Gun #18 – In the Style of Alfred Gross

Shown here is an iron mounted rifle based on several rifles made by Alfred Gross of East Tennessee. At one end of the spectrum is that famous silver mounted (silver over iron) rifle by Alfred Gross, and on the other end are completely plain iron mounted rifles. This rifle is in the middle with thirteen sterling silver inlays. The mounts are pretty much the same on all the iron mounted rifles made by Alfred Gross, particularly the trigger guard. I worked very hard to match the Alfred Gross trigger guard on this rifle. I am pretty sure that I made three or four guards before I got to the one I used.

I never really know how to finish an iron mounted rifle. We only know what they look like now, at about 200 years old. We only have vague clues about what they looked like new. Consequently, I really have to age iron mounted rifles to some extent to look something like what they look like today. On this rifle, I went almost to that point and then scrubbed off the black glaze so that you could still see the outstanding figure.

Like most of the southern iron mounted rifles, this one is very heavy at 11 lbs, 5 ozs. This barrel is based on the one on the over the top silver mounted rifle by Alfred Gross and is actually larger at the muzzle than at the breech. The muzzle is a little over 1″. At 47″ long in 45 caliber, it is a heavy barrel with makes for a heavy rifle. The rifle was almost certainly built for target shooting from a rest.

The length of pull is approximately 14″ to the front trigger. The drop is a little more than 3″ and the cast off is about .25″.

This is the last rifle for a customer. From now on, the gun projects are for me.

The technical details:

Stock: Very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, Red Maple
Lock: L&R Late English
Barrel: Custom Ed Rayl barrel; 47″, 45 caliber
Trigger: Davis double set triggers
Mounts: Hand forged mild steel butt piece and trigger guard with other mounts made from steel sheet

Gun # 17 – Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Right Full

Sketches of thimbles and other details.
Sketches of thimbles and other details.
This is a 1775-1785 Augusta/Rockbridge County, Virginia longrifle based on the two rifles documented by Wallace Gusler in the Journal of Historical Arms Making Technology, Volume II (JHAT II). The patchbox and its engraving is an original design extrapolated from the boxes on the guns documented in JHAT II as well as those by John Davidson. The lock is a Chambers Colonial, filed, polished and engraved in a manner typical of most imported English locks with heat blued screws. The 54 caliber, 44″ long, Dickert profile Rice barrel is polished amory bright.
Moulding termination details.
Moulding termination details.
A White Lightning liner is installed. The rifle has modified Davis double set triggers that have been heat blued. The butt piece and guard are neatly filed from yellow brass castings from Reeves Goehring. The rest of the mounts, including the one piece nose piece, are hand made from sheet brass. The stock is carved from a blank of very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, hard maple from Freddie Harrison. The barrel is hand inlet using gouges, period gunstock planes, and rasps. The stock is entirely scraped and burnished and the rifle is generally finished in a workman like manner.
Details of forearm moulding.
Details of forearm moulding.
The forearm moulding was cut with a custom made scratch stock in the original manner and show the characteristic ripple from scraping very curly wood. Period correct tools and techniques were used with files, rasps, chisels, and planes being used for most of the work. The stock is stained with aqua fortis and finished in oil. I have fitted the scraped hickory ramrod with a plain sheet steel ferrule on the breech end that accepts a hand turned wiper made for the rifle.

If you are interested in the templates and layout guide I used to create this rifle, they may downloaded on this page.

The length of pull is approximately 14″ to the front trigger. The drop is a little more than 3″ and the cast off is about .25″.

The technical details:

Stock: Very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, Surgar Maple
Lock: Chambers Colonial
Barrel: Rice Dickert, 44″, C-54 caliber with Chambers White Lightning liner
Trigger: Davis double set triggers
Mounts: Reeves Goehring sand cast yellow brass butt piece and guard, all other mounts made from brass sheet

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Left Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Top Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Bottom Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Right Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Left Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Top Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Bottom Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Lock

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Side Plate

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Tang

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Patchbox

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Cheek

Gun #16 – Early Jacob Dickert Flintlock Longrifle

Rifle16-full_right Jacob Dickert flintlock longrifle

This is a rifle in the style of an early Jacob Dickert. It shares characteristics with the Moravian rifle makers at Christian Springs. This rifle has been slightly aged per the wishes of the customer.

This rifle was awarded the Best of Class ribbon in Master-Traditional at the 2016 Dixon’s Gunmakers Fair.

2016 Best of Class ribbons for the Early Jacob Dickert flintlock longrifle
2016 Best of Class and other ribbons for the Early Jacob Dickert

The technical details:

Stock: A fancy, dense piece of sugar maple from Harrison Saw Mill.
Lock: Chambers Early Germanic
Barrel: Rice 38″, 50 caliber, C weight Transitional profile with a Chambers White Lightning liner
Trigger: Modified Davis double set triggers
Mounts: Soft yellow brass butt piece and guard from Reeves Goehring. The rest are from brass sheet.

Rifle16-full_top Jacob Dickert flintlock longrifle

Rifle16-full_left Jacob Dickert flintlock longrifle

Rifle16-full_bottom Jacob Dickert flintlock longrifle










Gun #12 – An Iron Mounted Virginia Chunk Gun

Rifle #12, fantasy iron mounted Virginia longrifle after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, Full length, right side

An Unusual Iron Mounted Rifle

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

Stock: Fairly curly, slab cut, red maple
Lock: Chambers Late Ketland lock
Barrel: 46″, 45 caliber, 1 1/8″ straight custom barrel by Getz
Mounts: All iron with hand forged butt piece, guard, and ramrod ferrule
Trigger: Davis longrifle double set triggers modified to fit the guard
Pull / Drop / Cast-off: 13.25″ / 2.75″ / 0.25″
Weight: 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.

Preliminary sketch of iron mounted patchbox and wire inlay.
Preliminary sketch of patchbox and wire inlay.
Preliminary sketch of longrifle cheek with wire inlay.
Preliminary sketch of cheek with wire inlay.
Working sketches of Virginia longrifle mounts.
Working sketches of mounts.

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.

No 11 Tang Carving of Virginia longrifle
No 12 Tang Carving

No 11 Right Wrist
No 12 Right Wrist

No 11 Virginia longrifle Cheek Carving
No 12 Cheek Carving

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.

The Final Result

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, left side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, top

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, bottom.

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, half length, bottom

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, left side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, half length, top

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, right side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, right quarter

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,lock

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,sideplate

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, cheek

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, patchbox