I became interested in shooting muzzleloaders in the early 1960’s when I moved from Gainesville, Florida to Clearwater, Florida. Attending a gun show in St. Petersburg, I saw a partially finished longrife. I was awed and did not realize up to that point that there were artisans recreating the beautiful early longrifle.
This began a long time relationship with Fred Anderson Riley.
After serving our country in the Korean War, this career soldier retired to Tampa, Florida. He attended college at The Tampa college and the University of Tampa. He graduated with a degree in Industrial Design.
Fred was an extremely talented artist. He worked in several mediums and all with the most distinctive style. He made beautiful leather bags, powder horns, many clever and functional accouterments plus beautiful longrifles and pistols. Additionally, he made many items of pottery that were things of beauty.
His lifelong ambition was to build a sailboat and live aboard. I have in my possession two beautiful half model ships that were designed by Fred and built piece by piece. As with many contemporary artists, if he needed a tool for a particular task, he would design the tool and build it. Some of his tools were art within themselves.
I had a long and close friendship with this man. Together, we traveled to many shoots and gunshows as far away as Pennsylvania. He introduced me to the Kentucky Rifle association and I have been a member since 1967.
In his many travel, he sought insight and advice from many notable contemporary rifle builders. Carl Pippert, John Bivins, Robert Watts, Earl Lanning and Hacker Martin to name a few.
Fred’s longrifles were very distinctive. The function, architecture and finish was incomparable. My family is very grateful to own and enjoy eight longrifles and three pistols plus a variety of accouterments. Fred’s work can be picked out across a room. I have never seen carving and engraving anything like it. You might say that he engraved and carved with a heavy hand turning out rifles of rare beauty.
Should anyone wish to see an example of this artist work, simply go to the book by Robert Weil on contemporary gunsmiths. A couple of examples of Fred’s work are features there.
Copy by Bill Ruggie from an article in the 2001 Flintlock, a publication of the CLA.