(AND A FEW FOR ADULTS)
The rifle pictured is a fine example of what I offer as a more-or-less "standard" product. Whether a fullstock or halfstock, flinter or percussion, the most basic gun I build will have a stock of plainer maple or walnut, with woods such as cherry or ash offered on an as-available basis. The barrel will be a used or sometimes NOS item taken off (or never actually installed on) one of several models of imported rifles -- usually CVA, Jukar, or Traditions. At this lowest-price level, calibers are limited almost completely to .45 and .50. In the case of a used barrel I'm picky about bore condition, as I expect most customers will be. Only the lightest degree of pitting is acceptable, and regardless of the visible condition if the bore has the slightest rough feel to it when a dry patch is run down the barrel -- it doesn't get used. Sights are almost always fixed, and a CVA or Traditions lock is tripped by a single trigger. Buttplates and triggerguards are either sand-cast brass, as shown, or fabricated from 1/8" flat steel stock. One or two forward ramrod pipes, depending on the barrel length, and either lock bolt washers or an actual sideplate complete the assortment of hardware.
A rifle as shown and described above, without upgrades, will run between $500 and $600 in flintlock, about $30-$40 less in percussion.
I'm happy to upgrade any detail of what are, again, my simplest and least-costly custom pieces. Better wood is always an option. I am happy to substitute premium-quality barrels and locks and to build lefthanded rifles. Items such as nosecaps, toeplates, ramrod entry pipes with and without skirts, and patchboxes can be added. The cost of any such options and associated labor charges will be included in the quote I present to the customer after discussion of his or her needs and wants.
Fullstock rifles will follow either an earlier-period or later Lancaster pattern, or a fairly generic southern style. Halfstocks take their shape from the original "western trade rifles" described elsewhere on this site (see Main Menu). I make extensive use of power tools to shape and finish my stocks, which to the expert eye will result in a less than perfectly PC firearm (see my "Building" category for an illustrated explanation of what I do and how I do it). I finish my stocks with alcohol-based stains and tung oil, both of which apply and dry with no fuss. Barrels and other steel parts are cold-blued or browned, with fire-bluing available on any steel other than the barrel. The customer needs to be aware of my methods and consider the prices I charge, and be fair in regard to what will be expected and accepted.
I have no interest in building guns that will require either extensive research or a great deal of labor added to my standard building methods. Projects I find too time-consuming or labor-intensive to take on include, but aren't limited to, strictly-correct Hawkens, military firearms that follow precise original specs, and highly-decorated (relief-carved, engraved, etc) showpieces.
My philosophy as a builder is simple. I deliver a solid, dependable gun of reasonably PC styling and appearance, at a more than reasonable cost considering that these are, even at their most basic, completely custom pieces. My intent is to make this pasttime as accessible to as many people as possible, particularly those on working-class budgets and most especially those wanting guns for their kids. A certain degree of the traditional "art and mystery" of the craft and concern for strict standards of historical correctness are unfortunately but necessarily bypassed to attain this goal.
Lead time on any custom order is presently about six months. Terms are all parts money up front, labor and shipping fees due on completion of the project. Because every project is unique, exact costs can only be quoted after discussion with the customer.
The guns pictured show not only my typical work but also the extremes of most and least cost for smoothbore projects.
The top piece is my interpretation of an English-style fowler as built by a Colonial American gunsmith. It lacks a number of finer details, mainly moldings in areas like the lock and sideplate panels and around the tang of the breechplug, that were typical on even plainer English guns. The barrel is an octagon-to-round Colerain, the lock an appropriately-styled mechanism from L&R. There is roughly $350 invested in those two components, without considering the cost of the stock blank, remaining metal, and labor. Furniture can be handmade or investment-cast steel, or investment-cast brass. Nearly any gun of this overall style -- long barrel, flint ignition -- will require the use of premium components. There just aren't any other sort of suitable barrels and locks available. Total price for a finished gun will start at roughly $750-$800.
Please understand that I don't do strictly-correct copies of original English and French guns. Mine are simplified versions that have the overall flavor and feel of the European pieces that might have influenced a Colonial gunsmith. The customer insisting on an exactly-done English fowler or French Tulle is encouraged to patronize one of the numerous builders who specializes in precisely PC work.
The second piece shown is something else entirely. Utilizing a modern shotgun barrel from which the choked end of the muzzle and most of the chamber have been removed, this type of gun is fired by a modified CVA Hawken flintlock (the example shown is an earlier model with a handmade lock) and trimmed entirely in handmade steel. Cost is in the rough ballpark of $400, $25-$30 less if a CVA percussion lock is selected. Premium locks are certainly an option, and obviously the use of a modern barrel that will rarely exceed $30-$40 in price makes the use of a $140 flintlock mechanism less of a strain on a limited budget. Barrel lengths are normally limited to a maximum of about 24"-26", and bore sizes to 20, 16, or 12 gauge, with the 20 gauges most likely to be available only in shorter lengths. I can build these small smoothbores in a general English, French, or Trade Gun style, but they're obviously intended for kids or adults wanting a light, handy hunting and casual shooting gun, with strict PC details not a consideration.
Not shown but available is an adult-sized trade gun. Due, again, to the cost of longer barrels and appropriate flintlock mechanisms, such a gun is priced in the same ballpark as adult pieces of English and French influence. A gun of this type will follow general trade gun styling and will NOT be correct to any exact period or maker.
Lead time and financial terms are as described at the end of my "Rifles" section.
REFURBISHED RIFLES AND ROUGH STOCKS
I occasionally offer a relatively inexpensive rifle (usually one of the various CVA or Traditions halfstocks) for sale to the buyer wanting something that's simply serviceable, at a fraction of the cost associated with a full-custom piece. such guns will range from those that are in basically good condition, with little work done to them other than making sure they function reliably, general clean-up, and for a very modest fee cutting the length of pull to suit a smaller shooter, to new or near-new pieces as described below:
Occasionally I come across new or only gently-used rifles, with bores ranging from very good to perfect. On these I will re-shape and refinish the wood, resulting in a much more graceful and attractive piece than most factory originals. Length of pull may also be reduced, particularly on guns that are standard with 14" or more between the trigger and buttplate. Steel will be cleaned up, refinished if necessary, and brass polished. A customer's existing rifle can be modified as described, or (within reason) as the owner specifies.
I also offer replacement wood for factory rifles. This can range from a blank cut to a rough profile, inletted for the customer's barrel and breechplug, with the ramrod hole routed and drilled, to a stock on which all useable parts from the customer's gun (and maybe a couple from my inventory) have been installed; in this case the butt will be bandsawed to the width and height dictated by the size of the buttplate, with length of pull, drop at heel, and cast-off adjusted to the customer's needs. No actual shaping of the butt, wrist, or lock and sideplate panels will be done, and the forend will only be worked down to the point of the sharp corners being removed with a router. Prices vary according to wood type, make and model of gun, and the amount of work done, and I'll need the customer's actual parts to be installed.
Complete restocking of a factory rifle into a new, finished gun is also a service I'm happy to offer. The rifle pictured above is very typical, a restock of a Traditions Hawken. Customers are most often interested in fullstocks based on the parts found on various factory-built halfstocks, or in having a new halfstock built that is somewhat more historically-correct in appearance. I charge the same basic labor rate for this work as for building a custom gun from scratch, since the same stock work and fitting of parts is involved. The customer is asked to be reasonable as to the degree of correctness that can be achieved using original factory parts and my building methods, but I'm more than happy and able to improve on nearly any factory rifle's appearance and how it fits its owner.