In colonial times, gunsmiths worked as repairmen and as makers of new guns. A gunsmith might make a gun from used parts, new parts, or a combination of used and new. The kind of guns made in the early years of America were muskets, fowling pieces used for shooting birds, long rifles, and swivel guns which were small canons.
The metal part of the guns which made it fire, the gunlock, mostly came from England during this time. By the time of the Revolutionary War, Americans could make their own.
The first American-made barrels date from the 1730s. While gun makers in colonial America appear to have mostly used hand powered tools, a few gun makers used machines even before the Revolutionary War. One of them, a boring mill for smoothing the inside of a gun barrel after it is welded together from strips of iron, was used in Lancaster by 1719.
Kentucky Long Rifle
Early hunters in the Pennsylvania forest used a gun that was smooth on the inside of a short barrel. Although the marksman could shoot animals with it, the gun did not perform well.
In the early 1700s, a German settler, Martin Mylin, made a new firearm, the Pennsylvania Long Rifle, in his Lancaster County gun shop. Shooting the distance of three hundred feet, the new gun reached targets five times farther away than the smooth-bored muskets. The reason for this improvement came from the “rifling” in the barrel. A spiral bored inside the barrel channeled the bullet into a circular pattern that continued after it emerged from the end of the gun.
Although Mr. Mylin’s new invention first received the name of Pennsylvania Long Rifle, the name got changed. Daniel Boone, a famous woodman of the time period, impressed people with Mr. Mylin’s rifle when he used it in Kentucky. After Mr. Boone dubbed it the Kentucky Long Rifle, everyone called it by that name.
Cramer, Clayton E. “Firearms Ownership & manufacturing in Early America.” Claytoncramer.com. Web 5 Oct 2016 <http://www.claytoncramer.com/unpublished/ArmingAmericaLong.pdf>
Thomas, Ryan. “The Pennsylvania Long Rifle.” Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Fall, 2009. Web. 26 Aug. 2016. <http://pabook2.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Rifles.html>
“What did Gunsmiths Make During Colonial Times?” Reference.com. Web 5 Oct 2016
*Photo by httpwww.metmuseum.orgartcollectionsearch4594, Wikimedia Commons