Pennsylvania Gunsmith Arms ‘The Revenant’
The last place one would expect to see the stardust of Hollywood is in the “Land of Endless Mountains,” north central Pennsylvania. But that’s exactly where retired state trooper and muzzleloader gunsmith, Ron Luckenbill, had his encounter with the prop manager of the academy award winning film, “The Revenant.”
“I guess if you’re going to find someone doing this archaic of work you gotta go back to the boondocks somewhere along the line,” said Luckenbill. The prop designers of “The Revenant” were looking for an artful rifle for the protagonist of the film, Hugh Glass, who was played by Leonardo Dicaprio.
The designers had a particular rifle in mind. “The Revenant book actually specifies a particular maker and style of gun, the gun used by Hugh Glass was a Joseph Angstadt rifle,” said Luckenbill. After searching for a Joseph Angstadt, the prop managers came across Luckenbill’s website and began discussing the production of the props for the film.
The designers ultimately decided on a different rifle on Luckenbill’s website, the petite bucks county rifle. They needed two copies of the firearm shipped up to British Columbia within five weeks… an ambitious timeline when considering the intricacy of the weapons.
Luckily, Luckenbill had most of the materials on hand, and was able to send up both rifles on time, but there was just one problem…
“They asked me if I would cut the barrel of the gun to 36 inches, which is what Mr. Punky had stated in his book,” Luckenbill said. “The original gun was based on a 42 inch barrel and I wasn’t willing to cut the gun.” Luckenbill applies a traditionalist ideology to his craft, and believes that recreations of history, should stay true to historical records.
“I said that that would be like asking me to cut the arm off one of my children. That’s how strongly I felt about it.” Luckenbill sent the unaltered firearms to British Columbia, and he believes that they did end up changing the barrel lengths of the guns to 36 inches. “Sacrilege,” was Luckenbill’s response to the news.
This was the first time Luckenbill was contacted to produce a muzzleloader for a major motion picture, but this type of prop business in his field is not uncommon. For example the firearms produced for the film “The Patriot,” were made by a gunsmith like Luckenbill. Luckenbill says he doesn’t plan on pursuing a career in props for the silver screen, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in the production of an oscar-winning film.
Video: A Penn State Family
Ron Luckenbill's wife, Pat Luckenbill, and their son, are both musical Penn Staters who took advantage of the opportunities the Penn State bands had to offer. However, in 1967 when Pat graduated, she was unable to participate in the marching blue band because she was a woman.