FANTASTIC Shotgun by GREAT WESTERN GUN WORKS of PA
Period Commercial Conversion of Civil War Musket!
Here we present an antique Great Western Gun Works Shotgun Conversion of a Civil War Whitney Model 1861 Navy Percussion Rifle-Musket. The original musket was made in 1862 under a contract for the US Navy, while the conversion likely happened in the late-1860s. It is not terribly unusual to find that Civil War weapons have been modified to some extent to suit a hunter’s needs, especially those that were done in the barn, however, it is somewhat unusual to find one that was modified by a business of the period for resale. This shotgun was rugged and reliable for wartime use in the field and it remains bomb-proof today, in part due to the good craftsmanship of James Hampton Johnston and his Great Western Gun Works.
The back of the lock is dated “1862”. The lock is marked “EAGLE/U.S./WHITNEY-VILLE”. The top of the barrel is marked “J.H. JOHNSTON/GREAT WESTERN GUN WORKS/PITTSBURGH, P.A.”. The left side of the stock has a cartouche “H.W.”, for Commander Henry Walke. The trigger guard is unique to the Whitney 1861 Navy. The number on the barrel tang was to match the hand-fitted bayonet.
As a company, Great Western Gun Works was started by James Hampton Johnston (1836-1915), son of gunsmith John H. Johnston (he was apprenticed to renowned gunsmith Henry Carlile of Shippensburg, PA). He grew up in Waynesboro, apprenticing under his father, then moved to Pittsburgh in 1860, just in time for the American Civil War. This was a most fortuitous move as Pittsburgh’s iron production made the town much wealthier as all manner of arms, munitions and other war-related goods were produced there. He was made master armorer at the Alleghany Arsenal there as the arsenal ramped up production to meet the Union’s demand for the war. It is estimated that this arsenal alone produced up to 10% of the munitions for the Union government during the war. After the war, in 1866, Johnston founded his Great Western Gun Works in Pittsburgh. It burned to the ground in 1868, but this young entrepreneur rebuilt and grew his business enormously. He had an extensive catalog, kept 25 skilled men on staff, and sold to every state and territory in the nation. In 1888, his son, John A. Johnston, joined the business, and in 1896, he took over for his father. He continued the family business until 1923.
The overall condition is very good. The metal surfaces are dark with age. The markings are clear and legible. The stock is in great shape. The bore is smooth and semi-bright. The action is excellent. Here is a very unique percussion shotgun with Civil War heritage. Imagine hunting turkey with this relic!
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 34 inches.
Caliber: 10 Gauge
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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