Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1097: Hans Jacob Honaker Attributed Flintlock American Smoothbore Gun

Auction Date: September 11, 2021

Significant Documented, Engraved, and Carved Long American Flintlock Smoothbore Hunting Gun Attributed to Hans Jacob Honaker of Virginia with Sideplate Inscribed for A. Moode on Sept. 15, 1789

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $55,000 - $80,000

Significant Documented, Engraved, and Carved Long American Flintlock Smoothbore Hunting Gun Attributed to Hans Jacob Honaker of Virginia with Sideplate Inscribed for A. Moode on Sept. 15, 1789

Manufacturer: American
Model: Flintlock
Type: Musket
Gauge: 57
Barrel: 54 inch part octagon
Finish: brown
Stock: curly maple
Item Views: 5341
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 79
Class: Antique

This long rifle styled smoothbore hunting gun or "smooth rifle" is documented in Shumway's "Rifles of Colonial America Vol. II" as no. 145 on pages 610 and 616. It is described as an important and "unusual piece." He notes, "I believe that this gun was made by the same hand that made the Brass Barreled Rifle, No. 103, and that makes each of them all the more worthwhile to study." Shumway further notes: "The decoration and architecture of this gun are outstanding and unusual. The cheek-piece is long, with a wedge-shaped edge decorated with incised lines and carving. At the rear end of the cheek-piece is a step, similar to that present on rifle No. 103. Between the step and the butt-plate is a relief-carved design in the shape of a flower-pot with flowers. Surrounding the barrel tang is a beaver-tail design in relief, and at the end of this is a fan with a distinctive edge treatment. . .This gun is an example of colonial American creativity in design, done most likely in the third quarter of the 18th century. By the 1790's there were established trends in rifle architecture and decoration which would have made this piece appear out of fashion." He also notes that he believes the gun is of Southern origin, that the lock is typical of the English locks imported in 1740-1775, and that the sideplate is an old replacement. The included display board states it is "attributed by Wallace Gusler" to "Hans Jacob Honaker, Frederick County, VA." and dates it to circa 1770. This smoothbore is also pictured and discussed in multiple included articles by Wallace Gusler listed below. In the "The Step Toe Group" in "Muzzle Blasts" from May 2004 it is illustrated along with the brass barreled rifle, and a group of 14 other related guns which he states originate from the lower Shenandoah Valley in what is now Rockridge and Botetourt Counties. The gun is also featured in "One Rifle Gun with Brass Box moles & wipers. . .[sic]" where it is listed as by an unknown maker but attributed to Botetourt County, Virginia, c. 1775 and noted as having an overall length of 6 ft 9 3/4 inches and a 4 foot 6 inch barrel. The brass barrel rifle is discussed in the article "One brass riffle gun & bullet moules. .[sic] ." in the included May 2003 issue of "Muzzle Blasts" and "Early Rifles of the Shenandoah Valley" from the American Society of Arms Collector's Bulletin, both also by Gusler. The brass barrel rifle is dated 1771 and is one of the oldest American firearms with a hinged patch box which suggests this gun is as well. The long barrel is octagon to hexadecagon to round in profile with a girdle at the transition to round and has a hooked breech similar to high end European sporting guns of the era and is equipped with blade and notch sights like a rifle. As noted before, the lock is an English export lock with scroll engraving. The furniture is all brass and is general unembellished though the patch box finial has scalloped edges and some light engraving. The stock has nice moulding along the ramrod channel, some "track line" notches on the bottom ahead of the lock, traces of carving at the ramrod entry pipe, tear drop flats, beavertail and fan carving at the barrel tang, nice carving at the front of the comb, a floral pattern along the bottom of the butt, light carving and "trackline" notches at the patch box finial, additional "tracklines" on the edges of the butt and the cheekpiece, the noted unusual flower pot and flowers raised relief carving behind the cheekpiece, and a line and notch pattern along the bottom of the butt from the trigger guard tail to the toe of the buttplate. The sideplate is inscribed "A Moode Sptr 15th 1789." No documentation directly related to the identity of Moode is known.

Rating Definition:

Fine as professionally restored including reconversion to flintlock and a replacement front sight and forend cap. The barrel exhibits a smooth blend of applied brown finish and patina and has some pitting/stippling at the breech. The lock exhibits a dark plum colored patina and finish that are well-blended. The brass has natural aged patina. The stock has distinct carving on the butt and more worn carving elsewhere, including the ramrod entry pipe where only traces remain. There are some general dings and scratches, discreet repairs, nice flame figure, and attractive finish throughout. Mechanically fine. This is definitely a very distinctive and attractive early American firearm.

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