Rate kits on difficulty: TVM, Chambers, Kibler, Pecatonica...

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MTCossack

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I've been looking at possibly doing a kit while I'm stuck at home and even have a want ad going in the classifieds. I've never built a kit before. I have some tools and a bench, but not a lot of woodworking experience.

I've been offered a new Chambers kit that I'm thinking hard on. I've also looked a lot at the Kibler kits, and know that they come highly recommended to beginners. However, based on price, styles offered, and difficulty, I've been wondering about a few other makers.

I saw a video of an unboxing of a TVM Tennessee rifle and was surprised at how much of the inletting was already done - the barrel was already fully in place and the lock fully inletted. Would a TVM kit be accessible to a beginner? Would it require more or less work than a Chambers kit?

Where do other kit suppliers, such as Pecatonica or Sitting fox, fit in the spectrum?

Thanks!

A list of least-to-most difficult would be helpful to me, and possibly to others.
 
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Get a Kibler.

Beautiful and the easiest of all kits to assemble. Check out Jim Kibler’s videos on YouTube for how to do them. They’re CNC machined with all holes drilled. They use top quality components and the architecture and design is awesome. What caliber are you looking at?
 

MTCossack

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Get a Kibler.

Beautiful and the easiest of all kits to assemble. Check out Jim Kibler’s videos on YouTube for how to do them. They’re CNC machined with all holes drilled. They use top quality components and the architecture and design is awesome. What caliber are you looking at?
That matches what I have heard. If I go with a Kibler, I'd probably go with a Colonial in .58. I'm set up for .54 already, but you save a few ounces on the .58.

However, while I like both of his designs, I am also drawn to Lancaster and York as well as Bucks County styles. I also really like TVMs Tennessee rifle. So while I understand Kibler occupies a unique place for the beginner, I am trying to figure out a spectrum of difficulty: of the other makers, how much work is done by the seller, and how much is left to the builder?

Please understand I am not looking for anyone to state that such-and-such a kit merchant is "better" than another. I am not soliciting an endorsement or a criticism of any sellers. Each sells with a particular skill level of buyer in mind and I would like more information about how much work each seller's kit leaves to the buyer so that I don't get a kit and get too far over my own head. I have some books and can look at what's involved with each step, such as inletting different parts, but very little experience. If i knew how much work was involved in, say, a Pecatonica Verner kit, then I'd know whether or not to try my hand at that (Bucks County might just be my favorite of all so-called "schools" of longrifle) or to put it in the "maybe someday.." bin.
 
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What are you planning to do with the rifle, just curious. Hunting big game? A .58 would be real cool. Just target practice? Maybe a smaller caliber if you haven’t tried might be fun and cheaper to shoot. Good luck either way! I’m pretty mechanically inclined but simply don’t have the patience for kits so all my MLs were already made. :)
 

MTCossack

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What are you planning to do with the rifle, just curious. Hunting big game? A .58 would be real cool. Just target practice? Maybe a smaller caliber if you haven’t tried might be fun and cheaper to shoot. Good luck either way! I’m pretty mechanically inclined but simply don’t have the patience for kits so all my MLs were already made. :)
Hunting deer and paper, mostly. Maybe an Elk someday. I already have a .32 for paper and gophers.
 

Trot

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The only ones I have done are Pecatonica and Track of the wolf and they were pretty much the same. There is plenty of work to do, breech plug needs to be fitted, holes drilled and tapped, dovetails cut for sights and underlugs, touch hole drilled and tapped for liner, drilling and pinning the barrel. A lot of inletting. There is also a lot of wood to be removed and shaped. For me that was the hardest part, getting the shape right.
 

Eric Krewson

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For a first I would go with a Kibler, I did two scratch builds first but did have Fred Miller inlet the barrel and drill the ramrod hole on both. My next was a precarve stock inletted to my barrel, it had issues, I could build a gun from a stock blank with the barrel inletted faster. After warnings from others I didn't let the pre carver inlet for my lock, I did it myself.

My last and still in progress is a kit that I bought second hand, I am pretty sure it is TOW kit. The precarved stock has so many issues that I am correcting I am sure I could build two guns in the time I am trying to build this one. I found another issue when I started installing the ramrod pipes the other day, the dang ramrod groove isn't straight, it is bowed off to the side in a gentle arc from the nose of the stock to the entry pipe. If you do choose a kit from TOW or Pecatonica, don't let them do your lock inlet, if you do you may regret it when you try to install a lock.

Lastly; a Kibler kit, again I got one second hand, a SMR. it is as good as it gets. Everything inletted in the right place, the parts very slightly over sized for the inlets so you can get a perfect fit with just a little chisel work. I did have to do a complete inlet of the butt plate but that is to be expected. I worked on it for a couple of weeks, about 2 hrs a day to have it completely finished and ready to shoot.
 

RiverRat

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Yesterday Jim Kibler wrote:


We are keeping busy in the shop!
We just received a new batch of barrels with extra 54 and 58 caliber in both square and round bottom rifling. We could ship within a week.
These come with our new CNC machined Round-Faced Lock.
 

moleeyes36

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Here are some things to consider. 1.) How much you want the gun to be historically accurate; Chambers and Kibler kits are pretty historically accurate. Not so much the case with Track and Pecatonica. TVM really doesn't come very close to the correct architecture for most schools. If you don't care about historical accuracy that isn't a problem. 2.) A big "D" profile .58 caliber swamped barrel is not historically accurate for a slim rifle like a York or a Bucks County and I doubt you would find a kit for those styles that is offered in a caliber bigger than .50. 3.) Most kits offered by Track, Pecatonica, and TVM are inlet for straight barrels, though some are available with a swamped barrel. Chambers and Kibler kits come with swamped barrels. You definitly want a swamped barrel, especially in such a big caliber. A Long Rifle with a 42" - 44" long straight .58 caliber barrel is heavy to lug through the woods when hunting. 4.) Even an inexperienced builder can put together a Kibler kit in a few days at the longest. They are CNC made and the inletting is so darned close to perfect that they are almost "snap together".

For someone with little woodworking experience, as you say is your case, without some gun building tools (like rasps, chisels, gouges) and who has never built a kit, go with the Kibler Colonial rifle. Those pre-inlet kits, including Chambers kits, require considerable final fitting because the inletting is only 90 to 95% complete. If you've been offered a Chambers kit at a real bargain price and want to take on the challenge, have a go at it. That is just my tuppence worth, some others will probably have a different opinion.

Don Richards
NMLRA Southeastern States Field Rep Coordinator
 

TXFlynHog

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I sure wish Kibler made pistol kits too... I’ve never built a gun yet, but his kits seem to get rave reviews consistently
 

Critter Getter

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I bought a Pecatonica Virginia rifle parts set 4 years ago. They will, for a price, do a lot of the work for you depending on how much you want to spend with them. I had them do everything that they offered and still chickened out building it myself as I had a grand into it at that time and didn’t want to end up with a $600 rifle. I paid Mike Brooks to finish the rifle for me and am happy I did so. Now I am wanting to do a Kibler kit. I wish they would have been available 4 years ago as that is indeed the route I would have taken!! Here is a picture of my Pecatonica Virginia............Greg BB5614A0-D607-44E5-9D6E-47826AD7B575.jpeg
 

Flintandsteel

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First of all, how important is proper architecture and period correct hardware to you? You will get those things with a Chambers or Kibler.
Not so much with the others.

Secondly, Kibler makes the only "kit".
All others are component sets, leaving you the responsibility of final inletting, drilling and tapping, making all the parts work together, and of course final shaping and finish.
My suggestion..... build a Kibler for your first, then see if you want to make the leap of all the additional tools you'll need to build a component set.
 

Crow-Feather

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Pecatonica Teneessee poor boy 40.jpg
I just finished this Pecatonica Tennessee 40 cal. and I had them do all they could to help me put this together. What I really enjoyed was their help and encouragement when I had problems. It took me a while to get the trigger/hammer to work together but now that it does, I now know the feel and smoothness of a well made trigger/lock combo. I did make some mistakes, but they were corrected without damage to the rifle. Would I do it again? NO It was the most stressful time I have ever had in reference to back powder. I had about $900.00 tied up in this rifle and if I screwed up, I was really going to feel rotten. I did one piece of work per day. One day fit the barrel, next day the lock, etc. And as I said, the guys at Pecatonica were with me all the way. Yes it is percussion. I want to shoot it, not look at it.
 

MTCossack

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Here are some things to consider. 1.) How much you want the gun to be historically accurate; Chambers and Kibler kits are pretty historically accurate. Not so much the case with Track and Pecatonica. TVM really doesn't come very close to the correct architecture for most schools. If you don't care about historical accuracy that isn't a problem. 2.) A big "D" profile .58 caliber swamped barrel is not historically accurate for a slim rifle like a York or a Bucks County and I doubt you would find a kit for those styles that is offered in a caliber bigger than .50. 3.) Most kits offered by Track, Pecatonica, and TVM are inlet for straight barrels, though some are available with a swamped barrel. Chambers and Kibler kits come with swamped barrels. You definitly want a swamped barrel, especially in such a big caliber. A Long Rifle with a 42" - 44" long straight .58 caliber barrel is heavy to lug through the woods when hunting. 4.) Even an inexperienced builder can put together a Kibler kit in a few days at the longest. They are CNC made and the inletting is so darned close to perfect that they are almost "snap together".

For someone with little woodworking experience, as you say is your case, without some gun building tools (like rasps, chisels, gouges) and who has never built a kit, go with the Kibler Colonial rifle. Those pre-inlet kits, including Chambers kits, require considerable final fitting because the inletting is only 90 to 95% complete. If you've been offered a Chambers kit at a real bargain price and want to take on the challenge, have a go at it. That is just my tuppence worth, some others will probably have a different opinion.

Don Richards
NMLRA Southeastern States Field Rep Coordinator
Thank you very much - that's a very helpful response.

I should clarify that I'm not specifically after a big gun like a .58 - only that, if I get a Kibler Colonial, I'd probably choose the .58 because it's a little lighter than the same gun in .50 or .54.

My only real requirement in caliber is that it is up to putting a Whitetail, Pronghorn, or Mule deer in the pot. I honestly doubt i'll ever attempt Elk. Part of what I like about York and Bucks Co. rifles are their slim lines, so if I bought or built one, I'd probably keep in .50 or maybe .45.

I've been definitely keeping a swamped barrel in mind, especially if it's a bigger bore gun.
 

Buckskinn

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If I were you I would go for the Chambers, especially if you are getting a deal. I have put 2 of them together over the last 2 winters and both were excellent precarves with only very small issues. It is not as easy as a Kibler, but if I can do it you can... I had zero experience in building a rifle and I have to say it was a blast... Since you like the Yorks's, below is a pic of the one I finished last weekend in 40 cal20200323_16382200.jpg. More pics in the over at the Gun Builders Bench if so desired... Either way you go, it won't be wrong.
 

Rifleman1776

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For an insight on the Chambers kits, do a search for the extensive reports Dave Person put up when he built my Little Fella rifle. Even with the highly reputed Chambers kit there were issues. e.g. tang not lining up with the rest of the stock as it should. A less talented and experienced builder than Dave would have ended up with a monstrosity. Kibler. Enuf said.
 

TGJaeger

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Having built a couple of Chambers and Pecatonica kits they are great quality and make nice guns, however I have used some of Kibler’s products and those have been excellent as well. If I were going to build my first kit I’d be all over the new Kibler kit. Also, go for the .58! You really don’t know what “DRT” means until you shoot a whitetail with a 290gr lead ball pushed by 120grs of ffg. :oops:
 

hanshi

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The Kibler SMR in .45 would be my "dream rifle". But whatever you decide on be sure and get the swamped barrel. These barrels balance like a dream and make a heavy gun feel much lighter than it actually is.
 
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