The owner, Jim Kibler, has numerous, very instructive and detailed YouTube videos on how to assemble and finish one of the flintlock kits he offers for sale. I have built quite a few flintlock rifles over my lifetime; however, I have never found a kit that came anywhere close to the quality of those offered by Kibler. So I decided to order one of his Colonial rifle kits in .54 caliber, rather than sit around the house doing nothing or forcing myself to watch TV.
I’ll be honest, since this is an article about a roundball rifle and not a cartridge gun, I was reluctant to submit this to The Black Powder Cartridge News. But in my own defense, I suspect that many “News” readers have been involved with long rifles at one time or another. It makes sense to me anyway, because most of us who compete in this sport have an appreciation and fondness for the unique styling that can only be found in the old Sharps, Winchester, Ballard, and Rolling Block single-shot rifles. For me anyway, the historical connection I get from shooting the old black-powder cartridge rifles is just about as important as the competition aspect of the game. There is no question that the American long rifle is in good company as far as beauty and styling is concerned with the old single-shot black-powder cartridge guns.
Since woodworking is one of my hobbies, and because I have made numerous long rifles over my lifetime, I really wasn’t too concerned about being able to satisfactorily complete one of Jim’s kits. Most of the rifles I have previously built were either made from scratch or individual components and pre-carved stocks that were purchased for the particular “school” of gunsmithing I was trying to replicate. Back then, a pre-carved stock was only roughly shaped for the style of rifle you were building, but at least the ramrod and barrel channels were cut for the barrel width requested. Although the precarved stocks were a vast improvement over having to band saw and shape a stock out of a maple blank, a considerable amount of work was still required to finish out a pre-carved stock. Back then, these stocks did not have the buttplate shape cut into the stock. Also, there was no inletting for the tang, triggers, trigger guard, ramrod pipes, side plate, nose cap and lock. Kibler’s stocks are shaped using a CNC machine and the various components mentioned above are precisely milled into the stock. The CNC produces an absolutely perfect wood-to-metal fit. On a Kibler kit, in addition to inletting everything mentioned above, the lock is drilled and tapped for side plate screws, the side plate to lock holes are drilled, the tang to trigger hole is drilled, and the underlug and ramrod pipe holes are drilled in the stock. Also, a stainless steel touchhole liner is installed and machined flush on the Green Mountain barrel that comes standard with Jim’s .54 caliber Colonial rifle kits.
I have no doubt there are probably some in this audience of readers who have the skills necessary to build a long rifle from a blank stock and would not be intimidated by all the shaping and inletting required to complete the project. I’ve built several long rifles this way, and in my opinion, starting from a blank or even a semi-inletted stock is tedious work. With Jim’s kits, all the tedious tasks are completed for you. With the aid of Jim’s videos, I believe just about anyone with basic tools, who is willing to work carefully, could put together one of these kits.
One thing that attracted me the most to the Kibler kits was the styling and attention to proper shaping of his stocks. Where I went to college, there was an extensive collection of flintlock and caplock rifles on display in the student center. Yep, guns on campus… and when I say, “an extensive collection,” I am not exaggerating. When I built my first rifles from scratch, I spent hours in the student center, studying these rifles. I also bought books that had page after page of pictures of original rifles. The original guns were graceful in appearance and this was largely achieved by the way the old makers made transitions from the buttstock to the wrist and lock areas of the rifle all the way through to the forend cap. From the shape of Jim’s stocks, it is evident to me that he is a student of the long rifle. Amateur builders of long rifles often miss these important design details and tend to make slab-sided rifles with very unbecoming transitions in the buttstock, wrist and lock areas of the rifle. One other thing I really liked about Jim’s Colonial rifle is that his barrels are swamped. This allows for a more graceful appearance and better styling in the wrist area of the rifle.
Jim offers two basic kits, a Colonial rifle kit and a Southern Mountain rifle kit. Specific information on the kits and components can be found on his website, kiblerslongrifles.com. In his videos, he hints that a Fowler and a Hawken rifle will more than likely be the next two kits he will bring out in the near future. I chose the Colonial rifle kit in .54 caliber for all the Kibler kits I have put together. In fact, I have completed three of Jim’s Colonial rifles and have two I’m working on right now. Of these five rifles, one was made for my son, two were made for friends, and two rifles are mine. All the rifles have extra fancy curly maple except one; the one on my bench now is stocked with plain walnut. I intend to try my hand at relief carving and antiquing on this rifle. Photographic examples of rifles Jim has built can be found at jimkibler.net. Jim’s craftsmanship is inspiring and beyond exceptional.
So, what does it take to complete one of Jim’s kits? The tools required are really basic. An electric drill, a few wood chisels, a couple of screwdrivers, Prussian blue, a small assortment of metal files, sandpaper, iron nitrate, wood finish, barrel browning solution, a padded vise and a method of supporting that portion of the rifle that extends beyond the vise are what is needed.
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