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The Good Brooks

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Cecil Brooks - Master Gunsmith With the first flintlock rifle he made for the NRA Annual Meetings in 1955, Ohio gun maker Cecil Brooks had little idea he would be creating a tradition lasting more than half a century. Brooks has made each of the special presentation rifles, awarded at NRA Annual Meetings to banquet speakers, basing his embellished creations on rifles made by legendary Ohio Valley gunsmiths who built arms in the mid- to late 1800s. Now 93, Brooks completed a special rifle for Vice President Dick Cheney in 2005, with the assistance of apprentice Lee Hamel.

A Brooks rifle can take from 500 to 700 hours to craft, from the elaborately engraved patchbox to inlaid gold and silver accents that can take the form of touchhole picks or unique stock inlays. Unique aspects of some Brooks guns can be seen in their brass barrels, made from drive shafts from nuclear submarines, as well as stocks made from historic apple and curly maple trees.

A new exhibit in the National Firearms Museum presents eight Brooks-made rifles, two pistols and related accoutrements.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, April 2006.