Disassembling the Long Rifle

The process of taking apart the c.1815 David Cooley long rifle was one that I did not have the experience to undertake, so I called on my friend Tim who is both a rifle maker and a historian of the form and frontier life.  I’d invited Tim for a “look see” when I had the rifle in my shop the first time several years ago, and he appeared to enjoy the experience.  Since I was not confident of my understanding of how the long rifle was assembled in the first place, Tim was a natural call to make.

Much to my delight he was able to some in short order and set to work.  All the while he was scoping it out, and then disassembling the piece, he was providing a running commentary and I was taking notes as best I could.

A few of his observations were:

*the workmanship was superb and typical of late 18th century gunsmithing even though this gun was more than a decade after the turn of the century

*the gun had a “swamped” barrel, meaning that it as thinned slightly halfway down the barrel to reduce weight, a feature of the very best firearms of the time

*the hammer-and-trigger mechanism was a manufactured English set, probably purchased for Cooley’s inventory and ready to be put to use on a future gun.  Since the fitting of the hammer-and-trigger was crucial to the making of a gun, it would have been in-hand even before this gun was started.

*the barrel was also in-hand and may have actually been re-purposed from a previous gun or at least had been modified with a new tang welded on the butt end to fit the new stock

As the disassembly progressed I was very much impressed with the elegance and simplicity of the long rifle’s construction, and the fittings for anchoring the barrel to the stock were superbly made.  Tim took advantage of the opportunity to study many of the gun’s finer features, such as the spring loaded patch box.

One last observation from Tim was that he thinks the gun is still loaded, with the charge impacted in the butt of the barrel.

Many thinks to Tim for helping me out with a task I would have not been comfortable.  Watching him do his magic made me all the happier that he was available to help me out as there were steps I would have likely missed and damaged the rifle trying to disassemble it myself.

With the gun all apart I could examine the damage and set out on a path to make it as whole as possible.