Gun #11 – Iron Mounted Virginia Longrifle with Silver Wire

Rifle No 11 Full Right

This is a fantasy longrifle based on iron mounted rifles found in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee in the early 1800s. Without the wire inlay, this rifle would be very close to the Joseph Bogle Jr. rifle made in East Tennessee. That rifle actually had more in common with the rifles of the southern Valley of Virginia than the rifles that would later become associated with East Tennessee. There was silver wire and sheet inlay used throughout the Valley of Virginia and in East Tennessee, but it is rarely seen on an iron mounted rifle; and I have never seen such bold wire work on any original rifle. Also, the mounts would not have been as highly finished as on this rifle nor would they have been as extensively engraved, or engraved at all for that matter. The wire inlay designs on the cheek side of the butt stock are an extension of a basic design that started in the Winchester,VA area and extended down the Valley of Virginia in an increasingly degraded form.

In this rifle I have taken a basic original design and given it a creative 21st Century twist. This is a Mark Elliott rifle, not a copy of anybody else’s work. It is basically an experiment with bold wire work. I think some things worked and some things didn’t. However, I do think it is in the highly creative tradition of southern longrifles. Southern gun makers have always marched to the beat of a different drummer from their more regimented northern brethren.

Lastly, I know it probably doesn’t make much sense to age a longrifle with such blatantly contemporary decoration, but, I liked the look. I guess this is going to be a case of you either love the gun or you hate the gun. You certainly can’t accuse me of being afraid to take an artistic risk.

As to the details of the gun, it is a very slender and light rifle. I left only the minimum amount of wood on the stock. Because, it is so thin, I had to heavily modify the lock and triggers to make it all work properly in such a confined space, but it works wonderfully. The gun can be put easily and safely into half or full cock without setting the triggers, and can be fired almost as easily with the front trigger alone as with the rear trigger set. The rear trigger takes a very light touch to set yet the lock is triggered quickly and without failure. The lock is very quick having been polished on all internal wear surfaces. Also mechanically sound is the patchbox release mechanism. It takes very little pressure to close the box lid and hold it securely in place. A reasonably light touch on the center of the toe plate will release the lid which will easily open far enough forward to completely expose the entire box compartment. Even with this free movement, there is very little wobble in the lid as you close it again.

Except for the locks, few original iron mounted rifles are engraved. I have engraved the lock in a manner that you might have expected on a better English trade lock. I have also put some simple line engraving on the side plate and a dogwood flower on the finial of the patchbox. Of course, the rifle is signed, numbered, and dated on the top of the barrel.

The ramrod is a simple split and scrapped taper hickory affair with a sheet steel ferrule on the small end. The ferrule is threaded for a 10-32 screw. I can provide a handmade wiper for the rifle for an extra $79.

As with all my guns, this rifle was stocked from a blank that I cut out on a bandsaw. After that, the only power tools I used on it were a hand drill and a drill press, mainly to drill screw, rivet, and pin holes. I used an 18th century brace and bits to help with the inletting of the lock and patchbox. All the other work was done with 18th and 19th century tools and techniques. Most of the work on the gun was done with planes, chisels, files, and scrapers. This included many antique tools and specialty tools made by me. The stock was final shaped and finished with scrapers. No sandpaper touched the wood. You can still see scraper and file marks in the finished product and there are the tell tale ripples in the stock indicative of being scraped. A more highly figured piece of wood would have had even more ripples.

I hand inlet the barrel and ramrod groove using chisels and planes, and hand drilled the ramrod hole. The trigger guard and butt piece were hand forged and assembled using rivets and forge brazing. The heel of the butt piece was filled with brass to make the joint as solid as possible. Then many hours of hand filing and polishing went in to getting these mounts to their final form. All the other mounts were hand cut from sheet and hand formed around mandrels I made expressly for the purpose. I made all the parts for the patchbox release mechanism and modified the Davis triggers to suit my taste and ensure perfect operation with the lock. As with all my locks, I hand filed and polished the lock plate, cock, and frizzen so that the lock would look as if it were a product of the 18th or 19th century. All the lock internals were polished on their wear surfaces and the sear and full cock notch were stoned for perfect operation with the set triggers. This particular lock also needed some modification of the sear and sear spring. Several days of work went into just finishing and tuning the lock.

My guns are more expensive that many other gunmakers because of all the hand work I put into them and the effort that I take to make sure everything works properly. I spent many days on this rifle just making sure that the lock, triggers, and patchbox release worked as well as they reasonably could. I also spend a lot of time with a scraper to make sure my lines and planes are straight and sharp and my curves smooth. I use traditional ferric nitrate (aqua fortis) stain whick requires much, much more preparation than if you were using a modern non grain raising stain. I then apply many coats of my own oil based gunstock finish. I don’t use polyurethane or other synthetic finishes. I do put some turpentine thinned gunstock finish in the lock and barrel inlets and under the butt piece to provide a little moisture resistance. There was generally no stain or other finish in these areas on the original rifles, but most modern builders do try to seal the entire stock. Of course, a good coat of past wax will do the same thing.

Once I have finished all my scraping and polishing and finishing, then I go about destroying the work I have done in order to age the piece. I rust all the iron parts. Apply a patina to the brass and silver and then paint the whole gun in a lamp black oil glaze to simulate a century or two of dirt that I then scrub off judiciously to simulate many years of wear. A few dents, dings and some blood along the way doesn’t hurt the process. I finish the whole thing with a coat of Renaissance Wax just as I would on an antique.

I try to work in as workman like manner as I can, but I am picky about line and function. I will let some scraper marks and file marks and a few dents slide by as did the original gunmakers, but not functional or architectural problems. You do have to realize that anything done by hand is not going to be perfect. I try to get as close as I reasonably can, but you do have to let some things go as long as they are not going to affect function.

Speaking of function, all my barrel tenons are slotted to allow at least 1/32″ of travel around the pin in each direction. This is to allow for the normal expansion and contraction of the stock without stressing the barrel so much that the aim is affected.

I have told you a lot about how I made this rifle. Now, it is time for you to take a good look at it. You will find many detailed photos below. Click on each photo for a larger image. On that second image page, there is a link at the top of the page in the form of the full size image’s dimensions in pixels. Click on that link to see the full resolution image. That image is going to be larger than life and would be the equivalent of looking at the gun through a magnifier. You will see every little defect and spec of dust. Please don’t judge me too harshly. You don’t normally get this kind of a look at a gun that you examine in person. The photos below are like looking at the gun in full sunlight with a magnifying visor. You don’t get nearly that good a look at anything at your average gun show. Just keep that in mind.

The technical details:

Stock: Moderately curly, slab cut, red maple
Lock: Chambers Late Ketland lock
Barrel: 42″, 45 caliber, B weight swamped barrel by Getz
Mounts: All iron/steel with a hand forged butt piece and guard.
Trigger: Davis longrifle double set triggers modified to fit the guard
Length of Pull: approximately 13 1/2 inches
Drop: approximately 2 3/4 inches
Cast-off: approximately 1/4 inches
Butt piece height: approximately 4 1/2 inches
Butt piece width: approximately 1 3/4 inches

Rifle No 11 Full Left

Rifle No 11 Full Top

Rifle No 11 Full Bottom

Rifle No 11 Half Right

Rifle No 11 Half Top

Rifle No 11 Half Left

Rifle No 11 Half Bottom

Rifle No 11 Lock

Rifle No 11 Side Plate

Rifle No 11 Patchbox

Rifle No 11 Cheek

3 thoughts on “Gun #11 – Iron Mounted Virginia Longrifle with Silver Wire”

  1. Hello,
    and I must say you produce truly splendid pieces of work. But have you considered a basic plain rifle, just with a real nice piece of wood? perhaps a nice looking piece of tiger maple.

  2. Nice rifle and if u still have it say sept 1 or so, I will come down your way to look at it.

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