It is a privilege to have the opportunity to provide photos of these beautiful examples of the Bedford School of gunsmithing. These two antique muzzle loading percussion rifles were made by the talented Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith Daniel Border. Both of these long and slender rifles have rat tail locks with graceful Bedford-style hammers. Both rifles have full stocks of curly maple, and feature lock and lock bolt plate panels that taper to the rear. Neither stock has decorative incised or relief carving. Both have silver cheekpiece medallions, and both have silver wrist inlays trailing the lock and lock bolt plate panels. Both rifles have the pointed barrel tangs that are common to the region.
The first Bedford County rifle
The first picture below provides a full view of the left-hand side of this slim Bedford County percussion rifle. The rear sight is located over the entry pipe, and the front sight is located at the juncture between the forestock and the nose cap (aka fore end cap). The cheekpiece features an elliptic-lanceolate-shaped silver inlay. The stock has an attractive burnished appearance.
The next photograph provides an oblique view of the rear portion of this antique black powder rifle. The engraved four-piece patch box has five piercings and typical Bedford County styling. The finial is Q-shaped and the piercings on each side plate are half-circle-style. I am especially impressed by how the finial runs on to the more abruply curved beginning portion of the wrist portion of the buttstock.
The angle of the photograph provides an interesting view of the elegant Bedford-style hammer with its tall forward-curving spur. It also provides a good view of the vent screw on the percussion drum. The silver inlay trailing the lock panel and the elliptic silver thumb plate on the upper side of the wrist can also be seen in this rifle photo. A break in the forward part of the buttstsock has been repaired.
The next photo provides an enlarged view of the precision-inleted brass lock bolt plate and the mating panel of the stock on this interesting Pennsylvania long rifle. The lock bolt plate is dated April 25, 1848, which means that Daniel Border would have been about 22 years old when he made this rifle. The lock bolt plate engraving has similarities with that on an 1847 William & Daniel Border rifle. The lock bolt plate is flat, with an unbeveled periphery, and is inlet to be substantially flush with the surrounding surface of the mating panel of the stock.
The photo also provides a good view of the double trigger arrangement. the hair trigger has less curve than the set trigger. This difference provides tactile feedback to the shooter, helping him to identify which trigger is being touched. The adjustment screw for the set trigger arrangment is visible between the triggers. The transverse pin that secures the foreward part of the cast brass trigger guard to the stock is visible just below the lower edge of the lock bolt plate. The photo also reveals the slightly uneven, hand-filed nature of the barrel flats on the octagonal barrel, and the deep curve of the hammer spur on this classic Bedford County-style cap lock rifle.
The next image provides a straight-on view of the right-hand side of the buttstock and lock area of this visually pleasing antique muzzle loading rifle. This image shows the straight nature of the comb and belly portions of the buttstock, as typical with Bedford County rifle stocks. One interesting feature on the narrow hand-wrought rat tail percussion gun lock is the inclusion of a protective fence/flash guard behind the drum. This fence would help to protect the wood to the rear of the barrel from the damaging effects of percussion cap detonation. The image also shows the attractive proportions of the Bedford hammer, with its gooseneck shape and deeply curved hammer spur. The peripheral edge of the lock plate is beveled.
The image also reveals the presence and length of the toe plate and the presence of a double trigger arrangement, where the set trigger has a more pronounced curve than the hair trigger. The trigger adjustment screw is visible between the triggers.
The second Bedford County rifle
The next set of Bedford County rifle pictures features another quality antique firearm by the gunmaker Daniel Border.
The first photograph below shows the right-rear of this handsome antique Bedford County longrifle. The rifle has a non-typical patch box featuring a geometric finial design. The side plates of the patchbox are separated from the engraved lid by exposed strips of wood and are unpierced. The angular finial of the patchbox has two rectangular piercings. The rat tail of the hand-forged lock is well-centered in the mating panel of the rifle stock. The pronounced cresent shape of the hammer spur can also be seen in the photograph. A heart-shaped thumb plate is incorporated on the upper side of the wrist. The pointed nature of the tang is also visible.
The next picture shows the entire left-hand side of the second Daniel Border rifle, which also has a full-length stock. The sights are relatively high for a 19th century rifle. The front sight is centered over the nosecap and the rear sight is positioned a little to the rear of the entry pipe. The nose cap (also known as a fore end cap) is relatively long, compared to some Pennsylvania long rifles.
The next photograph shows the entire right-hand side of this splendid silver-inlaid signed antique rifle. Note the variety of escutcheon designs along the forestock. The foremost escutcheon is in the shape of an arrow. The middle two escutcheons are shaped like the outline of a bird flying toward or away from the viewer. The rear escutcheon might be described as being crown-like.
The top flat of the octagonal barrel of this percussion muzzleloader is signed "D. Border : Bedford : Pa" in engraved script in the next photo.
In the following image, note the excellent quality curl of the maple stock on this old gun. The elliptic-lanceolate cheekpiece inlay features an engraved spread wing eagle. There is no relief or incised carving rearward of the cheekpiece on this tastefully executed Pennsylvania rifle.
Both Bedford County rifles displayed together
The next set of Bedford County rifle pictures shows both of the above Daniel Border-built antique long rifles together, for comparison.
The first photograph below shows the left rear portion of the pair of Daniel Border-built antique black powder rifles. The shapes of the trigger guards, lock bolt plates, cheekpieces, wrist inlays, buttplates, and buttstocks are similar on these two antique guns. The toeplate is a little longer on the lower gun.
The next picture provides a full-lenth view of the right-hand side of both of these long and slender full-stock rifles, revealing that one is significantly longer than the other. Only the lower rifle has fore-end escutcheons. Both of these muzzleloading rifles have very attractive proportions, and are highly desirable examples of the gun making art and interesting artifacts of Pennsylvania long rifle history.
The next photo provides a full-length view of the left-hand side of these two splendid Bedford County rifles. The cheekpiece inlay on the upper rifle is more elliptic in shape, while the inlay on the lower rifle is more lanceolate. The combs and bellies of both stocks are substantially straight, and both rifles are mounted with cresent buttplates. While sometimes referred to as "Kentucky rifles
", percussion era Bedford County rifles such as these were made long after Pennsylvania rifles made a new name for themselves during the settlement period of early Kentucky history.
The next picture provides an enlarged view of the rear half of this pair of beautiful antique Bedford County percussion rifles. The lower rifle appears to have slightly more drop at the heel. Both are great examples of Bedford County rifle making excellence.
For links to information about other Bedford County riflemakers and the longrifles they built, visit the gunsmithing project index.
Visit the Korns.org home page for access to more regional history.