A Weird Gun Law and Whitworth News

I recently received a copy of the February, 1998 issue of The Arms Collecting Newsletter, a publication produced by a consortium of Canadian antique gun collecting associations. It is an interesting and instructive newsletter, especially in the area of Canadian gun law, which the current administration in Washington views as a model for similar legislation in this country. Under the Canadian Bill C-68, "an antique is any firearm made before 1898 that is not designed to fire rimfire or centerfire ammunition or anything that is prescribed (by regulation) to be an antique." What the hell, you may ask, is "anything prescribed?" Prescribed by whom?

According to a draft proposal, in which "the Justice Department's Policy and Planning Committee has been working with the collecting fraternity to develop a proposed list of arms to be included as antiques." According to the list, "all flintlock, wheelock and matchlock ignition type of long firearms" manufactured before or after 1898 are considered "antiques." The rest of the proposal is full of rather obtuse classifications which appear to make an antique out of a Model 1873 trapdoor Springfield, but not a Model 1873 Winchester, even if both were manufactured in 1874. Interestingly, it also appears that a flintlock pistol, original or reproduction, is not an antique! That'll put a real crimp in the number of higwaymen operating in Canada!

Most relevant to those of us with an interest in the firearms of the Civil War era, however, is the classification of original percussion Springfield and Enfield muzzle loading rifles and rifle muskets as antiques while reproductions of the same arms are not classified as antiques. There would be some sort of logic in this if original and reproduction flintlock guns were treated in the same manner, as they are in the People's Republic of New Jersey, but they are not. And what is the rationale for this? Let us quote the Committee: "...these models [Springfield and Enfield] represent later technology than the flintlock and one closer to modern technology in firearms. It would be inappropriate to add reproductions of any model of percussion cap rifle to the class of deemed antiques because, among other factors, they can be used for hunting and pose more of a safety concern than original antiques. Thus, for technical and legal reasons, the Committee regrets that it could not find an accommodation for reproduction percussion cap rifles." I guess the Committee is unaware that the state of Pennsylvania actually requires the use of flintlocks during muzzle loading hunting season!

As of February, 1998, the Committee had recommended that the Canadian Department of Justice "further review this issue in an attempt to accommodate historic reenactors using Enfield and Springfield percussion cap reproductions."

No matter what the final decision of the Canadian Department of Justice, this mess is not a good scenario. The Department might change its mind on a whim the following year. Folks, this is the sort of potential bureaucratic nightmare you get into with a parliamentary government which has no creative tension between branches and no Second Amendment. Let us not let this happen here!

We have an important Whitworth update, which by now may be old news to those of you who cruise the world wide web. If you are a regular reader of these lines, you know that Tom Neigebauer, a dedicated Whitworth shooter from Florida, has been trying to convince someone to make a proper modern bullet mold for the Whitworth rifle. I have been reporting on Tom's experiments with the Whitworth for over a year now.

In mid-May Larry Romano, manufacturer of the splendid Spencer and Maynard reproductions, gave me a call to inquire about the state of available Whitworth molds. I immediately put him in touch with Tom, a veritable font of information on the subject, and by the end of the month Romano announced production of a hexagonal Whitworth bullet mold which will accept Lyman mold handles. Romano's mold throws a 580 grain boattail, flat based round nose pure lead slug which measures .448 across the flats. For further information call or write Larry at L. Romano Rifle Company (551 Stewart's Corners Road, Pennellville, NY 13132. tel 315-695-2066).

Last December I recommended Heritage Quartermaster as a source for a sturdy stainless steel cleaning rod with a brass muzzle guard and easy on the hand round ball grip. (5309 Tubbs Road, Waterford, MI 48327 243-673- 7789 price list $1). Over the winter and through the first spring shoots of the year, including the N-SSA Nationals, I have used a Heritage rod exclusively for cleaning both my .58 and .69 caliber guns. It is, without doubt, the best cleaning rod I have ever used.

Reasonably priced at from $11-$20, Heritage rods are available in lengths from 12 to 44 inches and are threaded for 10-32 accessories, including bore brushes and jags and a four bladed "carbon cutter" which will ream caked black powder fouling out of your breech area effectively and in short order. Heritage jags are long and slightly tapered and it is next to impossible to lose a patch wrapped around one. Should you manage to so so, however, the sturdy patch worm will pull it right out for you.

I will be at the Gettysburg book show over the July 4 weekend and hope to have a few autographed copies of Civil War Firearms available. Look for me at the Longstreet House table.

The show will herald Longstreet House's publication of my and Bill Goble's new book, Remember You Are Jerseymen: New Jersey's Military Units in the Civil War. The book is the first history of all New Jersey units since John Y. Foster's long out of print New Jersey in the Rebellion, which was published in 1868.

The 750 page Jerseymen book contains newly written histories and never before published ordnance reports of every New Jersey Civil War regiment and battery, as well as essays on New Jersey recruiting and quartermaster practices, over 100 illustrations and much more. As an added attraction, it has a Don Troiani dust jacket!

Bill and I worked on Jerseymen together for five years, and he passed away just after we finished the manuscript. I am very sad that he will not be here to see his work in print, but glad to be able to say that it will serve as a fitting monument to his memory.

1998 by Joe Bilby

return to homepage

go to Tony Beck index

go to Joe Bilby index

go to Tom Kelley index