Anybody done actual builds?
Or something close to it?
I've been wanting a blackpowder rifle for too many years to keep track of now. And I've recently been oogling over some of the guns from Track of the Wolf. I'm really interested in the Dickert package. Anybody done any of these packages or an actual scratch build?
My interest is in traditional guns. I considered a Lyman Great Plains rifle, but can't decide if I should pick up one of those or go with one of these builds instead. Also, does anybody have any opinions on caliber for me to start? A 50 or 54 would be nice for usability, but I thought a 32 or 36 might be more fun to shoot for entertainment.
This is the gun I'm looking at:
I've been there, done that, and will do so again. There is one thing to keep clear in your mind- The distinction between a "kit" and a "parts set." The companies can be a little vague, so you really need to make your own distinction. The former can be built by a beginner with 20 or 30 hours to spare, patience and common hand tools. The latter require extensive experience, several hundred hours, and sophisticated skills whether working by hand or with the help of machines.
A parts set such as those provided by TOW, even with a 95% inlet stocks, still requires lots more woodwork (such as fitting the butt plate), plus a lot of metal work unless you pay the additional fees for TOW to do it (such as dovetailing the barrel for sights, venting and threading the barrel on flintlocks and usually fitting the breech plug). Before spending the money on a parts set, I'd order their recommended books and tapes to see what you are getting yourself into.
A true "kit" can usually be assembled and fired right out of the box, there is so little fitting to be done. You still have to shape and finish the stock, as well as do some final polishing and finish on the metal, but functionally the gun is already assembled. Some companies offer "in the white" guns as an option in addition to basic parts sets to indicate guns have already been assembled and only require final wood and metal finishing.
I'd surely recommend that you do a true "kit" the first time out, whether from Lyman, TC, Traditions, or one of the smaller manufacturers. The latter will provide more style options than the former three I mentioned, but they're also more expensive. I can provide some links to companies if you're interested. I'll virtually guarantee that the one you choose will be the first of many, so you can still go back to a TOW parts set or some other as a second build after you have the experience of doing a kit as a first venture.
Of the first three kits I listed, Lyman has been my pick. There may be a little additional inletting required around the tang and forend cap, but otherwise the stock only requires that you finish shaping the exterior, then apply a finish. The stocks come with plenty of extra wood to allow you to do any custom shaping you would like, though the finished rifle will still be a "Hawken" rather than the more slender American long rifle such as the Dickert. There will be some tedious metal polishing to do, along with the challenge of adding a metal finish, so it's not as though you are getting away scotfree on the build.
As for caliber, if I was only going to have one in Alaska it would be a 54. You can load the same gun way down for head-shooting snowshoe hare and ptarmigan, intermediate for targets and deer, or full snort for moose and elk. I've got 50's, 36's and 32's as well as a couple of 54's, but the others have more limitations and are less versatile for use in Alaska, even if they are delightful additions to a 54 already in the rack. All are accurate enough for head-shots on snowshoe hare out to nearly 50 yards and all are a hoot to shoot.
Be aware that in choosing your Lyman, you will be offered two twist rates for your barrel. The 1:32 is sold as the Great Plains Hunter and the 1:66 is sold as the Great PLains Rifle. The 1:32 is intended mostly for shooting heavy conical bullets, while the 1:66 is for roundball and only the very shortest, lightest conicals. In my experience the round ball version is much more versatile, but using round balls on large game pretty much limits you to broadside shots to assure adequate penetration. Fortunately, Lyman also sells replacement barrels so you can actually have both on the same gun.
Be careful on all this, however. Shooting these traditional muzzleloaders is so addictive, it can really cut into your time with all your favorite conventional guns. They are so much more interesting and versatile than inline muzzleloaders that it truly is a different world altogether, even if the bullets and powder have to be stuffed down the barrel of both types. I've got inlines, but they get very little use, as does my extensive collection of conventional arms. I've done 100% of my small game hunting and about 98% of my big game hunting with traditional muzzleloaders in the last five years, while my conventional arms and even my inlines gather more and more dust.
Big game hunting with an open sighted traditional muzzleloader such as the Lyman will definitely put the "hunt" back into your hunting, requiring you to use stalking skills to get close enough for your shot. Consider that I saw a nice buck last fall at 450 yards, but finally shot him over an hour later at 50 yards. I could certainly have popped with my 7 mag at 450, but then I would have missed out on all the fun of getting closer. For that matter I could have popped him at 100 yards with the Lyman 54 cal I was carrying, but then I would have missed out on the half hour it took to cut the distance down to 50 yards.
It's all about the love of hunting, and I certainly recognize and use all forms of our great sport. But choosing to get up close and personal for your shots adds a whole new dimension to it. Sure I've been getting up close and personal for years on archery and handgun hunts, but there's just something special about doing it with a gun you built yourself.
Gee Brown Bear, that brings back memories of making my first muzzle loader, A CVA 45 cal. That sure was fun. I'll always remember how mad my wife was when I pulled off the barrel and cleaned it in the bathtub. I too would recommend a kit. Unless you are an experienced wood worker or machinist it can get a little tricky using hand tools only as I did. I was surprised to find how accurate it was with PRB's. Mine hangs over the mantle now where everyone can see it.
Schloss, if you do this you will create something you'll always appreciate. I have a Lyman Gt. Plains (non-kit) with two barrels and Brown Bear is right on in his comments about them. The last time I hunted with mine two yearling whitetails never knew I was there, and I decided I wanted more meat on the bones before I took an animal. I hope they survived the coyotes I saw sneaking out of range that day.
I've built several Hawkens and longrifles, mostly the earlier transitional style, but never a Dickert. I would definately encourage you to try the Great plains kit before you jump into a parts set. I don't know your wood and metal working experience , but on a Track kit you'll need to to do a lot of fitting, as well as drill and tap the lockplate and trigger plate and locate,drill and tap for your ventliner. Track will cut dovetails for the underlugs and sights for a fee, on your first build that would probably be a good idea. Get some good books, like Alexander's and Buchele's and study every picture of the originals you can.It's not to easy to find originals to handle here in Alaska, and the biggest mistake folks make is to leave their rifles way too fat. Good architecture, even on a precarve stock takes some study. the GPR makes into a fine rifle, especially with some work, and there is plenty of wood to remove to trim it up some. They tend to be really accurate and willl give you a great chance to practice your wood and metal finishing methods,as well as giving you a rifle to shoot and learn to handle flintlocks while working on your Dickert. Real muzzleloaders are terribly addictive,like BrownBear said, and flintlocks even more so than cap guns.Just remember to take your time and realize that once you build one,you'll build more.Good luck. Kyle
"and the biggest mistake folks make is to leave their rifles way too fat. Good architecture, even on a precarve stock takes some study."
Excellent, excellent post Kyle. It seems like the more your carve/scrape/sand away, the better they get. In particular, the cheekpiece on the Lyman is big and clunky. The best idea is to get near a factory Lyman, borrow it if you can, and compare that with the stock in the kit.
You can get into style changes, there's so much wood on any of the kits. I've always admired the slimmer lines of the Leman, compared to the true Hawkens. I did lots of looking, comparing and studying, and actually trimmed my last Lyman down to the sleeker lines of a Leman. What a difference that made in handling. I ended up removing over half a pound of wood, and the difference is startling.
Not everyone's cup of tea by any means, but that's the point. You get to do it your way on a home build, whether you start from a kit or a parts set.
I'm really after this as a winter project / i've always wanted to have one of these rifles. I started woodworking about 20 years ago, metalworking about 15 years ago, I'm doing auto repair through the summer here, and my "real" job is as a high school shop teacher (woodworking, metalworking, construction, automotive). You could say I've spent some time in the shop.
So I'm really not after something that's a quick build. I do really like the look and feel of the Great Plains, but my interest is really in the longrifles. As far as books, I own "The Gunsmith of Grenville County," "The Art of Building the Pennsylvania Longrifle," and "Recreating the American Longrifle". I've read the first two books completely. I know I need to study the third book a lot more, and I'm planning to pick up both volumes of "Rifles of Colonial America" and "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age".
My heart is pretty much set on getting one of the parts sets from TOW at this point. Sure, I understand it's going to be more difficult, and it will probably be frustrating at times, but I also know that I've learned way more from my mistakes than from my successes.
One question I do have, though, is how much advantage would I have if I went 54 cal versus 50 cal? Is the difference negligible? Or should I really be after the 54?
Sounds as though you are better prepared than most for building from a parts set, both in terms of prior research and experience. In your shoes, I'd definitely go for the TOW build.
As for 54 vs 50, that's spawned a lot debate. I've got both and among my hunting friends there's a lot more of each. I've also taken game with RBs and conicals in both.
In a nutshell, if there is a significant difference, it might be in effective range. With RB such as you would use in the Dickert, the bigger ones simply have a lot more downrange whomp. If I was only going for deer, I wouldn't have any qualms about a 50. If elk and especially moose were on the list, I'd hold 50 cal shots to 50 yards or less, while the 54 would probably stretch range to 75 yards or so. Purely academic to me, cuzz I simply don't take big game shots past 50 yards or so with any ML caliber.
Here's another consideration for you: Balance. Given the same outside barrel diameter, a 54 is going to be lighter and less muzzleheavy than a 50. It depends on the "feel" you are after, but in the Lyman GPR for example, I much prefer the balance of my 54 to my 50. TOW posts barrel weights along with other specs for each rifle, so you can check the differences.
I haven't double-checked, but there may be yet another consideration of caliber in choosing barrel diameter and profile. I'm betting you can get a 50 in both B and C profiles, but the 54 will only be available in the C. That means that while a 54 will weigh less than a 50 in C profile, but a 50 will weigh a lot less than either in a B, if you follow my point. If I was going to build a 50, I'd definitely go for the B profile as a further reflection of my taste in balance.
Schloss, Wow, that's a lot more experience than I had when I started.You sound like you are all set. I'd recomend the .54 simply because it's a better big game caliber, enough for moose and can be downloaded to any level you like for plinking. RCA's 1 and 2 are great books, I only wish Shumway could have put them out in color. I believe Dickert's rifles are in volume 1. Before you purchase from Track, check out Pecatonica River Long Rifle Supply, they provide Track's stocks and last time I checked they were a bit cheaper for the same kits.Buying direct also usually gets you a better grade of maple than Track's grades. Good luck with whatever you decide. Kyle
Good advise from both BrownBear and Schloss, I too would recommend a kit, the Lyman Great Plains in 54 Cal to start. You can always get additional barrels in smaller bores or even a smooth bore for fowling purposes. Additionally, I would recommend percussion to start with then work your way into flinters. I do like flintlocks but knowing the quirks it takes to keep one operating and shooting with first strike takes time and knowledge.
The LARGER calibers are more fun to shoot for entertainment! But if you want to plink at grouse and squirrels, then the smaller would be good. You have to keep the smaller calibers cleaner since they'll jam up easier, but that's no problem.
I'm getting close to starting a pair of 10ga flintlock fowlers.
Ok what in sam heck am I going to do with these? Well one is my old mans, the other is mine. We are both turkey hunting fools. He's in Mn. Plan is to do NE, KS, Mo, Mn Wi and maybe Tx or Pa. It's the only downfall to living up here.
Anyways the two "kits" are Jim Chambers New England 10 gauges flintlocks. I'm going to get both jug choked.
There is still quite a bit of work to do here, plus I'd like to do some carving on the stocks. Some simple scroll carvings would be nice.
I did purchase the video as mentioned and the metal and wood working though time consuming does not look so difficult. Tedioius is more like it.
The plan is to get a cedar strip canoe finished that I'm almost done with, hopefully by next weekend at the very latest. Get a jig built for doing snow shoes. Then start on the shotguns.
They'll be goose and turkey weapons primarly. WIth the jug choke the fella who chokes them is saying 50 yds easy on longbeards, some guys are able to get 60 yd groups which is wow impressive. I was just hoping for something to get a nice tight group at 30 yds, shew! Either way they'll be fun.
I'll keep a photo diary of this as I go. Oh and I did get the extremely pretty stock for my fathers shottie. Mine is the "plain jane" though it also has quite a bit of figure to it!
might add, the plan next winter is a pair of double barrel flintlock shotguns from scratch. Ok the barrels are regulated and come with a breech plug. The rest is on your own. Should be fun!
Sounds like great projects. I like having one or two long-term (slow and tedious to some) floating along in the background. Hurrying or spending too much time at once usually leads to sloppy work for me, so better to plod through them a bit at a time.
Be sure to post photos, both of your progress and the final products!