Not that challenge is lacking in that endeavor. In fact, due to the rarity and limited selection of underhammers in the marketplace, the greatest challenge may be in the search for that perfect underhammer - sometimes only to find out, sadly enough, that it hasn't been made in over 100 years, or copies of it were never made, are no longer made, or never will be made.
After such conversion we then decide, contrary to all logic and good sense as offered by well-meaning friends, neighbors, and relatives, that not only can we make a better underhammer than humanity has ever seen, but, we’ll get into the business and share the blessing of our brainchild with the world! We are on a truly holy mission after all.
Those of you who have seen the vision know this is truth. For those who pray they, too, may see the holy vision, some simple advice - don't quit your day job.
Once upon a time back in the 1980s (that's "retro" for our younger readers) Wade Ingrham picked up a copy of
After visiting with Wade a short time I realized this delightfully wise, humorous and grand old man of muzzleloading is certainly a kindred soul – crazy about designing and building underhammers - and I mean that as a most sincere compliment.
While he did incorporate as Ingrham Underhammer Rifle Company, Inc., Wade states that his real intention was simply to make rifles and pistols for himself and his sons. And true to his intention he made underhammer target and hunting rifles, target and boot pistols and some shotguns, too. Some plain, some fancy, but all good solid guns.
Wade's pistol action is simple and straight forward and features the original Ruggles grip design favored by many New England underhammer makers of old. His rifle action, however, is considerably different than the ordinary and uses a separate "link" as the sear in his design, as seen above left. His approach eliminates the need of critical machining of a sear notch in the hammer and matching surfaces and angles for a sear on the trigger. Rather ingenious actually.
With his basic pistol receiver he's able to produce either boot pistols or with the addition of ergonomically-sculpted grips and target sights he has a fine piece for paper punching.
Wade has successfully developed both rifle and pistol actions, and to his credit he even built a few underhammer flint pistols which he claims have as quick an ignition as a percussion pistol.
(I sure wish that I had one of his flinters in those early days of my conversion while preaching the underhammer gospel to the doubters at the range that it was flint ignition that had inspired the underhammer system in the first place. I'm sure they were convinced that I must have been smoking loco weed.)
For the most part Wade likes to keep things very simple and will sometimes use off-the-shelf items such as a TC trigger guard, buttplate and patchbox to complete some of his rifles, which keeps costs down and speeds the assembly process.
While Wade claims that he is no longer "in business,” so to speak, he still offers parts on a very limited basis to those who may choose to replicate his rifles and pistols. A visit to his website: www.lx.net/wadeingrham will provide many more photos of his work and details on which parts are currently available, as well as his contact information.
Thank you, Wade, for your great contributions to the fascinating and ongoing history of underhammer arms. We're all appreciative of your efforts.
Since first posting of this article, Wade has indicated that his muzzleloading operation is for sale. For those of you who may have seen the holy vision and fancy Wade's rifles and pistols you might consider contacting Wade for the details on the purchase of the assets of his company.
Seriously, I would like to make a plea to those of you who can imagine yourself as gunmakers. We simply cannot let small operations like Wade's pass away silently into the night. This is a good opportunity for someone with vision and the resources to take Wade's idea to the next level and keep the individual gunmaking craft alive in this country.
His legacy could also be your legacy to the underhammer aficionados and collectors of the future. We all have an opportunity to contribute a line to history. The question is: Will history have anything worthwhile to say about you?