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Western Indiana man specializes in creating intricate rifles

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ROCKVILLE, Ind. (AP) — On any given day, a half-mile north of the Ten O'clock Line in rural Parke County, in a workshop not much bigger than 8 feet by 28 feet, you'll find Sam Gorham, working on a handcrafted longrifle. Using tools he mostly made himself, and aside from the rare use of a drill press or a hand drill, using hand tools, Gorham creates masterful longrifles that feature ornate carvings and unique patterns.

“I’ve always enjoyed history, whether it's American history, Indiana history," Gorham said. "I study it quite a bit and really enjoy it.” That love of history drove his desire to create longrifles that are as close to authentic to specific models created throughout history as possible.

At the moment, Gorham is only working on two guns. Each one takes several months to craft, but the timeframe varies based on the requests he gets for specific parts and materials from the people who commission him. "My favorite rifle is always the one I'm working on at the time," he joked.

“I grew up watching Davey Crockett, and Daniel Boone played by Fess Parker and movies like Jerimiah Johnson,” Gorham said as he worked. His concentration never wavered as he used a small chisel to chip away small pieces of walnut. A miscalculation that resulted in a millimeter of wood being removed in the wrong area would mean he would have to start from scratch. Still, his hands work like a well-oiled machine, tapping the chisel in a rhythmic pattern and shaping the walnut to his liking. “I built a few rifle kits at the start, and the quality isn’t as good or traditional. I lived in Colorado at the time and I met a full-time rifle builder out there named Jack Brooks and he got me going in the right direction. Jack has been a help to me over the years and I still call him and talk to him and bug him.”

Gorham is closing in on 100 rifles. “Once I get to 100 I’ll probably slow down but I don’t think I’ll stop." He's 72 now, and when he was first starting out he met Homer Dangler, who was 78 and still going strong. "As long as I enjoy it I’ll keep doing it," Gorham said.

A Hendricks County native, he moved to Colorado before returning to live in Parke County almost 20 years ago. “I’m old enough to be called a mechanic but nowadays they call them technicians. I worked in automotive and truck repair before I retired.” Gorham works on rifles around six hours a day while also working on the house and on the vegetable garden he maintains with his wife, Irene, who he's been married to for 53 years.

His home is just up the road from Nevins Covered Bridge, which crosses Little Raccoon Creek. He choose 10 O'Clock Line Rifle Works as the name of his company based on his homes' proximity to the historical line where the Treaty of Fort Wayne was signed in 1809. Gorham chose the name once he agreed to maintain a booth at Bridgeton during their Covered Bridge Festival events and other days throughout the year. For 14 years he has brought pre-made Kentucky rifles, pistols, and tomahawks. But he also gets new commissions at the festivals and vending events.

On the walls of his workshop are pictures of his grandson and his son hunting with rifles that Gorham made especially for them. “I enjoy shooting them too but I don’t like cleaning them, no one does. I don’t shoot much though, not as much as I would like. I like seeing them used,” Gorham said.

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