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Thread: Anyone here build their muzzleloader from scratch?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Anyone here build their muzzleloader from scratch?

    Hey guys, so to be frank, I've never done anything like this before, but I think it's doable given time and research.

    So for all my adult life I've been collecting big bore rifles. I started out with a 45-70, got bored, and then moved on down the line to 458 lott. The lott kept my interest for a while until I built my 12 gauge from hell. Now, that cartridge will absolutely never get old to me, but there is one caliber in particular that's been at the top of my "need to have" list. And that would be the mighty 4 bore.

    A few years back, I inquired on having one built and was quoted $5k+ not including materials and a several year long wait. Needless to say, I'm not quite that "baller" and a few year wait makes me shiver.

    I figured my best bet for getting to own my dream big bore would be to make it myself. So the other day I commenced to doing some research and priced a barrel. To my surprise, a 4 bore barrel is actually very cheap. I was thinking it would cost over $1k, but actually I can get one for around $600.

    While I'm not a machinist, I have access to a machine shop (and machinists) that can help drill and tap items with a mill. If there is something complicated (like installing the breach) I can just send it to a Smith for that process. I figured the hardest part (and would take the most time) would be making and inleting a stock from scratch. I've done some small inleting tasks before, it's a pain but doable if care and patience is applied. In my mind, I would guess getting the lock and trigger put in place correctly will be the hardest task at hand.

    I've ordered two books to help me get some knowledge on the subject which are "The Art Of Building The Pennsylvania Longrifle" and "The Gunsmith of Grenville County: Building the American Longrifle". People seem to reccomend them a lot.

    So I guess my question is, to those that have built their own, what was the hardest process for you? What are some tips that can make the process a little less intimidating for a novice? General tips will also be very much welcomed as well.

    Like I said, I've never done anything this in depth before, but I am a good fabricator, I learn fast, and I know when to ask for help. I think it's entirely possible for me to do this, though it will be challenging. Thanks for any advice given!
    Last edited by Bigbore.729; 01-31-2020 at 07:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    You'll do well.
    The pros that built them 300 years ago didn't have a fraction of the tools we have access to now.

    I've done a couple projects where I could do almost everything, but one or two things.
    Like installing a Rem 700 barrel- for a one time thing, I didn't want to get the tools and teach myself how to do it.
    So I had a gunsmith install and chamber it. It cost less than the tools, was done right the first time, and was several weeks faster.


    Your biggest challenge might be building a stock from a fence post rather than something semi shaped and inletted.
    If you do either one, I'd get a couple basic tools from Brownell's or somewhere that are made just for doing stock work.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 01-31-2020 at 06:13 PM.
    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I built a matching set of smooth bore .50 caliber pistols from a real old, maybe 1780 rifle barrel that had the breach blown out. I used commercial flint locks and hardware. Drilled the barrels out on my big metal lathe and pretty much made the rest except for the breach plugs. It was fun but a lot of work. If you decide to go that route it's going to take a lot of time, effort and frustration. Kinda fun once everything gets together though.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I guess you need to look into muzzle loading suppliers
    track of the wolf
    http://www.longrifles-pr.com/
    and the others that supply parts and accessories
    colerain barrels
    rice barrels
    oregon barrels
    and then all the lock makers.......

  5. #5
    Boolit Master RU shooter's Avatar
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    You'll most likely have to carve the wood yourself never seen a precarve stock for anything much bigger than about a 1.25" dia barrel at the breach . Not exactly sure how big a 4 bore is but assuming the barrel dia at breach will be substantial
    If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck!

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    Boolit Master bosterr's Avatar
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    Look into Jim Kibler kits. I think the price compares favorably in price to Track of the Wolf and other suppliers and a lot less work since they use CNC machinery to make the stock. A lot less chance of making a mess of it.

    Sorry... I missed the OP's looking for 4 bore.
    Last edited by bosterr; 01-31-2020 at 07:26 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winger Ed. View Post
    You'll do well.
    The pros that built them 300 years ago didn't have a fraction of the tools we have access to now.

    I've done a couple projects where I could do almost everything, but one or two things.
    Like installing a Rem 700 barrel- for a one time thing, I didn't want to get the tools and teach myself how to do it.
    So I had a gunsmith install and chamber it. It cost less than the tools, was done right the first time, and was several weeks faster.


    Your biggest challenge might be building a stock from a fence post rather than something semi shaped and inletted.
    If you do either one, I'd get a couple basic tools from Brownell's or somewhere that are made just for doing stock work.
    Yeah I figured the biggest hurdle would be carving a huge chunk of wood. Finding a giant piece of dried wood that can handle the abuse a 4 bore throws will be challenging. Will have to be a tight grained wood. Not gonna be really pretty.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by RU shooter View Post
    You'll most likely have to carve the wood yourself never seen a precarve stock for anything much bigger than about a 1.25" dia barrel at the breach . Not exactly sure how big a 4 bore is but assuming the barrel dia at breach will be substantial
    Yep, again, I think the wood carving will be absolutely the worst part.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bosterr View Post
    Look into Jim Kibler kits. I think the price compares favorably in price to Track of the Wolf and other suppliers and a lot less work since they use CNC machinery to make the stock. A lot less chance of making a mess of it.

    Sorry... I missed the OP's looking for 4 bore.
    Unless they have a 4 bore kit I doubt they have anything I can use other than locks and hardware.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigbore.729 View Post
    Finding a giant piece of dried wood that can handle the abuse a 4 bore throws will be challenging. Will have to be a tight grained wood. Not gonna be really pretty.
    That's part of the challenge and reward of doing it.

    I met a guy once that made his own stocks.
    He would seek out old gate or corner posts on farms.

    Hey, check out the thread about the guy with a walnut tree, you might make a deal
    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  11. #11
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    I got a few big pieces of black walnut
    it is in big rough blanks

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winger Ed. View Post
    That's part of the challenge and reward of doing it.

    I met a guy once that made his own stocks.
    He would seek out old gate or corner posts on farms.

    Hey, check out the thread about the guy with a walnut tree, you might make a deal
    True. Hard work that kicks your butt and tests you is always rewarding.

    Quote Originally Posted by kens View Post
    I got a few big pieces of black walnut
    it is in big rough blanks
    It will be some time before I start looking for wood. I want to read my books front to back first and get the barrel work done first.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    When I was building a new carriage for a Civil War era replica cannon, I dug around on the net and found
    a lumber place or mill in the Carolinas that sold cut to order hardwood planks & such probably to custom furniture makers.

    They have all the different kinds of wood you'd want, and the little brown truck will bring it to ya.
    It wasn't cheap, but the prices were realistic for what they had.

    If you want to go all out-- there's a fella up around the Great Lakes that recovers old sunken logs
    from ones that sank when they rafted them down from the forests a couple hundred years ago.
    He's set up to properly dry them out and mill them.

    I've seen pictures of stocks made from it on muzzle loaders that will make ya wet your pants.
    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Back when I was 16 years old , I made a matchlock Hand Cannon from a Baseball Bat and a section of 3/4" ID 1/4" was Chrome Molly pipe.
    It was fun to shoot.
    But I watched my grandfather a few years before build all his Muzzle loaders from Scratch.
    That included the barrel ,lock and stock.

  15. #15
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    From my experience with inleting, the barrel itself will be the easy part to get inlet. Getting the lock and trigger to all line up correctly and fit snug will be challenging. Will likely solder a recoil lug (or two) to the barrel and glass bed everything in to help save the wood from recoil. Mainly concerned about the wrist. Will also likely epoxy a bolt in the wrist for extra strength. Old gunsmithing trick for safari guns

  16. #16
    Boolit Master RU shooter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigbore.729 View Post
    From my experience with inleting, the barrel itself will be the easy part to get inlet. Getting the lock and trigger to all line up correctly and fit snug will be challenging. Will likely solder a recoil lug (or two) to the barrel and glass bed everything in to help save the wood from recoil. Mainly concerned about the wrist. Will also likely epoxy a bolt in the wrist for extra strength. Old gunsmithing trick for safari guns
    Actually for me anyways inletting the lock and other parts aren't that difficult if you can inlet a barrel you can do the others no problem . Limiting factor for me is trying to make a stock blank (big long rectangle) look like a rifle . One of the reasons I use a precarved stock with only the barrel inlet and ram rod hole drilled . I would see if I could find some pictures of original large bore guns and see how big a stock blank you would need
    If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck!

  17. #17
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    I'm not sure how many I've done over the years. I'm just finishing a poor boy plank build. Probably my last build, as time on my feet in the shop is too hard on me now.
    For a 4 bore, I would ask the maker to go ahead and breech it for you.
    For a massive gun like a 4 bore, you won't find a pre-shaped and inlet stock. To me the trickiest part is to get the ramrod drilled properly. Leave a bunch of wood on the bottom of the blank, drill the hole, then drill a small inspection hole and use a piece of wire
    for a depth gauge through the barrel channel to locate the bottom of the ramrod hole. That will help avoid cutting through the channel when final shaping. Everything else is fairly simple if you take your time.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
    John Taylor - "African Rifles and Cartridges"

    Forget everything you know about loading jacketed bullets. This is a whole new ball game!


  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by RU shooter View Post
    Actually for me anyways inletting the lock and other parts aren't that difficult if you can inlet a barrel you can do the others no problem . Limiting factor for me is trying to make a stock blank (big long rectangle) look like a rifle . One of the reasons I use a precarved stock with only the barrel inlet and ram rod hole drilled . I would see if I could find some pictures of original large bore guns and see how big a stock blank you would need
    Hey thanks. I didn't even think of the ramrod hole. That does sound like a daunting task. Especially since the ramrod will need to be around 3/4" in diameter. Getting brass fittings for the rod might be an issue too.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by waksupi View Post
    I'm not sure how many I've done over the years. I'm just finishing a poor boy plank build. Probably my last build, as time on my feet in the shop is too hard on me now.
    For a 4 bore, I would ask the maker to go ahead and breech it for you.
    For a massive gun like a 4 bore, you won't find a pre-shaped and inlet stock. To me the trickiest part is to get the ramrod drilled properly. Leave a bunch of wood on the bottom of the blank, drill the hole, then drill a small inspection hole and use a piece of wire
    for a depth gauge through the barrel channel to locate the bottom of the ramrod hole. That will help avoid cutting through the channel when final shaping. Everything else is fairly simple if you take your time.
    Getting the barrel breached by the barrel maker is likely not an option. The barrel I found is from Krieger Barrels. Here is the specs on the barrel

    Click image for larger version. 

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    And thanks for the tip for the ramrod hole! That's clever

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigbore.729 View Post
    Getting the barrel breached by the barrel maker is likely not an option. The barrel I found is from Krieger Barrels. Here is the specs on the barrel

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Screenshot_20200130-184707_Chrome.jpg 
Views:	9 
Size:	26.0 KB 
ID:	255890

    And thanks for the tip for the ramrod hole! That's clever
    Try contacting Ed Rayl, W.E. Rayl, Box 91, Gassaway, W.V. 26624 . Ph 304-364-8269. Do some Googling, I think there are other suppliers for big bore barrels. I think there is a place in Oregon. You might also try Xcaliber barrels, Kalispell, Mt.

    You wouldn't want or need that large of a ramrod. It would interfere with inletting a lock. The guys around here with 4 bores are using a standard 3/8" I think.

    You could also go to the American Longrifles forum and ask. The gun building section is also a good place to learn.
    The solid soft lead bullet is undoubtably the best and most satisfactory expanding bullet that has ever been designed. It invariably mushrooms perfectly, and never breaks up. With the metal base that is essential for velocities of 2000 f.s. and upwards to protect the naked base, these metal-based soft lead bullets are splendid.
    John Taylor - "African Rifles and Cartridges"

    Forget everything you know about loading jacketed bullets. This is a whole new ball game!


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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check