Antique rifling guide

Antique rifling guide

Antique rifling guide

The photos above show a rifling guide for muzzle loading rifles that I ran across in Houston, Texas. The assembly has no known ties to Somerset County, PA, and appears to be machine-made. The photos are included here merely so that people can see what a rifling guide looks like, and understand how they work. The indexing block, and the spiral cut roll can be clearly seen in these photos. This particular rifling guide is extremely well made, and was evidently made by someone who had access to a metalworking machine shop. Handmade rifling guides that would be more typical for a backwoods mountain rifle maker are shown below.

The book "The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle" by Ned. H. Roberts (The Granite State Press, Manchester, New Hampshire, 1940) shows photographs of several rifling guides, and includes a description of their use.

The indexing block was bolted to a rifling bench, in line with a pair of clamps that held the barrel. The rifling cutter was attached to the end of the roll, and was moved spirally through the bore of the barrel by the roll. Each groove took many passes of the rifling cutter, as the depth of each cut was extremely small. Another way to rifle a barrel was to use an existing barrel as the rifling guide for the new barrel.

The photos below are from the 1941 National Park Service Popular Study Series brochure "History No. 13: Rifle Making in the Great Smoky Mountains" by Arthur I. Kendall, M. D.. They show how a simple homemade rifling guide was created and used. I recommend this brochure for those who may be interested in how an isolated mountain rifle maker could produce a complete, accurate muzzle-loading rifle using only simple tools.

Using a primitive lathe to make a rifling roll.
The photo above shows a rifling roll being turned on a homemade wood lathe that is called a pole lathe. The up and down motion of the leather wrapped around the roll turns the roll back and forth past the hand-held cutting tool. The downstroke of the leather is provided by the foot treadle. The upstroke is provided by the bent sapling.

Method of laying out the grooves on the rifling roll.
The photo above shows an oak strip being wrapped around the rifling roll to lay out the locations of the spiral guide slots.

Cutting the grooves on the rifling roll.
The photo above shows an individual cutting out the spiral grooves on the rifling roll.

Using a rifling guide to rifle a barrel.
The photo above shows a rifling guide being used to cut rifling in a barrel. The indexing block is fixed to the bench. The frame that supports the roll is reciprocated to reciprocate and turn the roll and the attached rifling cutter.

Using a rifling guide to rifle a barrel.
The photo above shows a barrel being rifled using the rifling guide.

L. Dietle

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