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David Price makes muzzle-loading flintlocks based on history and 300-year-old traditions
February 15, 2019 David Mendelsohn
David Price builds guns — muzzle-loading flintlocks — based on history and 300-year-old traditions. They are delicately inlaid with 24-karat gold, sterling silver, mammoth ivory and cow horn, and are intricately engraved. When you pick one up, you know that you’re holding art. Price is also a crack shot, a national champion who, at 81 and at 50 yards, can still put five balls into a group the size of a quarter. I’ve seen it. He lives along the Contoocook River in an idyllic spot with Esther, his lovely wife of 60 years.
- Back in the 1950s, movies about Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were my favorites. There was something about those flintlock rifles that made me want one.
- Dixie Gun Works was selling muzzleloading gun barrels so I purchased one. I found a plank of maple in the lumberyard, and an antique lock, and built my first flintlock rifle.
- It didn’t come out all that good.
- I really don’t know how many rifles I built over the past 60 years. I sign and date all my rifles just as the gun builders did back in the 1700s but no numbers. I never felt the need to do so.
- Most of my rifles take eight to 12 weeks, depending on how much carving, silver and gold inlay in the wood and steel, plus metal engraving. My engraving is done with a hand engraver just like it was done years ago.
- I have built rifles that took me six months to build. I don’t keep track of the time it takes. It doesn’t really matter.
- Any gun that you load from the muzzle is considered a muzzleloader. The modern stainless steel, scope-sighted inline guns that shoot a sabot bullet are considered a muzzleloader.
- Burned black powder is very corrosive. If you don’t clean your rifle immediately after shooting, rust will show up within hours. I never fail to clean my rifle when I am through shooting.
- When I need a break from building rifles, I build powder horns using good quality cow horns. I do sell some horns, but mostly I give them away for shooting prizes.
- Muzzleloaders come in many calibers, from 36 through 62, sometimes larger. My son and I shot the New Hampshire state record moose with a 54 caliber, so there is plenty of power there.
- Shooting a flintlock is harder than shooting a modern rifle because there is an ever-so-slight delay from when you pull the trigger and when the gun actually fires. If you make the mistake of flinching, you will be well off your mark.
- The only way to learn is to shoot them as often as you can and stay away from modern rifles. I have for 60 years.
Price has written four books about making muzzleloaders — one on carving stocks, one on silver wire inlay, and one on the tools necessary for the work. There is also “The Guns of David Price,” his showbook that is currently being updated. He recently started a project of building 25 swivel breech flintlock rifles, using wood he’s stored in his shop for over 30 years. At 81 years old, Price says, “I don’t think I have enough energy to build 25 finished rifles, so I am going to offer them as kits for people that would like to finish them for themselves. Hopefully, they will get the same satisfaction that I have had all these years.” If you’re interested, visit davidpriceflintlocks.com.