W.G. Shipman

American longrifles for the discriminating shooter and collector - extensive photos.

Gallery Terms Of Sale Appearances and Links

In an age of plastic, chrome, microcircuits and mass production, we tend to seek out objects which are unique, which reflect substance and individual effort. Depending on their nature, we may collect them, exhibit them, or simply covet them. In the case of the long rifle, we may also use them, which in great part explains their continued and even increasing appeal.

Those creations of mankind, which are among his best efforts and which appeal to our aesthetic senses we may call art. The American longrifle at its best, whether two centuaries past or at present, clearly falls into this category. The contemporary longrifle, in fact, has become a bit of an artistic renaissance in wood, brass, and steel; and as such an endeavor matures, trends develop, each equally appealing. At the one end of the spectrum, the gunmaker prefers to create the "aged look", the look of a well worn original still in excellent shooting condition. At their best these beg to be taken into the woods; at their worst they're an easy excuse for poor workmanship. At the other end of the spectrum, the Gunmaker creates the "new look", as the gun would appear as it just emerged from the shop. Fit and finish of metal and wood are at a premium here. At their best, these can be crisp and exquisite; at their worst an overpolished toy.

In the past, Ive tended to be in the new gun group. Recently, Ive taken to tarnishing the metal a bit and using blacking in the recesses with a little wear on the high spots. The finish hasn't really changed and this simply tends to soften the new gun look. You'll see this as you sift through the gallery. I have no aversion to making a gun look new or extremly aged. Customer choice. Some honest wear and tear in the wood is perhaps the best device for ageing

Aside from being unique, value is another reason for considering a custom long rifle. With a production rifle, the workers are paid as well as the secretaries and the boss, and the company takes its profit. It's then shipped to a wholesaler who takes his cut, then to the retailer who takes his cut. An 11% excise tax is added on top of all that. What you are paying for is much more than the cost of making the rifle. With a custom gunmaker you are buying direrctly from the maker.

For many years I did seminars at Dixon's on stock finishing and longrifle architecture. A great show for gunmakers and potential customers as well. In the gun making competition, I won Best of Show in 1983 and Best Professional several times in the mid 80's. I then ceased to enter for many years. The competition changed its format in the 90's with the Masters Class as the top group. I entered and won Best of Show Masters Class in 2003 it being 20 years since I first entered. If I live long enough I'll enter again in 2023.

Being from Lancaster, I've always favored Lancaster rifles, early and late, as well as rifles from the Lebanon area, it having been part of Lancaster County early on. I also like rifles from the Hagerstown area of Maryland, Christian Hawken, George Kreps, and others. Lots of variety here. Recently, Lehigh Valley guns have caught my interest and Bedford County rifles as well. German Jaegers and plains rifles I really have no interest in from a builder's standpoint.

But enough of writing and reading. Checkout the gallery for an idea of what I do and pricing.


Bill Shipman