IAN PRATT’S IRON-MOUNTED MAIDENS By Sharon Cunningham Photographs by John Pratt and H. David Wright
Reprinted with permission from Muzzleloader magazine, May/June 2008. For more information on this and other black powder topics visit the web site at www.muzzleloadermag.com
To give the reader the added advantage of color and extra space on the website, we are adding photographs to the story. We realize you would like to see more of the artist’s work and therefore are including new photos. The original story as written by the author remains the same.
From being an excavation laborer/pipe layer, Ohioan Ian Pratt has become a premier custom longrifle maker. In a little over ten years, his iron-mounted flintlock rifles have become “most wanted” by shooters and collectors from all over the country.
“(In 1996) I made the first left-handed rifle for myself, and pretty much from the start, I hoped to do this for a living some day. For a few years I built guns and sold them locally (northeastern Ohio, south of Akron) and out at Friendship (the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association’s semi-annual shooting matches at Friendship, Indiana)…In 2006, however, I had so many orders for guns I quit my job and started doing this full time,” explains Pratt.
After a few years of experimenting and teaching himself the craft of longrifle making, in 2005 Ian took Jim Chambers’ lock-building class and Mark Silver’s stock-finishing techniques at the NMLRA’s gunsmithing school, which is held each June at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Later, Pratt attended John Schipper’s metal-engraving class, held at the annual October Arts & Arms Making Workshop sponsored by Historic Connor Prairie in Fishers, Indiana. During the winter of 2006, he found his muse when he attended Hershel and John House’s gun-stocking class at Canter’s Cave, Ohio.
Ian states, “…it was a major change in how I did things afterward.” When asked during a written interview about having a mentor, Pratt stated, “I definitely think of Hershel as a mentor. Everything he does and the whole Woodbury School of rifle making has had a strong effect on my work.”
Pratt now specializes in iron-mounted flintlocks with a Southern influence, from the mid-1700s through the early 1800s. He likes brass-mounted rifles, has owned a couple, but he does not enjoy building them as much as iron-mounted longrifles.
Ian states, “If a brass mounted rifle is a pretty girl, the iron-mounted gun is her sister, just as pretty, but there’s something in her eyes that lets you know if you ever crossed her, you might not live to tell about it…”
I’d say that Ian Pratt is more than smitten with iron-mounted muzzleloading longrifles, which is the reason his rifles are classically beautiful and are so collectible.
Ian believes that the riflemaker’s self sufficiency and his ability to make “something wonderful” with limited materials is more apparent in the iron-mounted rifles.
“A lot of them show work that is little more than functional, but others are real works of art.” And so it is with Ian Pratt’s artfully carved and embellished “Iron-Mounted Maidens.” Pratt was born in Ohio in 1965 and is married to Maryellen. The couple has one son, John. During his rifle-building career, he has made between 40 and 50 guns, and except for the very first one, all have been for sale. He is a member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association, at whose annual meeting, August 14–16, 2008, one of his famous Iron-Mounted Maidens was auctioned.
Ian Pratt can be reached at 330-658-4049.
Sharon Cunningham worked for Dixie Gun Works for many years and was editor of Dixie Gun Works’ Black Powder Annual for several years. Now retired from Dixie, she still retains a lively interest in black powder sports.