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The artistry of Daniel Cullity.

* Have you ever wondered what has become of the artistry and craftsmanship of the gunmakers of old? In this fast paced, jet age world we live in, are there any artisans able to handcraft exquisite firearms like the masters of bygone times? Indeed, with 20th century man's seeming preoccupation with such ideas as "cost per unit" mass production techniques, pragmatic firearms designs, computerization, and the superiority of machines over his own two hands, it does cause one to ponder the remark so often heard, "They don't make 'em like they used to!"

Actually, when you consider the amount of time, effort and personal expression that goes into one of these firearms works of art, not to mention the vast variety of skills needed by the gunmaker, it is remarkable that any are ever produced at all. Such painstaking handwork is quite costly--far beyond the affordability of all but the wealthy. As a matter of fact, this has always been the situation with such firearms. Back in the days when the great arms makers, Nicholas Boutet or Joseph Manton were in business, only the ruling class could afford such luxuries as lavishly embellished weaponry.

Today, as in the past, elaborately decorated guns serve for many as a statement of wealth, while proclaiming their own appreciation of firearms as an art form. Even during the late 18th and early 19the centuries, an era that many arms students consider as having produced the finest firearms in terms of workmanship and decoration, there were relatively few gunmakers who possessed all the skills necessary to single-handedly turn out such exotic firearms. Today, it almost seems like a lost art.

However, the guns shown on the accompanying color pages give evidence that there are still arms makers with the skill and dedication to craft firearms truly fit for a king. These arms are, with the exception of the S&W revolver, entirely the work of one man, Daniel Cullity of East Sandwich, Massachusetts. Daniel is one of those rare individuals who is capable of building a guns from scratch, and turning it into a high-art museum showpiece. Besides his gunsmithing abilities, he is also an accomplished woodworker, a master engraver, and is expert at working with the precious metals used to embellish his arms.

Carrying on the tradition of his watchmaker father, 40-year-old Cullity has packed a lot of impressive credentials into his lifelong career. You might say that Dan started life as a gunmaker, having made his first firearm at the ripe old age of seven. By the time he was 20, he was producing percussion pistols for his growing clientele.

After graduating from art school, Dan served five years as an apprentice to master engraver, Alvin White. He also spent a year in Europe, engraving, restoring guns and studying the works of the old European master arms craftsmen.

For several years before Colt Firearms established their in-house Custom Shop, Dan served as one of the firm's out-of-factory engravers as well as a consultant to Colt and many of the nation's leading arms collectors and dealers. He is an inventor, too, and was recently granted a U.S. patent for a unique high visibility gun sight. As if his gunmaking genius were not enough, Dan Cullity has also co-authored, along with his wife, Melissa several articles on firearms restoration. He is currently planning a book on the subject which will also include metal finishing techniques.

Cullity's masterpieces are created in a granite building which he acquired in a trade for a vintage Rolls Royce auto in 1979. He re-erected the structure and attached it to his home. This additional work space has allowed him to hire skilled assistants who work on restoration projects while he continues to engrave and create his special gun artistry.

Dan's works have ranged from miniature guns to full-sized cannons and are proudly displayed at gun shows, museums and private collections both here and abroad. His pieces command top collector's prices and rightfully so, for they are every bit as beautifully executed as the finest arms the European old masters ever had to offer. For example, well-known collector/antique arms dealer William "Pete" Harvey commissioned and now owns the gold mounted duellers shown in our color pages. They are valued at around $130,000! It is no wonder these arms are so valuable when you consider that they were a full two years in the making and contain over $15,000 worth of raw precious metals! The amazing thing about these pistols, and all of Dan Cullity's guns, is that they are made using the same methods employed by the 19th century smiths. Inside and out, Cullity's guns are the finest examples of precision and elegance. Each part, right down to the smallest screw, is meticulously handmade and stands as testimony to the creative beauty exacted by man's own hands.

While I mentioned earlier that the arms in the color pages were completely the creations of Daniel Cullity, except for the S&W revolver, I would like to clarify that statement. That big Model 27 started life as a standard factory "plain jane" handgun, but it has since enjoyed the loving attention of Cullity's engraving and adorning skills. While Dan Cullity admits that his first love will always be antique arms (he is an active shooter and has taken part in several living history observances), he does not limit his arms making and restoration expertise to old guns. He has embellished many modern sporting firearms, knives and other items of arms interest.

Unlike the stereotyped image of the cranky, guarded master gunmaker, Dan Cullity is an unpretentious, likeable fellow who is unafraid to share his vast firearms knowledge, or his great sense of humor, with those he comes in contact with. His clients consider themselves fortunate in owning an example of his work and the waiting list is long. One look at his guns tells why. Even the sometimes jaded staff here at Guns & Ammo stood in awe when viewing Cullity's masterpieces during our photographic session. Regardless of whether one's taste runs to black powder of modern arms, there seems to be no disagreement that if this man was producing firearms during the age of the European master gunmakers, the name Daniel Cullity would certainly be listed with the best.

Anyone interested in getting in touch with Daniel Cullity may do so by writing to him at: Daniel Cullity, Restoration, 209 Old County Road, East Sandwich, MA 02537.
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Author:Spangenberger, Phil
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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