In 1931 a group of men were sitting around at the Y. M. C.A. in Portsmouth, Ohio discussing Muzzle loading guns. A friendly agreement took place about the accuracy of these old guns. As a result of this discussion, it was decided to have a shooting match and see who was right. In the fall of 1931, this match was held at the Portsmouth Y. M. C.A. park. Little did they know that this would later be known as the first national muzzle loading rifle match.
One of the promoters of this match was "Boss" Johnson from the radio station WLW of Cincinnati. "Boss" had a golden voice and always read a poem on the radio program "Everybody's Farm." For this match, "Boss" had persuaded the owner of WLW, Powel Crosley Jr., to provide a trophy. Word of this spread to the surrounding area. My father, M. O. Scott, was always interested in Muzzle loaders and decided to go to this match. He took a neighbor , Tom Overly of Omega, with him. Neither my dad nor Tom owned a M. L. Rifle. However, Tom borrowed a rifle from Roscoe Massie to shoot in this match. The match was five shots, two prone and three off hand , a total possible score of 50. Tom shot a score of 37 and won the Powel Crosley Cup. If you should ever visit the national muzzle loading rifle range at Friendship, Indiana, be sure to visit the trophy room there you can see the first name on the Crosley Cup, Tom Overly. As a result of this first M. L. Rifle match, a renewed interest took place in these old black powder guns. Even in the depth of the depression this was a relative low cost sport. A pound of Dupont FFF powder cost about a dollar, a box of 100 percussion caps 50 cents. Lead was readily available from lead pipe. Most shooter molded their own bullets. For a few cents a shooter could spend an enjoyable Sunday afternoon. The method of loading and shooting did not permit a lot of shots to be fired. Especially if you got to telling those big shooting tales and put a ball down without first putting in any powder. It was quite a job to pull a ball.
This renewed interest in M. L. Rifles was like many other sports, competition breeds initiative. Every shooter was searching for a better rifle. There were very few gunsmiths with a good working knowledge of the M. L. Rifle. One of the best at this time was Winn S. Woods of Beavers Ridge. Winn was a self taught gunsmith and his work was highly sought from the serious competitive shooters.
One of his most known rifles was called "Old Chevy." As I recall the story, J. Y. "Jake" Dyke owned a 1928 Chevrolet car. Somehow the car was wrecked. An avid shooter, Walter Massie, took the drive shaft from the wrecked car, out to Winn Woods. Most of the information about the actual making of this rifle was related to me by a relative of Winn. His name was Winnie Woods. First Winn built a fire and annealed the drive shaft. A breast drill was used to drill out the bore. They would drill until the bit became too short, then Winn would forge weld six inches on the bit. This process continued until the hole drilled thru the length of the drive shaft. The rifling was the cut by hand, one groove at a time. A very time consuming process with several hundred passes required to complete the barrel. After the barrel was completed, it was placed on a walnut half stock. The percussion lock was from a 1861 Civil War Springfield Musket. The finished rifle wasn't a show piece, but it had the best accuracy a shooter could ever hope for.
During the mid 1930's, this rifle was shot by M. R. "Tuck" Stulley in the national matches at Friendship. I recall talking to "Tuck" about this match. He stated the rifle would put the ball where you held it. Any bad shots were the fault of the shooter and not of the rifle.
By Dec. 1939 "Bull" Ramsey of Portsmouth, Ohio had acquired "Old Chevy" for his collection. "Bull" had one of the best and largest M. L. collection that I have ever seen. Upon "Bull's" death his widow proceeded to sell this collection. I was very fortunate to have the chance to view this collection. In the attic of this house, the walls were lined with M. L. rifles. As I walked around the room I saw a rifle with a round barrel. Out of curiosity, I took the rifle down. I was quite surprised to find it was "Old Chevy" made by Winn Woods.
John Barsotti, an artist from Columbus, Ohio had inventoried and appraised the guns for Mrs. Ramsey. He had put a leather tag on the rifle with the following inscription: "As crude looking as homemade sin, but in the hands of one that was able, this rifle would put meat on the table."
I bought "Old Chevy" and kept it for many years. This rifle would still shoot a good group. As I grew older I was trying to think of a way to preserve this history of this rifle and the rifle itself.
My problem was solved when I cut some saw logs and started looking for someone to saw the logs. From one refusal of sawmill owners to another, I finally was directed to Troy Woods on Beaver's Ridge. Here again I received the same refusal. I can't blame the mill owners as many times they get all types of metal in the logs.
All my questions had been answered, by Troy, by a mere shaking of his head. He had not opened his mouth, When I told him I owned the old rifle that Winn had made from a Chevrolet drive shaft, his eyes lighted up and he said, "have you got that old gun." From that point on it was all down hill. I had a very special friend, my logs were sawed and Troy owned "Old Chevy." I now have a satisfied mind that "Old Chevy" will remain in the Woods family. From Troy to his son Ray and then to Ray's son, Sawyer Woods.
Written Jan. 28, 2008 by Vince Scott
M. O. Scott
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