Hall was born in 1781 in Portland, Maine. He worked in his father's
tannery, then set up shop as a woodworker, machinist, and boat builder,
but turned to the making of guns.
On May 21, 1811, Hall patented a single shot, breech-loading rifle in
collusion with Washington, D.C. architect, Dr. William Thornton. Seven
years later, Hall adapted his breech loading design to the “uniformity
principle,” widely known as interchangeable parts. Hall earned a
contract for 1,000 of the "Model of 1819" Hall rifles from the
War Department with interchangeable parts being the chief condition. To
fulfill it, Hall spent more than five years (and $150,000 of government
funds) at Harpers Ferry Arsenal, where he occupied an old sawmill on a
small island in the Shenandoah River called Virginias Island.
Hall's methods were novel for the time period. Hall transferred
waterpower through a system of leather belts and pulleys to power his
machines with unusual pace, greater than 3,000 revolutions per minute with
efficiency, while most artisans used hand cutters and files. Like his
contemporary Simeon North, Hall began using this mill power to run machine
tools and achieve the dimensions necessary for interchangeable parts. He
employed metal-cutting machines attached with cutters and saws in the
place of the standard heavy labor, made from cast-iron frames to ensure
structural integrity and minimize vibrations from the mill’s belts.
These machine-cut surfaces would then be hand filed to ensure fit and
interchangeability, verified by a gauging system Hall had designed.
When a three-man committee deployed by the US Ordnance Department to
verify Hall’s process in fulfilling his rifle contract visited Harpers
Ferry, his results, and especially the machines floored them. They lauded
Hall’s “system, in the manufacture of small arms, [as] entirely novel,”
and one which could yield “the most beneficial results to the Country,
especially, if carried into effect on a large scale”. His rifle works
design worked so well as to undergo minimal change through the end of the
Model 1819’s run in 1853. By 1842, 23,500 rifles and 13,682 Hall-North
carbines had been produced, most at Harper's ferry, earning Hall nearly
$40,000 in royalty and patent-licensing fees.
Hall's cutting machines were designed for simplicity, to the point that
“activity [was] more necessary than judgment” and young boys or “common
hands” could successfully run them. They both “functioned without any
manual guidance but evidently ceased operation once the work piece had
been finished,” allowing the worker to operate several at once. Hall
himself even claimed, “One boy by the aid of these machines can perform
more work than ten men with files, in the same time, and with greater
Hall's innovations in construction, tools, controls, stops, and gauges
all were advances in milling iron and machine tools. Together with Simeon
North and other Armorers, Hall contributed to the adoption of
interchangeable parts and the American System as a whole.
The Hall rifle offered a significant increase in rate of fire over
muzzle-loading rifles and muskets. However the design suffered from a gas
leak around the interface of the removable chamber and the bore, resulting
in the necessity of a heavier powder charge that still produced much less
muzzle velocity than its muzzle-loading competition. No serious efforts
were made to develop a seal to reduce the loss of gas from the breech. The
penetrating ability of its .52-caliber ball for the rifle was only
one-third of that of the muzzle-loaders, and the muzzle velocity of the
carbine was 25 percent lower than that of the Jenks carbine despite having
similar barrel lengths and identical 70-grain powder charges.
Hall died in February 1841 in Moberly, Missouri.
Various breech-loading flintlocks were developed starting around 1650.
The most popular action has a barrel, which was unscrewed from the rest of
the gun. Obviously, this is more practical on pistols because of the
shorter barrel length. This type is known as a Queen Anne pistol because
it was during her reign that it became popular (although it was actually
introduced in the reign of King William III). Another type has a removable
screw plug set into the side or top or bottom of the barrel. A large
number of sporting rifles were made with this system, as it allowed easier
loading compared with muzzle loading with a tight fitting bullet and
patch. One of the more successful was the system built by Isaac de la
Chaumette starting in 1704. The barrel and could be opened by three
revolutions of the trigger guard, to which it was attached. The plug
stayed attached to the barrel and the ball and powder were loaded from the
top. This system was improved in the 1770s by Colonel Patrick Ferguson and
100 experimental rifles used in the American Revolutionary War. The only
two flintlock breechloaders to be produced in quantity were the Hall and
the Crespi. The first was invented by John Hall and patented c. 1817. It
was issued to the US Army as the Model 1819 Hall Breech Loading Rifle. The
Hall rifles and carbines were loaded using a combustible paper cartridge
inserted into the upward tilting breechblock. Hall rifles leaked gas from
the often poorly fitted action. The same problem affected the muskets
produced by Giuseppe Crespi and adopted by the Austrian Army in 1771.
Nonetheless, the British experimented with the Crespi System during the
Napoleonic Wars, and percussion Halls guns saw service in the American
Flintlock weapons were commonly used until the mid 19th century, when
they were replaced by percussion lock systems.
Your probably wondering why I
shared this weapon with you. For One; I have been around antique firearms
since I was born in 1940 (my father was a true "gun-nut"). Being
an officer in the "Ohio Gun Collectors Guild" I got to travel
all over the East coast looking at some pretty neat guns.
I have handled four of these Hall Breechloaders (flint
& converted to percussion). All of them were broken through the wrist,
a few poorly repaired. The few seen in the bigger museums were all in 60%
or less condition.
This gun on the left appeared in one of Cabelas Gun
Libraries, I saw it the day it went on the Internet, called the Library
Manager to ask about it. Fifteen minutes later I had "shot my
wad" per say, the gun was on its way to me. It took about 3 minutes
to make up my mind when looking at a 98% untouched Hall Breech Loading
Flintlock. SOLD $4.500.00
I'm dead when the wife finds out, anyone have a spare
Here's what we have and what has been found on this
weapon since purchasing.