11 July 2008

Wade Ingrham's Underhammers

For most underhammer aficionados it's satisfying enough to find the underhammer that pleases your sense of aesthetics, or accuracy, or history, or whatever it is that blasts your bullseye, and then buy the thing and go shoot it, or whatever.

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.

Some of us never do find what we really want despite serious searching. Perhaps as a reward for our diligence, however, the Universe, for some unexplainable reason, singles us out and we are blessed (or cursed - certainly obsessed) with an epiphany - a genuine EUREKA! moment - in which the heavens open and choirs of angels sweetly sing.

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 Logan’s wonderful book, The Pictorial History of the Underhammer Gun. Like many others, he was certainly captivated and inspired by all the drawings of the various underhammer styles and actions depicted therein. Unlike most folks, however, he, too, saw the holy vision and decided he would make his own underhammers. The rest, as they say, is history.

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.

Receiver and barrel(s) are easily and securely joined with nothing more than an allen wrench.

We're thankful to Wade for having graciously provided photos of his work and while they're pretty self explanatory, if you have any questions you can certainly visit his website and e-mail him. I’m sure he’ll be happy to correspond with you.

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?

True it's not for everyone, but it may be the perfect fit for one of you.
Think about it.

(Clicking on the center of any of the photos will enlarge them. Clicking the "Back" arrow will return you to the text)


Anonymous said...

I contacted Wade by email last year in hopes of buying one of his actions, but he said he wasn't making them anymore. I'd sure like to have one of his actions, or any underhammer action for that matter, for an underhammer project that I'd like to get started. If anyone has one, or knows where I can get one, I would sure appreciate the info.

Steve McDonald
Pembroke, MA


Anonymous said...

I really like this blog. Every time I come here to visit I learn more about underhammers and other related things I've never seen or heard of anywhere else.

Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your obviously vast knowledge of underhammers with the rest of us.

I really like the lines of your Faeton but I would like to know how it all fits together because your pictures don't really show much.

Even though I can't afford one of your rifles right now, I would really like to know more about what makes them work and why they are regarded so highly.

Perhaps you could write a piece about how the Faeton is designed and built, that is, the parts we can't see. For instance, how is your barrel attached to the action? And how do you attach that forearm? I don't see any screws.

I think a nuts and bolts article about your Faeton with more pictures would be very interesting, especially written in your descriptive style.

Keep up the good work.

Jack Landers

Brent Gurtek said...

Mr. Renner,

I hope you get this e-mail as I've been trying to interface w/ The Underhammer Society blog. I wish to add content to it.
I'm a Kentucky rifle maker that has recently branched-out into the underhammer "territory" and have some guns to show and underhammer experiances to relate.

Brent Gurtek

R.J. Renner said...

Response to Brent:

Thanks for your offer of photos and material for this blog. I would be pleased to post your material.

Please send your e-mail contact or phone number to me directly at: underhammers@safe-mail.net so we can coordinate and communicate outside of this blog comment system. Your number and e-mail will remain private until you choose to release it to the readers.

I look forward to working with you on this presentation.


Roger Renner

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting all the info here. It is very informative. I ran across Wade's designs here and like his target pistol frame. I am attempting to recreate one from the pictures here. I'll be sure to share.

Wes P
Burley, ID

Zachary Bulacan said...

Did anyone pick up the baton when Wade passed away? It would be a real shame if his wonderful work slipped away into obscurity.

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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!