It is my distinct privilege to be able to include these NRA museum photos of a superb antique muzzle loading black powder rifle that was built by the Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunmaker John Border. Every image on this web page is copyrighted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and is included here courtesy of Erin Sabatini of the NRA Museums, NRAmuseums.com with the express permission of the NRA Museum. Click here to see a very similar rifle by John Border's older first cousin Daniel B. Border.
The first photo below is a full-length view of the right-hand side. Although not particularly fancy, this is one of my very favorite Bedford County rifles, because of overall visual impact, and because of what I consider to be exquisite stocking. As you review the photos on this page, notice how well the metalwork of the stock fits the wood, and notice how smooth and level the surface of the stock is. The slender appearance of this stock is assisted by the fact that the forward portion of the trigger guard projects only slightly below the surface of the stock. As a result, the forward part of the trigger guard does not produce a noticeable bulge in the profile of the "belly" of the stock.
The next photo shows the left-hand side of the John Border rifle. Notice how slender this gun appears from the top of the barrel to the bottom of the fore end. Notice how the relatively long entry pipe masks the dimensional transition of the the stock that is necessary to accommodate the drilled hole for the ramrod. On many full stock muzzle loader rifles that transition location is clumsy, unsightly, and a visual distraction. Notice the long length of the nose cap, and the substantial length of the barrel, which together accentuate the slender appearance of the stock. Another small feature that helps to sustain the appearance of slenderness is the fact that the nose cap is nearly the same cross-sectional size as the nearby portion of the fore end. As you can see by this and the previous photo, the rifle has no decorative relief or incised carving.
The next photo highlights the percussion gun lock and the mating lock panel of the stock. Notice how well-centered the rat tail of the lock is relative to the rear of the lock panel. Notice the graceful shape of the hammer. Notice how the only the front of the lock panel is filleted to the adjacent portions of the stock and everywhere else the panel truncates the curved cross-sectional shape of the adjacent portions of the stock. To me this is much more attractive than lock panels that are filleted all the way around their periphery and project from the adjacent portions of the stock. Also notice how the lock panel is pointed at the rear to complement the rat tail shape of the lock, and fades into the wrist. I consider this style of lock panel to be aesthetically superior to all others, and you would be hard pressed to find a better example. To me, the pointed end seems streamlined, imparting a sensation of motion. When I see such a lock panel, I can't help but visualize the rifle in forward motion through open woods, in a one hand carry. In the world of craftsman-produced geometry, this lock panel is poetry.
The next photo shows the open patch box of the John Border rifle. Notice how accurate the obround patch recess in the butt stock is.
The next photo shows the buttstock with the patch box in the closed position. See how perfectly the patch with its five piercings is fitted to the adjacent wood, and see the subtle but excellent engraving. Look how level the surface of the patch box is with the surface of the butt stock.
The next photo shows John Border's initials deeply engraved in cursive on the top flat of the octagon barrel.
This shows the snag-proof front sight of the John Border percussion rifle. Notice the subtle but attractive engraving on the brass base of the sight.
The following photo shows the muzzle of the John Border-produced muzzle loader, revealing the seven-groove rifling. See how well the sheet metal parts of the nose cap fit together. Many a nose cap by other makers has gaposis at this location, but not this one. Also notice that the tip of the ramrod is threaded for accessories, which is a highly practical enhancement.
The next image shows both sides of the entry pipe area on the John Border rifle. I get blown away by little details sometimes, and I am fascinated by the entry pipe implementation on this rifle. I think it is the best implementation ever seen. Mind you, I can't claim to know a whole lot about this stuff, but I do know what I like. Many rifle stocks have a, well--ugly to me, step in this transition region where the ramrod enters the stock. Look at the reflection of light along the John Border stock in the entry pipe region, revealing how gradual and even the rate of change is in the shape of the flanks of the forearm. No ugly step on this rifle.
The entry pipe on any single barrel muzzleloader is a transition from two different cross-sectional sizes of the fore stock. Some entry pipes have a short, angled section in the middle, to accommodate the step change in stock dimensions. The entry pipe on this John Border rifle is relatively long and relatively straight. The whole thing is tipped to accommodate the change in stock dimensions, but because the entry pipe is so long and straight, the angulation it produces at the transition of the "belly" of the forearm is barely noticeable. Furthermore, the design near the center of the entry pipe draws the eye away from the slight angle that is present. There are several details that make this John Border rifle look very slender. This entry pipe implementation is a big factor, however, because the shape of the entry pipe and the shape of the adjacent portions of the stock do create any attention grabbing steps or bulges.
What follows now are very large high resolution copies of five of the preceding images. I have included them because I feel this beautiful Pennsylvania long rifle is an important example of the Bedford School of gunsmithing. You may have to pan to see the entire image, unless you have a very large monitor.
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