So, you want to build longrifles. The most important thing you can do before you waste your time and money is STUDY. The following books and videos are highly recommended to form the foundation of your longrifle library:
- Rifles of Colonial America, Vols l & ll by George Shumway
- Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age by Joe Kindig Jr.
- The Gunsmith of Grenville County (Building the American Longrifle) by Peter A. Alexander
- The Art of Building the Pennsylvania Longrifle by Chuck Dixon
I also recommend the following videos:
- Building a Kentucky Rifle by Hershel House
- Traditional Gunstocking by Mark Silver
- Relief Carving a Kentucky Rifle Circa 1775 by Wallace Gusler
- Engraving a Kentucky Rifle Circa 1775 by Wallace Gusler
You should be able to get all of these from the Muzzleloader Magazine website.
As you read and view the above, you should know that most builders have someone else (like Mark Weader at Jack’s Mountain Stock Company – (717) 543-5370) inlet their barrel, cut the ramrod groove, and drill the ramrod hole. Many folks use parts kits. Jim & Barbie Chambers offer the best kits and the best locks . I stock my guns from a blank and do all the work myself much like in Mark Silver’s video. However, almost nobody does this as it takes a lot of time and is not cost effective. As I consider myself an artist and have no interest in being a manufacturer, I don’t care too much how long it takes. It just has to be right.
You should also join the forum at American Longrifles. This is where you get all the information that is not in the books and there is a lot.
Lastly, but by no means least, you need to handle and study original longrifles. That is the only way you are really going to know what the rifles look and feel like. You just can’t see everything in a photo. The CLA (and KRA if you are a member) shows are a good place to see both original and contemporary longrifles.
There are also classes of which you should be aware. There are week long classes in stocking, carving and engraving at the ArmsMakers Workshop every October at Conner Prairie near Indianapolis. The NMLRA sponsors 3, 6, & 9 day classes as part of their Gunsmithing Seminar at Western Kentucky University every June. The Gunsmithing Seminar classes are intense, and for people who already have good skills and a lot of stamina. With the 9 day classes, you spend at least 90 hours in class. You do an entire semesters work in two weeks. The Conner Prairie classes are more for beginners and are more laid back. Links to both these sets of classes may be found to the right under “Seminars/Workshops.”
Being a traditional gunmaker (actually any art, craft or trade) involves a lifetime of learning to master it. However, with lots of study and help, people do build excellent first guns; but you will need help. If you try to do it on your own, you will probably not be happy with your first attempt.
Mark E. Elliott