The Long Rifle in Virginia – Celebrating American Independence

The Long Rifle in Virginia – Celebrating American Independence

Friday April 1, 2022 will begin the opening for The Long Rifle in Virginia Exhibit. This exhibit will be showcased across the state of Virginia at 6 historic locations.

Each exhibit will showcase different programming featuring events, stories, and historical documentation. The Long Rifle Exhibit is a fantastic example of Virginia museums and historians working together to tell our state’s history and cultural in a fun and interactive series.



April 1, 2022 – October 31, 2022

United Company – Legard Galleries, Cultural Heritage Gallery

The long rifle was a surprise factor in winning American independence. A distinctive product of the backcountry of Pennsylvania and the Southern colonies, this celebrated rifle was essential for survival on the frontier.

“The Long Rifle in Virginia” will showcase more than three dozen curated long rifles and accoutrements from the 18th and 19th centuries that have never before been assembled in the same exhibition. The exhibition will explore the artistry of Virginia gunsmiths through demonstrations, a symposium, and a recreated gunsmith shop on location.

Individual gunmakers and some families of gunsmiths brought their own distinctive personalities to the process of rifle making at various locations along the “Great Wagon Road,” from Philadelphia to the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, to Southwest Virginia at Abingdon and through to the Cumberland Gap. Assembled from the collections of numerous long rifle owners and museums, “The Long Rifle in Virginia” will present a collection from early gunmakers to illustrate and differentiate the individuality of their work.

Wallace B. Gusler, renowned scholar on 18th-century firearms and retired Master Gunsmith, Curator of Furniture and Arms, and Director of Conservation at Colonial Williamsburg, noted that colonial American gunmakers controlled one niche of the gun market: rifle making. “The long rifle was the only gun made in numbers in America in the 1700s,” Gusler said. “During its time, it was the highest expression of the gunmaker’s art in this country.” 

Explore the art and artistry of 18th and 19th century long rifle gunmakers throughout the Virginia backcountry in “The Long Rifle in Virginia,” on display at William King Museum of Art, April 1 – October 31, 2022.

Support for this exhibition has been provided by the Virginia Humanities, The Bank of Marion, and individuals.  Additional support for the exhibit and sponsorship of the Long Rifle Symposium, October 15, 2022, has been provided by the Kentucky Rifle Foundation and the American Society of Arms Collectors.

“The Long Rifle in Virginia,” is part of the museum’s McGlothlin Exhibition Series. 

A special thanks is extended to the Kentucky Rifle Association for their loan of the two central gun cases and to Highlands Glass for their donation of the glass for the four surrounding gun cases.

The Virginia Settlement Trail

History fans and travelers will both enjoy learning more about The Long Rifle along the Virginia Settlement Trail. Explore the settlement story of Virginia at several locations along the historic “Great Philadelphia Wagon Road” from the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, to Southwest Virginia at Abingdon, and on through The Wilderness Road to The Cumberland Gap. At each site, explore the impact of the long rifle on the 18th and 19th century settlement story of the Virginia backcountry through reenactments, exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures, and more!  


1. Wilderness Road State Park

8051 Wilderness Rd Trail, Ewing, VA 24248

• Powder Horns, Tomahawks and Rifle Gun Accouterments of the Virginia Frontiersman

When: May 14, 2022. Seminar held at 4:45 p.m. in the Visitor’s Center theatre

Join renowned expert Wallace Gusler for an in depth look into long rifle culture of colonial Virginia. Explore the powder horns, tomahawks and rifle accouterments of the legendary frontiersmen of the 18th century.

• The Long Hunt

When: August 13 – 14, 2022

In London, fashion is the focus of the elite. Beaver hats and doe skin gloves are symbols of wealth and social standing. These fineries of London, however, are imported from Virginia. Meet with Mr. Henry Skaggs as he returns from the western side of Brush Mountain and explore the art and business that is  hunting the Virginia red deer.

• As The Hammer Falls

When: September 10 –11, 2022

The blacksmith is one of the most important tradesmen on the frontier. With ties to England      severed, all imports to the American colonies have abruptly ended. Firelocks, swords, axes, and knives are now necessary but in short supply. Blacksmiths across Virginia are being called upon. Without their knowledge, skill, and willingness to serve, the hopes of Congress may be lost. Watch as the blacksmiths at Martin’s Station demonstrate their craft and talk about supplying a company at the onset of revolution. 

• Virginia: America’s First Frontier

When: May 13 – 15, 2022. Friday 9AM – 5PM.  Saturday 10AM – 5PM. Sunday 10AM . – 3PM.

 Cost: $1000 per vehicle Friday and Saturday. $400 per vehicle on Sunday.

By May of 1775, men, women, and children were heading west, deep into the harsh wilderness. They follow a trace that leads them to a life of freedom. However, that freedom is often overshadowed by   hardships, the likes of which many have never known. The further onto the western fringe they travel, the more important community becomes. Journey to Joseph Martin’s station, Virginia’s final point of rest and resupply, and walk amongst merchants and tradesmen. Meet those individuals who traveled the trace and the indigenous peoples they encountered along their journey. Come and immerse yourself in Virginia: America’s First Frontier.

•  Martin’s Station: 10 a.m.—5 p.m.

When: April 9 – May 10: Saturday and Sunday only. May 11 – October 30: Wednesday through Sunday. (Closed Mon & Tues)

Wilderness Road State Park also features a working 18th century frontier gun shop located at Martin’s Station. Park guests can visit with skilled gunsmiths at various times throughout the year. We also provide flintlock weapons firing demonstrations. 


2. Natural Tunnel State Park

1420 Natural Tunnel Pkwy, Duffield, VA 24244

• The Evolution of Rifled Guns in Colonial America

When: August 6, 2022, 1PM – 2PM

Throughout the 18th century, the “rifled gun” played a pivotal role in the settlement of Colonial America. From the early transitional era through the golden age, the American Long rifle served as a valued possession. These unique American masterpieces not only served as tools of survival, they perpetuated the idea of independence. Join us as we examine the evolution of the Long rifle and how it became the iconic symbol of the American Frontiersman.

• Museum Tours at the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center

When: Weekends April – October, 10AM – 6PM

• Blockhouse Tours at the Wilderness Road Blockhouse at Natural Tunnel State Park

When: Weekends April – September, 2 – 4PM


3. William King Museum of Art

415 Academy Dr NW, Abingdon, VA 24210

• “The Long Rifle in Virginia”

When: April 1 – October 31, 2022

Cost: Admission to the museum is FREE!

Where: William King Museum of Art, Abingdon, VA

• The Long Rifle: Documentation Day

When: April 2 2022,  1PM – 4PM

Where: William King Museum of Art, Abingdon, VA

Documentation conducted by Wallace B. Gusler, Colonial Williamsburg Master Gunsmith, retired. 

• The Gunmaker’s Art: The Long Rifle and Associated Accessories in Virginia

When: October 15, 2022

Where: The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Abingdon, VA

WKMA will host a symposium featuring a panel of distinguished firearms expert including historians, decorative arts scholars, historical interpreters, collectors, and craftsmen on antique firearms and the Virginia frontier. Keynote Speaker: Wallace Gusler, first master gunsmith, curator of furniture and arms, and director of conservation at Colonial Williamsburg (retired), noted scholar on the 18th century
long rifle.


4. O. Winston Link & History Museum of Western Virginia

101 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke, VA 24016


5. Frontier Culture Museum

1290 Richmond Ave, Staunton, VA 24401


6. Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

901 Amherst St, Winchester, VA 22601


For more information and documentation on this exhibit, please visit The William King Museum of Art.