New Dixie Stuff, Update on Gun Laws

The millennium issue of the Dixie Gun Works Blackpowder Annual is now available. As with its predecessor volumes, this publication, which has become an eagerly anticipated annual institution, will be well received by black powder shooters, hunters, collectors and armchair historians around the world. The Annual for 2000 has another great selection of stories for everyone.

This year's Civil War oriented installments include my account of the bloody fight in "The Cornfield" at Antietam. Tony Beck's article on loading and firing the Merrill carbine, C. R. Learn's piece on assembling a Remington cap and ball revolver kit into a shooting firearm and "A. W. Whitworth's" fictional story, "The Perfect Shot" will also appeal to the Civil War aficionado.

Other Annual articles cover a wide spectrum of black powder era subjects, including the Seven Years War, the 1779 American campaign against the Iroquois, biographies of Western badman Clay Allison and lawman Jack Bridges and hunting Maine moose with muzzle loaders.

All in all, when hunting season is over, and N-SSA shoots and Civil War reenactments exist only in the hazy dreams of a far off spring, the Dixie Annual is a perfect choice to curl up with and while away the winter beside the fire.

The new Dixie Gun Works Catalog is out as well. The company's new and noteworthy firearms for 2000 include the Wurttemburg musket described in detail in previous columns in this space, and the new Pietta reproduction Starr .44 caliber, double action revolver. Dixie now catalogs Ballistol, which I have found to be the best product to clean, lubricate and protect original and reproduction Civil War era firearms, as well as Polyurethane faux ivory grips to dress up repro Colt Navy and Army revolvers and imitation stag grips for Remington cap and ball sixguns.

I found the catalog's new knife line, by Jimmy Coleman of Powell, Wyoming, of particular interest. Coleman's reasonably priced trade knives are appropriate for all 18th and 19th century interests, whether French and Indian War, American Revolution, fur trade, Civil War or Indian War eras. Hand forged from 1095 high carbon steel tempered to a Rockwell hardness of 55 and fitted with handsome wooden handles, Coleman knives come in six different antique styles.

The Dixie Gun works catalog and Annual are available for $5 each from Dixie Gun Works, Box 130, Gunpowder Lane, Union City, TN 38281 (901) 885-0700, FAX (901) 8850440,

From time to time I have reported on US Representative Joseph Hoeffel's (Democrat, PA) efforts to have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) study what he calls "the use of antique firearms in crime." When a crackpot shot and killed his former supervisor at a Norristown PA state mental hospital with a cap and ball revolver earlier this year, Hoeffel saddled up this particular hobby horse and has been riding it unrelentingly ever since. The congressman launched his crusade despite the fact that local law enforcement officials have publicly stated that the shooting was an aberration, noting that there has never been another such incident in the county within memory.

Needless to say, the BATF, an integral part of the most viscerally anti-gun administration in American history, was eager to accommodate the congressman. BATF executive assistant for legislative affairs Lewis P. Raden stated that his organization "takes with utmost seriousness the recommendation of Congress to conduct this study and shall initiate it immediately."

The results of the BATF study could have far ranging ramifications for black powder shooters and historical reenactors across America. The agency has promised to report the results to Congress by February 15, 2000. I am confident that any such survey will confirm that the use of original antique or reproduction guns in crime ranges from extremely rare to practically non-existent. Even one such incident, however, could be used as an excuse to introduce restrictive legislation.

Hoeffel is on record as stating that "these guns [black powder reproduction arms] are every bit as capable of killing people as conventional firearms, and if they do present a measurable threat, this is a loophole that should be closed.'' According to a newspaper report, the congressman was delighted by what he called the "good news" provided by the BATF. He further asserted that ''the study will give us the information we need to make decisions on whether these firearms should be included under federal gun control laws.'' There is little doubt in my mind that Congressman Hoeffel will find his "measurable threat, whatever the results of the BATF study.

For your information, and to clarify present legislation on the issue, I have excerpted the following relevant information from the "Title 1 of The Gun Control Act of 1968" which delineates the current status of original and reproduction arms under Federal law. State laws, of course, vary.

U.S.C. 921(a)(16):

(16) The term "antique firearm" means -

(A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion, or similar type ignition system) manufactured before 1898; and

(B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica -

(i) is not designed to for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or

(ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there's more. For the latest on bureaucratic nuttiness regarding guns, I submit a story in the November 26, 1999 issue of the New York Times. The article details the saga of a girl from Nevis, MN, who intended to go in the army after HS graduation. In order to indicate her choice of future career, she wanted to have her yearbook picture taken sitting on a deactivated 155 mm howitzer in front of the local VFW post. School officials, citing a "zero tolerance" policy on weapons, refused to grant her permission to use the photo. A compromise was finally reached in which she was allowed to have the picture in the yearbook provided the cannon's barrel was covered with an American flag. The idiocy of a significant portion of the educational establishment in this country never ceases to amaze me.

(c) 2000 by Joe Bilby

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