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AUGUST 12, 1861

This is the only purpose built high velocity long range rifle made in the South during the Civil War that I know of.  It was made by T. W. Cofer, Portsmouth, Virginia based on his Confederate Patent #9, granted August 12, 1861 by the Confederate Patent Office.  No, it is not a patent model but is rather a fully functional, fully developed long range rifle.  It has one purpose and one purpose only and that is to place a bullet on target at 1000 yards or better.

This is a virtually unknown rifle developed by T. W. Cofer.  I have found out through an intermediary, that Cliff Young had in his collection extensive notes and photography on this rifle along with the picture of a Cofer Sniper that had a scope.  Whether that picture is a photo of this gun with it's original scope, which has been removed or not, is not known.  I have requested copies of Cliff's notes on these guns and will update the web site when I see what he had.  I have also gone back to the family to see if there is any possibility that a scope was removed from the gun and if there is any possibility they still have it.  All to be updated at a later time.

This gun is in exceptional condition.  It has a 34 1/2" barrel with an overall length of 52 1/4 inches.  It weighs a little over 14 pounds.  It has a breech block that slides horizontally, left and right.  It is chambered for a brass cartridge with about a .42 caliber bullet.  I have made a dummy round from an exact chamber casting that you can see in the photography.  This cartridge was more than likely, easily reloadable and had a hole in the center to receive the flash from a percussion cap.  Amazingly, the barrel is throated ahead of the chamber.  This allows a larger diameter bullet than the bore to be inserted thus creating a firm grip on the rifling.  The bore is five groove rifling with a fast turn, about 1 in 25 inches.  The back side of the breech block is drilled to accept a small cartridge insert with a percussion cap that resembles his patent cartridges for pistols.  I suspect this was not disposable but reusable.  Every time you fired this gun, you would simply replace this capped cartridge and hold the spent one to be recharged and recapped for use again.  The entire mechanism is beautifully machined and fitted and works perfectly.  This man was even trying to manage recoil.  He engineered a rod that passes all the way through the butt, from the butt plate to the rear tang screw.  The rear tang screw passes through a circle on the end of this iron rod and is then screwed into the trigger group tang.  This allows the recoil to the transmitted down the upper tang to the rod and then dispersed throughout the stock, otherwise the recoil would likely have split the stock at the tang screw. (As a matter of fact, it split anyway.)  There are also two holes drilled deep into the butt, which probably had moveable lead rods inserted.  The inertia of these two rods would have significantly reduced recoil when the gun was fired.  The entire firing mechanism, hammer, trigger, mainspring, etc. is fully contained inside the brass trigger guard.  I have never seen this kind of advanced ballistic thinking and engineering during the Civil War period in the South.  This guy was two generations ahead of his time.

The left side of the breech block has T. W. Cofer inlaid in gold and is engraved "Pat. August 12, 1861, Portsmouth, VA".  We normally associate his Confederate patent with revolvers but in his patent application, it clearly states that his patent is applicable to revolvers, firearms and canon.  It took me a while to see it but the receiver of this gun, with its horizontal breech block, is drawn on his Confederate Patent drawing which was submitted with his request.  The receiver on this gun is drawn as the breech of a canon mounted on a carriage with wheels with a little stubby canon barrel sticking out the front.  He clearly had this breech system in his head when he submitted his request for patent.  Even the font and style of letters found in his gold inlaid name is a copy of the heading on his patent application drawing.

It is truly amazing that an item like this still exists and surfaces out of virtual obscurity at this late date.  One of the most amazing long range rifles I have ever seen.  P.O.R.  SOLD!!


As I mentioned above, it was my intention to update this as soon as I had a look at Cliff Young's file on the rifle.  The file does not contain any of Cliff Young's notes, rather it is written by one of the guys that first found the gun.  The two most interesting facts about this gun were not recognized by anybody.  First, the owners assumed that this gun shot a paper cartridge.  You can clearly see that the dummy round I made from the chamber casting, without doubt indicates that this gun shot a self contained metallic cartridge, probably made of brass and reloadable.  They missed this key feature.  The second thing they missed was literally staring them in the face and that is that on the patent drawing the receiver of this rifle  with its horizontal sliding breech is clearly depicted in the drawing of the canon.  Without doubt, Cofer had this design in his mind when he applied for his patent.  They never realized the connection.  Reference the book "Confederate Handguns" by Albaugh, Benet & Simmons.  This is the single best source of information on Cofer, his patent application and the guns he made and sold.