Southern Mountain Rifle by Marc Tornichio
This early iron mounted Southern longrifle was created by Marc Tornichio. This rifle is not a copy of any one rifle but incorporates the architecture and features of several early iron mounted rifles of the western Virginia/Carolina Appalachian area from the 1790 to 1810 period. It shows the quality workmanship of a trained and talented gunsmith from 200 years ago or today. Marc says, “The rifle has a lot of characteristics of the GB rifle with a touch of the MESDA gun.” Wallace Gusler published an article on the “GB” rifle titled “A Fine Iron Mounted Rifle” in the September 2004 Muzzle Blasts. Wallace noted the step wrist architecture and fine workmanship, attributing the rifle to southwestern Virginia or eastern Tennessee circa 1790. Another picture of the rifle can be found on page 32 of the July 2012 American Tradition. The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (M.E.S.D.A.) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has another step wrist rifle with iron mountings and carving by an unknown maker often referred to as the MESDA rifle. Pictures of this rifle are published on page 109 of Longrifles of Virginia by James Butler, and on page 43 of the January 2012 American Tradition. This rifle exemplifies the early period of the iron mounted southern rifle, prior to 1810, still showing some Germanic and English details but also the functional elegance of an evolving trans-mountain culture with details like the captured lid iron box.
Rifles like this were carried on the southwestern frontier, by both the frontiersmen and the Indians. In deadly conflicts such as the “Chickamauaga War” between the American settlers, Cherokees, and Creeks, spanning the years after the Revolution and prior to the War of 1812, rifles made by regional gunmakers were carried and used by both sides. For settlers and natives in the mountain backcountry their rifle guns were often their most valuable possessions; sometimes bought at great cost; sometimes bartered for in times of peace; and sometimes taken as a prize of victory. References for this fact can be found as early as 1757. Both Cherokee and Creek chiefs, especially those of mixed Scots and Native American lineage like Bob Benge, William McIntosh, Alexander McGillivray, used these iron mounted rifles with deadly purpose. Scots Irish frontiersmen like the Crocketts, Shelbys, Campbells and McDowells and native allies among the Chickasaw and Choctaw, also used these prized southern black rifles with the same deadly purpose. These elegant and serviceable weapons continued to serve in the War of 1812 and throughout the westward movement from Missouri onto the Rocky Mountains.
Marc’s work in iron is a continuation of a chain of evolution in contemporary gunmaking that began with Hershel House in the 1960s and continues today through gunmakers like Ian Pratt, Mike Miller and Roger Sells, to name only a few. Marc has been influenced both by Ian Pratt and Jim Kibler in his building, craftsmanship and attention to historical detail. The rifle’s 48 caliber custom profiled 46″ swamped barrel by Ed Rayl is a copy of a barrel from an original rifle stamped “GB”. Although not the barrel from the rifle in Wallace Gusler’s Muzzle Blast article this ties in another “GB” gun. It has an English Ketland style lock donated by Jim Chambers and a showy stump curly maple stock donated by Nathan Cox and Pat Harrison of Harrison’s Sawmill . All the forged iron work is masterfully done by Marc. The fully captured lid box with finial piercing has a “GB” inspired outline. The double set triggers are made completely from scratch incorporating details strongly rooted in the southwest Virginia region and used by Jacob Young and others. His stock work on this trim, stepped wrist rifle exemplifies his abilities to transform his research and talents into an outstanding example of an early longrifle.
This is a fine example of the rifles carried on the southeastern frontier. This rifle is another of the great contemporary interpretations of the fascinating schools of gunmaking in western Virginia, North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and across Kentucky. Understanding of these schools is expanding, and they appear to have produced some of the finest longrifles crafted in the South. This rifle ties in as a precursor in style to the Marvin Kemper Lexington rifle featured in the 2013 CLA Fundraising Auction and also the Roger Sells Elisha Bull featured in this years auction. This is a chance to own an excellent example of an impeccably styled and fabricated early iron mounted rifle by Marc Tornichio, a young contemporary gunmaker whose name is becoming more known with each passing year.
Marc can be contacted at: