An Artist & Craftsman
I think of myself as an artist and craftsman working in a number of mediums, but I have a 40 year obsession with the recreation of flintlock longrifles and accouterments. My particular interest, being a Virginian, is in longrifles from Virginia and East Tennessee along with their associated shot pouches, and powder horns. Iron mounted longrifles are a specialty of mine.
While I to refer to myself as a gunmaker, gun stocker, or gunsmith; I have interests in all sorts of arts and crafts including sewing, leather work, fraktur (18th and 19th century German American calligraphy & folk art), period cabinet making and joinery, wood turning, and photography. I even recently started making jewelry. That is why it is a little awkward to just refer to myself as a gunmaker.
At Home in Any Century
As much as I consider myself an artist and craftsman, I made my living mostly in information technologies for over 20 years. I am now retired due to my health, but I still keep my hand in cutting edge technology with my photography work, maintaining this web site, and working with the audio/visual ministry at my church. Very early, however, I fell in love with antique firearms, particularly the American longrifle. I was captivated by the artistry and craftsmanship of these guns. The variety of skills required to create one appealed to me as well as its integral part in the history of our nation. I was also, and still am, fascinated with the flintlock as an ignition mechanism. Consequently, I have spent a good bit of my spare time , what little there was of it, learning to build flintlock longrifles. I am still learning, and currently concentrating on the long term project of making an all handmade rifle and pistol in the 18th century manner.
Started Early as a Gunmaker
I started my gun building career with a CVA pistol kit that I received for Christmas when I was in the seventh grade. When I was in high school and college I completed a flintlock longrifle from a curly maple stock blank with a Douglas swamped barrel and a Doc Haddaway lock. It was a pretty awful mishmash of longrifle styles with some really bad carving. Fortunately, I have learned a lot since then, and the parts from that first rifle have long since been recycled into other guns.
Due to the demands of a burgeoning career in information systems, I didn’t start another rifle for 15 years. Eventually, tired of working with computers day in and day out, I started working on my second rifle in 1995. It was an iron mounted, southern style longrifle, made using a Green Mountain barrel, a small Siler flintlock that I made to look like a late flint period English lock, and a very plain piece of black walnut from my father’s wood rack(the last large piece from a walnut tree cut from the mountains of Virginia, decades before).
Ribbons and Advanced Study
That longrifle won a Judges Choice award in the Apprentice class at Dixon’s Gun Makers Fair in 1999, and provided the encouragement for me to keep building. I have been studying and building seriously since 2003 and won a First Place ribbon for craftsmanship in the Journeyman class at Dixon’s in 2005, and another Judges Choice ribbon in the Master class in 2009. I was awarded a Best of Class ribbon in 2016 in the Master class for Traditional work.
As well as being a regular attendee at the the Dixon’s Gun Makers Fair, I have also attended the Arms Makers Workshop at Conner Prairie, and the N.M.L.R.A. Gunsmithing Workshop in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I also take every opportunity to study original longrifles and accouterments, making appointments as necessary to view both public and private collections.
Iron Mounted Southern Longrifles
I have a particular fondness for iron mounted southern longrifles and accouterments; particularly the longrifles made in the region from Augusta County Virginia southwest into East Tennessee. My currently planned projects are focused on recreating rifles from that area. Below are a couple photos of a “fantasy” longrifle I created exhibiting many of the features of rifles from that region, just assembled in a manner that they never would have been in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This firearm is my personal target rifle and was created for my pleasure alone. It does, however, represent some of my best work as well as my personal interests; and that is why it is being presented here.
As important as collecting and building longrifles is to me, and it is very important, I strive to make Christ the most important thing in my life because he died so that sinners like you and I might be forgiven our sins and gain eternal life. I have had, and continue to have, some very difficult challenges with my health and have seen some very dark times. It is only through faith, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit that I have made it through many days. Life isn’t easy, and Christians aren’t perfect. I am certainly very far from perfect. We are all sinners. The Bible tells us that not one of us is justified. However, as a Christian, you are forgiven and striving to get better in every way each day. As a sinner needing forgiveness; just ask Christ into your life; sincerely repent of your sins; rejoice in the fact that your sins, past, present, and future are forgiven and forgotten; and let the Lord help you each day to become the person he wants you to be. Not unlike mastering a craft, it is a life long, difficult, journey, but the end of the journey is eternal life. Don’t wait, start your journey today! Jesus loves you and is waiting for you to ask him into your life. Once you do, you will also find that he will lift your burdens and make things possible that are far beyond your capabilities.
Postscript: You should know that the above words are God’s, not mine. I just wrote them down. There are days I read what I wrote above and it is like someone else wrote them. With the stress of daily living, I often forget the gift God gave us through Jesus Christ, and need to be reminded. The reminder changes my attitude to one of humility and service. I don’t know about you, but I need constant reminding, as those things don’t seem to be natural to me. I must continually ask for forgiveness and step back on God’s path for me. Staying on the path is what matters, let God take care of the rest. I will try to remember that, if you do. 🙂
May God bless you.
Mark E. Elliott