Saturday, August 22, 2015


All my life I have worked with my hands making things. Model Aircraft, meccano tanks a couple of crossbows, dad made me dismantle the second when he saw it shoot through a tree, a 200 cc race kart scratch built Superstox race cars, model helicopters. When I was at Loughborough I was using advanced CADCAM gear to make moulds for the heli blades as well as using the machine shop to make the windvane self steering gear for Carpe Diem. But I never made a gun.

Wallace Gusler first made a percussion pistol at age 14, when reconstructing a historic firearm held far more fascination than going to school.

Wallace had become the first person in modern times to recreate all the processes of making a rifle with 18th-century technology. In 1966 John Bivins wrote an article about Wallace and that first handmade rifle for Muzzle Blasts. During the winter of 1967 Colonial Williamsburg documented making a complete rifle in the film The Gunsmith of Williamsburg. Released in 1968, this 58-minute film is still the best selling video of the trades series.

I do not know how old he was when he made this film but my guess is mid to late 20s. Nobody he could find had handforged a rifle barrel for 150 years so he had to rediscover the techniques required to make a barrel and rifle it. Watching him hammer forge a long flat tapered bar from a short thick piece of iron then turn it into a tube with only a forge anvil hammer and a mandrel is impressive. As I watched him at work I thought hmm I could manage to do that. Then I watched him turn the C section tube into a closed tube by forge welding the edges together I still do not see how he keeps it straight but he talks about sighting through and straightening the barrel. That I don't think I could do.

The machinery he uses to rifle the finished smooth bore is more a horizontal drill than lathe.but requires consummate craftsmanship to use.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating video. That first test firing of the barrel must have his heart in his mouth. I am looking for an equivalent for twist damascus barrels. They have a beautiful pattern. Must be very satisfying. One of the flaws of IT is that you very rarely see anything happen as a fruit of my work.