There are many reasons to acquire an original Kentucky rifle. From our perspective, the most significant is for owning a piece of Fine Art and American history. Few other artifacts that truely reflect the past are readily available to most and hold so much of both American art and history. There are many resources but because this art object has been largely UNDISCOVERED, few know where to acquire these treasures. We will provide sources for you, but disclaim that the sources listed have no relation to the website developers and we cannot be responsible for any representation of authenticity or value. Those listed below may have contributed a small sum to defray the cost of this website development but this is an educational, not-for profit effort to expose the viewer to the artistic merits, history and related subject matter of the Kentucky Longrifle and accoutermants.

Educations object: Learn about originals and contemporary  American art treasures.

Value: "Invaluable"  as with all beautiful and rare art objects. We steward them from generation to generation. Fair price: whatever is agreed upon by the buyer and the seller.

1. Antiques or Originals were made from the early colonial period (~1750) until and before 1899, ( as opposed to Contemporary , beginning in ~1920 until present  (please note now almost 100 years so many appear old)

2. Originals were almost all used in the period and they  show ware, use and at times "abuse" as they became "obsolete" after the development of "bullets." They have  often been restored well, sometimes not so well. Its age  should be apparent.

3. If you are not knowledgeable, obtain assistance from a knowledgeable source before making a purchase. These art objects are generally not inexpensive! but correctly, purchased retain value and COULD be seen as an investment but certainly not guaranteed to be.

4. Buy what YOU like!!! For the real value will be your in your minds eye  to observe and study.

5. NEVER SHOOT AN ORIGINAL: DANGER!!! AND LOSS OF A HISTORIC OBJECT.

6. Discuss a period of return without question and full return of purchase price from any seller. Many will give such, and in writing. Get a receipt.

7. Do not attempt to clean or restore without expert advice. The patina is cherished by the art collector.

8. Forestock or Foreend Restoration: During period of use or storage, the most common area of damage was to the forestock.  A break through the wrist was common as well. Thus many original or antique rifles have replacement of various lengths which often are difficult to see (without removing the barrel) when done correctly and by a fine restorer. Certainly this is done to "preserve" the rifle. However, in the "eye" of many this will significantly affect (downward) the value ($$$, not necessarily "art or historic value) of the rifle.

9. Lock replacement: Often done because of use.

10. Reconversion: Percussion to Flint: Controversial as to it effect on value.

RESOURCES:

1. Local: Auctions, flee markets, Estate sale and Antique dealers: The stories abound of longrifle unexpected finds. They are even some still in attics and barns. As they were rapidily replaced by guns shooting bullets in the 1850s, most were deemed obsolete. They were discarded and  assessed as valueless. There are more than 19,000 recorded gunsmiths of the Kentucky rifle, each , perhaps maximally making up to 400-500 in a lifetime, many much less. Most  built for utilitarian use for hunting and protection; much fewer embellished with carving and furniture (metal decorative and engraved inlays). Thus those with true artistic merit are highly prized. All are collectable!

2. Retailers list below ( they all paid to be listed)

3. Auctions Houses

4. Museum Deacquisition

5. Individuals

6. Collectors

Buyer beware: The caveat remains true.  A deal too good to be true is too good to be true.

Guidelines

                                                                                                              Buying a Rifle or Pistol: "Rules of the Road" *

                                                                                       Antique or Contemporary

1.       Learn, learn, learn before you buy. Research, ask questions, read, and ask for help. Now is a good time to become a collector as many collections are or will become available in the near future. Only a few thousand  collectors are known and many are quite senior. The next steward of this fine and unique art form may well be you if you have the interest.     

2.       Significant sums of money are not required to begin a collection. Many less ornate or unadorned rifles are striking in their beauty of form and choice of wood?Usually tiger maple and, of course, the historic significance is similar for all pieces.

3.       Evaluate the ?artistic merit? and correctness of a potential purchase. Does it attract your "eye." Is the piece acceptably unmodified? Is it "right"?

4.       Find a ?Collector? and ask for advice.  Often a member of the KRA or CLA will help. To find one, join AmericanLongrifles.com (free) and ask for help in an appropriate thread.

5.       Remember:  (Very important)  Anything ?man-made? can be reproduced in its exact likeness by another man. Properly represented as such,  a reproduction or Contemporary piece is worthy of admiration and artistic merit ( and , one day will be ?antique.? Improperly represented pieces or outright fakes are an entirely different story.

6.    Obtain the right to return a purchase for an agreed period of time. Inspect the purchase carefully and be sure it is as described by the owner/seller. Have others assess it. With permission and knowledge parts can be removed and the .inlet can be very informative

7.    Restoration is likely in a 200 year old object. Restoration differs from repair. Gun Dealers or sellers  most often attempt to represent a rifle correctly but often don?t honestly know the degree of ?restoration? that has been done. Restoration ?correctly done? and true to the original period and style may change the monetary value without changing or may even enhancing the artistic value of a piece. ?Period of Use? repair suggests a repair done before 1899. Rifles were often heavily used during their service life and made of material of various qualities. Damage was common and parts were often reused. Repairs are an accepted fact. Restorations are (and should be) subject to scrutiny and disclosure.

8.   Investment: Nothing is certain. Future values are unpredictable. Collecting any kind of art should be for personal pleasure. In the case of the Long Rifle it's the preservation of American Art and a sense of                     connection to our past that should motivate a collector. Certainly an eye toward appreciation in value is always expected and hoped for. There just are no guarantees as to what the future will hold.

9.   Provenance is important but rarely documented sufficiently to trust beyond what can be verified. Usually a fine rifle will stand or fall on its own merits.

10.   Gunsmiths most often engraved or stamped their name or initials on the top flat of the barrel and almost never on the lock with few exceptions such as ?Bedford School? Rifles. Many guns were/are unsigned. Patchbox shape, design and engraving frequently identify a maker. Overall physical characteristics will usually hint toward a particular area of manufacture and often to an individual maker even without further clues. 

 11.  Purchase a good piece that will not break the bank. Keep it if it suits you, or trade for a better piece as time and finances allow. Most of us find that our tastes change over time. If the original purchase is a good rifle or pistol, then it would be unusual for someone else not to appreciate it too. This is usually how collections advance.

12: Price: The sum agreed to by the buyer and seller. Do be shy at making an offer. Trade is quite often done.

13. Maker Identity :The gunmakers name is almost always, when present, on the top barrel flat, about half way between the breech and the rear site. The name on the lock plate is the lock maker, most often.

14. Stocks: Usually made of stripped or "tiger" maple. Occasionally made of walnut or cherry, particlarly in New England states. "Faux" tiger maple stripping"  was done on ocassion presumably to enhance the beauty of the wood used. 

15.Barrel Length: The usual length of a longrifle barrel is 40-46 inches…commonly 42-44” uncut/original. One can usually find the impression of the rifling bench clamp on the muzzle end. The maker signature, if present, is usually half way between the rear sight and breech end of the barrel. Rifles otherwise in length may be “cut” either at the breech or muzzle (damage from firing). Commonly barrels on Upper Susquehanna regional rifles were/ are originally 38-40 inches as are occasional other area rifles.


16. Inspection: Before purchase it is usual to inspect an antique carefully. The longrifle is a relatively simple tool, carefully but easily disassembled. One can remove the butt plate (2 screws) to view age of “protected wood” of the stock (the inside of the patchbox as well) and the lock ( one or 2 screws) to examine the wood of the lock mortise and the sideplate motise. These areas are infrequently addressed (look newer) in 20-21st century restocks and repairs thus , at least suggesting, later repair, restoration or restocking. Careful examination of the barrel channel for a “splice” is a clue to a foreend replacement. Also very carefully removing the barrel can reveal a story by itself of what has been done to the gun….never do this without the owners permission and presence, if possible. Inconsistent dark or “blackened “areas in the wood are often “colored” to cover restoration. The ramrod pipes are usually equidistant apart. 

17. " In the black" or "attack condition: These 2 expression describe a longrifle that is believed to retain all of the elements of "aging", usually as a result of storage with the intent of protection i.e. uncleaned, unrestored and not refinished since it original period of use. For many collectors this is "desirable."

 

That said, come and join us. Ownership (better said stewardship) of these fine antiques is a privilege not shared by everyone.

   * The above information and opinion is offered to the potential buyer or collector only as opinion born of experience. No guarantee or warranty of actual results is expressed or implied and purchase of such items as described carries a degree of financial risk.

                                                                  Fakes and Misrepresentation:

                                                               Intentional and sometimes unintentional.

Many are/were made and are available as in all antique collectible art. Unintentional: just honest ignorance of the subject matter.

1.       ( And foremost) Get at least one  or several "expert" opinions before purchase.

2.       There is no “bible” published that does justice to the subject as there are so many variables. ( It awaits being written and published)

3.       Inspect with an ultraviolet light, or at least in good light ot daylight. Changes in patina are often then visible.

4.       Assess the metal engravings with your finger tip…any sharpness should raise a question of age.

5.       "Stretched Barrels": Gently run your finger tip along the length of the barrel....a change in "feel" can often be detected at the joint.

5.       Underdress the gun: look at the “hidden wood” for signs of aging. Be careful but one, with permission ( or better let the seller or expert), can usually, carefully and safely remove the butt plate, lock, and or the barrel with the correct and properly fitting tools. Don't "force" anything. Forestocks are very delicate!

6.       Remember that guns made in the last century can now be 50-115 years old.

7.       RIfles were used and should show signs of use.

  See "Restoration" for an Xray of a "Stretched" barrel