This is an example of a Lehigh Co, Pennsylvania rifle in the style of John Moll and Herman Rupp from the 1790-1795 time period.
Andreas Albrecht was a German Moravian gunmaker who migrated to America in 1750. He initially settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and later moved to Christian’s Spring from 1759-1766 where he served as master in the gun shop. In 1771 he resided in Lititz where he continued working as gunsmith until his death in 1802.
This Albrecht example is from the 1765 time period.
Jacob Dickert (1740 – 1822)
This left-handed rifle is patterned after the work of Jacob Dickert circa 1770-1775. Dickert was born 1740 in Mainz, Germany. His family migrated in the late 1740’s to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where Jacob lived out his entire life while developing a reputation as a superior gunsmith.
William Antes (1735 – 1810)
This example is patterned after an early rifle of William Antes, circa 1770-1780. It is a wonderful blend of the Bethlehem and Lancaster county styles. Antes was born 1735 in Frederick Township located in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Thereafter, his family moved to Bethlehem in 1745. It is reasonable to believe William received a strong influence from the gun shop located in Christian’s Springs. However, there is no record of where or from whom he learned the trade of gun making. Later in his life, he became politically active in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War.
J.P. Beck worked as a gunsmith from the late 1760’s to 1811 in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. This .54 caliber smooth rifle with a 46″ barrel is patterned after an original by Beck.
The Eastern Panhandle was the edge of the frontier in the 1700s. Men from the area joined up with a young officer named George Washington and started the march into history in what became known as the French and Indian War. Open land that could be used to farm was a big draw for immigrants who came to seek their fortune, find religious liberty or just to start all over again.
Today, Tim Williams works in Back Creek Valley on land that is part of that rich history. Settlers were dependent on tools and a rifle. In those days, flintlock rifles that required a pan attached to the side to be loaded with black powder to ignite the powers packed behind the ball in the barrel were cherished.
Williams is known nationally as a master craftsman. He hand builds rifles, pistols and fowlers one at a time for a waiting list of buyers, using mostly hand tools to complete his work. He is in such demand that there is a two and a half year waiting list.
“I’ve sold guns to California, Arizona — I sell them everywhere. I build about 10 a year. I usually build a few bows, too,” Williams said.
His shop is well organized. A .58 caliber flintlock rifle sits on a workbench under construction. Williams builds the rifle to the shooter making sure it’s a good fit. The workmanship is flawless. The process is tedious and exact. Engraving is all done free hand and leaves no margin for error. Holding the rifle, it becomes more than just a hunting or shooting weapon — it’s a work of art.
It’s also very accurate. Williams has been known to shoot the flame off of candles and has even shot a poker card in half — that was set on its side.
Williams used to build houses. From the very beginning he established himself as a craftsman. People knew if he built their traditional home, it would be done right using the best materials available. Then the recession hit and Williams found himself seeking work.
“I kept saying, ‘God, why don’t you give me a job, I need a job, I need work,’ and then He said, ‘Why don’t you do what I sent you?’” Williams said.
He started making rifles as a hobby while still working as a home builder. Suddenly, it seemed to all make sense. That eye for detail and dedication to craft has carried over to his gun making. Williams found that, just like building homes, he was drawn to traditional, handcrafted ways.
Those handcrafted ways are producing an heirloom that will last for generations.
“I didn’t think about it when I first started building almost 20 years ago that it is something to be handed down. There’s no reason that 200 years from now somebody can’t be holding this gun and passing it on and telling a story of their own about it,” Williams said. “I’m sure they didn’t think in the 1700s that we’d be talking about their guns.”
Standing in his shop is like going back in time, a time that Williams believes built America.
“I think we have lost touch as America — I mean we have lost sight of what America is all about. If the families were more dependent on each other and what they can do and when you do it yourself, I think that draws the family closer,” Williams said. “You spend time together, not apart. It’s just a shame, too, because I think everybody has that potential and I think that everybody is yearning for that closeness of a family.”
He has provided living history education for adults and school children. He found they also were interested in history, especially when they could see it right in front of them.
“I would dress like a scout. I would have a bedroll on my back and have a haversack and different things. I would say, ‘How long do you think that I can stay out the way I am set up right now?’ They would say, ‘Maybe a day, maybe two days,’ or something like that. What if I told you I could stay out for a least a week?” Williams said. “I think what it does is bring to life history, which is what I do — living history. And then when they see somebody and see the things and can actually touch them, it’s just a whole different ball game. They get excited about it. It comes alive.”
Today, Williams spends six days a week in his shop. An assortment of hand tools are organized and at the ready. The tools are well cared for just like a settler 260 years ago. It’s a simple life reflecting back to simple times.
Williams hunts with his own rifles and everything else from that time period.
“We do winter camps and it’s zero degrees sometimes, and we stay just fine with nothing but period clothes,” Williams said.
His guns are in such demand that he can’t even keep the ones he builds for himself.
“The one I took moose hunting I didn’t have six months. I finished it in August, shot it on a moose hunt in October, shot four deer through rifle season here and then sold it in January,” Williams said.
Original article by Jeff McCoy (Journal News)
This longrifle is patterned after the work of John Sheetz of Staunton, Virginia from the 1796-1800 time period.
An interview by Michael Beliveau for Muzzleloader Magazine.
“The only interesting rifles are accurate rifles.” Those are the words of Col. Townsend Whelen, who was perhaps the best outdoor writer of the twentieth century. But those same words could easily be attributed to longrifle builder Tim Williams. Tim is a dedicated flintlock hunter who expects the guns he builds to reliably put meat on the pole.
As I was talking to Tim, he was working on a York County rifle for himself. He was building a .58 caliber rifle based on an original, 1770s rifle made by York County gunsmith George Schreyer. Tim plans to use it for a moose hunt. As it turns out, moose is just one of the few major North American game animal that Tim hasn’t harvested.
I remarked that .58 was a pretty big bore for moose. I told Tim that my friend, and fellow gun builder, David Price took the New Hampshire state record moose with a .54 caliber gun. Tim acknowledged that a .54 will take most anything on four legs, but when he shot a buffalo, he used a .54 caliber gun, and he found himself wishing he’d brought a .58. So, when he goes for moose, he’s going to pack a .58, just to be sure.
Tim told me, “I’ve taken everything from squirrels to buffalo with flintlock rifles that I’ve built myself. For the last fourteen years I’ve hunted with nothing else.”
Tim’s dedication to hunting with muzzleloaders is even more impressive when you consider that he resisted the siren call of black powder shooting for many years. Tim’s good friend, Brian LaMaster, tried to interest him in shooting muzzleloaders, but Tim resisted. Finally, after 10 years, Brian convinced Tim to shoot a flintlock rifle, and, as has happened to so many of us, with his first scent of aromatic gun smoke, Tim was hooked for life.
It wasn’t long before shooting muzzleloaders led to a desire to build muzzleloaders. Tim had long felt an affinity to eighteenth century craftsmanship. Before becoming a professional gun maker, Tim’s profession was home building. During a trip to colonial Williamsburg as a young man he developed a fascination with eighteenth century architecture. Tim started incorporating those colonial period designs into houses he built, and, as he did, he became more interested in the history of the era. Building flintlock guns became a natural direction for Tim to travel. It melded his interests in eighteenth century history and craftsmanship with his new-found love of hunting and shooting with muzzleloaders.
When Tim decided to build his first longrifle he had an advantage that most of us can only dream about. His friend and shooting buddy Brian LaMaster is also a nationally recognized gun builder. Brian was happy to advise Tim as he worked on his first rifle. Brian became Tim’s gun- building mentor, and he still provides Tim with valuable advice.
Tim’s first rifle was a .54 caliber, early Virginia style rifle with a sliding wood patchbox, and really nice, curly maple stock. I asked Tim how it turned out. “It was pretty good for a first try,” Tim replied. “I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and I took a few deer with that gun.”
The problem with building a gun that successfully harvests game, is that all your buddies want to buy it from you. Tim couldn’t seem to hold on to his personal guns for long. But, it did give him an excuse to build another, and another…Tim still can’t keep his personal rifles for much beyond one hunting season.
I asked Tim what he thinks of his first rifle these days.
“I haven’t seen that gun for awhile,” Tim replied, “But I’ve seen a couple of my other early guns, and you always see the things you’d do differently today. It’s not that they aren’t good guns, but every day you learn something new. My work today is a lot more refined in the details than the guns I made the first couple of years.”
Tim’s growth as a gun maker is something he credits to the influence of Brian LaMaster. One of the most important things Brian did for Tim was to expose him to original flintlock guns. As Tim says, “It’s easier to recreate the feel of an original gun, if you can actually hold the original gun. They are so smooth, and the lines just seem to flow. Actually holding an original is a lot better than working from a picture. In a way, you can see better with your hands than you can with just your eyes.”
In Tim’s view, correct architecture is the most important factor in building a proper eighteenth century gun. “Of course, you