Author Topic: guns for the movies  (Read 2918 times)

Offline blienemann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
guns for the movies
« on: October 02, 2021, 12:11:59 AM »
I was fortunate to work with the late Mike Branson and Jack Brooks to stock up guns for the last Alamo movie. The best part was three of us working in Jack's small shop, knocking out multiple copies of various arms, similar perhaps to a period shop. Lucky RA, Jim Chambers, Frank House and others have also stocked arms for movie projects - probably with both good and not so good experiences. There are quite a few challenges in working with this industry! If this would be of interest, we could share what we have learned, in case others have a similar opportunity someday?

In the case of the Alamo movie, our contacts wanted 1820's and 30's rifles and pistols that would have been readily available for that time and location. A spinoff might look at Rocky Mtn fur trade rifles, Indian treaty rifles and similar, and everyone could post their attempts at these styles - similar to the plan and perdy rifles post a while back. Any interest? Bob

Offline heinz

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1141
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2021, 04:40:10 AM »
I think that would make interesting reading.
kind regards, heinz

Offline wattlebuster

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1954
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2021, 01:40:45 PM »
Id love to know the details of the movie flintlocks such as rifle specs an how much time it took to build
Nothing beats the feel of a handmade southern iron mounted flintlock on a cold frosty morning

Offline Notchy Bob

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 226
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2021, 01:58:23 PM »
I am not likely to be in a position to build guns for movies, but I'm interested.

A friend of mine years ago, who did conservation, restoration, and reproduction of native artifacts for museums, also made some movie props.  I think maybe for Son of the Morning Star.  In his case, I don't think he really changed any of his work flow processes, but I Think he only made a few specific pieces.

I would like to read whatever might be said about muzzleloaders for the movies.

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Hatchet-Jack

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 79
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2021, 02:53:18 PM »
I think that would be very interesting.

Offline acorn20

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 466
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2021, 07:54:48 PM »
I'm interested and think that would be an awesome read.
Dan Akers

Offline blienemann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2021, 11:15:34 PM »
The late Mike Branson was active in the NMLRA, was Editor of their Rendezvous magazine, Booshwayed many gatherings, worked with Luke at the Mountain Man shop in Manitou Springs, built fine rifles and pistols, and had friends in the movie industry.  Mike caught wind of another Alamo movie, which was to be produced by Opie aka Ron Howard and partner Brian Glazer, with Russell Crowe to play Davy Crockett. Mike began talking to his connections about arms for the main players, and brought the idea to Jack Brooks and me. For a time there, we were to be the exclusive supplier. When the word finally came, the movie company wanted the guns right away - samples immediately and copies soon after.

Each of us had stocked various rifles and pistols for the Rocky Mtn fur trade, though Jack and Mike sold what they made. I had stocked a few rifles and pistols for my own use in the AMM, and had recently learned desktop publishing, so we were able to send descriptions with photos of guns we had on hand. Initially they wanted rifles for five actors, pistols for several and a few other items. Arms that would have been current and available in Texas and the west during the 1830’s. We sent photos of Lancaster pattern trade rifles, Deringer and Leman style trade rifles, a southern mountain rifle, a 1780 classic daisy box Dickert since they had mentioned the rifle in the Alamo museum, and several belt pistols.



They soon asked us to send the actual guns, so we loaded them up and shipped by a FedEx account they gave us. Before sending, we took many photos of details and carefully drew full size drawings of each so that we could stock accurate copies without the “originals”. The company liked what they received, and wanted two or three copies of each arm to be delivered within two months. Concerned with accidents, damage or problems during shooting, they wanted three duplicates of each arm, plus two extra locks and lock bolts fitted to each model, to keep the filming going smoothly. We rashly (and fortunately) asked for payment for these first arms up front, and soon received a check. Mike signed an agreement with his folks, and we went to work – looking for locks, stocks, barrels and what was needed for the project for the additional guns. We had to purchase what was on hand from many sources to meet the schedule. We would drive to Jack’s small shop in his home and work there, anticipating 8 to 10 hour days for six days per week to complete on time. Our families agreed to put up with this for two months.   ;)

Movie companies set up a variety of separate legal entities throughout the making of a movie, and when things change, they drop the earlier incorporations and form new ones. They then may avoid paying for work done earlier, so be careful! Sure enough Disney became involved with the movie, and objected to a likely R rating for the version proposed by Howard, Glazer and company. A change in direction resulted, with new production and new actors, including Billy Bob Thornton as Davy. The new armorer and other folks had our guns, but decided to look for other options, and I think a variety of folks submitted examples for consideration – some of you? We were left hanging for a time, and Mike kept talking. Eventually the new folks liked what we had sent them, and signed another agreement to move ahead. Over time some details changed a bit, and we were left with a few extra parts.

The rifle intended for Davy was a Lancaster pattern trade rifle common to that period. Looking at the records and surviving originals, the various makers stocked rifles to a pattern, but each had a slightly different patchbox which became their “signature”. I made up a box of different design and used a custom lock copied after an original Deringer lock with single trigger. The lock and barrel were left “bright as usual” from the old orders. The movie text called for Davy to take a long shot at Santa Anna, with a closeup of him setting the rear trigger and firing. So we modified this rifle and its copies to double triggers, and rather than hand making locks for duplicates, we modified Davis trade locks for the same look. The company also wanted us to dull or age the bright lock and barrel to avoid reflection in their shooting, so this rifle and the other arms were slightly aged. We made up two extra locks for each arm, fit them to the rifles, drilled and tapped lock bolts for each so they were interchangeable. Note – each rifle performed just fine, none were damaged or failed to fire, and the duplicate guns and extra locks were never used. One set of rifles was given to the landowner where the replica Alamo was constructed, and the others went to a prop rental house in Hollywood, where they remain.











We completed and sent the rifles and pistols on time, and the movie folks were happy. We did not make a lot of money, and no fame followed (all the heroes died!), but it was a fine time for the three of us. The sound track of John Wayne’s Alamo played constantly in the background, which also helped set the mood. By far the best part of this project was three friends working closely together in a very small shop. Each contributed what we were best at, and we learned many tips and tricks from each other. We felt that this gave us insights to the old shops when an order suddenly arrived and needed to be filled quickly. We called around and grabbed whatever supplies were available, just like the Henry family records show. Most of the rifles were built from precarved stocks – which had lots of extra wood, and it seems that some of the old stockers also began work with roughly shaped stocks with a groove started for the barrel.






If this is of interest, I could continue with a description of the other arms we stocked up. Questions? I can answer details of components per Wattlebuster. Lucky RA and others, please add your stories. Bob






« Last Edit: October 04, 2021, 04:35:19 AM by blienemann »

Offline wattlebuster

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1954
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2021, 12:21:38 AM »
Your all part of movie history as far as Im concerned. The guns looked very believable and ive seen them multiple times being i own the dvd. Great story and yep give the specs when ya get time. Thanks in advance
Nothing beats the feel of a handmade southern iron mounted flintlock on a cold frosty morning

Offline rich pierce

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 16851
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2021, 02:19:47 AM »
More!
Andover, Vermont

Offline Curtis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2005
  • Missouri
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2021, 08:16:31 AM »
Great story Bob!  I have heard parts of the story told by Jack, it was great reading your full account and seeing the photos.  Thanks for sharing!

Curtis
Curtis Allinson
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sometimes, late at night when I am alone in the inner sanctum of my workshop and no one else can see, I sand things using only my fingers for backing

Offline Jeff Murray

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 280
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2021, 08:37:50 PM »
Interesting to read.  I have always wondered how the movie folks got flintlocks to fire on set?  Technology today allows a lot of "creative visual/sound editing"  which would be more difficult with muzzleloaders and older movies.

Offline blienemann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2021, 12:53:12 AM »
Thanks for the replies and private messages. The original movie company wanted this second rifle for the actor playing Juan Seguin, who Travis sent out to Houston with a message. Seguin wanted to return to the Alamo but was held back by Houston, and was one of the first to arrive after the battle.

Most of these guns were stocked back in the 80’s, with much still to learn about originals. GRRW had at one time proposed a rifle like this, and Oregon Trail Rifleworks from Idaho built a rifle of this pattern. This one used a straight 40” barrel, a Ron Long late Ketland lock and GRRW mounts, and I liked the look of the wear plate on the lower forearm. Leman’s earliest rifles and most by other Lancaster makers had a trigger guard where the grip rail return would curve to the rear vs forward, and I would change this on new builds. This patchbox is seen on early Leman rifles, and similar boxes by other makers. The detached side rails are tapered and dovetailed, slide in from the rear and are held in place by the buttplate without nails or screws. This is one of several engraving patterns, which Jack engraved for me. This rifle is carried by a young man in the movie, but it is not clear who he is.








I don’t remember who this rifle was intended for? When researching Henry Leman and his work in the mid-80’s, I “averaged” the dimensions and details of a number of surviving rifles, which led to this example of what was often referred to as his Indian trade rifles. A 32 ˝” slightly tapered Bauska barrel 1 1/16” at the breech, a modified and engraved L&R lock and GRRW mounts again, stocked in a piece of quilted maple – probably not right for old rifles, but a nice piece of wood! I would change the trigger guard per above, and many Leman rifles had a steel buttplate with brass mounts. Here is another early style patchbox with a different engraving pattern, cut by Jack. These Lancaster pattern rifles balance well with 1” by 40” inch or so barrels, or around 32 = 34” with heavier barrels. Some of the old guns were made with swamped and tapered barrels up to 44” or so, and also work well.








Back in those days I used Wahkon Bay’s Aquafortis first, then added red as desired with Laurel Mtn Forge’s stains, and used WB’s Tru Coat for the finish. Since we made the duplicates to match, we found more of these old products which still worked well. As mentioned before, the memories we have are of working together, and learning from each other while wrapping ourselves in an important historical moment. If you have the chance to work with friends – or take or teach classes, that is as good as it gets! Bob

« Last Edit: October 04, 2021, 04:37:11 AM by blienemann »

Offline Clark Badgett

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1955
  • Oklahoma
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2021, 06:24:23 AM »
Here is an original Leman as described immediately above. It's .53 cal and the tang was square.









2015 ford focus se hatchback 0 60
Psalms 144

Offline Lucky R A

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1588
  • In Costume
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2021, 03:23:12 PM »
         Since Bob mentioned others of the Muzzleloading fraternity who have built guns for the movies, I will try to tell the story of how the Revenant Rifle got built.

         I certainly am not as talented at writing or photography as Bob is, but here is the story.
         About the middle of July 2014, my wife called me out at the shop and said that there was some one on the phone who said that they wanted to buy several guns for a movie.  She also added, "Be careful, it is likely a scam."  I had to agree.  How often does a little known gunmaker in the least populated county in the middle of Pennsylvania get a call from Hollywood?   They were looking for a Joseph Angstadt rifle that was on my web site www.RecreatingHistory.com  Contemporary rifle # 15.  That rifle had been sold about three weeks prior.  There were a series of discussions with the prop master, about the possibility of me building two more of these rifles and having them sent to British Columbia for filming starting the end of August.  Eventually, these talks fell through, as the timetable was impossible.   I thought that was the end of things and I would just go back to building guns as usual.   Several weeks later I was again contacted by the movie company, and there was a new prop master.  This guy was much more realistic and easy to work with.  He perused my web site and asked about the rifle which had been listed as a "Petite Bucks Co. rifle."    He fell in love with that gun and asked if I could ship it immediately and then build a duplicate by mid August.   I happened to have all the components on hand to build a second gun and assured him that I could make it happen within the short timetable before filming started.   Before shipping the first rifle I made very precise patterns of all the carving details as well as careful measurements so the second rifle would be a near exact duplicate.   I spent a lot of midnight oil getting the second gun done in time to meet the deadline and shipped it out.  Before shipping the second gun the prop master asked if I would cut the barrel off about 10-12" shorter.  Apparently, the producer somehow got the idea that this was a common thing .  I balked at the idea and told the prop man that "cutting the gun off would be like cutting the arm off one of my kids."  I further tried to convince him that this was really not a good idea.  He said that they had an armorer who could do the work if the producer insisted.   The second gun was shipped out full length.  I was informed that there was some great difficulty getting that gun into Canada; the movie company had to use an agent to walk it through customs.
        I will include a few more photos of the Revenant Rifle.  There are further photos on my web site that can be viewed by clicking on Revenant.  The rifle is based on an original Bucks Co. rifle owned by a fellow KRA member; it had been photographed at the 2010 meeting in Carlisle, PA.  It is my understanding that Jack Brooks         
did some restoration work on the original.  It is a beautiful example of a Bucks Co. rifle with a bit of Lehigh influence.  It is unusual in that it incorporates both raised and incise carving, rather than the usual incise carving on a Bucks Co. gun.   







          Feel free to ask questions.   All the best, Ron
"The highest reward that God gives us for good work is the ability to do better work."  - Elbert Hubbard

Offline Robert Wolfe

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1156
  • Great X Grandpa
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2021, 03:53:16 PM »
Interesting stuff - thanks Bob and Lucky
Robert Wolfe
Northern Indiana

Offline RJD-VT

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 100
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2021, 04:03:13 PM »
Thanks Ron. I remember emailing you at the time as to why the gun looked so short.
You weren’t very happy with the chop-job they did.

Offline Mike Brooks

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 12190
    • Mike Brooks Gunmaker
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2021, 04:06:46 PM »
I had a gun in "THE PATRIOT". I gave it away as a prize at Friendship on the primitive range in '96.  It was a 20ga English fowling gun. The guy that won it was left handed and it was right handed. One day Frank House called me and told me the gun was going to be in the movie. He was evidently in charge of gathering up guns for the movie and had found and bought this one. It was the gun Heath Ledger was carrying across his shoulders in one of the first scenes. It was used most often by the boy in the grey waistcoat in the ambush scene and when he was hiding from Tarleton under his Aunt's table.  Anyway, I didn't make a nickle off of that gun. ::)
 Also somebody that was gathering guns for one of those Johnny Depp pirate movies called and wanted me to build a double barreled blunderbuss.....In six weeks. :o I told them I couldn't even get the parts in six weeks and wasn't interested in building cartoon guns anyway.
 I'm not in the cool kids crowd so I doubt I'll be getting any movie gun contracts. ;)
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'?

Offline prairieofthedog

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 89
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2021, 05:21:44 PM »
Jim Miller one of the best knifemakers in the Midwest,is from Fairbanks Iowa.He was at a Eastern Knife Show and was approached by a Disney rep. looking for movie knives.Specifically for the movie the Lone Ranger with Johny Depp in it.He had to make two identical knives and of course they had to have them in a few days. He said he didn't get any fame and fortune from the deal except he knew they were in the movie.Craftsmen should have their names in the credits along with the Actors!

Offline Marcruger

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3368
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2021, 06:44:47 PM »
Great thread, and I really enjoyed the memories and details. 

I wish Frank House would comment on the Patriot. 

Walter Hill worked on that movie, and I am hoping he'll add his memories here.   I love sitting on the porch at Mansfield Plantation and looking down the alley of oaks.  I can visualize Mel Gibson riding away on this horse. 

Mansfield was used for "Aunt Charlotte's" house if I recall correctly, and grand two story plantation house with double galleries.  The real house is nowhere near that configuration, and they fireproofed the real house, and built a facade right in front of it for the movie.  They of course burned that facade later. 

Best wishes, and God Bless,   Marc

Offline J. Talbert

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2059
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2021, 10:20:16 PM »
Fascinating stories.
Thanks for taking the time to write them down.

Enjoyed reading these,
Jeff
There are no solutions.  There are only trade-offs.”
Thomas Sowell

Offline blienemann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2021, 06:38:29 AM »
It is great to see several current threads on Leman rifles – a new stocking and repairing a GRRW product from back in the day. Thanks Clark for posting an original for comparison – looks like the side rails were dovetailed on the old rifle as well? That large bore rifle may well have seen the West.

We were asked to stock pistols and other arms for the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but passed on this opportunity – like Mike. This would have involved custom barrels, locks and mounts, quite a bit of time and expense to do it right, and I think they wanted to pay about $1,000 each. Who did provide those? Mike, that was a fine, slender fowler in The Patriot per your usual work, and anything you have stocked would look right at home with originals from various times and locations.

Later Jack and I both got a call from the (first) movie company making The Revenant, from a young woman doing the legwork for the prop guy. They wanted a very specific rifle plus a copy or two right away, and after a short discussion, we passed. We suggested the prop house with the Alamo guns ready to go, but they were insistent upon a particular style of rifle (were talking Angstadt with us), so we suggested several other builders, including Ron and Eric K. Ron has posted his story, and the movie company again changed in the middle of the process, though in your case maybe for the better. Glad that you did not get stuck between the changes in players and not get paid! Thanks for posting and the link to more photos.

We are still hoping that Frank, Jim and others will post, and I would sure like to see the original rifle offered for Last of the Mohicans. We have seen Frank House’s rifle for Mel Gibson in The Patriot, and I think he made another brass mounted rifle. It would be good to hear their experiences.

Several have asked if the movie folks did anything special in loading and firing the rifles. To our knowledge they used black powder for the main load and for priming the pan, and the movie images look correct. If others who have worked with the movies have more info, please share with us. The first movie company had offered to have us come down at our own expense for the filming, to help clean and care for the guns as assistant armorers. But the second company did not match the offer.

Offline redheart

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 529
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2021, 07:08:55 AM »
I had a gun in "THE PATRIOT". I gave it away as a prize at Friendship on the primitive range in '96.  It was a 20ga English fowling gun. The guy that won it was left handed and it was right handed. One day Frank House called me and told me the gun was going to be in the movie. He was evidently in charge of gathering up guns for the movie and had found and bought this one. It was the gun Heath Ledger was carrying across his shoulders in one of the first scenes. It was used most often by the boy in the grey waistcoat in the ambush scene and when he was hiding from Tarleton under his Aunt's table.  Anyway, I didn't make a nickle off of that gun. ::)
 Also somebody that was gathering guns for one of those Johnny Depp pirate movies called and wanted me to build a double barreled blunderbuss.....In six weeks. :o I told them I couldn't even get the parts in six weeks and wasn't interested in building cartoon guns anyway.
 I'm not in the cool kids crowd so I doubt I'll be getting any movie gun contracts. ;)

I wish that you guy's would quit feeding Mike's already immense ego! If it gets much bigger it might destroy us all! :o :( ::) :-[ :-X :-\ :'(

Offline Joe Stein

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 354
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #22 on: October 05, 2021, 03:30:04 PM »
Wayne Watson built the "Killdeer" rifle for the Last Of The Mohicans.  He was at Dixons for a few years with a book that showed the gun. I don't remember if he had a copy of the gun with him. I remember some beautiful rifles that he built that he had on display, including an outstanding copy of the George Nunnamaker rifle with the Indian(?) figure near the cheekpiece.
-Joe Stein

Offline Robby

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2487
  • NYSSR ―
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #23 on: October 05, 2021, 04:46:09 PM »
Do home movies count? I've had a few used in marksmanship competition, followed by great merry making, fireworks and libation!
Robby
molon labe
We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. A. Lincoln

Offline Clark Badgett

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1955
  • Oklahoma
Re: guns for the movies
« Reply #24 on: October 06, 2021, 01:16:25 AM »
It is great to see several current threads on Leman rifles – a new stocking and repairing a GRRW product from back in the day. Thanks Clark for posting an original for comparison – looks like the side rails were dovetailed on the old rifle as well? That large bore rifle may well have seen the West.

When I was viewing it, I was wondering how the side rails were originally held on. There were no screw holes. I was thinking it could have been held under the knuckle and by the butt plate, but I really don't know. There are several Leman's in that museum in Claremore OK. It's crazy how many guns is in that museum, and there's way more than just guns.
Psalms 144