As far as I know, Gordon has never participated in a Civil War reenactment. He does spend time at mountain man rendezvous (rendezvouses?) though, so I wasn’t really surprised when he wanted to build a black powder rifle.
I bought him this DIY .50 caliber Kentucky rifle kit for Christmas last year. I think he was a little disappointed at first because it seemed too easy—like the lego kit version of a gun. But once he started the process he realized he had a lot to do to really finish it well.
I asked Gordon what his thoughts were on the kit now that he has finished and shot the gun. Here are the main things he pointed out:
The instructions were really clear. He did say that if you are reaching for a grinder or a Dremel tool, you should really go back and read the instructions again just in case.
The wood pieces required a lot of sanding to make them all fit together. According to the Traditions website, they pre-fit all the pieces at the factory, but “fit” isn’t really the word. You’ll need to do a fair amount of work.
The brass was in good condition, it just needed some polishing to take out a few small nicks and dings.
The most complicated step involved drilling two blind holes through the forearm into 1/4″ tabs on the barrel and out the other end of the forearm. You know how they say measure twice drill once? This step is more like measure a dozen times, pray a lot, and try really hard not to miss.
You will need to buy a finishing kit to blue the barrel and finish the stock. They sell them at most big outdoor stores. We bought ours at Sportsman’s. Bluing is scary, because deliberately rusting a barrel to save it from rust is counterintuitive. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.
I’ve read some poor reviews online from people who said the kit was low quality, or they had problems with the stock splitting, but you really do get out what you put into this. If you take the time to do a good job, you’ll end up a nice, sturdy gun that is really fun to shoot. If you’re worried about the build, you can buy a more expensive kit or just buy a finished rifle.
You can read about Gordon shooting the gun at the cabin in this post. Spoiler alert, he didn’t blow himself up.