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Breechloaders of Harpers Ferry

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Maine inventor John H. Hall was to receive credit for two notable achievements in firearm history. But despite being the creator of America's first military breechloading rifles, and creator of the first American firearm made with totally interchangeable parts, it took Hall four years to complete the first 22 handmade flintlock breechloaders from his initial government contract of 1,000 ordered in 1819.

Moving operations south from Portland, Maine, to Harpers Ferry, VA., Hall occupied a former sawmill along the Shenandoah River and devoted several years to the construction of workshops and precision machinery to fully meet his goal of interchangeable parts. Hall's flintlock falling block rifles were reliable arms that were used in the Mexican War, and later his percussion rifle and carbine models were extensively used in the American Civil War. The manufacturing technology developed at the innovative Hall's Rifle Works was the groundwork for future American military arms production, both at Harpers Ferry Armory and at Springfield Armory.

In the National Firearms Museum collection, several Hall's rifles and carbines are currently on exhibit. Case 31 displays one of the museum's prizes - a nearly mint condition flintlock Hall rifle with original bayonet. Other examples are shown in the Mexican War exhibit, including a separated carbine/rifle breechblock that illustrates how the Hall design could provide an impromptu single-shot "pistol" if needed.