Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I acquired a longrifle from my grandfather, but I don't know anything about it. Where can I get some information?
A. I receive many requests for help identifying longrifles. Assuming that I was enough of an expert on the topic to provide some useful information, there is very little definitive anyone could say about a rifle without examining it. With a picture and a detailed description, it might be possible to make some assumptions about where and when a rifle was made. In order to properly appraise a rifle it needs to be thoroughly examined, including disassembly, if possible, by an expert in antique arms. Check with local antique shops, auction houses, or even your insurance agent to find a competent local appraiser. Still, they might not be able to tell you everything you would like to know. In which case, you will have to do some research on your own. That is a big part of the fun of collecting.
The first thing you should do to write the story of your longrifle is find out as much as you can about the recent history of the rifle. Document where you obtained the rifle. Talk to the previous owner, if possible. Find out everything they know about the rifle. You are trying to find out where the rifle might have been made. The best way to do that is track its owners. This type of information makes any antique much more valuable. If this is a family heirloom, then you should definitely make sure you document all the history you can about the rifle while your parents and grandparents are still alive. This goes for all your family treasures, both tangible and intangible. Listen to your parents' and grandparents' stories. Take them to heart and write them down. If you don't, I can almost assure you that there will come a time that you wish you had.
After you have collected the easy information, it is time to start educating yourself and networking. Start with the Essentials and Magazines sections of the Books & Videos page. You will want to join the The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association and the Contemporary Longrifle Association as well as any local antique arms collecting organizations. The purpose of joining these organizations is to build a network of knowledgeable contacts who could help you in your quest. You might also check out the Ask the Expert section of Antiqueguns.com.
Q. I have an old rifle that's missing some parts. Where can I get repair parts?
A. First of all, orginial longrifles were custom made before the introduction of interchangable parts. You can't buy exact replacement parts. It is possible to find original parts similar to the ones on your rifle that can be made to work with some custom fitting. However, the choice and fitting of such parts should be left to those experienced in the restoration of antique firearms.
You shouldnt try to restore an orginial antique firearm yourself. Ask around at local gunshops, antique shops, or museums and try to find a good local restorer. You need to find someone with experience restoring original longrifles. Any work at all on the rifle could significantly reduce its value. Therefore, the most conservative approach should be taken to any restoration. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find an experienced, competent professional restorer.
Q. What kind of prices can I expect to pay for antique and contemporary longrifles?
A. Not being a expert on the valuation of antique longrifles, it is very difficult to give any guidance on the prices one might expect to pay for an original American longrifle in good condition. The price will vary by the quality and condition of rifle as well as general collector interest. The finest rifles will be most likely sold at well attended auctions; and therefore, will most likely fetch a high price. The best rifles are collected for the fine art that they are, and as such, may be valued as highly as a fine painting. In general, you should expect to pay thousands of dollars for an original rifle in good condition. In order to determine the value of a particular rifle, you should always consult a professional appraiser experienced in the valuation of antique firearms. Check out the Collecting section of the Web Links page for more information.
Although the valuation of contemporary longrifles vary considerably by style, decoration, and workmanship just as antique weapons, a little more guidance can be given as to prices. If you build you own rifle from a stock blank, you can expect to pay between $300-$700 for the parts. Getting the barrel inlet and ramrod hole drilled with cost you another $200-$300. A complete parts kit with a 98% inlet stock will run $500-$1000 depending on the style and quality of components. Really fancy wood can drive these prices up further.
If you want a complete custom made rifle from a blank, you should expect to pay $1500-$2000 for a good quality plain rifle. Add at least $500 for hand forged iron/steel mounts. A good quality, fully brass mounted rifle with an average amount of carving and engraving will run around $3000-$4000. Fancier rifles are more. You should expect to pay $5000-$6000 for an average decorated gun made by one of the top gun builders. The very best, highly decorated, work by the top contemporary builders have exceeded $30,000. All these prices are for guns with commercially available barrels and locks and commercial castings for the brass butt pieces and guards. The more hand work, the higher the price. If you want a completely hand made rifle produced in the 18th century manner and you are willing to wait a few years, the Gunsmith Shop at Colonial Williamsburg will make you one. They charge by hour with the typical rifle taking 400 hours to produce and costing at least $20,000. There are a couple of other builders who will make you a completely hand made gun for a little less, but not much.
Q. Where can I buy a custom made longrifle?
A. The first thing you should do is check out the Longrifle/Kit Makers section of the Web Links page. Several custom builders are listed and new ones are added all the time. Dixie Gun Works as well as Track of the Wolf sell contemporary longrifles. Check out their web pages for a current listing or give them a call. You should also check out the Contemporary Longrifle Association web page and considering joining. One of the main purposes of the CLA is to bring together builders and collectors. To that end the CLA has a annual show and meeting. You should also join the The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. NMLRA membership comes with a subscription to Muzzle Blasts which has classified ads for rifle makers. The same goes for Muzzleloader magazine which can be subscribed to for $18 a year by calling (800) 228-6389. You should also plan on attending some of the shoots and events sponsored by the NMLRA.
Q. What is the best way to get started building longrifles?
A. Most people start with a kit. The first gun I made was a CVA Kentucky pistol kit. It wasn't much of a kit, but I was12 at the time. From that point, I built my skills doing repair work on various muzzle loading firearms. At the age of 16, I started building my first rifle from scratch. That rifle was built using a swamped Douglas barrel, a Doc Haddaway lock, and a butt plate and triggerguard from Dixie Gun Works. Everything else was made from raw stock guided by Recreating the American Longrifle by Buchelle and Shumway. I would be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge the invaluable assistance of my father, who was a cabinet maker, and my grandfather, who was a machinist, as well as many other generous individuals who shared their experience and encouragement. That first rifle wasn't very good and the parts are going into my fourth rifle, but you have to start somewhere and just keep building. This is said not to discourage you, but to give you realistic expectations. However, there is a lot more help available now than there was when I built my first rifle over 25 years ago. A careful novice can produce a perfectly adequate first rifle these days by taking advantage of all the books, videos, workshops and message boards like the one on this site..
If you are looking for a good starter kit, I would recommend a kit from Jim Chambers Flintlocks, Ltd. While the stocks in these kits are 98% shaped and inlet, they are intended for skilled gun builders. However, the novice with good woodworking and metalworking skills can complete one with help. The best help is from another builder or one of the workshops offered by the NMLRA or Conner Prairie. Whether you get hands on assistance or not, you need to purchase all the books listed in the Essentials section of the Books & Videos page. These books should form the foundation of any gun builders library. You should also purchase Building Kentucky Rifles by Ron Ehlert where he shows how to assemble a couple of Jim Chambers kits. Check out the Videos section of the Books & Videos page for ordering information on these and other good videos. Good luck.
Q. What tools do I need to build my first rifle?
A. See Recommended Tools.
Q. How do you inlet a barrel?
A. See Notes on Inletting a Barrel.
Q. How do you brown a barrel?
A. See Notes on Browning a Barrel
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This page was last updated on 04/01/05 .