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:
Very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, Red Maple
L&R Late English
Custom Ed Rayl barrel; 47″, 45 caliber
Davis double set triggers
Hand forged mild steel butt piece and trigger guard with other mounts made from steel sheet
Shown here is something a little new for me. It is a screw-tip, but the tip has an external screw that screws into the collar. This horn is patterned after the LeHigh County horn shown on page 128 of Powder Horns: Documents of History by Tom Grinslade. My horn is slightly different from the original horns. The horn shown here has a threaded collar into which the tip screws. However, the original horn would have had a collar that slid over the throat of the horn with the threading to accept the tip in the throat of the horn itself.
The bespoke price on like this horn is $250 plus $20 shipping/insurance and any applicable sales tax for a horn delivered to a Virginia address. To order a horn like the one shown above, or to discuss a different project, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work. The availability of any particular design depends on my inventory of unfinished horns.
Shown here is an outfit that I made for myself consisting of an early Virginia shot pouch and a Virginia banded, screw-tip powder horn. Most of the shot pouches made these days are relatively complicated affairs using designs from the early to middle 19th century. If you want a shot pouch that is proper for the 18th century, take a close look at this shot pouch and powder horn. I put together an outfit that I felt would be proper for 1775 on the Virginia frontier.
There are very few examples of shot pouches from the 18th century. So, I was fortunate to be able to study an original early Virginia shot pouch that matches the size and construction of another published (Clash of Empires exhibition catalog, p. 30) pouch known to date to the period of the French and Indian War. This original Virginia shot pouch was documented by Wallace Gusler in the December 2009 Muzzle Blasts(pp. 4-8).
The original one piece pouch is square at the bottom (although the corners look rounded due to use) and stitched up the sides with a very fine stitch very close to the edge. A divider that is open at the bottom serves as a welt between the front and the back of the bag. A pewter flap button is anchored to a stag horn button on the inside of the pouch. The stag horn button was covered by a round piece of leather that served to prevent the user’s hand from catching on the button. The flap extends approximately halfway down the front of the bag and has a slight beaver tail shape with a welted edge.
The original bag did not have a strap attached and was missing part of the leather at one attachment point. However, there was evidence of a strap stitched to one side and a button hole on the other side. Actually, it was just a rough cut hole through which two buttons might have been tied to each other. Wallace Gusler indicated in his article that he believed two linked buttons (as in a cufflink) connected the strap to the bag using the button hole. The hole on the original pouch went through the welt and front of the bag as the back was torn away at that spot. I believe, the button was originally placed on the inside of the back and eventually pulled through tearing the back. That is why I did not run the button hole all the way through all three layers of leather on my recreation of the pouch.
I have made a number of hunting pouches based on this original. I have generally maintained the size and shape but varied the construction (i.e. external vs. internal stitching), the type of strap (i.e. leather vs. woven) and the type of attachment (i.e. location and number of buttons) for the strap. The original pouch actually appears to have rounded corners due to wear, and I made several copies that way before I realized that it was an optical illusion. Even in this very close copy, I still rounded the corners slightly in order to give the bag a finished look.
Not having Russia leather (a thin, textured, red dyed leather commercially available in the 18th century for upholstery work) which was most likely used to create the original, I created my copy of the original using 3-4 oz (may use 2-3 oz for some parts and 6oz for the strap) vegetable tanned cowhide which I stained using aqua fortis to give a dark brown color. I normally use vinegar and iron as a stain on my bags which usually gives more of a blue-black color. This bag is approximately the same size as the original at about 7″ square. Just like the original, this pouch has a center divider as the welt and is stitched up the sides. In Bag #10, I rolled and hemmed the edge of the flap instead of using a welted edge. I now make these bags using a welted flap just like the original. I maintained the same flap button attachment as the original with an internal horn button used as an anchor for the external pewter flap button. A leather cover is sewn over the internal button to prevent the hand from catching on it.
As for the strap, I attached it in a manner as close to the original as I could ascertain. One end of the strap is stitched to the right side (as worn on the right side), and the other end is attached to
the bag using a single small pewter button anchored to another small pewter button on the inside of the pouch. The strap may then be seasonally adjusted using buttonholes in the end of the strap. I usually only cut one set (strap and powder horn hangers) of button holes for the requested strap length, but more holes can be cut as required to adjust the strap.
The original pouch was decorated with stamped stars, some forming the initials of the owner. Consequently, I made a matching stamp to decorate my pouch. However, I decided to get a little fancier with a more refined design. I added diagonal lines reminiscent of English checkering patterns. On the bags shown below, I used the same stamp to create the owners initials and to do a Sun, Moon, and stars motif. In fact, I liked the Sun, Moon, and stars design so much, I used it on two bags, one of them is shown below.
I attached to the bag a Virginia single banded screw-tip horn that is similar to an original dated 1774. The horn is approximately 15″ around the outside curve with a 2 3/4″ base plug. The base plug and stopper are turned walnut with the base plug attached with wooden pegs. The screw-tip and band are horn. The screw-tip is dyed to match the walnut. Hand forged staples are installed in the the base plug and throat for the attachment of the hangers. The hangers are attached to the bag strap with buttons just as the strap is attached to the bag. This attachment method is purely conjecture on my part, but I think it makes sense to be able to adjust the hanger attachment location as the strap length is adjusted. The horn is dyed yellow with aqua fortis and appropriately aged.
I distress the leather on most of my pouches to give them a used appearance. That means adding wrinkles, scuffs and scratches as well as a coat of black shoe polish to simulate a little dirt and grime. I try not to overdue it so that the function of the bag is compromised. I don’t generally distress the leather to be used on a bag that is to be highly tooled.
You might think that this bag is too small at about 7″ square. I can assure you that it is not. Period documentation indicates that most longhunters carried hunting pouches of this size. They would just carry what they needed to shoot the gun. This generally meant a bullet mold, some bullets, patches, tow, and a wiper. A powder horn and powder measure with a vent pick and brush were generally hung from the strap.
In my bag, I keep some tow, a strip of pre-lubricated pillow ticking for shooting patches, five balls, two flints wrapped in leather, and a turn screw of a type typically used with muskets. A turn screw would not have normally been found in an original hunting pouch as a longhunter would most likely have used their knife to turn the screws on their gun. However, being a gunsmith, I just can’t bring myself to risk tearing up my screw heads like that. All that said, this bag is plenty big for the listed items. I hang a pan brush, vent pick, and powder measure from either the pouch strap or powder horn hanger. I made those from recycled tin plated steel from a cookie tin. I have attached small knife to the back of the pouch to use as a patch knife. The period longhunters would most likely have just carried a store bought butcher knife in their belt. This is certainly all you need for a day of hunting and more than you need to carry to the line when shooting at the range.
Shown below are four more pouch and horn outfits very similar to the bag shown above. They are of the same basic design with different tooling. The bottom two outfits have a different type of early Virginia horn. Horn #21 was made to the client’s specification and is not based on a particular original. They all have a welted flap just like the original, and I am currently making all these style bags that way.
Please note that I no longer hang the powder horn as high as shown on the bags shown on this page. I have found that the outfit works better if you hang the horn below the flap button so that you can open the flap without moving the horn out of the way. I will, of course, hang the horn where you want with the hangers as long (or short) as you want. I have made the hangers all lengths but tend to think about 8″ is long enough. You can just tip the horn up to pour the powder. When you place an order for this outfit, I will ask for your input on the length of the hangers and where you want the horn hung.
You can obtain your very own pouch and horn outfit like the ones shown above for the following prices:
Plain Early Virginia Shot Pouch (as shown above but without tooling) – $165 plus shipping
Powder Horn Hangers for Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $20 (Option with a pouch order)
Decorative Tooling on Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $20 (Option with a pouch order)
Leather knife sheath for customer provided knife – $35 (Option with a pouch order – customer must provide knife)
Virginia Banded, Screw-tip Powder Horn – $250 plus shipping
Virginia applied tip Powder Horn – $215 plus shipping
Tin Powder Measure, Brush and Pick set – $55
Priority shipping and insurance on a single item is $20. Shipping on an outfit is $25. I will collect VA Sales Tax for items shipping to VA residents.
To order a pouch or horn like the ones shown above, or to discuss a different project, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work. The availability of any particular horn design depends on the availability of an appropriate unfinished horn in my inventory.
The vast majority of original powder horns were as plain as they could be and still be functional. That means a flat pine (or other softwood) base plug and little or no carving of the throat; just enough work to contain powder and attach a strap. Many times a screw was used to attach a strap to the base plug. A grooved or simply reduced throat is enough to tie a strap around it. The two powder horns shown just below are based on an original southwest Virginia horn and are a little fancier than most with a turned base plug and carved rings at the throat. Even so, it is still much plainer than the carved and engraved horns from the French and Indian War. This horn could also be made with a turned and applied collar instead of the integral rings. The horn would dictate how it is approached.
Please note the raw linen cord used to attach the horn in the photo below. Cord was often found on southern outfits. The outfit show below is much more historically correct for a southern mountain rifle than many of the sophisticated shot pouches and powder horns being recreated today. Most of the original powder horns and shot pouches were very simple affairs, well worn and patched together. You will see horns completely covered in leather to patch a hole or holes rather than just throw it away. Even something as simple as a plain powder horn could not be easily replaced in the southern mountains and was highly valued.
I will make any plain powder horn with a flat base plug and simply carved throat and spout for $150 plus shipping. A horn like #7 with a turned, flat or domed base plug and carved rings would cost $210 plus shipping.
To order a powder horn or discuss any other project, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on ordering custom work. The availability of any particular horn design depends on the availability of an appropriate unfinished horn in my inventory.
Right or Left Hand Carry Powder Horns?
There are both right hand and left hand powder horns shown above. The question is what does that mean. It refers to the side on which you carry the horn. The tip always points forward and should wrap around your body. In other words, the tip should not jut out so that it can catch on a passing object.
Technically, a curve of the tip to the left as viewed from the top is a right hand carry horn and also from the right side of the cow. A curve of the tip to the right would technically be a left hand carry horn and from the left side of the cow. If there is no significant curve of the horn as viewed from the top, then the horn can be easily worn on either side. Most horns have so little curve it really doesn’t matter.
Sometimes a horn that is technically a left hand horn might wrap around the body better on the right hand side and vice versa. So, in describing a horn for sale, I will tell you whether a horn is technically a left hand or a right hand. Then I will tell you on which side the horn was built to be carried, if it is different. I will also try to include a photo from the top of the horn so you can see the curve for yourself. On which side you actually carry a horn, that is up to you.
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. 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. 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:
Very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, Surgar Maple
Rice Dickert, 44″, C-54 caliber with Chambers White Lightning liner
Davis double set triggers
Reeves Goehring sand cast yellow brass butt piece and guard, all other mounts made from brass sheet
Not too long ago, my osteopath told me I needed to take my overstuffed wallet out of my back pocket and ditch it. It was pretty ratty anyway; almost worn through in places. I shopped around for a replacement but just couldn’t find anything just right. I needed to carry my drivers license, registration, proof of insurance, disabled parking card, and medical insurance card as well as some cash, at least one debit card, and a couple grocery discount cards. That was about as much as I could slim down. I had about three times that much stuff in the old wallet, not including the receipts, notes, and other paperwork. It was basically a traveling file cabinet. What I finally decided to do was design a little 18th century style mens’ pocketbook based on the construction of my early VA shot pouch and several original cloth pocketbooks that I had seen.
Shown here is the result of my efforts. It is still a little overstuffed, but better than what I had. It is made out of goat skin (any new one would probably have to be calf skin), consisting of two sets of pockets flat sewn with a center divider serving as the welt for each set. The pockets fold like the pages of a book with a flap closure.
I tooled every exposed surface. The outside is decorated with typically English stamped geometric designs consisting mainly of diagonal lines and stamped stars. The inside panels are tooled with fraktur designs. The stain is vinegar and iron.
If anybody would like one, I will make one with stamped decoration on the exterior panels for $120. If you want original fraktur tooling on the interior panels, that will cost you $180. I will make a wallet with a single set of pockets for $80. I will have to add 5.3% sales tax for VA residents. Shipping is $15.
Download the pattern here if you would like to make the pocketbook yourself.
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.
This is a powder measure set that I created for Bag #12. It consists of a tin-plated steel powder measure, pan brush and vent pick. The pan brush is horse hair with a tin ferrule and the vent pick is made of music wire. Three flats are ground on the end of the vent pick to use in scraping out the touch hole. I can make you a powder measure set like this for $55 plus $8 for shipping. I will make just a measure for $25 plus $8 shipping.
If you are interested in this pan brush and powder measure set or one like it, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.