The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

Object Record

    New Search

Ferguson Rifle
Division of Military History and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History

Ferguson Rifle

Date: 1776
Catalog #: 234203    Accession #: 44501
Credit: Division of Military Histiory and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History


Patrick Ferguson (Inventor)

Patrick Ferguson was a brilliant marksman. His innovative ideas led him to improved Chaumette's breechloading mechanism. Used in sporting guns, Ferguson employed it in a military rifle. In 1776, the Ferguson Rifle was tested, at his own expense. The weapon was a sucess having a range of 250 yards, bettering the musket whose range was about 50 yards. Using the Ferguson Rifle, light infantry troops could continue loading and firing without breaking cover, even when lying prone.

Dimensions / Weight

Dimensions: 7.5" H x 49.5" W x 2.5" D

Physical Description

Ferguson breech loading rifle, .63 caliber.

Specific History

This rifle is believed to be one of the prototypes Patrick Ferguson had made in 1775. He presented it to his friend Frederic de Peyster, a Loyalist officer from New York. It was given to the Smithsonian by Frederic's grandson, John Watts de Peyster in 1905.

General History

This was one of the first breech loading rifles used in battle. The rifle employed a vertical rising screw breechlock. The breechlock was lowered by rotating the trigger guard. This exposed the chamber so the ball could be dropped in, the gunpowder poured in after and the breech closed without the use of a ramrod. This improvement allowed the rifle to fire four to six shots per minute.


Country: United States
State: New York
Era: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Printable ScriptVisit the MuseumEducationCredits