All my work carries a lifetime warranty(my lifetime – as long as I am able to do the work) against defects in MY workmanship to the original purchaser. Any such defects will be remedied by repairs or replacement at my discretion. Any other problems due to abuse, accident, lack of proper maintenance, or failure of parts/materials from third parties will be repaired at my cost for parts, raw materials, and supplies plus labor at current rate if I determine that such repairs are practical. Each party pays the shipping/insurance on their end for repairs or replacement due to defects in MY workmanship. The purchaser pays for the shipping both ways if the defect is due to any cause other than my poor workmanship.
I offer this quite generous warranty because I want my work to last and be valued for many lifetimes. Also, if there are problems with my work, I want to know so that they can be corrected going forward. The satisfaction of my customers is very important to me. I don’t care if it has been one month or ten years, if you are having a problem with one of my products, I want to hear about it, and I will do my best to correct the problem.
There are a couple of important exceptions to my warranty with regard to firearms. The fit is one. I will only warrant the fit and comfort of a gun if I had the opportunity to fit the gun to the customer in person, in my shop, prior to the final finishing of the firearm. I know this can be a problem if the purchaser is a considerable distance from my shop. However, there is no way for me to know exactly how any given firearm will fit a customer that I have never seen or seen shoulder the same type of firearm. Additionally, I cannot be held responsible for the weight, balance, or recoil of a firearm when such elements are dictated by the customers design choices such as barrel, ignition system, or style of gun. I will explain the pros and cons of various barrel choices as well as the ignition system, but the customer is ultimately responsible for their design and engineering choices. The same goes for the choice of a particular style or school of gunmaking. During the initial consultation, I will discuss with the customer, the fitness for a particular use, of a particular style firearm with a given set of components, and given measurements. However, once the design choices have been made and a contract written, the customer must take responsibility for those choices.
In order to make my life easier and make sure there are no misunderstandings regarding charges and fees associated with commissioned work, I have set out the following standard terms.
All items will be insured as available when shipped. Shipping for small items will be via USPS Priority Mail unless other arrangements are made. The standard charges for shipments within the continental U.S. are as follows:
$15 – Shipping/Insurance on individual commissioned bags or horns valued under $500.
$20 – Shipping/Insurance on commissioned hunting outfits or multiple small items collectively valued under $1000
Shipping outside the continental U.S. will be the actual cost of FedEx International Service with a declared value. All customs duties and tariffs will be the responsibility of the recipient. Please be aware that overseas shipment can often double or more the cost of the item.
For commissioned items valued at less than $500, full payment including the shipping/insurance noted above is due when the order is placed unless the estimated delivery will be longer than six weeks. If so, A $50 a non-refundable deposit (the deposit is only non-refundable if the buyer cancels the order) will be taken to schedule the job. The balance will be due on delivery.
For commissioned items valued at $500 or more, and less than $1000, a 10% a non-refundable deposit (the deposit is only non-refundable if the buyer cancels the order) is due when placing the order; the balance is due on delivery.
For commissioned items valued at $1000 or more, including custom firearms, a non-refundable deposit (the deposit is only non-refundable if the buyer cancels the order) will be accessed to cover the cost of the parts, materials, and supplies required for the project. The deposit must be paid before the project can be scheduled. The balance covering labor, applicable sales tax, and shipping/insurance will be due when the item is completed and ready for delivery. Shipping/insurance on these items will be the actual cost via the best route, usually UPS Ground or USPS Priority Mail.
For firearms, which require special shipping containers, a $200 deposit will be required on the shipping box. Once the shipping box has been returned at the client’s expense, the $200 deposit will be promptly refunded. Other large or high dollar items may have similar deposit requirements.
For Virginia delivery addresses, I will be collecting 5.3% Virginia Sales Tax.
If for any reason, I can’t complete the contracted work, you either get a refund of all the money paid, or parts and materials purchased on your behalf as well as any unspent monies.
The traditional muzzleloading rifle has fixed, open, metal sights. This means that you have to select an initial height for both the rear and the front sights. Original longrifles had fairly low sights, at least the way we see them 200 years later. As a matter of standard practice, I set the initial height of my rear sights at 1/4″. That means that I must calculate the appropriate height for the front sight. Standard ballistics calculations allow me to determine height that will usually put me on the target at 50 yards, with the first shot.
Rifle Sight Adjustment
Then it is a matter of adjusting elevation by filing down either the rear (lower point of impact) sight or the front (raise point of impact) sight. Windage is adjusted by moving either the front or rear sight left or right using a drift punch on the sight base. I generally only move the front sight and only very slight adjustments are generally necessary.
The Front Sight Height Calculator
I used to just calculate the initial front sight of a new rifle on some scrap paper when it was time to install it. However, I decided it might be a good idea to permanently encode the calculations in a spreadsheet so I wouldn’t have to do the same calculations over and over again from scratch. I created my spreadsheet in Excel and saved it in the Excel 97-2004 format for greatest compatibility with various spreadsheet applications. You may download a free copy of the spreadsheet using the link below.
Once you download and open the spreadsheet, using it is easy. You replace the values in Bold print. Everything else is locked. If you mount your sights centered on the flat with the front sight height as specified by this calculator, you should be pretty close, if not in the black, when you go to sight in. Of course, you do need a good idea of the muzzle velocity of your load. You can use the Lyman reference, but I don’t think you can go to wrong by assuming 1200f/s.
I had the thought one day that it might be interesting to list out all the tools I had out on my benches. As I worked on the project, I thought that it might be a better idea to expand the list to not only those tools that are normally out on my benches, but all the tools I generally use in gun building. That is what is listed here; all the tools normally employed in the creation of an iron mounted flintlock rifle. I say iron mounted because I build a lot of those guns and that pulls in the forge more than a brass mounted gun. Only hand tools are shown or listed. However, I do use a few power tools for gun making. They include a 14″ bandsaw and a floor standing drill press. I also couldn’t get along without my trusty DeWalt 18V Li-ion drill/driver/hammer-drill, the greatest tool since the invention of the brace. I also use an electric heat gun for whiskering, and turning aqua fortis; and an electric heat treat oven. I use a 2″x72″ belt sander for grinding off pins and the like. I also use a flex shaft grinder with an abrasive cutoff wheel for cutting music wire for pins. That is pretty much it for the power tools, and I am in the process of eliminating the band saw, substituting a rip saw for trimming the forearm of the stock.
Small homemade sanding block for roll abrasives
120 grit 1″ roll of emery cloth
320 grit 1″ roll of emery cloth
400 grit silicon paper
600 grit silicon paper
Titebond III waterproof wood glue
Thick & thin cyanoacrylate glue
5 minute epoxy for holding engraving work
Bondo for holding engraving work
Antique metal body brace w/1/4″, 3/8″, & 3/4″ spur bits
Gimlets: 5/64″ – 3/16″
Twist drills: 1/16″-1/2″, 1-80, A-Z
Hand held 3/4″ 82 degree countersink
1/2″ 82 degree countersink for power drill
11/32″ ramrod drill bit – I only use this size for 40-54 caliber even though I have other sizes. I have two this size; one sharpened with a conical point to do most of the work and one with a flat cutting edge to start the hole.
3/8″ couter-bore with #8 and #10 pilots for side plate screw holes
This powder horn was made from a raw horn in a late colonial style. I scraped it down, carved and filed the spout in the traditional manner. The plain domed base plug was carved from pine and held in place with wooden pegs. I turned the stopper from a scrap piece of curly maple. The stopper was stained with aqua fortis, and the aqua fortis was used to age the horn giving it the golden yellow color. Just like with staining wood, you have to apply heat to the horn to activate the aqua fortis and get that nice yellow color. The spout was dyed with dark brown Rit dye. Walnut hulls would probably have been used originally and I intend to switch to natural dyes in the future. The schrimsaw is not a copy of anything in particular, but something to my liking using period motifs. The strap is from Shayna L. Matthews ( www.fiberwoodart.com ). I like her work quite a bit and have bought several straps from her.
If you are interested in a powder horn like this, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. If you want me to make you a new horn similar to this one, an carved and engraved French and Indian War style horn, with YOUR name on it; it will cost you $600(plus shipping and applicable sales tax). See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.
The longrifle shown here is an iron mounted chunk gun with stylistic elements found on guns from the Augusta/Rockbridge area of Virginia down into southwest Virginia. This rifle includes a four-piece iron patchbox and a faceted trigger guard and thimbles similar to a couple of rifles from Wallace Gusler’s step-toe group as documented in several Muzzle Blasts articles. Those antique rifles had mounts that were a little fancier than most iron mounted guns but they certainly didn’t have carving and engraving as does this longrifle. The carving on this rifle is based on a John Davidson rifle (shown elsewhere on this site) from Rockbridge County, Virginia. As it stands, this is most definitely a fantasy gun both in terms of its decoration as a chunk gun, and the mix of features from various rifles. In my defense, I was making this gun for myself. So, I made what suited me. Hopefully, you will also find it appealing.
The Technical Details
Fairly curly, slab cut, red maple
Chambers Late Ketland lock
46″, 45 caliber, 1 1/8″ straight custom barrel by Getz
All iron with hand forged butt piece, guard, and ramrod ferrule
Davis longrifle double set triggers modified to fit the guard
Pull / Drop / Cast-off:
13.25″ / 2.75″ / 0.25″
14 lbs 15 oz
Building a Fantasy Longrifle
Below are initial sketches that I did for this project. I do these sort of sketches for every project, but as you will see, the actual gun can turn out quite differently. I often change my mind about the details as I am working on the gun.
I wasn’t happy with how similar silver wire worked on Rifle #11. So, I decided to skip the silver wire on this gun and do some carving based on the John Davidson documented in the Antiques section of this site.
I also changed the butt piece heel extension and comb to three facets based on the work of John Davidson’s unidentified master. I also decided to use the touch plate release I used on #11. However, after problems with the touch plate release due to wood movement from changes in humidity, I decided to change the release mechanism and toe plate to a small push button release for better reliability.
The ramrod is made of hickory as are all my ramrods and scrapped to a taper with a forge welded sheet steel ferrule on the small end. The ferrule is threaded for a 10-32 screw. I can provide a hardened and tempered 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 than many other gunmakers because of all the hand work I put into them and the effort that I take to make sure everything works smoothly. 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 which 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. Because of that, and the porosity of oil finishes, the last step in every gun is a good coat of Renaissance Wax on all surfaces. The only maintenance other than cleaning after shooting is to apply a coat of paste wax a couple times a year. The wax will effectively seal the stock against the weather.
Once I have finished all my scraping, 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, sometimes several times. 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 and soot from the fireplace 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 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.
Shown here is a previously unpublished John Davidson longrifle. It was made for a farmer in Rockbridge county Virginia and is still in the family. While the rifle is the victim of a very poor restoration job many years ago, there is still considerable artistic merit to the gun.
The longrifle is mostly intact. The original nose piece is missing as is the trigger guard. The guard on the rifle now does not belong by any stretch of the imagination. It was just stuck on there so there would be a guard. Missing wood in the forearm and around the lock and tang was replaced with body putty, but the thimbles appear to be original as does the lock plate with a period conversion from flint to percussion. The best part of the longrifle is the butt stock. It has a typical John Davidson patchbox with some great engraving, and some unique floral cheek side carving.
Rather than further describe the longrifle, I will let the photographs speak for themselves. I do have to beg your indulgence for any deficiencies in the photographs. They were, by necessity, taken at the owners house, outside, on a sunny, windy day, in the partial shade of a large tree. It is amazing they turned out as well as they did.
“From a flat bar of soft iron, hand forged into a gun barrel; laboriously bored and rifled with crude tools; fitted with a stock hewn from a maple tree in the neighboring forest; and supplied with a lock hammered to shape on the anvil; an unknown smith, in a shop long since silent, fashioned a rifle which changed the whole course of world history; made possible the settlement of a continent; and ultimately Freed our country of foreign domination.
Light in weight; graceful in line; economical in consumption of powder and lead; fatally precise; distinctly American; it sprang into immediate popularity; and for a hundred years was a model often slightly varied but never radically changed.
Legend regarding this rifle which have never been confirmed have drifted out of the dusty past; inaccuracies have passed for facts. Few writers have given more than a passing word to a weapon which deserves a lasting place in history, and it is a pleasure to present herewith the data collected during the past ten years and to dedicate this work to the KENTUCKY RIFLE.”
—- Capt. John G. Dillon, 1924, From his book The Kentucky Rifle
It is hard to beat John Dillon’s description of an Kentucky Rifle, the popular name for the American longrifle. This hints at the fact that there are a lot of names for basically the same thing. There is even some disagreement as to whether you spell it longrifle or long rifle. Generically, we refer to the American longrifle which includes all longrifles made in what would become the United States of America. We refer to longrifles made in specific States or regions by adding the State or region names such as in Pennsylvania longrifles or Southern longrifles; or even Kentucky longrifles, not to be confused with Kentucky Rifles. Remember that Kentucky Rifles is the popular name for all longrifles and is equivalent in use to American longrifles.
The Kentucky Rifle has been referred to in print since at least the third quarter of the 19th century. Some believe that the name came from the song “Hunters of Kentucky” by Samuel Woodworth recounting Andrew Jackson’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans in 1812. The song referred to “Kentucky rifles” carried by the riflemen from Kentucky who were prominent in that victory. However, the American longrifle was not just made in Kentucky, it was made in many states along the Eastern Seaboard, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia(West Virginia), Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, New York and New England. In fact, the first longrifles carried into Kentucky via the Great Wagon Road and the Wilderness Road were made in Pennsylvania and possibly Virginia. The manufacture and evolution of the American longrifle followed settlers down the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia into western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina and then west along the Wilderness Road into Tennessee and Kentucky. In one British officer’s account of the effectiveness of the “over the mountains men” from Kentucky and Tennessee in the southern campaigns of the American Revolution of 1780 and 1781, he described their rifles as having been “chiefly made in Lancaster, and two or three neighboring towns in that vicinity, in Pennsylvania.”
The American longrifle originated in and about Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the second quarter of the 18th century and was made well into the second quarter of the 19th century. Martin Mylin, a German Swiss gunsmith, established a shop outside Lancaster in 1719, and is credited with making the first American longrifle about 1740. Eventually, the American longrifle gave way to more sophisticated, mass produced firearms starting with the Industrial Revolution in America around 1840. However, production of the American longrifle never completely ceased. Gunsmiths were making similar guns throughout the 19th century. Mostly, these were high end target rifles, but there were back country gunsmiths making longrifles for subsistence hunting in the Appalachians well into the 20th century. With the renewed interest in all things early American in the 1920’s and 30’s (the Colonial Revival period) as a result of the American sesquicentennial, there was a renewed interest in the Kentucky rifle. It was during this period that John Dillon wrote his book heralding an ever increasing interest in collecting, and recreating these uniquely American firearms.
But I still haven’t really told you what makes a gun an American longrifle. Well, they are long (usually five feet or more), graceful, slender, exceedingly accurate (by the standards of the day), muzzleloading (gunpowder and a round lead ball covered by a cloth patch were loaded from the muzzle(front) of the barrel), rifled (spiral grooves (furrows) were cut into the bore of the barrel to impart a stabilizing spin on the bullet thereby dramatically increasing accuracy), of relatively small caliber (average was around 50 caliber, decreasing into the 19th century), with either flintlock or percussion sidelock ignition systems, a full length wood stock, and usually a patchbox or grease hole on the lock side of the butt stock. The barrels were almost always octagon (“squared” in 18th century terminology) and tapered toward the muzzle and flared back out starting a few inches from the muzzle. This taper and flare (swamp) was generally very subtle giving way to straight tapered and then straight barrels in the mid 19th century. These guns were primarily mounted with brass fixtures (butt piece, toe plate, guard, side plate, thimbles and nose piece); but some, most notably in the South, had iron mounts; and, very rarely, there was a silver mounted gun. Many of these guns were decorated with baroque and rococo carving and engraving as well as inlays of silver and brass wire and sheet. Some of these rifles were extremely ornate and were one of the first truly American art forms. They are now recognized as a significant form of American decorative art and people collect them as such. This is what has driven the price of the best original flintlock American longrifles well into six figures.
The roots of the American longrifle are in the German rifles, or Jaegers, that were brought to this country by early German settlers and gunsmiths. Among other stylistic changes, the barrels of the Jaegers were lengthened, and the caliber reduced to produce the uniquely American longrifle which made more efficient use of powder and was very accurate at long range. The American longrifle developed to serve the needs of commercial hunters traveling to the frontier and beyond to harvest deer skins for export. These commercial hunters or “longhunters” have long been portrayed as pioneers and explorers of European origin such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. However, there is good reason to believe that as many as half of the early longrifles went to native American hunters who had been using European arms to harvest skins for export to Europe since the first contact with European traders in the 16th century.
There is lots more that I could write about the American longrifle, but the best way to learn about them is to look at them and handle them. On this site you will find photos of some of the better ones that I have made in my Portfolio as well as photos of original longrifles that I and others have owned in the Antique Longrifles Gallery. Look them over good, get some good books on the subject, and seek out original longrifles for study at museums, gun shows, and private owners.
The Kentucky Rifle by Capt. John Dillon
The Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age by Joe Kindig Jr.
Rifles of Colonial America, Volume 1 & Volume 2by George Shumway
Recreating the American Longrifle by William Buchele, George Shumway, and Peter Alexander
The Gunsmith of Grenville County, Building the American Longrifle by Peter Alexander
The American Rifle: At the Battle at Kings Mountain by C.P. Russell, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 1941
Rifle Making in the Great Smoky Mountains by Arthur I. Kendall, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 1941
I make historically correct shot pouches and powder horns generally based on documented originals without being exact copies. These tend to be relatively plain affairs much like the originals. I particularly like making banded, screw-tip or applied tip powder horns.
To discuss a project and get a quote use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. I will e-mail or call to further discuss the project. Please see the FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work. Check out Works for Sale for product currently in stock.