Louie Parker, Extraordinary Gunmaker
Louie Parker is well known in the Kentucky Rifle Association as an astute collector of fine Americana and for his extraordinary attention to restoration detail. Although Parker is not as well known as a gunmaker in today’s Long Rifle Culture, his latest pistol
An interpretation of work by early 19th century Georgia gunmaker, Wiley G. Higgins,
by Louie Parker from Jackson, Missouri.
reveals artistry and fine details which deserve attention. Parker says “I have been a KRA member since 1976, and a charter member of the CLA. I am more of a collector than a builder as I build when the mood strikes me and for my own pleasure.”
With the onset of the Contemporary Longrifle Association’s annual meeting each August in Lexington Kentucky, both novice and seasoned artists are being discovered. When I first saw this newly made pistol at the Nashville Civil War show, I was impressed by features and workmanship leading me to assume the piece was an original by Wiley G. Higgins. Wiley Grover Higgins was an early 19th century Georgia gunmaker born in South Carolina in 1799. Higgins moved with his family to the Indian Springs area in central Georgia prior to 1820, where he developed his gunsmithing skill and unique style. What a pleasant surprise when I learned the pistol was made by Louie Parker.
Though not a copy of a specific Higgins pistol, in addition to using an original period flintlock, Parker emulated a number of features characteristic of Higgins’ work found on the four known pistols by his hand. First of all, he used coin silver to produce all the hardware. The trigger guard is made of brass, but completely overlaid with silver. The barrel and tang are also overlaid with coin silver. One of the original Higgins pistols had gold over the rear portion of the silver barrel and a gold band around the bore, but Parker opted to leave off the gold and instead used silver around the bore.
Parker has made four other pistols, his first in 1959 which he says he created after seeing a picture of it on a magazine cover. He states, “I had no idea what the back side should look like, nor even how the lock should be attached. So needless to say the back side turned out rather plain.” During the 1950’s, the lack of currently available resources such as the internet or well illustrated books on antique arms limited Parker’s research capabilities as did living in a small town in south central Missouri.
Parker has built several carved rifles, and his most recent was made from parts of a fine John Armstrong that had been poorly restocked several years ago. He rebuilt the rifle with the style and warmth of an original piece conveying a strong sense of our nation’s history.
Louie Parker is a name to remember, as we consider new and emerging artists who are contributing fine artistry through their work as contemporary gunmakers.
Mel Hankla, Kentucky
All photo’s by Faye Parker.
The silver surround on the lock mortise and the matching pierced sideplate are signature
characteristics of work by Wiley G Higgins. Also notice the fine original flint lock.
Notice the fine engraving and minute detail, including the tiny silver pins surrounding the
butt-cap of the piece. Louie Parker’s signature, “LP” is clearly visible on the silver trigger plate.
For more info on Wiley G. Higgins, see the article at: www.AmericanHistoricServices.com under the Antique Rifles section.