Building Your Own Longarm - Part 2


Last month, I discussed the initial steps of planning to modify or custom make a competitive musket. ( For the sake of the typesetter, I am going to use the words "musket", "musket-rifle", "rifle" and "carbine" interchangeably.) The driving force in this decision has to be the intended use of the musket, with great consideration given to the suitability of the style of the musket to the experience and frame of the shooter. We also talked about the availability of parts, and the requirement that detailed specifications for your project be available to support your construction.

Before I offer a few cost saving suggestions, do not let yourself be fooled into thinking that you can build a sure-shootin' musket on a shoestring budget. Persuade your pocketbook that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and commit to using quality parts in any project. A cheap mainspring or trigger screw is, after all, cheap.

I will attempt to discuss two different and distinct goals of our construction project -- to build a shooter or to build an arm for reenacting. Let's review the last one first.

Realistically, a scratch built musket to be used for reenacting and living histories must be completely authentic and moderately rare or unique. If you go to living histories and fire blanks at a distance of 20 to 50 yards from the crowd, your out of the box Springfield or Enfield is perfect, and your money will be better spent elsewhere in our hobby. The same holds true for participating in reenactments. If your activity is not going to allow you to demonstrate the differences and similarities between the standard long arm and your unique custom built weapon, why build one? On the other hand, if your activity in reenacting and living histories allows you intimate contact with the public, and if you can acquire sufficient knowledge of a rare or unique long arm that is proper to your endeavors, then building a replica is a workable solution to the need and desire equation. However, I understand that there are many reenactors who just want to upgrade their standard repro Enfield or Springfield to look more authentic, and I will attempt to provide pointers along the way for you also. I do understand that there are many reasons for entering and staying in our living history arena, and I will try to touch each base as we discuss modifying and customizing muskets.

Shooters and skirmishers should also allow sufficient insight into their activities. Unless Ol' Uncle Webfoot has just given you a complete set of parts for an Enfield, you are going to spend large amounts of cash on this project. What do you hope to get out of it? Have you done all you can do with your current musket? Is your skill level consistent with the cashflow you plan? Don't make these decisions in the dark, ask other shooters on your team or Christmas card list, and ask them to be honest. It may very well be that you only need to fine-tune your present arm, and we will discuss those steps in this series as well. If you do decide to build a new long arm, what then shall you build? Do you like the current style you presently shoot? Would a shorter or longer barrel improve your drill? Will parts be available today and into the future? A very reasonable alternative to scratch building a new shooter is to modify a used long arm. Joe or Jane Skirmisher may be selling off a repro with perfectly useable stock and lock parts for less then the cost of a roughed out stock. There are many solutions to the problem available to the resourceful shooter and skirmisher. Shop around and find the best solution now. Each potential user of a custom built or modified long arm must approach these questions and answers truthfully and sincerely or the quest is in vain.

So, brothers and sisters of the blackpowder stain, we seek to improve our shooting or reenacting enjoyment by acquiring a long arm that is not in a cardboard box. What next? Ask the tough questions, and record the answers.

Before we go one step further, we must decide exactly what model, make and series of long arm we are going to complete. And, once started, we must finish our project.

I've come up with a list of parts necessary for lock, stock and barrel assemblies. This month, I included the lock parts list, and will run the stock and barrel lists later as we discuss those elements.

And, don't mortgage the house and store yet. Your current long arm may only need to be glassbedded and have the lock tuned, or maybe we'll drop in a new barrel or have the barrel relined and it will shoot minute-of-angle groups on the bench. Next month, I'll review the steps involved in tuning a lock, and I've included a lock partslist. If your dying to spend money, head for the National Skirmish, May 19-22, and pick up all the parts for your lock. Then next time, we'll slap that son-of-gun together. If your interested in just the lock tuning for now, it would still be a good idea to acquire a complete set of lock parts for your muskets. That way, you always have a spare.

A fair question would be, what musket project would I recommend? An honest question, dear reader. Before I answer, remember this -- Act in haste, repent in leisure. If I wanted to build a rather unique reenacting arm, and I was a Confederate, until last month I would have said build a "Richmond" or "Fayetteville" musket. Recent developments, as covered by Joe Bilby in his column last month, have brought a good commercial copy of a Richmond musket to the market. For now, I'll recommend a scratch built Fayetteville, but you might be able to modify the S&S Richmond into one of several Confederate long arms. Watch this column for more on that procedure later this year. As a Federal, I would carry a "Harpers Ferry" Model 1855 Rifle Musket. Parts for all three are readily available.

As a shooter, if I could shoot an Enfield well, I would buy a used Enfield, 2 or 3 band, and reconstruct it as a 2-band shooter. If I had to shoot a Springfield, or I could get my hands on a used repro at a reasonable price, I would build a "Harpers Ferry" Model 1855 Percussion Rifle. This is the infamous 2-band "Springfield" sometimes discussed in our letters to the editor. (Keep them cards and letters coming in.) All of these choices maintain good parts availability, well documented specifications, and you can even buy custom barrels for each.

So choose your partners and get ready to promenade, we're gone to build a tackdriver! Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.







Hammer Screw



Tumbler w/ fly


Sear Spring

Bridle Screw(s)

Sear Spring

Sear Spring Screw

(C)1994 Tom Kelley

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