Ken Motyka, a legend in the black powder world.

December 8, 2014

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As most of us have finished eating the turkey and cleaning our rifles, it is time to start thinking black powder. I was going to do a story on the history of black powder, but this gentleman’s story was just too interesting to pass up.

Ken Motyka, a Ludington man, has been participating in traditional black powder and bow rendezvous across the state for years. He also makes his own leather uniforms for these events, he said.

He started getting involved with archery in the 40s, he said. “I would shoot recurve or long bow, but never compound.” He started to shoot black powder in the late 70s or early 80s.  The Motykas would go to shoots almost every weekend during the summer.

There are three types of long rifles and they are flintlock, percussion and inline. Inline being the newest one, which has only been out for a short time. “I always shot a percussion  long rifle, but I wanted a Flint lock,” Motyka said.

Ken and his wife Nancy had a store on south James Street called Craft Land where they sold leather goods and other craft supplies. “I learned how to make the uniforms when we owned the shop,” Motyka said.

“The period that I focused on for my uniforms was the war of 1812,” he said. The uniforms that he wears to the black powder shoots were called regalia.

He has chaps that he stitched beads down the side of the legs. They were mostly Native American designs with a few others mixed in as well.

“I had a Native American woman come in and said where is that white man who thinks he is an Indian,” Nancy said.  That Native American woman thought Motyka was stitching the Native designs and symbols on wrong. When she took a look at his chaps, and saw how true he had done it, she calmed down.

“When a Native American stitches beads on leather goods they don’t bring the thread all the way through, so it looks like it’s part of the leather,” Motyka said. “It took me over 200 hours to complete the chaps.”

“This Native American woman invited them down to Grand Rapids, so they could participate in a Native American Pow Wow,” he said. They would help with crafts and other traditions during the night. Also through this experience they went to many different Native American events throughout the country.

The Motykas love to learn how to make different crafts or stitching from the Native Americans, and then they would read a book to learn further. “We never wanted to do anything that wasn’t true to their customs,” Nancy said.

While he owned Craft Land he became friends with plumbers who would give him the old lead piping that they were replacing with plastic, he said. “I would take the lead and melt it down to make my own shot.”  He also made powder horns and put together a black powder gun.

He has four black powder rifles that all are percussion, but some are different calibers.  “The smallest I have is a 32, which is a little bigger than a 22 bullet and the largest I have is a 54 caliber, which is around the size of a quarter,” Motyka said.

Motyka still shoots his black powder guns once and a while into the sand hill behind his house.


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