The Single Shot Rifle Journal
Feature Of The Month
(Is This) L.L. Hepburn’s Creedmoor Rifle From 1874?
By Richard Binger
Lewis Lobdell Hepburn was born on March 2nd 1832. His middle name is
often misspelled, but his family confirmed the spelling to H. J. Swinney,
the noted authority on New York state gunmakers. L.L. Was always
fascinated by guns much to his father’s disapproval. He entered an
apprenticeship as a blacksmith at the age of 15 He made the iron
fixtures for carriages for eight years and was listed as a blacksmith in
the 1850 census. Researchers have assumed that he learned the gunmaking
trade from M. J. Whitmore in the “Wagon and Gun Shop” in Potsdam N. Y.
where they both worked.
By 1859 he was a well-known gunmaker. In an article in Porter’s “Spirit of the Times,” the premier sporting periodical of the era, said, “passing through the town of Colton, we called at the shop of Hepburn, somewhat noted for his barreled rifles, which are now in vogue etc.” The census of 1860 lists L. L. Hepburn, age 28, his wife Lovinia, 23, and their daughter Calla, 2. It also lists Hepburn’s shop as having one hand (worker), L.L., himself. However another gunsmith named Buskirk may have also worked there periodically.
In 1871 Hepburn was called to superintend in the sporting gun
department in the E. Remington & Sons gun factory at Ilion, New York. Alden
Hatch later wrote that Hepburn was the “foreman of the mechanical
In 1873 the Irish Long-range rifle team was fresh off the winning of the
Elcho Shield trophy, having bested all of the other teams from all over the
British Empire. They challenged the U.S. marksmen to a match to be shot in
1874 at distances of 800, 900, and 1000 yards using rifles with iron sights,
plain triggers of three pounds pull or more, and having a rifle weight limit
of ten pounds.
At that time the U.S. had no formal rifle teams or target rifles for this specific type of match; however the challenge was accepted. Both the Remington and Sharps companies agreed to develop suitable rifles. Land was acquired on Long Island from a landowner by the name of Creed. Once established the range was subsequently named Creedmoor. (Ed: Also Creed’s Moor and other variants of spelling.)
The match was fired on September 26 1874. At it’s termination the upstart
American team had beaten the best in the world. L.L. Hepburn was one of the
nine members of the U.S. team. Contemporary accounts state that half of the
team used Remington rifles, the famous #1 Long Range Rolling-Block and the
other half used Sharps rifles. Since there were nine members this leaves one
shooting with two half-rifles----pr perhaps something a little different.
After the American team won the match, L. L. Hepburn, who was not noted
for being the boastful sort, stated, “the rifle I shot was all made by my
own hands.” He would not have said that about a factory produced rifle.
Could the rifle pictured here possibly have been the rifle he used?
I purchased the rifle pictured from Oliver’s auction of the Jack Appel
collection in May of 1989. It was listed as Item 3 20 in the sale.
Previously it had been pictured in James Grant’s book “More single Shot
Rifles” on page 92. Prior to his death Jack Appel was known as THE Remington
collector. It is completely hand made except for the sights. The
barrel has the standard Remington 5-groove style rifling and is chambered
for the .44-77 cartridge. Could this possibly be L. L.’s Creedmoor rifle? It
appears to be the prototype for the #3 Hepburn action that was later
patented on October 7th, 1879 (Pat. #220285) and put into production in