I'm looking to get a black powder rifle, but I'd like to get one based on the design that would count as the "first" rifle to be made in America during the revolutionary days. What I don't know is if this would qualify as the Kentucky rifle, the Pennsylvania rifle, or if there's another design that counts as being the first.
I know that we as a nation employed a number of foreign made firearms in the early days, but what design truly belongs to us as having been made in America?
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July 23, 2008, 04:36 PM
I'm no expert, but the "first" were not rifles at all. Mostly European & English smoothbore Flint-Lock Muskets & Fowler's.
German immigrant gunsmiths brought with them the design of the German Jaeger rifle in the early 1700's, and those would be the first "rifled" rifles.
Later, about 1725, it is thought by some the first flintlock rifled "long rifles" were designed and built by German craftsman in Pennsylvania.
Kentucky was not even settled until about 1775.
The actual name "Kentucky Longrifle" was first used in an 1812 song.
But I'm just guessing!
July 23, 2008, 04:38 PM
made in america, but at this time, american gunsmith were mostly germans or europeans..
I would go for a Kentucky if I was you !
(ps: but for me the truely american rifle symbol, is the Hawken !)
July 23, 2008, 07:37 PM
The Jaeger (pronounced Yay-ger , means "hunter") rifles made by the Germans in Pennsylvania would have been the first.
I believe they typically had shorter, heavier barrels than later American rifles, as well as sliding wooden patch-box covers.
As the old world design was modified for New World conditions, it became the "Pennsylvania Rifle".
Carried west about the time of the Revolution, it became the "Kentucky Rifle."
Rifles were made up and down the colonies/ states. There are lots of subtle variations and developments over time, so their study is a vast subject.
But it sounds to me like a good repro of a Jaeger is what you want.
Dixie has a one, if you're serious.
But you might want to see what these guys have to say:
July 23, 2008, 08:08 PM
Check out the contemporary long rifle association web site.
July 23, 2008, 08:31 PM
As already covered above. The term during the Revolution probably would have been 'Pennsylvania' rifle.
Track of the Wolf
Pecatonica long rifle supply
Jim Chamber's rifles are resources for some rifles that are sold as kits.
Been on my to do list for a while.
July 23, 2008, 10:22 PM
Seems I have a lot of work ahead of me.
If I go with the Pennsylvania or Kentucky model, does anybody know if the ones sold by the Traditions company are any good in terms of quality?
July 23, 2008, 11:45 PM
Here's a review on one of their rifles.I'll look for more.
This writer seems to know a lot about the Traditions Company:
Traditions Pursuit II XLT Guide Gun
By Randy D. Smith
The Traditions Pursuit II XLT Guide gun is a compact inline with some innovative features that are representative of the best muzzleloader the company has ever produced. I’ve always had good luck with Traditions muzzleloaders and I have been around the company since its beginnings. I have been privileged to be able to test every new inline model that has come out. Generally, I believe that certain traits have always been present in Traditions inline rifles. They are competitively priced, solid performers. Traditions inline designs usually followed other company innovations by a year or so and have markedly improved over the decades. If some new feature were performing well, Traditions would add it to their designs, usually at a competitive price. This keeps costs down and is less risky for the company.
Traditions rifles are generally imported from Spain and that gave the company a pricing advantage for several years. Spanish engineers are quite innovative at taking a concept and adapting it into competitive and often improved designs. The upshot has been that a buyer could expect a reasonably good product at a reasonably competitive price.
Some of the best shots I have ever made were with Traditions inline rifles. I took a nice Pronghorn buck at slightly over two hundred yards with an open sight Pursuit Pro. I made another two hundred yard shot on a nice eight point trotting whitetail buck with my scope mounted Pursuit Pro later that same year. I made a couple of impressive coyote shots in Wyoming with a scope equipped Traditions Yukon. One of them was over 150 yards from the base of a deep canyon to the rim above me. All four shots were made with 100-grain Pyrodex pellet loads and Traditions APB 300 and 250-grain projectiles. Frankly, I was able to make these shots because I had confidence in the rifles resulting from a lot of range practice with each. Traditions rifle performance has always been uniform in my experience.
As I write this, I am looking at a new Traditions inline that is the culmination of years of inline muzzleloader advancement and represents the best model the company has ever produced. There is nothing groundbreaking about the rifle and yet, when all of the features are combined into one unit, the end product is very impressive.
The Pursuit II XLT Guide Gun is a compact, handsome, .50 caliber, break action inline. It sports a 24” fluted and ported nickel barrel, alloy frame and traditional hardwood stock. It weighs a well-balanced 7.5 pounds. It is set up for shooting sabots and pellets with a 1:28” twist rate and 209 shotgun ignition primer system. It has rugged, fully adjustable, fiber optic sights. The ramrod is solid aluminum with Traditions’ proven reversible loading and cleaning jag. It has a projectile alignment system to aid in keeping projectile placement uniform for easy loading and consistent accuracy. It has a dual safety system, sling swivel studs and is drilled and tapped for scope mounting.
The Monte Carlo style stock is not only handsome, but one of the best configurations in the industry. The rifle comes to the shoulder quickly and sight alignment is natural. It has a good recoil pad. A new Accelerator Breech Plug can be removed with finger pressure using only three full rotations. I can clean this muzzleloader more quickly than any inline I have ever used. The Pursuit II XLT has seventeen specific features engineered into its design. At least ten of these features were not generally available on inlines ten years ago.
Although the company ads do not mention it, the Pursuit II XLT has the best trigger I’ve ever experienced on a Traditions muzzle-loading rifle. Traditions needed to upgrade their inline trigger configuration. That was the number one complaint that I’ve heard about the brand. There was virtually no break in period on this new trigger and the pull is light with virtually no creep or over-travel. Using 250-grain APB 200 sabots and two fifty-grain Triple 7 Magnum pellets, this rifle easily shoots cloverleaf groups at fifty yards. Recoil was minimal, quite similar to that of a .30-30 carbine.
The Pursuit II Guide Gun is priced at $65 more than the base synthetic stock/blue steel version and the barrel is four inches shorter. While I have never found my original Pursuit Pro to be awkward or difficult to manage, the Guide Gun handles like a .30-30 carbine. I was testing a new Mossberg Model 464 .30-30 lever action rifle at the same time as the Guide Gun and I immediately noticed that the Pursuit II Guide Gun is exactly the same overall length and weight as the .30-30. This is an advantage for those hunters who prefer the handling qualities and dimensions of a .30-30 carbine. I expect the Guide Gun to be a great heavy cover whitetail rifle for our September muzzleloader season.
If you are a fan of wood stocks, as I am, the price difference for the stock and the nickel finish will not be an impediment. All inline muzzleloaders are getting more expensive. The Pursuit II Guide Gun is more than competitive. If you hunt the thick whitetail woods in a state that mandates open sights only, I doubt that you can find more features in a comparably priced inline muzzleloader.
July 24, 2008, 02:04 AM
Probably the smoothbore fowler or fusil was most common, followed by rifled barreled longrifles in .40, .45 caliber and full stocked. Smoothbores could be loaded with shot for small game and birds, ball for large game, a 2 for 1 option. Sprinkle in a Brown Bess here and there, a French Charleville and don't forget the dutch guns from the New York area.
There was no true "standard" as during this time most folks rarely moved more than 10-15 miles from where they were born. Every county had a gunmaker who made them in his own style, usually in only one caliber. One maker might make .40 caliber, another .45, the one down in the holler a .52
This is why colonial militias were required to provide their own rifle, ball and flints: No standard to resupply.
July 24, 2008, 02:38 AM
German immigrant gunsmiths brought with them the design of the German Jaeger rifle in the early 1700's, and those would be the first "rifled" rifles.
RC called it right , my old fellow countrymen were the first notable gunsmiths building rifles in the colonies. These were woods guns and shorter than the later rifles that sprung forth from their principle design. Many early rifles used imported locks from the old country, and from England. Styles changed as usage changed ,and the barrels got longer.
As mentioned ,Pennsylvania was the home/area where the American long rifle was born .
July 24, 2008, 02:57 AM
Melchior Fordney made some nice ones. I'd personally go with the Pennsylvania/Kentucky style (I grew up in Harrodsburg, KY, founded 1774), simply because the lines were more graceful than the European rifles - I think they were, in actuality, the first American design, and a well balanced one is a joy to shoot.
July 24, 2008, 02:58 PM
Alright so if I wanted to be very accurate I'd be getting a reproduction of the Jager rifle. However what I believe I want is the Kentucky/Pennsylvania model.
Does anybody know where I could find the technical specifications for these models? Stuff like what the twist rate and number of rifle grooves of the barrel were, what calibers, what styles and decorative marks, etc. or were there so many variations on all the factors that it's simply not possible to get the wrong configuration?
July 24, 2008, 03:08 PM
You might find this essay of some help as well.
It is accurate to the best of my knowledge though others may certainly know more about the topic than I do. (heck I'd never heard of a Jager until today).
July 24, 2008, 07:23 PM
Track of The Wolf has an extensive selection of rifles from that period, with a little write-up on each one. Mostly they're in kit form. It's worth a look just for the information though. They also have, in their print catalog at least, a nice selection of locks, with a little write-up and some history on each one. Also very interesting.
"Pennsylvania Rifle," "Kentucky Rifle" and so on, I believe are also generically referred to as "American Long Rifles", some with barrels of well over 40 inches. It took me a while to figure out what a "swamped barrel" is too. I'd see the term a lot with no explanation. It is a barrel that's shaved thinner in the middle than at either end. Don't know why, but many American long rifles of that period had swamped barrels.
Now, IIRC, the first U.S. military production "standard" rifle was the "Harper's Ferry" rifle, but of course that was post Revolution.
July 24, 2008, 08:39 PM
Sitting Fox has a lot to look at with some history of each. You can get the kit, in the white, or finished guns. One thing you will find, quality is not cheap but cheap can get expensive over the long haul.
July 24, 2008, 08:40 PM
You will find pubished books on the subject if you want to get that deep into it they would be of great usage to you. Just search for the key names regarding the subject and you will find those.
There was no standard - each rifle was a work of art, made by hand, and relected the ability of that particular gunsmith . Some were plain and some were fancy, different calibers abound and often the bullet mold was sold with the rifle. Decorations varied, but many/most symbols used had meaning. Half moons, snakes, and a whole host of other symbols will be found on the rifles.
You will find simular styles of rifles coming from a specific area. Some of this simularity can be attributed to the gunsmiths appretence practices of the time. Some can be attributed to guns that were made as a collective so to speak. If gunsmith A was particularly good at stocks, and gunsmith B was particularly good at making barrels, they might get together and make parts for each other. Like I said in an earlier post, many of the lock works came from the old world and were somewhat mass produced there. Some were of course made one at a time in the America's.
July 25, 2008, 12:07 AM
We really don't know what the first flintlock looked like. We do know that our American long rifle slowly evolved from the big bore, short barrel Swiss/German jaeger rifle to the smaller bore, longer barrel long rifle. The smaller bore not only saved precious lead shot (more shots per pound), it also reduced the powder charge required (so you also had more shots per powder horn). The Marshall gun is an fine example (even then the provenance is disputed by some) of a transition piece. Here's a link to a kit produced by Jim Chambers Flintlocks. Mind you, it's marked Issac Haines but it's his Marshall gun.
BTW, the Dixie Gun has the basic lines, but lacks all the embellishments of a jaeger. The Germans did a lot of carving (depending on their budget) on their guns and the trigger guard on most jaegers didn't have the midpiece support. If you're close to Springfield Armory National Historic Site, they've got a jaeger with a wood trigger guard displayed there.
July 25, 2008, 05:20 AM
On an average Most Long guns of prodution Replicas are 1 in 66; a Hawken type Rifle . 1 in 48. Go to Dixie Gun Works and look at the Pedersoli, or Euroarms Rifles...they have one listed as a Dixie early American Jaeger, flint or Percussion, .54cal 1in 24 twist, $850 2005 catalog.
July 26, 2008, 12:20 AM
Part of your question should include where you will be from, or where you acquired your gun or rifle, and possibly from whom. For example in 1765 George Morgan was ordering rifles from PA for his trading post in Kaskaskia in the Illinois country. No one knows the style, but probably something similar to the Marshall rifle mentioned above. The first rifles made in America were probably larger than .50 like their Germanic cousins, and .58 would be good, and .54 would've been considered "light". (Remember they were shooting bison east of the Mississippi back then). So a Marshall rifle for you if you were from NY, PA, MD, or VA, but farther south probably a smooth bore. If from a French area..., a fusil. North of NY, a French Fusil, and English fowler, or maybe a Dutch gun.
July 26, 2008, 12:27 AM
+1 for Shung's comment - Hawken is THE American rifle as far as I'm concerned.
July 26, 2008, 12:38 AM
I've found a lot of Kentucky and Pennsylvania reproductions available for sale, but they're mainly all in .50 caliber. The ones in the more historically accurate .45 caliber aren't exactly what I'd call affordable, so I don't know what to do.
July 26, 2008, 12:55 AM
Buy a kit and assemble it yourself. There are classes and if not classes, look for a local gunsmith who can take you under his or her wing. Yes, I know a couple of women who are quite accomplished gunbuilders.
July 26, 2008, 03:50 AM
the term kentucky rifle comes from the rifles used to hunt deer in kentucky, then indian land, trail blazed by folks like daniel boone. most of the rifles of the time came from german gunmakers in PA. the term "buck" for dollar came from the same time. the going rate for a quailty deerskin was a dollar. also terms like "flash in the pan", "going off half cocked", "lock, stock, and barrel". come from the same era.
July 26, 2008, 10:27 AM
I've been reading more on the subject and now I'm getting more confused than ever. Were the original rifles that could be called Kentucky or Pennsylvania rifles in .45 caliber or .50 caliber?
July 26, 2008, 11:37 AM
Re "Swamped" barrels.
Weight and material savings. A PA style rifle will run to 9 lbs, and the owner may have to run with it. Swamping cuts a few oz and saves some iron.
July 26, 2008, 01:12 PM
generally the kentucky rifles were from 40 to 48 cal. another innovation that appeared around the same time was the patched ball instead of a tight fitting bullet to obtain a good gas seal.
apparently in the 1960's the pennsylvania and kentucky historical societies had a shoot off to see which state should claim the name of the rifle. kentucky won the match.
July 27, 2008, 05:48 PM
These are generalities with some specifics.
English settlers brought matchlocks, then the flintlock we shoot today.
Dutch settlers brought snaphaunces, an early flintlock design.
Spanish brought miquelets, another early flintlock design.
French brought flintlocks like we shoot today.
Germans brought flintlocks very much like we shoot today, but a little earlier than the English/French style.
Most of these guns were big bores for killing large animals, 4 legged and 2 legged. Most European gun owners were wealthy landowners or their gamekeepers. Peasants did not own guns. If someone wanted to hunt small animals and birds he would load with shot instead of a ball. Most game hunting guns had short barrels because they were used in the forest. Military guns had long barrels. Soldiers didn't do battle in the woods. We all know they lined up in ranks and died accordingly. The only thing that saved them was that those early military guns didn't have rear sights, plus recruits didn't own weapons and had never fired one before. The logic of battle was to fire volleys and fill the air with ball, hoping to hit someone. The range they had to shoot at before they were all killed with cannon fire was too great for smoothbore guns with no rear sight.
The German jaegers evolved in the eastern US, Pennsylvania especially, into having small caliber bores because there were no big game animals other than bears. Barrels got longer because early gunpowder was so poor and slowburning it was good to keep the ball in the barrel longer to get more muzzle velocity. Rear sights became more common for the obvious reason.
Rifling was supposedly invented in Germany. The grooves were to be a place for fouling to accumulate, leaving the bullet riding on the lands, allowing more shots between swabbing out the bore. Some say the grooves were parallel to the barrel until someone realized that spinning balls were like arrows, more accurate than when they don't rotate.
Plains rifles, some call them, evolved for needing bigger bores for killing the same animals as before, shorter barrels for traveling in the forest, especially on a horse or mule.
They are all fun to shoot. In fact, it's the only reason to shoot them. I shoot different types in the historic reenacting I do. A Hawken replica at rendezvous and at some Texas Revolution battles. Percussion guns were common enough by 1836. Long rifles are good for both, as are smoothbores. 99+% of the Mexican Army carried the British "army surplus" Brown Bess, a
.75 caliber musket with no rear sight, unfortunately for them. Some of Santa Anna's select troops carried Baker rifles, rifle being the key word. Beaver trappers carried English or French "trade guns" .62 caliber/20 bore to .75 caliber/12 bore smoothbore flintlocks with no rear sight. Fur traders had more percussion plains rifles. They were nearer the trading posts at forts and could afford a $25 rifle. English trade guns were $8.
Enough of this. You probably know what was used in your area and why.
July 28, 2008, 11:10 AM
Since you consider this to be a very important decision you should take some time (as you are now doing) and read a couple books that may help in that decision. I would recommend very highly "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in the Golden Age" by Joe Kindig, and "The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle" by Henry J. Kauffman.
You may decide that this rifle was truly the first and original American rifle. It did not "evolve" from a Yaeger as some modern day "experts" would have us believe.
July 28, 2008, 12:10 PM
If you don't have enough to read and consider go here.