Because I needed another rifle like I need a hole in my head.
But it was there, stuck back in a corner of their rack behind the counter two days ago. And they didn't seem to know what it was.
The tag read: .45-70 rifle". The price: up there. My guess was that they didn't know what they had or what it was worth and they were just taking a WAG (Wild-ass Guess) and hoping that someone would bite.
To be fair, I'm far from a Rolling Block expert. I know one when I see one, but when it comes to telling the difference between the uncountable number of variations of them out there...not even on a good day. Still, if this was a .45-70, it could come in handy as a test rifle for working up loads for my more valuable and fragile Trapdoor. And it's not like it's not historic and kinda neat it's ownself.
Home I went, and on the computer I got. A bit of research pretty much pegged this rifle as a Model 1871 out of the batch purchased by New York state for that state's militia back in the early 1870's. It was not, however, a .45-70 but a .50-70. This was a bit of a let-down for me, but I could at least still get brass and bullets for it so what the heck? Besides, I wanted to see how low they'd really go on it.
I wandered back in the next morning. Isiah was there, along with a woman I'd not seen the day before. His eyes brightened when he saw me. "Back for this rifle?" he asked, way too hopefully.
"I came back to check it out again," I said. "If it's a .45-70, I can probably find a use for it."
"Oh yeah, it's a .45-70," Isiah reassured me as he took the rifle off the rack.
"Great," I said. "But just to be sure, because these things are floating around out there in so many different calibers today, I brought a dummy .45-70 cartride to check it out with. You don't mind, right?" You'd have thought that I just kicked his dog by the look on his face. That pretty much told me that he either knew or suspected that this wasn't a .45-70. He took my dummy round--made that morning in my shop from a new case and bullet, with no primer or powder, and he handled it for quite a while. "This can't go off, can it?" he asked, staring at the empty primer pocket. I assured him that it could not, and when he handed it back to me, I dropped it into the rifle's chamber. It slid right in and rattled around a bit. "Hmmmm..." I said. Then I took it out and put the bullet into the muzzle. The round dropped in clean to the cartridge head.
"This is not a .45-70," I told Isiah.
"Well what is it?" He asked me.
"Could be anything," I replied. "They re-chambered these in so many calibers, almost all of which are obsolete now." I paused for a bit. "Let me think on this," I told him.
At this point, Isiah told the woman there to take care of me, because he was going to get something to eat. Apparently he'd lost interest in this deal and wasn't worried about letting me know it. Points off for rudeness, I decided.
She came over and asked me if I wanted the rifle, telling me that they wanted to sell it because it had been in the store "forever". I explained the caliber problem and told her that I might still be interested in it, however I'd come in willing to buy a .45-70 and this wasn't one. She asked me if Isiah had given me a bottom-line price, and I said yes, naming a figure that was $50.00 lower than his quoted price mainly as a tax for him walking out on me like that. Then I spent the next five minutes idly looking at the rifle before I told her that even though we didn't know what caliber it was, I was willing to consider it just as a project if she'd take a hundred dollars less than the figure I'd just named ($150.00 off Isiah's "best we can do" price.) She walked in the back a minute, then came out and said if I was paying cash, we had a deal. I handed her the cash and made myself scarce before Isiah returned. I paid less than half of their original price, which tells me that their mark-up was ridiculous in the extreme.
Now I've got the rifle back at the lair, some of the surface rust has been removed, and a nice coating of RIG applied to the metal until I can devote a bit more time to a proper clean-up. I've got some .50-70 stuff on order and I can only hope that I've assessed it correctly as a NYS militia rifle otherwise the joke here may well be on me. But even if it is, this old rifle's clearly been somewhere and done something and now it's got a good home.
I've already found a cleaning rod for it and ordered it. And as soon as I can make up some black powder cartridges for this, we'll have a range report.
There'll be candy-bar lunches and ramen-noodle dinners for a couple of weeks now, but I'm happy.
"Is that a Rolling Block? Can we shoot cats with it?