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Night Hawk Stories... Entry 4

Wilson's Gorilla Gun

click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Jerome Wilson, a master machinist and one of the last real craftsmen left in our society, has built black-powder rifles since 1943.

QUESTION: What are the two bullets in the picture?

ANSWER: The smaller bullet is a .457 with about 500 grains of lead. The big bullet is a .58 caliber bullet that belonged to my granddad. They called the bullet a .577 and shot it from the 1864 model of a #1 Remington Rolling Block rifle.

QUESTION: What did your granddaddy shoot with this big rifle?

ANSWER: I really don't know. My granddaddy said it would kill anything on the farm. I never did see my great granddaddy, but my granddaddy inherited the gun from him. Remington made thousands of these rifles until about 1908 or 1909.

click to enlargeQUESTION: What do you intend to do with this gun?

ANSWER: I want to rebuild it and shoot it.

QUESTION: Tell me about the Browning copy of the 1885 Winchester High Wall rifle. What caliber is this gun?

ANSWER: They made the rifle in .4570 and .4065 calibers. I have a .4065 rifle because the .4570 kicks a little too much for me.

QUESTION: How far do you shoot this rifle?

ANSWER: I usually shoot it at 500 yards. The best I've ever shot at that distance is three bullets that could be covered by a chicken's egg. If I have variable winds, however, I may have a difficult time hitting a paper plate at that distance.

QUESTION: How do you load to shoot that far?

ANSWER: I breach-seat the bullet and put a case in behind it with 65 grains of 2F black powder. I shoot pure soft-lead bullets. I spent about two years trying different lead formulations before I found out that the really soft lead shoots better in this rifle than hard lead. The soft lead also allows me to breach-seat the bullet and get it into the rifling. I can't do that with harder lead.

click to enlargeQUESTION: Why do you like to shoot so far?

ANSWER: Just to see if I can. I've been to some matches in South Carolina where black-powder riflemen shoot at 1,000 yards. I haven't tried to shoot at that distance, though. I just watch those competitions.

Talk to Wilson about old rifles and how he handcrafts them by contacting him at 812 Water Street, Allendale, South Carolina 29810, or calling 803-584-3163.

Tomorrow: The Second Love of Wilson's Life - The Carolina Po' Boy Muzzleloaders Club


Entry 1 -Jerome Wilson's Tennessee Long Rifle
Entry 2 -Wilson's Schuetzen Rifle
Entry 3 -Wilson's Bench Gun
Entry 4 -Wilson's Gorilla Gun
Entry 5 -The Second Love of Wilson's Life - The Carolina Po' Boy Muzzleloaders Club

Night Hawk Stories