Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Virginia Longrifle by Wallace Gusler for Donald Dehart

 This is truly an amazing Virginia Longrifle with a great history and unlimited amounts of Gun Making Art. To start with young Master Gunsmith of Colonial Williamsburg built this rifle starting in 1965 through 1966 in the Williamsburg Shop. It was made for his childhood close friend Donald Dehart "Duck to friends". It is a totally handmade iron mounted rifle. It represents the 1780 Golden Age of Virginia gun making. Wallace, Gary Brumfield and Donald Dehart grew up in Ft. Lewis, Salem area in Glenvar Hollow close to Dixie Caverns. The maple was a downed tree that Wallace had planked up at his Father Lester's Sawmill. There is a video of the Sawmill in operation filmed in the 50's. Most all of the earlyshop rifles came from that tree. The rifle was made for a cost of $450.00. Mr. Dehart is now in a Nursing Home in Roanoke, Virginia and loves visitors at 70 years old. He said back then that was alot of money but well worth it. He said Wallace didn't leave anything off, he gave it his all. The rifle has so much art that it is hard to photograph. There are no pictures of the incredible tang carving. The patch box is extremely well design and crafted in the highest fashion of Virginia style. The star on the cheekpiece is made of iron with sterling silver wire inlay around it. The lock is early in style and all handmade, then it was silver plated. Some of the silver is worn away from use. The rear entry thimble, front and rear extension of the rigger guard and front top extension of the butt plate have silver inlayed and filed into a molding. The trigger guard is the best iron trigger guard I have ever seen on original or contemporary. The carving in all areas represents the best of the best style in high relief Rococo, the finest of 18th century Philadelphia Furniture was not any finer. The rear entry carving is spectacular as well with a very detailed for stock molding. All 4 barrel wedges are in let into the stock. The side plate is pure in style and function. The finish is rich and hand rubbed as an original from years of use. The barrel is rifled and 43" long. There are 2 brass loops for a vent pick but it is long lost now. Mr Dehart hunted many years with this rifle for many years and said that it was the best thing that he ever owned. The rifle is 58 years old now and in very well kept condition. Mr Gusler once stated that this rifle was his most favorite long rifle that he ever made. Its an American Masterpiece of Gun Making Art and will remain that for years to come. I asked John Bivins in 1990 while we were in Virginia, who do you think is the best long rifle maker and John quickly replied Wallace Gusler. He said that Wallace taught him everything that he knows about gun making. There are many pictures to show angles, there is a picture of Duck, Neil and Gary in 1966 hunting in Glenvar, they made local history there and 2 of the best Master Gunsmith that the Williamsburg Shop ever had. Recently a gentleman told me that this is a fantasy rifle, I replied yeah it is, its a real fantasy to own a gun this fine. I applaud the Master Gunsmith of Williamsburg for all he has accomplished, for the better understanding of the great American Kentucky Rifle.

Duck Dehart with this rifle, their friend Neil, and young Gary Brumfield, 1966 Glevar Hollow.

Copy and photos supplied by Steve Boyleston.


  1. Truly a work of art. This is right up my alley. I wouldn't change a thing.

  2. me this is the embodiment of the purpose for this forum.

  3. the beauty of mans creation lives on for at least several generations. Mr Gusler, you are a very talented man. Your art has inspired many people and made many people very happy and shall continue to do so after your race has been run. What more could any man or woman ask for?

    Scott Sibley

  4. Regarding rifle made by Gusler for Donald Dehart, posted on November 12: it was good to see that old friend and to learn that Duck is still among the living. I've tried to call him in the last two years, but all the numbers I had were inactive. It is was also a pleasure to see my work from so long ago. Incidentally, the lock was not silver-plated. It is hand-forged, was burnish-polished and pack-hardened with charred bone charcoal and leather. This produces a remarkably rust-resistant steel skin that has retained most of its original polish. The style of the rifle was based on the work of the Honaker family, which at that time (1965/66) I was just beginning to document and to find some of their rifles. One example that I attributed to the Honaker family that influenced Duck's rifle was an extremely fine brass-mounted relief-carved rifle that was definitely made by George Peterman of Amsterdam, in Botetourt County, Virginia. He was working there beginning in 1803 or '04. Now a half dozen of his rifles are known. In addition, several journeymen's and apprentices' work has been identified. Ironically, no iron-mounted pieces by Peterman are known.

    Thanks to whomever posted this information and to Jim Turpin for alerting me to the blog.

    Duck, if you are reading this, call me. I am still making rifles and just finishing a left-handed rifle for our old friend David Waltz. I finished a very elaborate rifle in February of this year, one war club, three tomahawks hand-forged from wrought iron, and several conservation jobs on early rifles. Hope you get this, and hope to hear from you.

    Wallace B. Gusler

  5. Reading this article prompted me to dig out my old production journals. Here is the record of Colonial Williamsburg Gun Shop production in its third year, 1966: a total of 12 guns made and delivered, most with commercial locks and barrels. These were production numbers 25 through 37:
    --6 pistols and 6 longrifles
    --one rifle by apprentice Ed Thomas from Tennessee
    --one pistol by apprentice David Rhodes
    --one pistol by apprentice Ronnie Jacobs
    Most of the apprentice rifles and pistols were made for the Colonial Williamsburg militia.

    One was an early style long rifle I made for Saratoga National Park. I believe it is still in service at the battlefield.

    I made the DeHart rifle on personal time after the eight hours at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Gun Shop. I did not keep records of those made on personal time, but averaged about three rifles a year, depending on detail and hand made locks and barrels.

    In the year this was made, 1966, I began to cast all guards and butt pieces in green sand molds. On Colonial Williamsburg property about two miles from the shop I found sand in the strata that was cut away by earth removal. The proper combination of sand/ clay mixture was a band about one foot wide in a six to eight foot cut. The sand used in the 1969 gunsmith film came from this source. During the 1980s [I left the shop in 1972 and returned in 1994] the local sand was abandoned in favor ofFrench sand.

    In the winter of '66 I moved the shop from the Deane Forge on Prince George Street to the Ayscough House on Francis Street near the Capitol.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.