May 10, 2005 to be exact COHT members Bryant McIguire, Mark Grigg and myself made a trip to Caywood Gunmakers near Berryville in beautiful northwest Arkansas. The weather was perfect as was the scenery and comradeship.
Bryant, who has known the Caywood family for quite some time set up this visit as a "meet & greet" with the possibility of a short interview and permission to leave COHT materials on their showroom table. Well when you get five guys that are so interested in history, frontier life and the weapons carried the short visit ended up being over three hours. Of course it didn’t help matters when you’re in a room full of historical artwork! It’s truly amazing the amount of knowledge and passion Danny Caywood and Mike Rowe have regarding historical firearms and their business of producing them.
Danny was kind enough to take time for the complete operational tour. Now when I say complete I mean chunk of tree, hunk of iron to packaging and shipment. We started in what I call the stockroom. Not an inventory room mind you but the area where the rough blanks are shaped and inlet. The machine used for this has been completely redesigned and remanufactured by Mike. It works flawlessly producing two stocks at the same time in very great detail.
On to the sanding room, here there are close to a dozen grinding, sanding, polishing machines set up for various gun componets and finishes. Well organized with ample room to accommodate longer parts such as barrels, fusil or howitzer. From there you enter the main part of the shop which is divided roughly two thirds machine shop, one third fit and finish area. I tend to call the larger area Mike’s playroom where all barrel work and lock assembly takes place, the smaller area Danny’s play palace where all detailing, finish work and assembly takes place.
On to the showroom for serious drooling! The first thing you see when entering is the "Crockett Rifle". Words simply can’t describe this beautiful fully functioning rifle. Many National publications have tried and done quite well, that is till you stand next to it! This rifle has a modern history to go with its original owners. Danny in pursuit of taking all legal game species in Arkansas with a flintlock killed a 465 pound blackbear with the very rifle on display. Now Danny is an excellent shot and sportsman but please remember folks this is a 47 caliber rifle and a large bear. Well that just proves many of the things we study so hard about our forefathers are quite true, Quality Craftsmanship, Quality Shot Placement.
As many know Danny and Mike most graciously presented the engraved #1 of 100 Crockett Rifle to President Bush during a visit he made to Arkansas in November of 2004. From the details of the day I am not sure who was more excited Danny and Mike for presenting or President Bush for receiving! Quite the honorable experience either way, happy hunting Mr. President.
On the other three walls of the showroom are displayed the full line of Caywood fusils. Something I learned was every gun can be produced as a fusil, or with a rifled barrel and also a combination of both when ordered. Now that’s an intelligent design and production idea. Displayed are both right and left hand configurations of English and French design. We did not get to see a finished French pistol or Mountain rifle. Several are in different stages of production but the pictures are fantastic.
The last stop on our tour was the office / packing and shipping area divided by one huge elk mount, also taken by Danny with a Caywood gun. Watching Mike prepare and package a new fusil for shipment was much like watching someone diaper a new born. I’m not kidding here these guys treat every gun like it was one of their children!
Well you now have a quick glimpse of Caywood Gunmakers. Being much in the same line of work as Mike I was extremely impressed with his abilities and craftsmanship. Not only has Mike designed and built all the tooling and fixtures for repeatable accuracy he has also built the master molds for all of the cast parts including personal supervision in casting of all parts at a local foundry to ensure quality control. Mike also built all the masters for the locks available at Quality Locks, Inc. From a professional standpoint that is an accomplishment in itself, believe me.
It was a very enjoyable and educational trip. I want to Thank Danny and Mike for spending so much valuable time helping me understand their business and explaining so many details of 18th century firearms. If you ever want to learn how quality products are produced it’s the best place I’ve seen for it in years! A total in house operation, from design to customer satisfaction with a keen eye for absolute quality control.
In closing I again want to express my sincere appreciation to Danny and Mike for their knowledge, expertise and incredible works of historical art. If you would like more information regarding Caywood Gunmakers please check out their website at www.caywoodguns.com, other contact info below.
Thanks Again Danny and Mike and also to my two trail and lunch partners, it certainly was a Great Day.
18 Kings Hill Estates
Berryville, Arkansas 72616