You want a gun? What about building one on your kitchen table? That is exactly what I did when I built a Traditions’ Crockett .32-caliber squirrel rifle from a kit. This was not my first attempt at making my own muzzleloading gun. Previously I had built a CVA .50-caliber Hawken rifle, a Traditions blunderbuss and more recently a three-barreled duck-foot pistol.
Like many people, I had a hanker for a squirrel rifle and the Crockett appealed to me as a project that was eminently doable, fun and that would provide an effective rifle for next season’s squirrel hunting. Although a muzzleloading rifle, any connection that this particular gun had with Davy Crockett is slight. Crockett used and shot full-stocked flintlock rifles, and one of his guns, “Betsy,” still exist. That being said, there were half-stocked percussion hunting guns made in the East during the 1850-1870s in reasonable numbers and continue to be made today. In these days when it is very difficult to find .22 rimfires, it is handy to have a squirrel gun that does not need them.
After about 7 days and 16 hours work I had the gun ready to shoot and had produced three YouTube videos of the process. The first one was “Assembly Traditions’ Crockett .32 Squirrel Rifle Kit” which may be seen at: http://youtu.be/jFxm43Xf1s8. The second was “Stock Finish Traditions’ Crockett .32 Squirrel Rifle Kit” at: http://youtu.be/jFxm43Xf1s8. The third was “Metal Finish Traditions’ Crockett .32 Squirrel Rifle Kit” at: http://youtu.be/uuOK25yxhwA. While these three videos cover the basic aspects of putting the gun together and finishing it, I have included a few more helpful hints below.
The directions that come with the kit are unusually complete. Don’t get so carried away on your project that you fail to read them. This project is going to require some patience to do well. Although the kit is fairly well finished, I found that it required more wood-to-metal fitting that other kits where you just drop in the parts and install the screws. On this gun I had to enlarge one hole in the barrel rib to get the screws to go in properly and fit a thin wedge of wood between the breech and the stock to fill a 1/8th inch gap. The most interesting part of the project was bending the hammer so that it would fall on the nipple. This required that the hammer be heated, put in a vise and twisted to properly position it. Even when completed there was a metal-to-metal gap between the hammer plate and the drum and between the lock plate and the stock.
Browning the barrel required that I heat it and then apply multiple coats of Birchwood-Casey Browning Solution. The results of the first coat gave an irregular finish, but allowing the barrel to rest overnight after steeling off the loose rust permitted the oxidation to continue and after several days of rusting, steeling and oiling, I had a durable finish that I liked. This process is only completed when the barrel is washed in water dried and oiled. Otherwise the browning process will continue under the oil coating.
Once I installed the wooden sliver in the stock to fill the empty space between the barrel and the stock, I found that the hammer would not go far enough down to actually hit the nipple and fire the no. 11 cap and also scrubbed on the side of the nipple. I removed the front half of the hammer skirt and silver soldered a thin piece of steel cut from an old ramrod segment onto the hammer so that the so that it would strike the nipple. This was an expedient, but not very elegant, solution. When I get a better vise and a torch, I will order a new hammer and properly fit it. For the moment, I have something that will shoot. I will do another post when I have had a chance to shoot and hunt with the gun.