Saturday, February 12, 2011

Andrew Kopp Pennsylvania Long rifle

I live in Central PA, and grew up in Hollidaysburg, PA. Andrew and George Kopp were Pennsylvania long rifle makers. Andrew Kopp was my great great great great grandfather, and George, his son, was my great great great uncle. Their last gunsmith shop was located in Geeseytown, Frankstown Township, just outside of Hollidaysburg. At the time Frankstown Townnship was part of Huntingdon County, so Andrew Kopp and George Kopp are identified as Huntingdon County "Kentucky Rifle" makers.

Years ago, I asked my local gun shop to call me if they ever got in a Kopp rifle, and the call finally came in last month.

An elderly gentleman was going into a nursing home, and brought in several firearms to them to sell. Among them was the following piece with "An. Kopp" markings on the barrel and lock.

Apparently the percussion cap assembly and hole was long ago rusted away. He was a machinist and years ago had attempted to make this rifle "work" by machining a percussion cap mount and re-drilling and re-tapping the barrel. In the process he made a large crescentic cut in the lock plate to accommodate his "custom gunsmithing."

UPDATE (January 15, 2011):

I went back to the gun shop and asked them if they could contact the gentleman who had brought in this Andrew Kopp rifle. They were kind enough to call him and I had a very nice conversation with him about the history of this rifle.

Earl is 89 and lives in Johnstown. The rifle has been in his family since he was 9 years old, and the prior owners lived at the Spangler farm in Shanksville PA, near the current Flight 93 Memorial. Earl recalls being told that this rifle was brought to Somerset by the previous owners from Indiana County PA, and that it might have been manufactured around 1860. (Andrew Kopp retired from the trade in 1863.)

Earl always liked to tinker with stuff.

When he was 12, Earl took apart the rifle and tried to remove the breech plug, which was seized.

He couldn't get it apart, so he put the breech end of the barrel in his family's wood stove to heat it up, to see if that would let him free up the seized breech plug.

He didn't know the gun was loaded, and the gun fired off when it heated up. Shocked

Fortunately, no one was injured!

Earl subsequently worked as a machinist for US Steel in Johnstown PA starting in his teen years.

He machined the sealed ignition device in these photos when he was nineteen, 70 years ago. He also ground off the surface of the hammer at that time, so it would contact the pin on the sealed ignition device. He was never able to get the gun working, but the gun has been in his possession ever since, providing an 80 year history of the provenance of this particular Andrew Kopp rifle.

However, he was clearly very fond of this old rifle, and was very pleased that someone had bought it that would treasure it and have it restored.

UPDATE (January 16, 2011):

I took my Andrew Kopp rifle to Mark Wheland in Williamsburg today to drop it off for restoration. We took along my father's Andrew Kopp rifle for Mark to look at. He is going to use the cheek plate on my father's rifle as a template to recreate the missing cheek plate on my rifle, so he took several macro close-up photos.

Mark examined my rifle closely and said the metal work on my rifle indicated it was actually an earlier rifle than my father's Andrew Kopp rifle, based on the trigger guard and butt plate. He also checked the bore; this rifle is a 38 caliber.

However, (as hurricane pointed out in the next post on this thread) the stock architecture has a higher comb than usual.

Mark thought the rifle might have been re-stocked by George Kopp after he returned to Geeseytown from his ten years of working in Illinois, as the current stock has some western features, like the higher comb and stock angle, not usually seen in Bedford/Blair/Huntingdon PA rifles.

My son and I talked with Mark in his shop for about an hour and a half, and we learned more in that time about these Kopp rifles than everything I've learned up to this point. He was a great guy to talk to, and his current work that he showed us in his shop was just spectacular.

He estimates our rifle will be completed sometime this summer.


  1. hello,

    Some google searching about a token i recently bought brought me to your blog. I recently acquired an old token with "KOPP" on one side and "FRANK TOWN" on the other. I believe it to be some sort of store credit token or something along that line. Do you know if you ancestors ever ran a store type business in frankstown? I dont have any info on it at all other than what I told you, and was hoping you may be able to unlick some mysteries about the token.


  2. Hi Scott,
    Andrew and George Kopp's gunsmith shop was located in Geeseytown, Frankstown Township, Huntingdon County PA (which is now part of Blair County.)

    I have not heard of any tokens of the sort you describe, but I will ask about it in my family. It is possible they also operated some sort of general store, but I was unaware of anything to indicate that up to this point.

    Is there any chance you could forward photos? If so, please send to docpolycarp_at_yahoo_dot_com