20 September 2015


Through the decades of making first the Zephyr and now the Faeton underhammer rifles, I have been asked many times if the drawings are available. Always I would decline to sell drawings as I was quite protective of my designs. However, I have been enlightened by a friend and colleague with the thought that if someone really wanted to copy the Faeton there is little to stop them. If they had the drawings at least they would make a faithful copy that would pay tribute to the original form. He reminded me of the old adage which claims that, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Perhaps he's correct and perhaps it's time for me to share the Faeton with others who wish to create a Faeton, or a variation thereof, for themselves. So, the plans for the Faeton Receiver are now available. The Faeton Receiver Drawings consist of two 24"x 36" professional mechanical drawings which will allow any machinist to replicate the Faeton Receiver, or they can serve as a starting point for the creation of a variant.

The precise dimensions depicted in the drawings will also allow a machinist to design a hammer and trigger that will properly function within the design parameters of the receiver. Or, one can use the hammer/trigger/mainspring sets that are available from several sources.

Faeton Receiver Drawing, Page 1 depicted - Page 2 not shown.

The cost of the 2-page set of Faeton Receiver Drawings is $40 postpaid. Unlike the photo of my original drawing, above, the drawings will be clean, crisp, and new. Please email me at: underhammers@RadicalConcepts.info for ordering instructions or if you have any questions.

21 August 2015

Bliss's Bliss!

The life lesson teachings of the Masters is to "Seek Your Bliss." That is, to do that which pleases you most. For some of us that involves making firearms of one sort or another. Our friend, Mike Bliss, is just such a man on the path to happiness. He had an idea for an underhammer design which, although, like so many unique designs, was confounding along the way, eventually brought him to Nirvana, so to speak. Now almost completed, he is sharing his vision with us.

It must be explained that the Bliss Rifle was not fitted with a loading rod as it is intended for target work only. So, the extra bulk of the ramrod is not necessary, nor desired, as he will be using a range rod for loading. 

Also, at this stage the rifle is not wearing iron sights because Mike intends to use a scope for his initial load development and then add irons when he discovers that magical load which his rifle prefers over all others. 

Here, then, is Mike's story. BTW, clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for close viewing. Then just click on the White X in the upper right corner of the screen to return to the text.

Hello Roger.

I’m sending some photos and information about the rifle that I have been working on that is about 90% finished at this time. The remaining workbeing heat treating the steel parts, polishing the brass parts, browning the barrel, steel pieces, lock, trigger, hammer, skeleton butt plate and butt cap. I’ve been working on this project for years now, but other things just seem to get in the way! At 72, I figured I better get my finger out and finish before I go blind or get "sometimers." Heaven forbid!

I am a hobby machinist/woodworker and this project is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. First I had to get a barrel, which is a bit of a problem here in Canada. The other parts I could make myself.

We were visiting friends in New Hampshire and one weekend they took us to one of their favourite places, North Conway, which is the home of Green Mountain Barrels. So, I stopped in at the factory and purchase a .45 calibre, 1:66-inch X 36-inch long octagon barrel.

After returning home to Canada, I was browsing through my favourite wood supplier, A&M Woods in Kitchner where I came across a beautiful figured black walnut gunstock blank. My eyes popped when I saw it. It had my name written all over it and it whispered to me, “Please, please, take me home with you.”

Now I had the barrel and stock blank and next I needed a lock. My friend, Jack, who is a young design engineer who likes target shooting, came to my assistance and make a drawing for the hammer and trigger and explained the importance of the hammer/trigger geometry and sear engagement. His design also included a cross bolt safety.

Basic component of the Bliss Underhammer Rifle.
Here's what really makes it work. Black plunger is the hammer blocking safety.

I really wanted to do my own thing as I think it wrong to copy someone else’s work. One should be inspired by it, but not copy it directly. So, with much research on the internet, plus reading from books, and with the help from another friend, Russ, who is a blackpowder expert, I went to work.

Assembled Action. Hole above the trigger is for the push button safety.

I made many model prototypes and with critique from my friends I have made progress with the lock design. I had access to a Bridgeport mill and made a lock body and breech plug from 4140 steel. They turned out quite well and I will also heat treat those two steel pieces.

Basic Layout

The hammer and trigger is made of A-2 tool steel while the  main spring is made of O-1 and all these parts need to be heat treated. I had a problem with the main spring breaking and learned that O-1 needs to be tempered at about 800 degrees. I have certainly learned a great deal while building this rifle. It’s been frustrating at times, but mostly it’s been so much fun and enjoyment. I’m working on drawings done the old way and another friend offered to make drawings for me in the computer format known as Solid Works.

Fitting the skeleton buttplate and grip cap

I would like to make the drawings available to other underhammer builders who would like to make their own lock. It is a flexible design and allows for different size barrels and stock variations as long as the hammer/trigger, barrel centerline and safety geometry remains the same. 

Front view of receiver showing the hole for the breech plug of the barrel.

Rear of receiver showing the brass plug of the barrel retaining screw hole.

I wanted to include a few special features such as an easy take down system of the barrel and the forearm for ease of cleaning. I’ve also made all the hardware “captive” so that they can’t fall from the rifle and get lost. The nipple goes through a key and into the barrel. When the nipple is removed, the forearm can slide forward on dovetails located on the bottom of the barrel and in the barrel channel in the forearm.

When testing the mainspring, I discovered that there needs to be from 10 – 12 pounds of preload with the hammer resting on the nipple. I didn’t realize this at the first test and with the hammer just resting on the nipple without any tension, when I fired the rifle the hammer flew back and cap flew off the nipple and gave me quite a bite on the forearm. I realized that I needed a longer piece of spring on the next try. After some reshaping the hammer pressure on the nipple was about 12 pounds with the hammer at rest on the nipple. That solved the hammer blow back problem.  

Testing the mainspring tension.

I finished the stock with Birchwood Casey’s Tru-Oil which is very easy to apply which is why I love the stuff. Next, I made the sights using a hooded front with inserts and an aperture at the rear. I may mount a scope, but not yet sure about that.

I’m also in the throes of making a walnut presentation case with faux leather and brass fittings. At 54 inches in length it won’t fit into the trunk of my car and has to sit on the seat as a passenger. I guess 150 years ago they didn’t have such problems when everyone had a wagon!

I'll keep you posted on my progress once I arrive at the right load.

Another look!

Our Thanks! to Mike for sharing his idea, which, by the way, he is willing to share with others who may wish to follow in his tracks. Mike can provide working drawings of the components. Just drop me an email with your request and I'll pass it on.

All photos Copyright by Mike Bliss.


29 November 2014

Finally, the Peerless Faeton™

For some time now I have made reference to a new project which, when completed, I would share with you loyal readers. Well, the time has arrived for the unveiling of my new creation which has taken well over a year to complete when you include the services of the barrel maker, engraver and the casehardening service.

So, without further ado, may I present for your consideration my Peerless Faeton™.  

Through the years of building Zephyrs and now, the Faeton, I’ve wanted to make an English pattern underhammer that emulates the architecture and sensibilities of the fine English sporting rifles of the late percussion period. Many feel that those English sporting guns represent the epitome of gun design and are truly functional art. The Peerless Faeton is the result of my effort to honor those designs of old in an underhammer format.

 Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

The Peerless Faeton  is a takedown design which means it also has multi-barrel capability and is available as a high-velocity round ball rifle in .577 calibre with Genuine Forsyth Rifling™, and in .450 calibre with Genuine Alex Henry Rifling™. You may recall that Alexander Henry presented his patented rifling around 1870 and his target rifles beat the pants off the previous champion, the Whitworth rifle, with its hexagonal bore and 6-sided bullet. 

I have chosen to resurrect the true Henry rifling, that is, with 7 lands and grooves, for those wishing to hunt with cylindrical bullets. Genuine Alex Henry Rifling™ will also shoot patched round balls with reduced charges for plinking or hunting of small game.

Only high-grade English walnut will be used for crafting the Peerless and the forearm is tastefully tipped with ebony. The receiver, triggerguard, patchbox, and buttplate are embellished with restrained engraving and are casehardened. Also available is a fine English-fitted oak case which is available in single barrel or two-barrel configuration. 

The photos will provide answers to most other questions, however, if you have interest and more questions regarding options, pricing and lead time, please feel free to contact me at: Underhammers@RadicalConcepts.info



Since the original posting, a customer requested a variation on the Peerless Faeton theme to include a full wood pistol grip with steel grip cap and checkering. Here, then, are a few pics of the results, with which I am most pleased. 

I would like to say that the English-style checkering was the challenge as most of the checkering people I contacted were not willing/able to accomplish this pattern to our specs.

However, Bob Oates of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan rose to the challenge and delivered the service just as I requested. I can wholeheartedly recommend his work for quality, price, and reasonable delivery time. I am glad to have found him and he is now the official checkering artisan for all of my Faeton rifles!  

You can email Bob at:  rdoatesmtp@hotmail.com.

Clicking on the photo will enlarge it for closer viewing of the English-pattern checkering. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner of the screen will return you to the text.


23 April 2014

The Ultimate Underhammer? It just might be!

Quite a while back I challenged you readers to pursue your ideas of new and different underhammer designs and to actually build them. Since then there have been a few new entries offered by our readers which I’ve shared with you and I thank all of you who rose to the challenge.

 Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for better viewing in detail.
Clicking on the White X in the upper right corner of the graphic will return you to the text.

While at a recent gunshow I had the privilege of handling and reviewing another new underhammer hunting rifle, this one being offered by Joe Williams of The Gun Works of Springfield, Oregon, www.thegunworks.com. Some of you will recognize that name as a source of muzzleloading guns and supplies for builders as well as shooters. The Gun Works (henceforth referenced as TGW) has become somewhat of an institution of muzzleloading – at least west of the Mississippi – and provides all manner of goods as a visit to their website will confirm.

When I asked the folks at TGW if their new underhammer had been given a model name they thought for a while and declared it to be, The Ultimate Underhammer. That’s a pretty tall pair of boots to fill, so, we’ll take a look at the Ultimate's features and see what you think.

From the very first days of percussion underhammer rifle design, underhammers have usually sported one-piece stocks. That is, a buttstock and a naked barrel wearing no forearm. Later, some enlightened gunmakers added a forearm which, truly, is needed. Because of the lack of a full length stock, certain modern, uninformed, muzzleloading snobs declared that (despite an American history reaching back at least to 1826) underhammers just aren’t “traditional,” which, as we all know, is a big crock of Bean Soup.

Be that as it may, TGW has designed, and now offers, a “traditional” style underhammer rifle with a one-piece stock. In fact, the rifles I examined sported high-grade walnut with a grain-filled oil–type finish which exhibited expert application. 

The heart of TGW’s underhammer is a robust coil-spring action that is coupled with a hooked breech for easy takedown and cleaning of the barrel. One of the features that I admire and consider a must on any modern design underhammer is a half-cock or safety notch. To design an action in the manner of early underhammers without a safety notch is a fool’s dance which tempts Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) to remove you, or an innocent bystander, from the gene pool.

  A coil spring action by Pete Allan is the heart of The Ultimate Underhammer
and provides quick lock time with a very nice trigger pull.

According to Joe, this action was designed specifically for The Gun Works by veteran muzzleloading rifle designer and champion shooter, Pete Allan. You may recall that I reviewed the Allan underhammer action a few years back and gave it high marks all around. For the TGW rifle, Pete has removed the “outer shell” of the action and redesigned the base to work perfectly in the one-piece stock design. It’s pretty slick.

Unlike Pete’s original action, TGW’s action features an English scroll trigger guard (although some would call it a Hawken guard) which is a separate piece and screws into the receiver and is secured at the tail end of the grip rail by a wood screw.

 The hammer "well" provides the best protection to the shooter from percussion 
cap shrapnel as well as protecting the cap from the elements.

The action is inletted into the bottom of the stock and secured by two bolts from the top tang as seen in the photo below. All in all, it's a very secure system which provides familiar construction for the typical muzzleloader builder. And why would that be of interest? Because TGW also sells their actions. But, more on that later.

The action of The Ultimate Underhammer is secured by two tang bolts.

One of the outstanding features of better designed underhammer rifles is the protection they provide to the shooter’s forward arm and face - and bystanders - from cap shrapnel. Anyone who has fired an ordinary or poorly designed underhammer can attest to the nasty spitting of some of those rifles. In fact, there have been a number of muzzleloader shooters with whom I’ve spoken that were so put off by cap spitting that they assumed it a feature of all underhammers. I had a job to convince them otherwise and for them to reconsider and buy a high quality underhammer.

TGW’s Ultimate Underhammer is, perhaps, the very best design of all when it comes to protection from cap shrapnel. The nipple’s position in the barrel is actually up inside the stock within a hammer “well” just forward of the hammer as can clearly be seen in the photo above. So situated, the nipple is also provided the maximum protection from foul weather.

However, that protected location does offer a bit of a challenge in capping the nipple when you’re in a hurry. I would suggest using a leather cap strip for the job. The cap strip is nothing more than a strip of leather about three eighths to one-half–inch wide and about two inches long with a hole of sufficient size at the ends into which you poke a percussion cap. The cap should be a press fit into the hole. This gives you a bit of a “handle” on the cap which is real handy when you’re hunting and your fingers are cold and rather stiff.

 Sights of The Ultimate Underhammer are for hunting
and consist of a narrow steel blade at the muzzle and a
clean and simple notched rear sight as seen below.

I asked Joe what standard features he will be offering with his new rifle and he said he will build to the customer’s order of caliber, sights, barrel length, weight and configuration, length of pull, as well as stock wood and its design.  While the two rifles I examined were of half-stock configuration, a full-stock rifle is also available. 

 Beautiful wood is complimented by superb craftsmanship in 
the building of The Ultimate underhammer.

While one rifle’s stock lacked the cheekpiece and wore a curved buttplate, reflecting American influence, the other sported a checkered shotgun buttplate and a cheekpiece giving it more of an English flavor. Other than for the cheekpiece, the other side of each rifle is the mirror image of what you see. Which, of course, means they are ambidextrous. 

 A gently curved buttplate is available for those
 who may desire an American pattern rifle.

Because each rifle is custom built, one can choose either the American
curved buttplate or the English shotgun butt seen here wearing a cheekpiece.

All in all, I was impressed with The Ultimate Underhammer and believe that the starting price of $1,750.00 is more than fair for a custom-made rifle with such a unique exclusivity. Frankly, I don’t know how they can sell them for that price. Joe told me that he will have some completed rifles on the shelf ready to ship in the near future. So, it may be that your special rifle will soon be built and just waiting for you to make the call.

And for those who would like to build their own custom underhammer, TGW will also sell the action as shown here. The action kit also includes a hooked breech plug and tang not shown separately here, but visible in the photo above. The cost of the action is only $175.00 plus shipping.

That about wraps it up. But before we sign off, I would like to thank my friend, Jeff John, for the fine photos in this feature. All photo Copyrights are claimed by The Gun Works.

For more information, and to place your order for The Ultimate Underhammer hunting rifle or the action kit, call The Gun Works at 541-741-4118. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.


28 March 2014

Anatomy of a Schuetzen Underhammer

Dear readers, I do apologize for the lapse in features of late; I have been busy with several issues. One of my highest priorities has been a redesign of my beloved Faeton rifle. For many years I have been working to refine the design and finishes of the Faeton and I am near completion of the project. It won’t be long before I will unveil for you my new Peerless Faeton™. Believe me when I say that it will be worth the wait.

For those of you new readers who are unfamiliar with the Faeton, scroll to the bottom of this page for a close up of the Faeton.

On another note, several years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long) I published a photo of an experimental schuetzen underhammer based upon my earlier Zephyr pattern. Since then I have received quite a number of inquiries about that Zephyr Schuetzen expressing a desire for close up photos showing the design features – especially, the rear sight. Since I have long ago sold that rifle, I will share what I have and trust that your imaginations will fill in any blanks. You can always email me if you have specific questions that the pix don't address.

 Zephyr Schuetzen

Schuetzen rifles are a unique breed and express design concepts that seem exaggerated to the untrained eyes. But when you understand the game, you will see that the schuetzen design makes perfect sense – as an offhand rifle. Understanding of the concept leads to an appreciation of the beauty of the form as some schuetzen rifles are truly functional art. I like to think that the Zephyr Schuetzen was one in that class.

 Vintage view of Harry Pope demonstrating
the proper schuetzen offhand shooting stance.

Clicking on any of the images will enlarge them for easier study of details. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

The exaggerated features of the schuetzen rifle are designed to provide the perfect ergonomic fit of rifle to shooter for 200-yard offhand shooting. The idea being that the shooter simply stands in a comfortable, un-strained offhand pose and the rifle fits the pose perfectly.

 The extreme sculpted cheekpiece provides a very comfortable face-fitting support while the light Swiss buttplate helps hold the rifle firmly on the shoulder. This buttplate is actually quite large and flat and distributes recoil very well making the 20-shot string less fatiguing and more comfortable to shoot.


Coupled with the unusual forward-arcing finger rest, the well-proportioned thumb rest on the right side of the buttstock allows full control of the rifle by the right hand while still isolating trigger finger motion from adverse influence on the rifle while squeezing off the shot.

 In my version the forearm provides a palm rest that keeps the left hand away from the upward swinging hammer. Or if the shooter is one who rests the forearm on his finger tips, there is a thumb hollow on the bottom of the forearm which makes for a secure support when using that hold.

Good sights are essential for 200-yard offhand shooting.Turning the sight disk (yes, it is wood) loosens it and allows course adjustment to get your shots on target quickly, while the calibrated thumbwheel allows for finer tuning to zero the shot. The round "window" on the tang of the sight allows viewing the number settings stamped on the thumbwheel for exact repeatability in sight adjustment. Each revolution of the thumbwheel raises or lowers the sight in .050-inch increments. A windage adjustment screw is also provided at the rear of the tang on the right side of the sight.

Perched at the muzzle is a fine bead sight protected by an ample globe. Together with the rear aperture sight, they create the clear and precise sight picture necessary to win at this game.

Because this rifle is strictly a range rifle, loading is accomplished with a range rod, hence no ramrod, which simplified construction.

Combining the ultra fast underhammer mechanism with a good solid offhand shooting platform such as the schuetzen seen here, resulted in a very accurate rifle. And while strange looking to the novice, these rifles handle like a dream and will out-shoot the capabilities of most shooters. To those in the know, it is truly a thing of beauty.

Well, I certainly hope that the Zephyr Schuetzen will provide some ideas and inspiration to you builders to be brave and go explore the possibilities that exist out here on the edge.

If you care to see some of my more recent work, come on by for a visit: www.rjrenner.blogspot.com


04 August 2013

Worthington Pocket Rifle

Well, we're back!

Sorry dear readers, that it's taken so long to get back to The Underhammer Society, but I've been really busy with new designs and projects that I will share with you loyal readers in the near future. But for now, I have a very interesting underhammer to share with you from our friend Bob Worthington. You may remember Bob's underhammers from earlier features which I've published here. You may access them by scrolling down toward the bottom of the page there on the right-hand side where you will see a link to Older Posts. Just click on the link and you can revisit some of our earlier features, including Bob's unique underhammers.

For the most part, Bob prefers to build his rifles on the Billinghurst style of action which was noted in the day for its amazing accuracy. Even today, slug gun builders utilize the Billinghurst action for its strength, accuracy, and simplicity of design.

Bob is a builder like me in the sense that he prefers to create functional art of his own design and not copycat those designs of old. As a musician once told me, you'll never get very far if you play other people's music. You have to find your own groove and ride it out. In my mind, Bob is the Salvador Dali of underhammer builders and I mean that with the highest regard to his art. He's willing to color out of the lines and I admire that spirit.

Bob's latest work is his Grey Haven Pocket Rifle which I believe you will find most interesting. But lest I steal his thunder, I'll let him share his story with you amidst the photos of his Pocket Rifle. Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for a closer view. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

"I'm not sure which came first; my fascination with underhammers, or pistols with removable buttstocks. I think they were nearly simultaneous, however, and originated from my perusal of a book that contained the Smithsonian Museum collection of firearms when I was about ten years old. My first view of an underhammer was a Billinghurst, the stock-mounted pistol was an early 1800's period dragoon. I guess it's no wonder that I would wind up making a
Billinghurst style pocket rifle. I'm just surprised it took me this long to get around to it, some 50 years later!

I've been making underhammer pistols for a few years now, along with two underhammer schuetzen rifles and a hunting rifle, as well as sidelock guns, but always in the back of my mind was that idea of marrying the short and long arms into one. I examined everything from the dragoon flintlock, the Civil War era revolver with shoulder stock, the Smith & Wesson model 320, but mostly the numerous versions that were produced as underhammers. Finally, this summer, I dove headlong into the project.

I began with the standard parts for the Billinghurst action that I get from Muzzle Loader Builder's Supply, (www.muzzleloaderbuilderssupply.com)which I have modified to use as pistol parts, eschewing the heavy tang-collar in favor of my own brass collar and standard breech plug-tang. Ryan at MBS also turned the Hoyt .36 cal. barrel for me, a slender 16" octagon-to-round with a double wedding band that is soooo pretty! (And shoots like a champ!)

The maple stock was cut out in one piece, to ensure matching grain and appearance, then separated for final shaping. The hardest part was the stock fitting and creating the join of stock and grip. The fitting is cut from aircraft grade aluminum, and is fastened to the buttstock with a thru-bolt and a wood screw, as can be seen in the pictures.

. A 1/4" bolt secures the buttstock to the grip, threading into the lower end of the trigger bar, forming a nice, strong and stable fastening, form-fit to the grip and lined with felt to prevent marring the grip, which also has a brass plate where the bolt passes through the grip

I have always finished my pistol grips bright with no stain, but for this critter, I decided to break pattern and go with a cherry stain under a satin finish, all Laurel Mountain products. The stock got my usual treatment of hunter's star and oval, with a brass oval and wire work on the right side. On my pistols, my logo of "star and four directions" goes on the buttcap, and on long guns, is engraved on the toeplate, so this gun got 'em both.

The spring, trigger, and hammer all were hardened and tempered, and the barrel fire-blued. The unique flip-up front and adjustable rear sight work well together, and add to the appearance of the gun.

The safety mechanism is a recent feature on my underhammers. I used to provide a half-cock notch, which worked fine, but sometimes made it difficult to use a capper, especially on the smaller calibers. I developed the pivoting safety, which positively blocks the trigger when cocked, and is easily unlocked with the trigger finger. It can be made for right or left-handed shooters. The brass safety pivots on a brass bushing and the screw that holds the trigger guard/mainspring in place. When the safety is engaged, a wedge blocks the underside of the trigger, and when it is disengaged, the wedge is moved aside and a slot allows the gun to be fired. Check the photos below for details.

Bob's unique trigger blocking safety lever.

I spent an afternoon at the range playing with loadings, and after several powder charges and patch sizes, 18 grains of 3f under a 000 buckshot (.350 ball) with a .016" pillow ticking patch led to a 1-9/16" group at 50 yards, the first shot of the group was an X! I'm happy, and now I can't wait to shoot our monthly black powder match, both pistol and rifle, with one gun!

 Beach's Combination Front Sight

Worthington Design Adjustable Rear Sight

I am offering this style, with choice of caliber, barrel length, sights and finishes, for $3200.00, and a carbine or buggy rifle style with fixed buttstock for $3000.00. To see my other underhammers and other stuff, please visit my website, www.greyhavenarms.com."


Our friend, Bob (Salvador Dali) Worthington
Grey Haven Arms

All photos copyright by Bob Worthington

Thanks, Bob, for sharing your beautifully unique underhammer Pocket Rifle with us.

Hopefully, you other makers will muster up the courage to share your work with us, too. This is an open forum for all you makers as well as non-builder aficionados, so come and claim your spot in the sun with the rest of us builders!


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About Me

Roger Renner

Hi. I've been a student, admirer, and designer/builder of underhammer guns for over 30 years. In that span I've built over 200 semi-custom underhammers exploring the possibilities from the ordinary to the exotic. In 1996 I founded Pacific Rifle Company to explore the market's interest in a high-quality underhammer rifle. Thankfully, that interest was, and still is, there. I sold PRC in 2006 but continue to craft high-end underhammers as I am truly afflicted with underhammeritis - which can be contagious!