lockplate, barrel, stock, and any markings on the Musket……..use lots of lighting, (possibly sun light) so everything can be seen…

      Regards Gene West

  8. Hi I just inherited a 1858 harpers ferry tape primer in great condition. I would like to send you some pics and possible buyers. Thanks

  9. Hi Gene,
    I am the grandson of a WW2 fighter pilot who was a retired a Col. in the Army. You may even know him and I will reveal his name later in our conversations, he was a very avid collector and knew most people worth anything in the business. He recently died at 99 years old and he was a civil war reenactor and avid collector of every weapon imaginable from that era. I grew up with this history and experienced the trill of actually using these guns at the range and hunting on a regular basis since I was 5 yrs old. I inherited quite a few of these items and would like to have some defined insight into the history and value of these particular items. This particular item is a 1858 Harpers ferry 58 cal. that has been in my family for 150 years. I have many more items and I am willing to share stories and pics but I only want to part with a certain few.
    Thank you Sir.

    • Ray,
      Please know I am not an appraiser just an enthusiast.
      The 1858 Harpers Ferry Rifle Musket, would have a value between $3500 & 4000, the Cavalry sword probably a between $600 to $800 and the socket bayonet $100…….these prices are full retail.
      If you have other weapons that need valuation feel free to send images and I will do my best to help.

      Hope this helps, Gene

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