Friday, December 2, 2016

Gun Enthusiast Finds Prize Black Powder Rifle in North Carolina, 1939

“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 mentioned.

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 gun.

“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.

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