The Ultimate Antique Gun-Lovers Club
How an obsession with homemade eighteenth-century-style rifles brought together a widowed elementary school teacher, a retired married couple, an eager young college student—and 15,000 other aficionados who are mighty proud of being behind the times.
Photos & video by Jihii Jolly & Kellianne Jones
Lou Helsel was born in the wrong era. To his dismay, the white-haired 68-year-old, who wears glasses and sports a handlebar mustache, came into this world in the mid-twentieth century, during an age of great industrialization and globalization. He may have been better suited for a bygone era when Americans lived on the vast wilderness frontier, using guns to obtain food, security and independence. There is one place in the modern world where Helsel feels at home though. Twice a year, this muzzleloading gun shooter national champion, and his similarly distinguished pistol-shooting wife, Lynn, also 68, drive from their home on the outskirts of Cincinnati to Friendship, a town of less than 100 permanent residents in Southern Indiana. Nestled in a valley where cell phone reception is spotty at best, Friendship houses the headquarters of an organization devoted to the use and preservation of old-fashioned guns, the National Muzzle Loading Rifl…