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
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
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
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.