Author Topic: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle  (Read 6033 times)

Offline Ats5331

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Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« on: November 29, 2020, 03:21:54 AM »
I know that this has been asked before on the forum, but given that was years back, I would like to ask again..

Does anyone have any details surrounding the famous Killdeer Rifle used by DDL in the Last of the Mohicans movie?

I know that Wayne Watson made it, that it had a 50" barrel, and Lehigh esque stock. I also found that Knob Mountain Muzzleloading carries the pattern for it on their site.

Reading the forum post from years ago, it seems like there is some solid knowledge on the rifle here.

Anybody have opinions on the furniture used for the rifle? Or just general thoughts?

Thanks!


Offline Top Jaw

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2020, 02:59:14 PM »
I read somewhere that Director Michael Mann insisted on this rifle style even though it wasn’t period correct.  And that he wanted the stripes on the curly maple to be at a specific angle, almost a 45° angle on the gun. So Wayne Watson had to waste a whole board to get a blank cut with the stripes at such an odd angle.  I also seem to remember he had to make two of these guns.  One as a back up in case damage occurred, it wouldn’t stop production.  That’s what I THINK I remember about it. 

Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2020, 05:37:01 PM »
I heard from Frank House, that three rifles were made before Michael Mann was satisfied.

As a by -the -way, Frank said when he made the rifle for Mel Gibson in  "The Patriot", he said he wanted three times the price that Wayne was asking, but that he'd get it right first time!
It was not Wayne's fault that it took  more than one try. Michael Mann wanted something never seen at that time in history.
A rubber copy was also made, for rough usage in  some scenes.  (I think this was from a Mark Baker article in Muzzle-loader magazine)

Offline Not English

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2020, 05:00:57 AM »
It seems to me that the furniture was steel  and the rifle was very lightly colored. I remember the same Mark Baker article. My memory may very well be wrong.

Offline J. Talbert

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2020, 07:40:55 AM »
IIRC
John Bivins originally built two matching rifles for the movie, more in the style of Christian’s Spring (named Amos and Andy), but they didn’t fulfill the director’s expectation and were rejected in favor of the much longer Wayne Watson creation.
Curiously one of the Bivins guns was for sale at Friendship IN a number of years ago, though it was at some one’s  booth at the flea market not actually at the NMLRA.
At one time Jim Chambers had the original full scale drawings of the Bivins guns... probably still does.

Jeff



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Online Lucky R A

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2020, 03:24:38 PM »
      You should contact Fred Miller, Fred sold his business to Dave Keck, so that is where Dave got the pattern for the Killdeer rifle.  Fred did the barrel inlet etc. for Wayne when the gun was built.  I have talked to Fred about this a number of times.  He knows many of the in and outs of the project.
Fred has pretty much retired from the inletting business per his agreement with Dave Keck.  He loves to talk about the guns that he has had a hand in.  PM me and I will give you Fred's contact #.
Ron
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Offline Ats5331

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2020, 05:24:20 AM »
Has anyone ever tried duplicating the Killdeer?

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2020, 05:54:10 PM »
Has anyone ever tried duplicating the Killdeer?
I wouldn't waste my time.
NEW WEBSITE! www.mikebrooksflintlocks.com
Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Online rich pierce

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2020, 06:19:22 PM »
Has anyone ever tried duplicating the Killdeer?
I wouldn't waste my time.

I agree but I guess if someone has the pattern there must be some demand. Whatever floats yer boat I guess. I’m going to assume that whoever is interested in building one understands it’s a Hollywood prop that doesn’t resemble anything of the period.
Andover, Vermont

Offline Jim Chambers

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2020, 07:33:16 PM »
Jeff is correct.  Bivins, Bob Harn, Mike Ehinger, and I built the two original Killdeer rifles for the movie using my Edward Marshall kit as a basis.  Michael Mann decided they were not long enough for his taste and had the other rifles made.  As the movie props were being sold Scott Ellis managed to buy one of the two Bivins rifles for less than half what the movie had paid us for them.  That rifle passed thru several hands including whoever had it at the Friendship flea market.  It ended up in the Bob Roughton collection and now has been donated to the CLA for a future auction.  The second Bivins rifle was hanging in some movie executive's office in CA the last I heard of it.  Who knows where it is now.

Offline BJH

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2020, 07:40:57 PM »
The barrel really wasn’t quite 50 inches as Getz’s tooling couldn’t make it that long. It had a chambered breech extension. Think Nock breech. I built one stand off copy for a customer who was a aficionado of the movie and the gun. It was loosely based on a Jacob Dubbs butt stock relic. The butt plate was a Lancaster pattern in steel along with the guard as was the movie gun. The rest of the furniture was hand made. Plus some other movie details. Due to good word of mouth from him I wound up building a few more guns for some of his friends. One was a more correct Jacob Dubbs with brass hardware from Larry Zornes. BJH

I was trying to stay out of this conversation as I have no desire to build another copy of the movie gun.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2020, 07:47:43 PM by BJH »
BJH

Offline Ats5331

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2020, 10:18:06 PM »
Interesting stuff. While knowing it was not accurate to the time period the movie was set in, I have always thought it wasn’t a bad looking rifle. I like the Lehigh school and Roman nose on rifles.

Amazing that Michael Mann would turn hand made rifles down from experts in the field...

Would be interesting to have the pictures to compare all the different “models” produced for the movie (Used or not)

Offline Jim Chambers

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2020, 10:34:22 PM »
The movie company had a reputation for not paying for services around town.  When we finished the two rifles I called Michael Mann, told him John Bivins and I would be hand delivering the rifles, and to have a check ready for us to pick up.  They paid $12,000 each for the rifles......and then didn't use them at all.  Go figure.  Later, I made two Lancaster rifles for the movie.  I believe Uncus carried one of those rifles in the movie.

Offline fahnenschmied

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2020, 12:05:48 AM »
My first day being an extra on this movie I handled it.  It was near dark, and I no longer remember the particulars of the fittings or materials - but some fellow leaned up a rifle on the back of some trailer, and it fell with a thwack on the ground.  I picked it up, looked it over, saw it wasn't some off the shelf rifle but a nicely built custom long rifle.  I caught up to the fella and told him something on the lines of "Hey man, this rifle is worth more than you are - you better take better care of it".  He apologized and thanked me for me looking after it.  My friend was a little shocked - "don't you know who that is?" and I think I replied with a "Some dumbass that doesn't know how to treat a rifle" - along those lines.  "Well, thats Daniel Day Lewis".  Who the heck is he? "Oh, just the star of the show".   I guess I had seen him in "A room with a View" some years before but didn't recognize him.  I remember some Northwest guns in the hands of the natives that were just assembled kits - no shaping, or finish, just bare wood with overlength pins hanging out of the stocks.  Good times.

Offline Vaquero

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2020, 02:52:41 AM »
When Wayne Watson used to live in Ocala, I visited him a number of times. He still had the rough wooden rifle that he sent in to Mann for approval. I remember i loved how it felt when i shouldered it.

Though Wayne had a movie poster in his shop, I remembered he really wasn’t proud of the rifle. For someone who enjoyed making bench copies of Kuntz’s, he didn’t even sign the top flat of the two rifles (I think he did on the bottom of the barrel). Also as mentioned, he hated it was a “Frankenstein” of a gun, with mismatched furniture, too small a lock (small siler?) to make the gun look longer, etc.

Mr. Watson said the barrel was 50 inches (or close), by Don Getz, .50 caliber.

As a high schooler who finally got to handle a flintlock for the first time, I was a little in awe to say the least. Though I found out the rifle was as incorrect as possible, handling the rough copy and the couple of bench copies of Kuntz and Rupp he had on hand, I have been in love with the Lehigh school ever since.


Offline Ats5331

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2020, 04:23:44 AM »
Wow, guys this is all awesome stuff.

Think it’s always neat to hear stories, get info, etc. about this kind of stuff.

The movie is actually what got me interested in Flintlocks (and the fact my father collects). It lead me down the street to my WWII veteran neighbor, who became my mentor/teacher in woodworking, riflemaking, wood carving etc.

Unfortunately he passed away 6 years ago now, really wish I could have showed him this forum and thread, as we both loved the rifle from the film.

Always had it in the back of my mind to make a rifle similar to the Killdeer ever since..

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2020, 04:56:00 PM »
Has anyone ever tried duplicating the Killdeer?
I wouldn't waste my time.

Thank you Mike Brooks.
Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant”. James Madison

Offline Elnathan

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2020, 06:38:22 AM »
In fairness to Mann, in the books Killdeer is noted as being an exceptionally long rifle, even by the standards of a later day, to the point that Hawkeye is actually named by his enemies after the length of his rifle. Thus, I don't think that a shorter barrel would have worked from a storytelling point of view (though considering what Mann did the the rest of the story, that seems a mere quibble.... ::)

Going from memory, Killdeer is never actually described in Last of the Mohicans, but from bits in The Pioneers and The Deerslayer indicate that it was around six feet long overall, had a brass box and and a bore around 30 to the pound (in the early 1790s, after about fifty years of active service and several freshings-out), and had a few bits of silver inlayed but was overall a fairly plain piece. When Judith Hutter gave it to Natty in 1745, it had been in her father's possession long enough to have already won a reputation as an exceptionally well-made and accurate piece, which suggests it wasn't built much later than 1740.

Cooper was obviously thinking of a Golden Age rifle, which makes sense given that most of the above comes from the first book he wrote set in 1793, in which Natty is just an old hunter meant to represent the old frontier giving way to the forces of civilization  - Natty kind of stole the show, so to speak, and ended up a recurring character in books set in earlier periods. Killdeer kind of naturally tagged along, and became a character in its own right, out of place from its original description. However, one important part of Killdeer's description that tends to get overlooked is that it was never intended to by a typical Kentucky rifle, just as Natty is not a typical frontiersman (as a matter of fact, most of Cooper's frontiersmen are not very sympathetic characters at all)  - Killdeer is long, lean, rather plain if not homely, but of exceptional quality where it counts, just as Natty himself is rather homely and often pretty rough in manner, but also a shining example of untutored virtue free from the artifices of civilization. A unique weapon for a unique man.

I kind of want to make an interpretation of Killdeer someday: not the movie version, which doesn't appeal to me, but a gun that is historically plausible but fits the spirit of Cooper's vision if not the literal description - long heavy barrel (possibly off a fine German bench-rest rifle, which would explain the longer length and superior workmanship, though if one of those might come light enough to be used as an ordinary rifle by a tall, strong man like Natty I don't know), high-end lock with springs "like a wolf trap," but stocked here in America in sugar maple with plain, unfussy lines and just a bit of carving in a provincial manner.
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Offline heinz

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2020, 12:20:26 AM »
Elnathan, nicely stated and a good evaluation of Natty Bumpo and Killdeer. 
kind regards, heinz

Offline blienemann

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2020, 07:26:32 AM »
Elnathan, thanks for the overview, and for pointing out that our fictional La Longue Carabine's rifle was made around 1740.  In Moravian Gunmaking II, Caspar Wistar immigrated from Germany to Philadelphia in 1717, and imported many rifles over the following decades.  He was constantly asking his contacts back in Germany for longer rifles, as that was what was wanted here in the colonies - 3 ft 3" or 4" barrels at least, or longer if possible.  In one 1730's letter he received a rifle with a 3' 9" or 45" barrel, and I have been told by another researcher that he received several rifles with 4' or 48" barrels.

Almost everything previously written talks about the short Jaeger, and often calls them heavy or clumsy.  That is hard to overcome.  But common French and English Indian trade guns and military arms of the period had standardized around 46" barrels (though lighter and smooth), so long barrels were certainly familiar.  Early trade rifles from England may have had long barrels. 

The Edward Marshall rifle is an important early rifle, and was a great choice for a rifle for the story and movie.  It is a real example, and dates to the right time.  But research now shows that longer barreled rifles did come into the country, and I would guess they were made here as well, since that is what people here wanted, according to Wistar.  They probably did not resemble a ca 1800 Lehigh style, but were probably more like the Marshall rifle, or several early Bucks County looking rifles that still exist.  Lancaster smiths were stocking rifles for the Indian trade, and more were imported.

Hopefully we will continue learning, and perhaps find an early example of two of rifles with longer barrels.  It is fun to romanticize in the meantime.  Bob

Offline blienemann

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2020, 01:03:22 AM »
Jim, we would enjoy seeing photos of the two rifles your very talented cartel made for the movie.  Elnathan, for some examples, look around for "early" styles by contemp gunstockers, as well as the old rifles when you can find them.  This link to Allen's site is one example - http://www.allenmartinrifles.net/gallery-of-guns/colonial-se-pennsylvania-transitional-rifle/.  He has seven rifles shown there that could fit the bill, if you look through them and imagine stretching the barrel a bit.  I've seen similar rifles by others - Ken Gahagan comes to mind.  Jack Brooks stocked this rifle some years back, based upon restocking an early English trade gun with a 46" swamped and rifled barrel.  Maybe you can start a new thread about such rifles, ask for more examples of what might have been carried before and during the Indian War.  Bob


Offline Top Jaw

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2020, 04:03:33 PM »
Food for thought.
Coopers surmising that the rifle had over 50 years of hard frontier service in his later volumes is extremely unlikely.  If made before 1740, it would have already had 20 years of brutal service on it going into 1757, - the setting of LOM & the movie.  Also extremely unlikely.  Just look what their guns went through in the LOM movie script. 

It’s documented that Boone, Kenton, and others had numerous guns during their hard frontier years in Kentucky and Ohio. Not sure what the typical lifespan of a weapon in that environment at that time would’ve been. 5 to 10 years?  Or it would have simply been taken from you if you were captured by hostels. Or perhaps bartered to settle a debt.  But to go even 20 years with one gun in that extremely harsh and dangerous environment would’ve been virtually impossible.  So bottom line, there would have been a Killdeer 1,2,3,4,etc.  And the rifle in LOM would have been replaced at least once or twice by 1757.   My 2 cents. 

Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2020, 05:00:11 PM »
Top Jaw,

I tend to think that a rifle could last a lot longer than five years.

Even muskets in India, (some parts a very rough climate for anything!)  were supposed to last ten years before requiring replacement.
If the bore is kept clean, (loaded maybe, but clean) and a decent lock lubed occasionally, I see no reason for it not lasting longer.
Although a dangerous time to be around, the overall amount of Use, to the amount of Carry, would be insignificant.

These are just my thoughts, based on nothing!

Bob,
When I saw the rifle you posted, I took it as a Chambers Mark Silver!  Nice rifle.
Best,
R.

Offline borderdogs

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2020, 05:11:26 PM »
I remember hearing the story of Boone's tomahawk that was handed down through the generations and the person who owned it said the head had been replaced three times and the handle seven times but was proud to have it.......
Rob

Offline Daryl

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Re: Last of the Mohicans Killdeer Rifle
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2020, 09:28:41 PM »
I remember hearing the story of Boone's tomahawk that was handed down through the generations and the person who owned it said the head had been replaced three times and the handle seven times but was proud to have it.......
Rob

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Rob - good one.
Daryl

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