Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 CLA Live Auction: Elisha Bull Inspired Rifle by Roger Sells

Elisha Bull inspired rifle by Roger Sells

Roger Sells is a well known contemporary builder and is a regular at the Southern rifle events at Lake Cumberland and the the Museum of Appalachia.  He is noted for extremely well made iron mounted mounted Appalachian rifles and some great Hawken rifles. 

Roger lives in an area of Tennessee where gunsmiths lived and worked in the the 1800 to early 1900 time frame.  Roger notes he was exposed to iron mounted Southern rifles at an early age (12 years of age), but was not really interested in the history, design, and function of the rifles until he returned from military service in 1969.  “My interest grew and I soon learned to love these iron mounted rifles because of their simple functional design and graceful lines.  Rifles built by Ambrose Lawing, the Bean family, William Douglas, and Elisha Bull are close to my heart, but the rifles built by Elisha Bull of Bulls Gap Tennessee are my favorites.”

When Roger decided to build a rifle for the CLA auction he chose an iron mounted Southern rifle inspired by Elisha Bull's rifles considering the auction focus on the War of 1812 period and the expansion westward.   Elisha served as a private in a regiment of East Tennessee volunteers during the War of 1812.  The Bulls’ clientele included frontiersmen, settlers and native Americans living in the region between the Appalachians and the Mississippi.  Many of their rifles surely found their way to battlefields such as Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, and beyond to the places like the Alamo, the Rocky Mountains, and the western Indian territories.  Roger had been wanting to build a rifle like this for some time.  

Roger did not build a bench copy of a specific Elisha Bull rifle, but did incorporate characteristics from Elisha’s double grease hole rifle and one of his tri-metal fancy rifles with characteristics Roger normally uses to build his well known iron mounted rifles.  The results are this elegant, clean and very Elisha Bull like auction rifle.  Roger said “My focus was to build a simple functional rifle with graceful lines like the rifles built by Elisha Bull.” and he certainly succeeded.

Roger used the following components:
-  Rice "A" weight 44 inch .40 cal. swamped barrel with square cut rifling.
-  Chamber's late Ketland flint lock
-  Davis #4 triggers
-  Walnut stock blank from Harrison's Gunstocks

The iron hardware and rear sight were fabricated in Roger’s shop

This is truly a notable contemporary longrifle and exemplifies the period when the frontier was moving west, the economy was shifting to steamboats and cotton, and the classic iron mounted Southern rifles were reaching their artistic peak.  It is difficult to achieve the true elegance of line, excellence of the iron mounts, and balanced architecture that carries a simple un-ornamented tool into a classic artwork.  Roger Sell’s Elisha Bull inspired rifle does just that. 


  1. I echo the narrative, what a beautiful, simple yet elegant rifle. It should be a center point of the auction. Mr. Sells in indeed an artist....MickC

  2. Spectacular artistry, Mr Sells. Thank you for donating your incredible work for the benefit of all of us.
    -Josh in PA


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