Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tips & Tools with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 11

Tips & Tools #11. Choosing the Lock

After your barrel is snuggled securely in its stock via pins or keys, you can turn your attention to inletting the lock. If you have Muzzle Blasts issues Lazy Man’s Guide to Lock Inletting Part I, Apr. 1997, p.4 and Part II, June, 1997, p.40, just go to them. They will provide in more detail the lock inletting procedure than what I have space to provide here.

For you deprived youngsters who have not had the good fortune to have been an NMLRA member that far back, a brief survey of the commercially available locks and how to inlet them will be provided in the next few T&T installments.

When I built my first rifle back in the mid-50s, there were no high quality locks available except old originals that were way too expensive for my budget of $68 for parts. Now all of that has changed (both availability and prices). There are many high quality locks available from American manufacturers. For flintlocks, prices will range from $130-200. Percussion locks generally cost about $90-110. There may be some good foreign-made locks over there…I just don’t know of any and have not made any special effort to find them. Check out Muzzleloading Forum for candid discussions of locks.

For a Jäger style rifle, choose a lock with a banana-shaped plate (Fig.1). Jim Chambers, R.E. Davis and L&R all market appropriate Germanic locks for Jägers. For an early Colonial/Transitional/Golden Age rifle, there are many good English and Germanic style locks (Fig. 2). Choose an late period English style flintlock for a southern mountain rifle (Fig. 3); contrary to popular opinion, the southern mountain gunsmiths often bought their locks rather than hand-forging them. I have never seen a Germanic lock on an southern mountain rifle; perhaps readers can enlighten me in this regard. The same for flint Hawken mountain/plains rifles (if there ever were any). Charlie Hanson, who probably knew more about Hawken Brothers products than anyone, told me on one of my visits to his Fur Trade Museum in Chadron, NE, that he did not know of an original flint Hawken mountain/plains rifle. Perhaps there were some that did not survive the hard use Hawkens were put to; if you believe that, then build a rifle with a large English late period lock (Fig. 4). All the original Hawkens I have seen have been percussion. There were many different locks used on Hawken rifles; early ones had plate shapes like flintlocks (Fig. 5) with a curving transition from bolster to nose. Go to The Hawken Rifle website to see the range of lock styles.


Fig 1.
This Jäger lock by R.E. Davis is big and strong. L&R makes a smaller lock that is appropriate for Jägers. The Chambers Jäger lock has an especially pleasing appearance.


The exterior of this Classic Germanic lock by L&R was boiled in a 1:1 solution of water and Chlorox to obtain a pitted surface for an aged appearance. Always protect the lock plate’s inner surface with a good coat of varnish.


This Manton Lock by L&R has had its tail rounded off as many southern mountain rifle locks do. It is similar in appearance to Chambers’ late Ketland lock.


This L&R late English lock would be suitable for a Hawken flintlock fullstock.


This Warranted style L&R lock was modified to make it look similar to the very early Hawken percussion locks.


The shape of the back action lock requires a straighter wrist and mating with a cast breech for best effect.

Of course, there are many more types of lock/rifle combinations: trade guns, English stalking rifles, Gibbs-Metford thousand-yard target rifles, German Schuetzen rifles,  hardware store rifles, etc. The first muzzleloader I saw as a kid was what I would call a hardware store rifle because I saw them in an old hardware store down on Market Street in Louisville, KY.  Many years later, I finally learned that they had back action locks from overseas, probably Belgium. There is nothing shabby about a back action lock if properly made. L&R makes a nice back action lock (Fig. 6) that I like very much, although they should be mated with a patent breech for best effect.

My good shooting buddy, Don Habig, had a little halfstock with a Blue Grass back action lock. That little rifle was as plain as a fencepost, but it had a good bore and shot #0 buck really well. A lot of those cheap late period rifles did not have a half cock notch, but his did and it was a smooth lock. Many fine English pinfire shotguns were back action. So if you hanker for a late period rifle, don’t turn up your nose at the back action lock.

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