There has been a quiet resurgence of can-do spirit these days. Shows like Forged in Fire, Naked and Afraid, Alone, and the Townsends YouTube Channel are speaking volumes to Americans’ renewed interests in physically challenging arts and activities like metalworking, woodworking, and hunting. For Deputy Sheriff Rick Larnerd, what began as a hobby of handcrafting black powder rifles turned into the business of America’s heritage. Larnerd is the owner/operator of Gobbler Knob Longrifles. His company specializes in custom-made Pennsylvania, Southern Mountain, and Settler Rifles, and New England Fowlers.
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The company name, Gobbler Knob, comes from Rick’s youth in rural Pennsylvania. Long passionate about the outdoors, he traversed the country hunting for large and small game. During one hunt, he discovered a rafter of 13 turkeys gobbling atop a mountain ridge. From then on, he knew the mountaintop as Gobbler Knob. Today the mountain is his property, and his shop sits in the shadow of that knob.
Life of Service and American Heritage
A US Army infantry veteran, retired Pennsylvania Game Warden, former Gainesboro TN Police Chief, and current Putnam County Deputy Sheriff, Rick Larnerd’s career is defined by service and American heritage. After 22 years in Pennsylvania, he moved to Tennessee, where he served the town of Gainesboro with his son, a part-time Police Officer and full-time Deputy Sheriff in that county, Jackson.
State Route 56 in Jackson County is named the Deputy Sheriff Zachary Larnerd Memorial Highway in honor of Rick’s son. In January 2016, Rick’s son died of complications related to an on-duty vehicle wreck the year prior. Not long after the loss of his son, Rick retired from the Gainesboro Police Department. But his retirement from law enforcement was not a long one. Though he intended to focus solely on his custom rifles, he joined the Sheriff’s Office in Putnam County, Tennessee, in 2020.
Gobbler Knob Handcrafted Longrifles
Rick’s obsession with black powder rifles began in his youth when he received his first muzzleloader. Four days later, he shot a deer and found his passion for black powder rifles. He built his first black powder rifle kit in 2000. After the kit, he challenged himself to craft a rifle stock from scratch. Since then, the hobby grew into a company that celebrates American determination.
Crafting a heritage rifle may be one of the most American activities possible. There is an individualistic boldness and pride that goes along with a black powder rifle. Building AR-15 rifles has become an all-American pastime, but Rick’s longrifles commemorate the American spirit. His craft goes beyond assembling mass-produced parts.
In the days of the muzzle-loaded firearms, the longrifle was a finely tuned tool individually built by an artisan, sleek and lightweight for frontiersmen and settlers of untamed lands. The musket was a mass-produced firearm intended for soldiers, heavy and awkward. True to his forebears in the craft, Rick designs and fashions his longrifles for each rifleman. The firing components are custom-made in Pennsylvania, and the wood for his stocks comes from Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Gobbler Knob’s Future in Heritage
Recently, Rick has started work on a forge in his shop. Soon, he will begin making patch knives. Along with shot and powder, patches of cloth or leather were critical to frontier riflemen. To ensure the shot would fire true, riflemen needed to cut patches to wrap the ball in to keep a tight fit in the barrel. And thus, the patch knife was a part of the rifleman’s kit.
Rick’s mission has been to keep America’s heritage and self-sufficiency alive. He has been commissioned to build a heritage pioneer rifle for display at the Tennessee State Museum. Today, he is crafting a replica of the famous rifle carried in Last of the Mohicans by the movie’s hero, La Longue Carabine, Hawkeye. He is also competing in a custom box call contest through the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Rick Larnerd’s company, Gobbler Knob Longrifles, may be found at https://gobblerknoblongrifles.com/, LinkedIn, and GoWild.
Featured photo: Rick Larnerd handcrafts a longrifle stock. Each rifle is handmade for precision fit and proper sizing for the rifleman.
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