There has never been a time since its invention that the American muzzleloading rifle has not been produced; yet when regarded simply as a shooting apparatus, it fell out of favor soon after the close of the Civil War with the development of the metallic cartridge. However, during the last 50 or so years, thousands of individuals have again become very interested in them. They study them, read about them, collect them; shoot them and… and they build them.
During the 1960's there was a mounting interest in making the so-called “Kentucky Longrifle”. This passion developed alongside an increasing interest in collecting and studying antique rifles. The longrifle is one of the most important and finest art forms of early America. Thus, the longrifle is not just a weapon nor merely an important tool from America’s frontier era, but also a representation of artists applying their expertise in design and execution.
In 1980, Robert Weil wrote the first comprehensive and authoritative work on the new makers, of the old traditional American arms. His book, “Contemporary Makers of Muzzle Loading Firearms”, sparked the interest in many of today’s builders and collectors and expanded the level of appreciation for this important and comprehensive form of art. As a contemporary art form, when designed with taste and executed with skill, it can exist solely as an object of beauty. If well done, it is indeed a complex sculpture of three-dimensional art with two-dimensional art superimposed. Its general structure is commonly made from beautiful wood, most often maple or walnut, and decorated or mounted in different combinations of forged iron, brass, and silver.
No doubt, some of the finer longrifles being made today will be collected and preserved for their esthetic aspects alone and never put to use for shooting .Yet I contend, that the flintlock rifle is full of life and to be fully appreciated needs to be handled, loaded, shot and cleaned, as well as being looked at, caressed, cherished, and studied.
The thought and research required to build a “correct” early American rifle adds unique insight into the spirit of this tool, enhances the mindset of the maker and a bestows a deep appreciation of our glorious past that can be achieved in no other way.