Jim Malloy recently presented a rifle to Central Oregon Readiness Center in memory of friend and Oregon National Guard veteran Gary Soules of Prineville

Jim Malloy and his friend, Gary Soules, had spent a lot of time building rifles together.

Not just any rifle, but authentic reproductions of flintlocks and Contract rifles from the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Soules was building a Jacob Dickert rifle, a reproduction of those contracted by George Washington in 1790, when he passed away in October, 2012, at the age of 64.

“Gary had built three rifles with me,” said Malloy. “He was also in the process of building a Contract rifle, so called because Washington would sign contracts with individuals to build up to 50 rifles each.”

Soules, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Oregon National Guard, had ordered the rifle kit with retirement money from his career with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gary’s wife of 40 years, Carol, explained that her husband ended up not having much time to work on the project, having suffered a stroke in November, 2010.

“After Gary died in 2012, I was left with a box of brass and a hunk of wood,” said Carol. “I took the kit to Jim (Malloy) to see what he might want to do with it.”

Malloy decided it would be appropriate to dedicate a rifle in Soules' name and presented the completed work to Cpl. Gary Yustad, of the Central Oregon Readiness Center, as part of Western Daze held at Pioneer Park during Roundup weekend.

According to Carol, her husband was just getting started with rifles as a retirement hobby.

“He had another kit that was about 90 percent completed,” she said. “He wanted to have a matching set.”

Carol described Gary as “very eclectic,” someone who loved getting into a project and seeing it through to completion.

A grant from the Crook County Cultural Coalition, made possible with funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust in support of Oregon’s Arts, Heritage and Humanities, made the rifle project possible.

“What makes Gary’s gun unique is that Merriweather Lewis wanted rifles for his companies that were not the smooth bore guns used by others at the time,” explained Malloy. “For Gary’s rifle, we built it like Lewis and Clark would have.”

The authentic construction of the 1792-4 Contract Rifle was completed with help from other members of Malloy’s guild.

While Malloy concentrated on the rifle’s lock and finish assembly, Ken Miltenberger crafted the gun’s barrel; Tom Cooper supplied the engraving; Ernie McKenzie worked on the sheet metal; Shannon and Forrest Dearth provided the brass workmanship and Hope and Jim Bridges built the horn and scrimshaw.

“This is not just about building a rifle,” said Malloy. “It is about telling a story and we always try to include a full set that includes a bag and powder horn.”

One of Malloy’s motivations is to provide opportunities for others to learn the craft.

“So many people say ‘I didn’t know that,” explained Malloy, referring to a rifle’s history. “We want to be able to pass these stories, and the craft of building rifles, on to future generations.”

The powder horn associated with Soules’ rifle certainly tells a story, as it is engraved with Soules’ name, date of birth and death, and his rank upon retirement.

Carol said that she couldn’t be happier about the rifle and its donation to the Oregon Guard.

“The rifle turned out so much better than I imagined,” she said. “The powder horn was so appropriate for Gary as he was a lover of wildlife.”

The rifle will be put on display at the Central Oregon Readiness Center, located on Southwest Houston Lake Road­­­.

For more information about the Beaver State Historical Gunmakers Guild, contact Jim Malloy at 447-3306.

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