“Wood, Field and Stream,” By Raymond R. Camp, from the New York Times, Dec. 30, 1939
Some of the local gun-cranks certainly subscribe to the old saying of
striking while the iron is hot, and we have received several letters, as well
as phone calls and two personal appearances, since the column appeared on old
black powder rifles.
A number of the correspondents verified my statement that the average hunter
found his spare time hanging rather heavily on his hands during the Winter
months. Several of them admitted to an interest in old rifles and wanted
suggestions as to where one might be bought at a reasonable price.
One litter, written by Stephen Carman of New York, related the experiences
of one gun-crank in this connection. Carman wrote that he first became
interested in the muzzle loader in 1932 while on a hunting trip in Western
North Carolina. While there he attended a local shoot, and was amazed at the
accuracy of some of the old rifles. Before leaving the section he spent a day
trying to buy one, but although he offered as much as $150 for an especially
good specimen, the owner, who had never seen that much money at one time in his
life, refused to consider the offer.
Finally Found a Prize
“Several of the men of that town gave me addresses where I might find one of
the old rifles for sale,” Carman wrote. “The result was that it took me almost
a week to drive back to New York. I visited small Carolina towns that I don’t
believe are on the map, but found only three men who were willing to sell their
heirlooms. Of these, two had rifles that were in very bad condition. The third
one is now the prize of my collection.
“I stopped, after spending three hours inquiring my way, at the small
farmhouse where the owner of the rifle lived. He had gone to a near-by town and
was not expected back until late that afternoon. His wife knew of the rifle,
however, and brought it down from the attic for my inspection. It was in
excellent condition. She explained that her husband had never fired it, but
that it had been a favorite of his father’s. The entire rifle, barrel and stock
had been varnished, and the bore had been filled with tallow.
“The owner’s wife asked me how much I wished to pay, and I suggested $25.
She then asked me whether I had the money with me, and said if I had I could
take the rifle away. I realized that if my own wife ever did anything like that
with one of my rifles I would be tempted to pack her back to her mother, so I
decided to give this husband a chance to make his own bargain. He returned
earlier than expected, and was pleased to let the old gun go for the sum
In Perfect Condition
“When I returned to New York I spent almost a week cleaning the old gun, but
when I finished I found it was in perfect condition. The rifling appeared to be
as good as the day the gun was turned out by the hand of a master gunsmith. As
it had been converted by the owner’s father from a flintlock to a percussion
lock I merely sent off for a supply of black powder and had a friend with
experience aid me in casting a few bullets. A bullet mold had come with the
“I have since picked up, at second hand shops and country auctions, eight
other muzzle loaders, paying from $4 to $35 each for them, but none of them
even approaches and balance and accuracy of that first acquisition. I can get
better groups with it, at any range up to 200 yards than I can with any other
rifle in my rack, and I have several modern arms in various calibers.