MAIL BAG

I want to take the time to answer a few of the letters I've received here at the Civil War News. The first one is from a reader who warns of the threat of gun-controllers to reenacting and skirmishing. We all have heard about the proposed regulation which would make a long arm with a bayonet attachment a "military weapon" and subject to severe regulation - including Springfields, Enfields and Mississippis! This poppycock is what is being forged in the frog- water filled cocktail parties of the disinformed politically active. Some of the other ideas Hillary & Bill are pushing: A ban on possessing any quantity of black powder which would constitute more then 100 rounds, special (and expensive) range licensing, and, a ban on reloading components. This type of policy, conceived by non-gun users, would cripple reenacting and skirmishing. There are some who would even ban military reenactments!

My personal solution is to fight ignorance with information. Become involved financially in a political campaign of your choosing -- attend a fundraising dinner or rally. Introduce yourself to the candidate, and let it be known that you, as a person familiar with blackpowder firearms, would be available to advise the candidate on logical, acceptable blackpowder policies. Don't sit back and wait for the other guy to do it, it may get too late real early.

A reader from Suffolk, Virginia wrote to request sources for acquiring the parts to build a smoothbore musket. One option would be to procure a Rev-War repro, and convert it to percussion. Perhaps a better option, is to contact Dan Whitacre, my preferred barrel manufacturer, about converting a used Springfield repro. Dan currently produces competition grade smoothbore barrels which have been approved by the N-SSA (if you want to skirmish competitively with that smoothbore). Write Dan at 519 Turtle Meadow Dr., Winchester, VA for more info on smoothbore barrels. Dan should also be able to tell you where to get lock parts to finish your Springfield conversion. If you aren't looking for a competition grade conversion, you might try relining the repro barrel. I've seen and admired the relining work of Bobby Hoyt of Fairfield, PA, and I'd recommend you contact him about barrel relining. Don't be in a hurry either, Mr. Hoyt is usually booked for more then 6 months. Good work is worth waitin' for.

I received another letter about custom built muskets from Pittsford, NY. The reader was looking for "a very high quality 'custom' Springfield Model 1861 Rifle Musket with high grade wood and a fine barrel." This is not an odd request, as quite often readers ask us to recommend someone for this or that service. Custom musket building is not a thriving business or enterprise, because the market is small and scattered. Parts alone for a piece like the one described would approach $1,000. Labor would be extensive and expensive as well. The builder would have every right to ask another $1,000 for the more then 100 hours it would take to create a tack-driving musket for the customer. The end result, a $2,000 long arm, is a dear price.

A custom musket builder, to be competitive, would have to stock Springfields, Mississippis, Fayettevilles and Enfields. The inventory expense alone to keep one of each of just those four would be close to $4,000! That's why we don't have a lot of custom builders, too. This summer, the best deal going is the Fayettville Rifle Kit from Whitacre's Machine Shop. Dan W. has assembled all the parts in one convenient kit, and the finished long arm will not only look great, it'll shoot great! See last months column for more info on this offer.

I want to thank everyone that takes the time to write me at the Civil War News. I enjoy your letters and comments, especially during those long winter months. There seems to be a lot of interest in gun building and custom gun buying, so I hope to be able to ask gun builders to bring a sample of their work to the 91st N-SSA Spring National. I'll look the submitted works over, and hopefully I'll then have a list of qualified gun crafters for skirmishers and shooters to use in their search to spend more money.

Well, I got all caught up in my mailbag. Next time, we'll talk about gunstocks and stock fit, and maybe glassbedding, too. Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 1994 by Tom Kelley

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