When gunmakers were artists

Residents interested in the tradition and history of crafting artisan muzzle- loading rifles are in for a treat Saturday at the Campus Martius Museum.

The Contemporary Gunmakers & Allied Artists Show is in its fifth year, and will feature both local artisans and others from around Ohio.

The event is open to the public and admission will be the normal Campus Martius Museum fee.

“We try to have a different theme every year and this year it’s going to be barrel rifling,” said Bill Reynolds, historian at the Campus Martius Museum. “It’s a process that involves creating spiral grooves in the barrel to improve accuracy.”

Despite the recent talks of increased gun control legislation, Reynolds said he isn’t too concerned about this type of gun show being affected.

“This isn’t like a modern gun show. We fall into the antique classification of firearms,” he said. “These types of guns aren’t like assault weapons, obviously. It would take even an extremely skilled operator at least a minute to load and fire three shots from one of these guns.”

Reynolds believes that this show is less about the guns, and more about the craft of how they were crafted during the time period.

“The work you will see at the show is an art form, it serves a function and shows you the importance of these techniques in American history,” he said. “This type of an event is something that you would have to travel a ways to see if we weren’t having it.”

Some of the rifles displayed at the show are for sale, but that depends on if the creator is willing to part with them.

“I personally will have at least one of my rifles for sale,” Reynolds said. “So this is a good place for collectors.”

Warren Offenberger has spent countless hours over the years building custom muzzle loader rifles in the workshop behind his Reno home.

“I’ve been making custom rifles for collectors across the United States for 40 years,” said Offenberger. “I personally will be displaying several rifles at the show, but none of them will be for sale.”

Offenberger is a director emeritus in the Association of Ohio Longrifle Collectors and has been attending this event for several years.

“The main goal of this show is to demonstrate and keep the tradition of old time gunsmiths alive,” Offenberger said. “We don’t copy them exactly, but we want to make sure we preserve their methods.”

For Offenberger the social aspect of conversing with others who share his passion is an added bonus.

“I really enjoy meeting fellow collectors and artisans,” Offenberger said. “These types of shows and events are the only way we can get together during the year.”

He said he hopes the show will be an event that can draw in members of the community with an interest in firearms from that time period.

“We are looking forward to having a good turnout and hopefully educating the public on the work that goes into making these rifles,” Offenberger said. “It’s truly amazing what some of these people can configure with their hands.”