• High Caliber History LLC

Merrill Breechloading Conversion of 1841 Mississippi Rifle

Updated: May 5



In 1858, Congress passed the Army Appropriation Act in an attempt to “get with the times” in terms of arms advancements. They had only recently implemented the conversion of flintlock arms to percussion, and European countries had begun to pass us by and move into the breechloading era.


James H. Merrill of Baltimore was one of the contractors selected under this 1858 act. He was tasked with converting 100 Model 1841 muzzleloading rifles to breechloading arms that used his system.


The Model 1841 was often known as the Mississippi Rifle after the regiment that prominently carried them, commanded by future Confederate President Jefferson Davis.


The guns Merrill received were all from Harpers Ferry and had to be reamed out and sleeved from .54 caliber to .58 caliber. The guns had already been altered at the arsenal one or more times before Merrill got them.


Of the 100 guns Merrill converted, only 86 were delivered; 14 of them were irreparably damaged during conversion. Obviously, fewer than that are left today, making it a really neat piece of arms development history.


This gun will be available in the May 2021 sale from Lewis & Grant Auctions. Visit www.lewisandgrant.com for more info.

UPDATE: Sold for $10,350 including 15% buyer's premium.


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