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Discussion Starter #1
A few years ago when I was planning my retirement from the Army, I was saving up to buy myself a flintlock fowler or trade gun as my retirement present. I wanted a smoothbore in 20 gauge. Well as life often happens, that money went to college tuition bills. I'm not complaining, I was gifted a model 1911A1 as a retirement gift, but that doesn't hunt deer, turkey, and squirrels.
I've finally started to build up a bit of savings again and realized that what I want is a real plain jane smoothbore, probably around 20 gauge. A simple barn gun is probably what I'm looking for because I plan on carrying it for everything and it will see some rough country. That said I'm not having any luck finding one. I've found one for $2500 for a simple one, which seems a little nuts for a stripped down smoothbore. I did find a kit at Sitting Fox for around $600, but to have them finish it raises the weapon cost to around $1400.
My plan is to run to Dixon's in the next few days to talk to them about what they know, have on hand, or have seen recently.
A few years back when I was first looking, finding them finished for $600-700 was very possible. Now the only smoothbores I find in that range are from Veteran Arms or Middlesex and are from India. Perhaps I need to adjust my expectations and continue to save? I've not really seen any used one's on line. Most I've seen are very fancy and have a price that is commensurate with the intricate carving and inlays.
I'm looking for some guidance in this. Am I too cheap? Did the market pass me by or are their any options out there in the $700-800 range? Are there smaller builders out there making this kind of simple weapon?
Thanks
 

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Since I retired from the Marine Corps, I only hunt with either a flintlock or bow. I was in the same boat as you, I had a T/C hawken rifle that I hunted deer with in flintlock season but I was looking for something I could hunt everything with, I didn't want to pay $2000 for a gun that I was going to put to work. I looked at all the online auction sites, Gun Broker, Guns America and Armslist. I found a Fusil De Chasse on gun broker I got for $900, now I hunt every season with it and taken everything in PA except an Elk, Grouse and Pheasant. It was made by Narragansett arms back in the 70's, I found out that there were a few small companies in the 60's and 70's that made flintlocks, you could call them semi custom guns but they're all gone now but they pop up on these sites now and again. There is MuzzleloadingFourum.com, They have a classified thread, I picked up a .32 cal long rifle there that I plan to hunt squirrels with. There's also and internet bidding site that you can pre bid and live bid on items at auction houses all over the country (proxibid.com) I just bought a .58 Jaeger rifle that was on auction in VA $420, It was way nicer than the pictures and description and it really shoots. I also picked up a .62 cal PA long rifle and a 2nd model long land pattern Brown Bess, $600 for both. I did have to repair a fine crack in the Bess and tune both locks and triggers, they turned out to be fine shooters as well. So they're out there to be had, it took me about a year of watching for each gun that I wanted and a lot of bids that I lost because I just wouldn't pay what the bids were going to. Keep looking and good luck
 

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Going over to Dixon's is a good way to go. Greg can put you either behind something in the store, or hook you up with someone who knows who has what you want, or who can build one.

Whichever it is, sounds like you caught our smokepole addiction!:smile2:
 

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Greg pointed me in the direction of a local builder (can't recall his name) who rescued my attempt at a Track of the Wolf English Fowler (20 ga / .61 cal.) from disaster and finished the gun for me. I had done all the metal work, to include the hot browning, and had it just where I wanted it and I COULD NOT DO THE STOCK IN LETTING; did not have the tools or the talent.... The guy not only did the in letting but he completed the stock in a period correct finish (1775 - Battle of The Monongahela).
And the price he charged me was so low that I kicked in an extra $100. It was worth that much to me to have it done and his turn over time was maybe 2 weeks.
Go see Greg.
 

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Just like bargain hunting for anything your gonna sacrifice quality and or fittment.

Bite the bullet and have a gun builder make one for you and fit it to you...period
 

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Keep in mind, just quality parts can easily run around $800-1000. Factor in labor, 80-100 hours, maybe a little less? Can see why $2000 for a base price. Can find some a bit cheaper, TVM is an example. They will build to your specs and probably get one for a little under $2000.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thanks all. I didn't get over to Dixons yet so I'm planning that for late this week. Going to see what they have to say. It would be great to just bite the bullet, but with one in college now and another about to get into college, I can't justify it to satisfy my own itch.
Maybe I'll end up having to wait another year or two to save up and maybe I'll get lucky and find something a little cheaper by keeping my eye out on a few sites. I recently saw a customized Pedersoli Trade rifle for $1100 and missed a deal on a 16gauge fowler for $600.
Thanks for the guidance and I hope I can update you all in the next few months on a new addition to my gun safe!
 

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Allen Martin is up your way. He is a top builder and surely could point you in the right direction. He is a super guy that's easy to talk to. He is on this site under Allen Martin. Give him a call, you won't be sorry.
 

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Hey Crawford let us know how it goes at Dixon's.

Sounds like you have a plan and that's great. Don't so off half-cocked!

Ha, ha............
 

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USAF is spot on.....

Just a quick BALLPARK price sheet...

Barrel $250-300
Lock $200
Plain maple plank $150
Barrel inlet/ramrod hole drilled $100
Trigger guard and buttplate-$60

That's an easy $800 for some parts and a piece of lumber.


And all those parts need work...barrel needs draw filed. Lock needs filed and finished. Castings need filed and finished. Additional parts need bought or made...sights, trigger, pipes, bolts, screws, pins. Everything needs inlet...stock needs shaped and finished. It's all slow tedious, often precise work...time consuming...


The price master builders like Allen Martin charge might seem crazy...but think about all that..let it sink in......it's IMO a bargain.


Many guys don't realize what goes into a hand stocked rifle....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I hear you Mauser. Quality materials and amazing skill cost. I feel I understand what goes into a hand stocked rifle and I understand the current price of parts, but what got me was that just a few years ago the prices were significantly lower on a number of the parts and finding a nice used fowler or trade rifle wasn't too hard. One of my Soldiers was an amateur builder of some skill and offered to make me a nice barn gun for about $600 approximately 10 years ago. I thanked him, and though I wanted the gun, I had to refuse. It could be construed as taking advantage of one of my Soldiers if someone thought he was giving the CSM a deal.
The mention of crazy for the $2500 barn gun was that it was as plain a weapon, and unsophisticated a stock, with a regular production barrel that you've seen. It wasn't something I expected to see for that price. The last 10 years saw a rise in popularity of fowlers and trade guns, coupled with fewer production companies making them, which only leaves the hand stocked variety. Ironically a beautifully equipped PA rifle in .45 used to run much more than fowlers I was seeing, now the inverse seems more common.
I'm going to keep my eyes open. A kit is still a possibility, but I really worry about my abilities to do it justice.
I'm on a hunt for a tool to hunt. I'm a dogged hunter. It may take time but I'll get there...then I'll be bugging you all about loads and junk!
 

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Your quest is one where the hunt may wind up being more fun than the acquisition. Take your time, enjoy the hunt and the people you'll meet. You should just haunt the gun stores and see what turns up, as well as the Allentown Fairgrounds show when the historical guys are there. Every now and again we have interesting fowlers turn up in our stores here in Maine, many of them old trade pieces. FWIW, you are quite fortunate in having Dixon's nearby. They have a national reputation and following as one of the authorities and sources. Another source is the annual show run by the Ancient Ones of Maine, usually in late February and usually at the Armory in Augusta. There is usually an amazing selection of old stuff there and deals can be made.

In case you're wondering about prices for stockmaking, 4 years ago I was quoted $2200 plus cost of wood to make a new stock for my Parker (I had the crack pinned and glassed and continue to use the old stock). A friend and hunting buddy here in Maine does stocks for fine English doubles; last winter he did 2 or 3 Purdeys, from scratch. He starts at >$2000 plus cost of wood. He is not getting rich on this, by any means.
 
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Discussion Starter #14
Wanted to say thanks for pointing me to Muzzleloading Forums. It's been a pretty great education. Think I have a line on a very affordable fowler and I'll be able to get all my other accoutrement needs handled at Dixon's.

If I may add a follow on question, where are some good rendezvous type events to go to in PA? I heard of an event the first weekend of February in Lewisburg, and certainly Dixon's gunmakers fair on the last weekend in July, but are there others I should consider to expand my experience.

Again, thanks in advance.
 

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Lewisburg is the 18th Century Artisan Show, well worth attending.

Dixon's in July is another must-see.

Those two are the biggies. And will keep you...and your wallet if you let them!....very busy. :)

And- I thought I'd never pay custom rifle prices. I now have two.

Funny how it happens. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Well that deal fell through! Back to the drawing board looking for a fowler. I was close, thought I had the deal at a price I could manage for a club-butt fowler. Seller ended up not selling because he found an issue with the gun. Guess I'll stay on the hunt.
 

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As mentioned above prime parts are easily a giant part of the price. The hundred or more hours determines how nice the gun will balance and fire. There is a knack to tuning a lock and placing the trigger just right so the trigger pull is just right. I had an North Star trade gun in 24 ga built by Curley Gostomski. Both North star and Curley are long gone. The gun went off faster than my old Iver Johnson Champion 12 ga. It was extremely light for it's length and balanced so well, that it fell into place on the shoulder. Lost it in a fire. You can pay some builders and get an excellent in let gun, perhaps with a great finish, but still heavy and clunky. Other builders can put the parts in the absolute correct placement to each other and make a graceful well balanced gun. Getting everything right involves a hunt and evaluation of many different guns. In your trip to Dixon's get them to show you the key things to look for. A beautiful gun with a poor trigger fit is a terrible thing to hunt with. Make sure you look at more than just the pretty but also the function.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Does anyone here have experience with Jedediah Starr kits? I'm also looking at the fowler kit from Track of the Wolf. They say it is easy. If anyone has experince wirh that id appreciate hearing about it.
Also, I'm really thinking 20 gauge but TOTW has a finished trade gun in 24 gauge. I just worry that it might be a little light for turkey.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thought I'd share that I just purchased a 62 gauge fowler today from a great fellow over on Muzzle loader Forum. He contacted me a few days ago with a Larry Cordray fowler that, to my novice eyes, seems great. Just adjusted the flint, cut new leather to hold it, and am getting great sparks. He tossed in a cows knee, small leather shot pouch, a small shooting bag he made, and a rigid leather belt pouch as well. Super nice guy, like most I've communicated with on this site. Now I need to get some range time in!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
That would be a 20 gauge, .62 caliber! Pretty sure I don't know what a 62 gauge is.
 
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