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Night Hawk Stories... Entry 9

Other Guns Wilson Has Built

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: What type of gun do you have here?
ANSWER: I have a .45-caliber percussion rifle that I built using a Green Mountain barrel. I shoot it in competitions at ranges from 25, 50 and 100 yards.

QUESTION: Why do you like to shoot this gun?
ANSWER: This gun shoots a ball big enough to remain accurate out to 100 yards, and the wind doesn't affect the flight of the ball nearly as much as it does the .32-caliber ball.

QUESTION: How much powder and what kind of ball do you shoot with this gun?
ANSWER: I use 60 grains and a round lead ball sized 447/1000.

click to enlargeQUESTION: What gun has the buffalo on the lock?
ANSWER: That rifle belongs to my wife, Mildred. This gun is almost exactly like the .45-caliber that I showed you earlier. She won the South Carolina State Championship about eight times with this rifle. Other than the sights and the barrel, I made every part of this rifle, including the springs and the screws.

QUESTION: How did you make the springs?
ANSWER: I made them very carefully out of spring steel. I have about 425 man-hours built into this rifle. I made the barrel out of curly maple, like I do most of my rifle barrels.

QUESTION: Why do you like curly maple for a stock?
ANSWER: Curly maple is a hardwood, and gun craftsmen have used it to make stocks since about 1680. If you polish it right, then the stripes that run from one end to the other really make it a beautiful piece of wood.

click to enlargeTalk 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: Wilson's Labor of Love


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