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Night Hawk Stories... Entry 7

Wilson's Cannon

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. Wilson handcrafts all of his weapons, even making his own screws and springs. More important than the time Wilson spends in building a rifle or any other piece of machinery, is the attention to quality he puts into whatever project he starts. He invests time and money into building a gun or a cannon by finding the right barrel, going through stacks of lumber to find just the right curly maple for the stock and completing the tedious task of making each individual screw and spring. Wilson doesn't stop with building a highly accurate black-powder weapon. He also wants his guns to have style and beauty. He demonstrates this in the engraving and silver decorations that he carefully cuts and embeds in his stocks. Although Wilson doesn't sell his rifles, they stay in high demand because of the loving care and intricate woodwork and metalwork put into each one.

QUESTION: Tell me about the little cannon.
ANSWER: I made the cannon's chassis from armor plating. The barrel came from a .50-caliber machine gun barrel used in World War II. I built the little cannon because I wanted one, and I couldn't find a cannon like this on the market.

QUESTION: How do you shoot it?
ANSWER: I use black powder to load it, a .50-caliber round ball as my cannon ball and a firecracker fuse to ignite it.

QUESTION: How far will your cannon shoot?
ANSWER: The cannon will shoot from 3/4-mile, but not very accurately because of the short barrel length. I can probably hit an automobile body at 100 yards.

click to enlargeQUESTION: Do you have any other cannons?
ANSWER: Yes, I have two more -- a 20-millimeter cannon and a 75-millimeter cannon. I load the 75-millimeter cannon with about 250 grains of black powder and shoot oranges as cannon balls. I also let young people aim this cannon and shoot it. We can shoot an orange through pressboard at about 50 to 100 yards. Young people really seem to get a kick out of shooting the cannon.

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.

To learn more about CVA's quality black-powder weapons and hunting accessories, call (770) 449-4687; e-mail cva@info.com; or, see the CVA catalogue online.

Tomorrow: Where Wilson Got His 75-millimeter Cannon


Entry 06 -Wilson's History of Gunmaking
Entry 07 -Wilson's Cannon
Entry 08 -Where Wilson Got His 75-millimeter Cannon
Entry 09 -Other Guns Wilson Has Built
Entry 10 -Wilson's Labor of Love

Night Hawk Stories