Muzzle Blasts Online
September 1996      Volume 1, Number 3
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A Plain Southern Longrifle


Plain Southern Rifle
Most gun collectors are familiar with the term "lock, stock, and barrel," and this longrifle takes that term to heart. The .44 caliber, maple-stocked rifle has no butt-plate, no nose cap, and no decorative inlays of any kind; yet its graceful outline displays a classic form. The origin of this rifle is somewhere along the Deep River region of Guilford County, North Carolina.

The slightly down-turned point at the rear of the lock mortise is the first characteristic of note. The wrist area is long and slender with a three-screw barrel tang extending almost to the termination of the comb area. The hand-forged iron trigger guard has a graceful outline and is held to the stock with two wood screws. The front trigger is filed to a triangular shape along its face and has a slight inward curve at its tip. Both of these elements are found on many Virginia and Carolina rifles. The grease hole, another Southern trait, is only one-half inch in diameter.

Plain Southern Rifle There is no butt-plate, toe-plate, or heel extension. The distinct angle of the heel where it meets the butt crescent may be due to extreme wear over long years of use. The butt is fairly wide, almost two inches thick.

The cheekpiece is well-pronounced due to the deep concave formed between the molding and the stock comb. The comb of the rifle terminates into the wrist area with a graceful little teardrop shape a typical Carolina detail.

There is no side-plate. The mouth of each lock-bolt hole is reinforced with a brass washer. Directly behind the rear extension of the trigger guard are two holes; one has been plugged with a wooden splinter. Most collectors insist that these holes held vent picks make from turkey quills, but they may have been made by screws or nails that held one end of a makeshift sling. The other end of the sling would have been a simple loop around the barrel of the rifle. Many early hunting rifles of Teutonic origin used fabric slings fastened to the stock on metal button-headed" screws threaded into the belly of the stock in the same area as the holes on this rifle. Whatever their purpose, the holes are seen quite often on Southern longrifles.

Plain Southern Rifle There is no rear entry pipe, although the mouth of the hole has been enlarged to a funnel shape to readily accept the rarod. The two ramrod pipes are made of copper. There is no nose cap. The termination of the stock at the muzzle is formed in a shape similar to that found on early English fowling pieces.

Plain Southern Rifle Plain Southern Rifle
"Poor boy" is a trite term used by modern-day collectors to describe this type of rifle. A more correct term would be a "plain rifle" "or a common rifle." It was a tool of the frontiersman, as was an axe or plow; and like those tools it was used up to nothing over generations of hard work. In my opinion, it is the true Kentucky rifle, and to find one in its original condition is extremely rare.


Bibliography:

Bivins, John Jr.
Longrifles of North Carolina. York, Pennsylvania: George Shumway Publisher, 1968.
Ivey, William W.
"Schools of Gunsmithing in North Carolina." Kentucky Rifle Asssciation Newsletter, Fall 1984.
Whisker, James B.
Gunsmiths of the Carolinas. Bedford, Pennsylvania: Bedford Village Press, 1994.
Whisker, James B.
Gunsmiths of Virginia. Bedford, Pennsylvania: Bedford Village Press, 1995.

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