Bear pistol

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Eric Krewson

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I am a flintlock rifle guy and don't own any BP pistols, I made most of my BP guns so I have the process down. My nephew is a gun nut, any kind of gun and has lot of them, he has a lot of big bore unmentionable hand guns and wants us to build him a Tennessee Bear pistol to hunt deer with.

He wants a 14" barrel in .50 or .54.

Do you guys know of any plans for such a pistol? I told him he would have to have the barrel made as 12" is as long as I have seen . I also noticed that 1 in 20 is common for pistol barrels, if this requirement is the best option for a pistol a barrel cut off of a different twist might not work well.

As you can tell, I am in the dark about getting the correct barrel to do what he wants from his future pistol, I am sure he will want percussion.

I was watching a Ky Afield segment where the host was deer hunting with just such a pistol, looked like fun and he did get a deer.
 

JamesT

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When I think bear pistol I picture a long barreled gun. I don't know of any plans for one but any Kentucky style pistol should work I would think. I would say cut down a rifle barrel but I dont know what twist would work as you already stated. Good luck and would like to see the progress! I have always wanted one as well.
casey2.jpg
 

Robby

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Eric, This is the bear pistol I made using a piece of .50cal. smooth bore barrel I turned round at the muzzle, blending into the flats. It shoots pretty accurate at pistol ranges. It is based on some pictures I have seen of southern bear pistols.
IMG_0072.jpeg

IMG_0073 2.jpeg

Steel furniture I fashioned, and black Walnut stock with poured pewter nose cap.
Robby
 

JamesT

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Eric, This is the bear pistol I made using a piece of .50cal. smooth bore barrel I turned round at the muzzle, blending into the flats. It shoots pretty accurate at pistol ranges. It is based on some pictures I have seen of southern bear pistols.
View attachment 51437
View attachment 51438
Steel furniture I fashioned, and black Walnut stock with poured pewter nose cap.
Robby
Very nice! You nailed that one.
 

Treestalker

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The bear pistol concept is, I believe a Southern adaptation for thick brush, mountainous terrain and portability. Keeping up with the dogs is hard enough without carrying a long rifle. The bear pistol is used at closer range, as the bear is usually treed, but has a long barrel for sight radius and efficiency of powder consumption for ball velocity. Most of the original pistols I've heard of had rather modest bores 40/45 caliber; Black bears are not supposed to be hard to kill, but must be shot in the vitals. I started working on a bear pistol some months back using an 18 inch piece of .50 caliber rifle barrel and a precarve maple stock from Pecatonica River. The stock had a channel for a 10" barrel, but with the 18" it makes a -long-half stock. I've had to re-breach the barrel and install a drum, The barrel came with sights and an underlug for a wedge. I've used a reshaped large Siler percussion lock and a Tennessee poor boy iron sideplate, poured pewter nosecap and a Kentucky style single trigger. No triggerguard yet, but soon. This thing is growing on me. The wood sent by Pecatonica for a plain wood wound up being at least a 3-plus- P, and should be gorgeous when finished. The barrel seems to be about 1-36 twist or so. By all means build one, it carries well in the hand, it just has that feel. You'll love it!
 
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Roundball2319

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Sitting fox muzzleloaders. Has long pistols and blanket guns. They are on the web.
What kinda velocity are you getting out of those long pistols?
 

Notchy Bob

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This is a topic dear to my heart, lately. I think Treestalker (post #5, above) summarized the concept very nicely. I do believe "Southern Bear Pistol," in reference to a specific type of firearm, is a name generated by modern-day enthusiasts, sort of like the term "Plains Rifle." However, as long as we know what we are talking about, why not?

I am not an expert, but from the study I've done, I would suggest that this term, "Southern Bear Pistol," appears to be applied to single-shot muzzleloading pistols, flint or percussion, with relatively long barrels, rifle sights, and sometimes (but not necessarily) double set triggers. Calibers, as noted above, vary a lot. I think Dennis Glazener has one used by an ancestor that is .54 caliber, but I have heard of these pistols in .40 caliber or perhaps a little smaller. Horace Kephart had a whole chapter on bear hunting in his book, Our Southern Highlanders. He pointed out that the hunters did not want an over-powered firearm, for fear of shooting through the bear and killing a dog on the other side. He described this actually happening at least once.

I've collects a folder of images of these pistols... A few old ones, but mostly modern made. Here are a few. First up is one by Frank House:Frank House.jpg

... and one by Herschel:

Herschel House.jpg

Next is the Gillespie pistol shown by Dennis Glazener:

Gillespie .2.jpg

This modern-made pistol is by Joe Schell, and was shown on the ALR forum a while back:

Joe Schell .1.jpg

This original was by John Bull:

John Bull.jpg

This one may be the most famous of them all, owned by Mont Plott:

Pistol & Holster.jpg

I contacted John Bergmann about eight months ago, and discussed having one built similar to the Plott Bear pistol. Not an exact replica, but one similar, in the spirit and image of the original. This is the result of that discussion, just delivered three days ago:

Bergmann 1.1 (2).JPG

This one has an 11" swamped barrel by Robert Hoyt, .47 caliber to shoot a .457" ball. I haven't had a chance to shoot it yet, but you can bet I will, the first chance I get! That's a Davis Goulcher lock and a simple, single trigger set by John for a very crisp release. The stock is maple, stained very dark, as was the original. I was able to communicate with a Plott descendent who had handled and examined the original pistol, to get a few of the necessary details like that. One thing you can't see in this photo is this pistol has a very long tang curving down the back of the grip, to within about 1/4" of the butt. This reinforces the grip, like the long tang reinforces the wrist of a Hawken rifle.

In handling this pistol, I will say that 11" will give plenty of barrel length. Eric, you may want to suggest that to your nephew. Try laying a ruler along the barrel of the pistol in this picture, and then add 28% to the length and you'll get an idea of how a 14" barrel would look. Also, this pistol has a swamped barrel, like the original, and I am very glad we did that. As it is, the gun actually balances and holds very nicely. A straight-sided barrel in this length or longer would add a lot to the total weight as well as the muzzle weight. Rice Barrels makes swamped pistol barrels in a variety of calibers in 10", 12", and 13". I would suggest one of those unless he gets a custom barrel done.

Anyway, please keep us informed of your progress on this project! I'm sure a lot of us are interested!

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
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tallpine

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Here's mine, 50 cal cut own rifle barrel, 15 inches long, 1 in 48 twist. This is a one hole gun at 25 yards. I built mine in a Trapper style, ordered the stock blank from Pecatonica River with the barrel inleted, I did the rest. I made the trigger guard, ram rod pipe and side plate. Poured pewter nose cap. Lock is a Traditions, bought off of Fleabay for cheap. With 45 grains of black powder it's shooting around 1425
50 cal bear pistol.JPG
. I built this gun with low expectations because of the 1 in 48 twist, had I known it was going to be such a tack driver I would have spent more time on it. I will be in my bow blind with it tomorrow.
 

Treestalker

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Here's mine, 50 cal cut own rifle barrel, 15 inches long, 1 in 48 twist. This is a one hole gun at 25 yards. I built mine in a Trapper style, ordered the stock blank from Pecatonica River with the barrel inleted, I did the rest. I made the trigger guard, ram rod pipe and side plate. Poured pewter nose cap. Lock is a Traditions, bought off of Fleabay for cheap. With 45 grains of black powder it's shooting around 1425View attachment 51532. I built this gun with low expectations because of the 1 in 48 twist, had I known it was going to be such a tack driver I would have spent more time on it. I will be in my bow blind with it tomorrow.
Remind me not to make you mad, Tallpine! (Hope my pistol turns out half as nice as yours! You've done a beautiful job.)
 

M. De Land

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I am a flintlock rifle guy and don't own any BP pistols, I made most of my BP guns so I have the process down. My nephew is a gun nut, any kind of gun and has lot of them, he has a lot of big bore unmentionable hand guns and wants us to build him a Tennessee Bear pistol to hunt deer with.

He wants a 14" barrel in .50 or .54.

Do you guys know of any plans for such a pistol? I told him he would have to have the barrel made as 12" is as long as I have seen . I also noticed that 1 in 20 is common for pistol barrels, if this requirement is the best option for a pistol a barrel cut off of a different twist might not work well.

As you can tell, I am in the dark about getting the correct barrel to do what he wants from his future pistol, I am sure he will want percussion.

I was watching a Ky Afield segment where the host was deer hunting with just such a pistol, looked like fun and he did get a deer.
I made a horse pistol out of a 1 in 60 pitch .54 cal rifle barrel cut off , a spare small rifle lock, scrap wood and brass I had in the shop and it shoots balls accurately to the 50 yards I've tested it to. I doubt the pitch would stabilize a conical but a ball needs very little twist to be accurate.
 

toot

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Eric, This is the bear pistol I made using a piece of .50cal. smooth bore barrel I turned round at the muzzle, blending into the flats. It shoots pretty accurate at pistol ranges. It is based on some pictures I have seen of southern bear pistols.
View attachment 51437
View attachment 51438
Steel furniture I fashioned, and black Walnut stock with poured pewter nose cap.
Robby
it is good to have a UBER long barrel, you can get up close at a greater range.
 

Rifleman1776

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Right. As a former modern pistol hunter/shooter I believe it is wrong to try to make pistol into a rifle. A handgun is for close up work not reaching out. Very few people are capable of hitting a moving target more than 25 yards away. And if the target is capable of eating you dangerous to try.
 

Notchy Bob

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Right. As a former modern pistol hunter/shooter I believe it is wrong to try to make pistol into a rifle. A handgun is for close up work not reaching out. Very few people are capable of hitting a moving target more than 25 yards away. And if the target is capable of eating you dangerous to try.
Very good point. The topic has drifted a little from Bear Pistols to long-barreled pistols in general. Some people are capable of shooting them very well at greater distances, but Southern Bear Pistols were intended to deliver a precisely placed shot in a large animal at fairly close range, after the bear had been brought to bay by a pack of hounds, which would keep the bruin occupied while the hunter/houndsman placed a killing shot without hitting a dog. The long barrel allowed efficient burning of powder to optimize the performance of the gun and provide a better sight radius. I don't doubt these pistols may have been used for hunting other game on occasion, but I believe they were probably purpose-built for this type of bear hunting. Form follows function.

I think the old-timers would have probably agreed with you.

Notchy Bob
 

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