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How to Build a Muzzle Loading Rifle - Building a Muzzleloader
From start to finish, here's how to build a black powder rifle from a kit.

I've always liked building stuff, and I've always liked guns. Well OK, you caught me -- I probably didn't have much experience with either for the first year or two of my life, so "always" is probably not entirely accurate. But for as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed these two subjects. And I always wondered how to build a muzzle loading gun.

More of this Article
• Page One: Intro
Page Two: Fitting the Buttplate
Page Three: Fitting the Lock
Page Four: Fitting Barrel to Tang
Page Five: Fitting Barrel and Tang to Stock
Page Six: Installing Trigger Assembly
Page Seven: Polishing and Fitting the Nose Cap
Page Eight: Polishing and Fitting the Trigger Guard
Page Nine: Fitting the Sights
Page Ten: Inletting for Wedge Pin Plates
Page Eleven: Sanding the Stock - Initial Sanding
Page Twelve: Final Sanding & Patchbox
Page Thirteen: Staining the Stock
Page Fourteen: Polishing and Bluing
Page Fifteen: Finishing the Stock
Page Sixteen: The Tools I Used
Page Seventeen: Conclusion
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Related Resources
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Modern Muzzleloader Cleaning

I've shot a lot of guns, and I've built a lot of stuff. I've built parts for guns from this and that lying around my cluttered shop, I've built shelves and tree stands and tables and a house addition and porches and a camp shanty. I've built ammo for several of my guns; started out helping Dad when I was just a little squirt. I've made grips for a revolver and a leather case for a smokepole. I've finished several stocks. But I'd never built a gun before.

Perhaps my lack of gun-building is the reason I was interested when a fellow posted in the Hunting and Shooting Forum that he had a new-in-the-box kit for building a Hawken muzzleloader. Perhaps it's because Dad's built a couple of black powder pistols -- one from a kit, one from scratch -- and a muzzleloading shotgun from a kit. Maybe it had something to do with the Hawken of unknown make that Dad brought back from the Great Beyond and named Phoenix. Or maybe I just wanted to build a gun!

After agreeing on a price, I mailed a check and began waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Finally, nine days after I'd mailed the check, the kit arrived. I anxiously cut the tape from the box and removed my new goodie! Then came the bad news.

I noticed that the original packaging had been damaged; I could see the muzzle of the barrel against the clear tape over the end of the box. My heart sank, thinking of the parts that could have escaped out of that hole before it was re-sealed. But the plastic shrink-wrap remained intact everywhere else, so I held out some hope.

My hope was short-lived, however. After doing inventory using the parts list in the instruction booklet, it was clear that I was missing the patchbox lid and the barrel rib. An Email to the seller dashed any hope of his finding the parts, but he did say he'd cover the cost of replacement, which was a good thing. I also Emailed CVA, the manufacturer of the kit.

Here's what the kit looked like when I opened it. You can see the slot where the barrel rib should be (above the forend cap), and the lidless patchbox.

As I write this, I've had the kit for almost a week, and have had very little success with CVA. I've been told that the patchbox can be had as a unit, but that they have no barrel ribs. No barrel ribs? They've got to be kidding -- how do they build their guns and kits without ribs? They have yet to ship me a patchbox (which I've asked for repeatedly), and getting a reply to an Email is like squeezing blood from a rock. (See below for update)

Almost one week after I wrote the preceding paragraph, I still do not have my parts. I had to phone CVA to get any kind of positive action at all -- Email simply was not adequate. I talked with a helpful fellow named Mark, who told me that CVA was indeed out of barrel ribs. He said they had a quantity of them on order from their factory in Spain, but he had absolutely no idea when they might arrive.

I then spoke with Dave Meredith (with whom I'd been trying to correspond via Email), and he informed me that they don't ship any parts with billing -- all payment must be in advance, so my patchbox had not been (and would not be) shipped. A week of Emails, and he had never mentioned that. Oh well.

Mark referred me to Deer Creek Products (765-525-6181) which he said had purchased much of CVA's stock of parts. Why Mr. Meredith didn't give me this information when I asked him (via Email) where I could obtain a barrel rib, I'll never know. I ordered the parts in question from Deer Creek Products on Monday, February 25 -- a week after I'd initiated communications on this with CVA.

Four days later, two weeks to the hour after I'd first received the kit, my parts arrived. While I didn't like their prices, at least Deer Creek Products had gotten CVA parts to me when CVA could not! They even fit properly, imagine that.

On to the building! I decided to follow the very basic instructions in the provided instruction booklet, and the first step was fitting the buttplate. (Note: the following pages contain lots of pictures, so they may take a little longer than normal to load.)

- Russ Chastain

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