Jeremiah Johnson Hawken


March 14, 2007, 11:49 PM
Flintlock or percussion? I am taking a BP course now and I am leaning toward a flint but I confess that the JJ movie first stirred my interest. What did he shoot or the mountain men of that time. I know that I am supposed to start with a percussion but I am a traditional bowhunter so I do have some patience! :) Thoughts?



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March 15, 2007, 12:46 AM

March 15, 2007, 03:41 AM
Flint- percussion caps are a bit like shooting cartridges.
if you have the patience to learn to use a flintlock you will never look back

March 15, 2007, 07:13 AM
Robert Redford used a caplock in the movie.

robert garner
March 15, 2007, 08:41 AM
RR used a perc. and started out with a 30 calibre! now a 30 bore would have
been a REAL mans gun but the 30 caliber woulda been a skwirrel rifle!
Perc caps came out in the 20's by the 40's the debate was still ongoing,people
tend to be real conservative when their scalps are on the line, and your 6 or 8 months away from the genral store!

March 15, 2007, 09:15 AM
I'd say to get you a .54 or .58 cal "Hawken" style rifle. (BTW these are also referred to a "plains rifles", and convert it to flint.)

Dixe Gun Works sells all of the parts you will ever need to keep that rifle working, and being a traditional archer, you should be handy enough to manage the conversion easily.

The next trick is to learn to knap flint and you are all set.

Loyalist Dave
March 15, 2007, 11:30 AM

ONCE you shoot the flinters, you will never want to go back!

I just converted a T/C hawken flinter in .50 to and L&R aftermarket flintlock lock. It was a good gun, now it's a great gun.

I'd suggest you check this month or especially next month at pawn shops, as it's tax time, and you can usually find a used T/C or Lyman in good working order for low $$. The plains rifles tend to be the lesser exspensive flinters out there.

WELCOME to the club!


March 15, 2007, 11:59 AM
some people cant get used to a flinter. i know i cant.

the flash from the pan makes me flinch every time. (something about an explosion that close to my face out in the open lol) mind you i was a kid that used to use my dads black powder to make firecrackers and other little dodads. so that could be a reason :)

March 16, 2007, 01:38 PM
A 30 bore (guage) roughly translates to .54 caliber, which would actually be a pretty common size for a plains rifle. However, in the movie they definately call it a .30 caliber.....not something I'd want to take up in the mountains, a .30 caliber roundball would weigh less than 50gns.....ok for small game, but definately not for Grizz!

March 16, 2007, 01:58 PM
I know the movie says " 30 caliber" but I would bet it was an idiot mistake from the non gun Hollywood types. I would be willing to bet money that Jake and Sam Hawken never made a 30 caliber rifle, at least not in the mountain configuration.

That would shoot a tiny little buckshot pellet, if it were true.

He later pries a .50 from the dead man's hands and they make a big deal about the recoil knocking him back, so the idea of them knowing enough to look up what 30 bore meant does not hold water. I'm sure they probably read 30 bore in the book and thought it was synonymous with 30 caliber.

March 17, 2007, 10:35 AM
I know 'Hollywood' often doesn't get some of the details, that only a true enthusiast would catch, correct but, on the other hand, why if, as we've already established, a 30 bore is equivalent in size to a .54/.56 caliber would he (JJ) be so excited about getting a .50 cal. from the dead trapper? At the beginning of the movie he says he had to settle for a .30 caliber.
Don Stith, of the St. Louis Plains Rifle Company, offers a Hawken Squirrel Rifle in .38 & .40 caliber described as " accurately replicate the typical small caliber rifle made for the local St. Louis trade". So, apparently, Hawken did make some smaller caliber rifles as their clientele wasn't limited to the west-bound trappers, pioneers, etc., but also the local townsfolk who would have more use for the less powerful calibers. I don't think them producing a .30 caliber would be totally out of reason. I have seen a number of .30 caliber muzzleloaders, admittedly most of them of eastern-states origin, & a friend of mine owns an original .36 caliber percussion Sharps, so there was obviously a market for such things. I'll have to get hold of the book & see what it says.

Texas Moon
March 18, 2007, 08:14 AM
In the movie Jeremiah Johnson, Redford uses an Eyetralian percussion rifle(IIRC, it was an Investarms). It looks nothing like a "real" Hawken.
The story goes he was after a .50cal Hawken gun but had to settle for a .30cal. His lot was made easier when he found Hatchet Jacks .50cal rifle.
To answer your question, a flintlock would be the more historically correct as the caplocks didn't show until near the end of the Fur Trade era.
All the explorers/trappers from Lewis&Clark to the Ashley Men to Liver Eating Johnson all would of been armed with flinters.
The thinking was percussion caps were expensive, ran out, and were difficult to obtain. Flinters just needed an easily found rock to keep firing.
So a lot of the real mountain men used them well into the 1840's.

The percussion gun IS easier to learn to shoot.

LOTS of front stuffers call themsleves "Hawken" but only a tiny few are actual affordable replicas.
Look for an Ithaca, Ithaca/Navy Arms, or Santa Fe Hawken. Unfortunetly these are all percussion.

Actual Hawken made guns were in all kinds of different calibers, from .30 on up to .70.
Each gun was made to/for a customer and was built to their wishes.

March 18, 2007, 10:06 AM
Never was a "Jeremiah" Johnson, made up Hollywood character loosely based on the real life mountain man John (Liver eating) Johnson. While "Liver Eating" Johnson did posess a Hawkin rifle, he was best known for his custom matched rosewood handled Colt Walker revolver and 14" Bowie knife....he also carried a stone encased tomahawk.

Various times through his life he carried the latest in firearms, a matched pair of Remington .44 six shooters, a .45 Colt, Spencer repeater, and had various Winchester lever action rifles. Contrary to the movie, he didn't get his Hawkin rifle from the frozen body of Hatchet Jack.....he bought a new Hawken 30 caliber from a trader (Joe Robidoux) for $50, which was double the price they went for in St Louis.

The movie, (while good entertainment) doesn't hold a candle to the book and John Johnson's real life exploits. Stood 6'2" weighed 240lbs....killed approx 500-600 indians (300 of which were from the Crow tribe), and left his trademark of partially eaten Indian livers so they would know who did the killing. Was a Mountain man, Civil War veteran, and sherrif who died in 1900.

One story is that Johnson was ambushed by a group of Blackfoot warriors in the dead of winter on a foray to visit his Flathead kin, a trip that would have been over five hundred miles. The Blackfoot plan was to sell him to the Crow, his mortal enemies, for a handsome price. He was stripped to the waist, tied with leather thongs and put in a teepee with an inexperienced guard outside. Johnson managed to chew through the straps, then knocked out his young guard with one crippling jab between the eyes, took his knife and scalped him, then quickly cut off one of his legs at the hip. Allegedly using the leg as a blunt weapon, he made his escape into the woods, and survived on the Blackfoot's leg until he reached the cabin of Del Gue, his trapping partner, more dead than alive, a journey of about two hundred miles.

His real life story can be found in the book "Crow Killer". Here's a photo of Johnson with one of his Winchesters.

March 18, 2007, 07:10 PM
I heartily recommend the book "Crow Killer." I just finished reading it. The real life exploits of Liver Eating Johnson are far more entertaining than the movie. Although, I have to admit that "Jeremiah Johnson" is still one of my favorite movies.

You can pick up a copy of the book "Crow Killer" on Dixie Gunworks website.

March 19, 2007, 04:39 PM
Shoot... .30 calibre? It makes sense in a way. Without getting into traditional archery or black powder, the best way to make a hunt more challenging is to go to smaller calibres. It makes shot placement a whole heck of a lot more important. I love my .17 hmr right now about as much as my 1858 remmie. Sure there was a market for smaller calibres back in the day. Did many mountain men carry them? Probably not. Did Jeremiah Johnson carry one? It depends on how good of a shot he thought he was and how cocky he was.

March 19, 2007, 05:22 PM
As far as being period correct goes, either flint or percussion would qualify. In Osborn Russel's JOURNAL OF A TRAPPER, page 66, he mentions one of his companions, named Allen, who "bursted the percussion tube of his rifle" which necessitated a return to the base camp for repair. It isn't always clear but I believe this incident was just after the 1836 rendevous.

I would imagine each system had it's own following among the mountain men, either camp of which could give several valid reasons why his choice was superior.


Old Dragoon
March 19, 2007, 05:44 PM
A collector friend of mine in Michigan had a half stock percussion Hawken type big bore rifle that came from the fur trade out of the Rockies. It had the screw in drum cut in half and a frizzen made from an old file held in place by a screw into the lock plate and a hand wraught spring under it The percussion hammer had been split, jaws formed and threaded with a scew through the split. It had the sparkingest flint in it I ever saw. Was a campsite/frontier blacksmith job, but it did the trick. Crude as anything. You were up the creek iffen you lost your caps, or they got wet.

Gaucho Gringo
March 20, 2007, 04:01 PM
One of my father's boyhood friends was the great grandson of Joe Meek, the famous mountain man who finally settled in what is now Hillsboro, OR. When I was a kid I used to go with my father to visit him and I was fascinated by the old flintlock rifles hanging over the mantle and even got to handle them once or twice. Yes, they belonged to old Joe Meek.

March 20, 2007, 04:18 PM
Meek was an amazing man. I grew up hearing about him in Oregon.

he bought a new Hawken 30 caliber from a trader (Joe Robidoux) for $50

What would that be in today's money I wonder. Probably more than the price of a house.

March 20, 2007, 07:50 PM
Border.....git yerself a Flinter.....its a whole bunch more Fun!
ye can git one of them cap guns later after ye manage the Mans Rifle...
A Lyman Flint .50 Great Plains Rifle is a Great starter.

March 23, 2007, 01:19 AM
Johnsons Hawken rifle is a .52 or .54 cal percussion. It is now on display with other Hawken guns at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody.

Johnson is also now at Cody. After the movie came out, a Boy Scout troop from California, where Johnson was buried in a veterans cemetary, thought it would be more appropriate for him to be back in the mountains. He was reburied at Trail Town, on the edge of Cody, along with other frontier types. A Google image search may turn up pictures of both Trail Town and Johnsons grave site. Johnson was town Marshall of Red Lodge Montana for a time, and came to the Demaris Hot Springs near Cody (and just behind Trail Town) for his health in his later years.

March 23, 2007, 05:53 AM
Thanks guys! I am sold on a flintlock! Best place to buy a Great Plains? Anyone know of clubs in Massachusetts that have a lot of active BP shooters? I live in Chelmsford if that helps.

Thanks again! This is gonna be fun! :D

March 23, 2007, 09:46 AM
I have shot flinters and percussion caps and find the flinters to be more interesting. If you really want to learn the basics of shooting then you learn on a flinter. You have one shot so you do it the first time or you never do it and most important, the lag time of ignition and the pan flash (which blocks your view of the target) force you to learn proper control of the firearm. That split second delay is very noticeable when you are looking over the sights and if you lose your hold you will score a miss. They are unforgiving if you do not have proper breath and trigger control. If you really want to excell at rifle shooting the flinter is the way to go. If you can shoot a flinter well then modern arms are almost boring.

March 23, 2007, 01:01 PM
Border, There's a very active club in Hanson, MA, about 62 miles away from Chelmsford.
The club has a website and this is their latest activity just posted on another forum:

Now that Snowshoe Biathlon season is over,the Hanson Longrifles will start their shooting season with a Woodswalk/Pig Roast Sat. April 7, 2007 10a.m.-2p.m., for info. or more shooting events:

Their website provides excellent directions through mapquest. :)

March 26, 2007, 04:35 PM
Border I havent been to the US since '02. However when I did live in Framingham there was a small gun shop in Westbrough on RT 9 past Walmart which had a bunch of BP guns.

I dont quite know how far that is for you though...

March 26, 2007, 10:53 PM
If you watch in the movie when he rides up on the Crows that killed his wife and the boy , he reaches down and cocks two Hawks, one on each side of the horse and they are both percussion.

March 26, 2007, 11:59 PM
I'm greener than any "campkeeper" and am still very much a "mangeur de lard". But I'd like to suggest you check out and maybe read "THE HAWKEN RIFLE Its Place in History" by Charles E. Hanson, Jr. It is interesting reading.
Either way you go, be it a flint or cap, have fun and enjoy it.

Old Dragoon
March 27, 2007, 02:08 PM
Another fine hawken book is "15 Years in the Hawken Load by John Baird. Great book. I knew John and he autographed my copy many years ago.

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