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Night Hawk Stories... Entry 10

Wilson's Labor of Love

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: Each one of your rifles and cannons is worth thousands of dollars. Why don't you sell them?
ANSWER: I've never considered selling them. I just make the rifles so that my friends and I can shoot them.

click to enlargeQUESTION: Tell me about the full stock Hawken.
ANSWER: Most Hawken guns were built in this country in about 1830, but someone came up with the Hawken design around 1809. This Hawken shoots a much bigger ball than the standard .54-caliber. I put about 400 hours into building this rifle. This style of Hawken was one of the first percussion rifles ever built. Up until about 1848, most rifles were full stock, meaning that the stock extended the full length of the barrel. Then, in 1848 gun makers began to produce half-stock rifles. From about 1850 to 1875 you saw more half-stock rifles than full-stock rifles. This Hawken makes for excellent boar hunting. This country had a lot of free-roaming hogs back in the early days of settlement, and South Carolina where I live still has a lot of boars.

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.


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