Educate me on rifles...


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toddbg
January 9, 2013, 01:32 PM
Hi Guys -
Now that I've gotten the pistol I am bitten and am beginning to think of rifles and shotguns.

I found a local group that focuses on 1820-1840 time period for their shoots.

I started looking and realize that I really don't know what the differences are between the types.

Can you guys fill me in on the differences/details of the types of rifles from this time period? (kentucky, hawken, great plains, hunter, etc...)
What would be a good first percussion rifle that fits that timeframe.

I'd like to not spend a lot as I want to buy more pistols! :)

Thanks

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pohill
January 9, 2013, 03:07 PM
I have a Hawkins .50 that I built from a kit. Great shooter, accurate, with as much kick as you want. I use a .490 - .495 patched ball, and 70 - 90 grs of FFG black powder (or Pryodex). You can find the Hawkins in the $100 range for a decent 1st rifle, or you can go crazy with more expensive ones.

mykeal
January 9, 2013, 04:40 PM
Well, first of all, there are no hard and fast rules; many examples exist that stretch the definitions of each style and type.

The plains style is generally a half stock, large bore (45 or larger), rifled, 27" to 33" long barrel.

A 'Hawken' (NOT Hawkens, or hawkin, although Sam Hawken himself often spelled his name Hawkin...) is a particular example of a plains style rifle made by the J&S Hawken Co. of St. Louis, MO. None of the current mass produced rifles using the name Hawken are true examples. Perhaps the closest one can get today is a custom built rifle by Don Stith. The name is often used to mean a plains style rather than a true replica of the design.

The 'Kentucky' or 'Pennsylvania' style is generally a full stock small to medium bore, rifled, 35" to more than 42" barrel. There are many, many variations on this general theme, each with enough individual characteristics to justify it's own name apart from the general classification: poor boy, southern mountain, Virginia, Haines, Lancaster (early and late), etc. etc. Some are named for regions of the country, others for a certain gunsmith's theme, or school.

Then one can get into fowlers, smoothbores, muskets, musketoons, rifles and so on.

Nobody said it was easy.

loose noose
January 9, 2013, 04:45 PM
I believe he said from the 1820-1840 realm. Therefore a percussion rifle or handgun would not be appropriate. Try a flintlock, as the Hawkins was availbale then in flint. I don't believe the percussion firearms became popular until the 1850's however, I could be mistaken, as it has happened before.:uhoh:

mykeal
January 9, 2013, 04:53 PM
Forsyth's patent on the percussion cap was dated 1807; it's generally considered that the percussion cap was 'introduced' in the 1820's and remained 'popular' through the 1850's when metallic cartridges began appearing.

Jaymo
January 9, 2013, 06:22 PM
I'm quite fond of the Southern mountain rifles, especially the Tennessee variant, though any of them make me happy.
Not that I'd turn my nose up at a Kentucky, Pennsylvania, or plains rifle.

IIRC, the percussion lock became common on pistols before rifles.

Either one would be good. Flintlock would be most common for the time period, especially in Southern Appalachia, where the flintlock remained common into the 1900s.

toddbg
January 9, 2013, 06:40 PM
Thanks for the info guys.

So basically I am looking at a difference between percussion and flint (the group uses both)

And then stock length.

Are there differentiators with regards to overall gun length? or is that mainly determined by the length of the barrel? Meaning that the poor boy, southern mountain, kentucky etc would all be long guns where as the Hunter, Hawken or Plains would tend to be an overall shorter gun length?

4v50 Gary
January 9, 2013, 07:27 PM
Fur trade era rifles are generally shorter barrel and bigger bore than a longrifle. The stocks are also thicker. They were meant to be more rugged.

Longrifles evolved from the jager (German/Swiss hunter) rifle. The Jager was short (about 30-33" barrel, big bore like 60 caliber and larger) with heavy stocks. They often came with wood patch boxes and set triggers. Colonial gunsmiths made them progressively smaller bore (less than 60 to about 50 during the revolution and then even smaller during the Federal Period) and longer barrel. The theory was that the longer barrel burned the powder more efficiently. The stocks became more slender and graceful and like the jaeger, could be embellished with relief carving and some engraving. By the time of the late Federal Period, a lot of relief carving gave way to inlays. As Americans moved westward, they needed sturdier rifles and hence the (regression) to the larger bore, shorter barrel and heavier stock rifle. In time it would become known as the Plains rifle. Many were made as flintlocks but later ones were percussion fired. A lot of mountain men preferred flintlocks because they didn't have to worry about resupplying themselves with caps. Besides, Indian arrowheads were abundant and they could readily be modified to serve as a flint.

J-Bar
January 9, 2013, 09:04 PM
When the end of the world as we know it occurs, I hope I have time to save my Foxfire books. The link is to a section on Hacker Martin, one of the last of the old-time muzzleloading gunsmiths, published in Foxfire #5:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8wFcFxCkoFsC&pg=PA263&lpg=PA263&dq=foxfire+hacker+martin&source=bl&ots=BOE-108z4H&sig=tBGAIzoN2wXTmbKuRbjqXhO-7fA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=giDuUPqXJsSF2gXpxoHwDQ&sqi=2&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=foxfire%20hacker%20martin&f=false

Chawbaccer
January 9, 2013, 09:33 PM
You should probably pick out the part of the country that you are replicating, different areas had their own style of rifle, also what the game you are going after.

Loyalist Dave
January 10, 2013, 09:31 AM
Be careful about assuming "trade rifles" had "short barrels". This JJ Henry "Lancaster Pattern" trade rifle (http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?topic=20669.0) was very common from 1820-1840 with a 44" barrel, and one can also find caplock trade rifles (http://www.gunsinternational.com/LANCASTER-PATTERN-PENNSYLVANIA-INDIAN-TRADE-RIFLE-BY-J-HENRY-CA-1830-.cfm?gun_id=100264207), this one with a 40" barrel. I don't know if the second link is a rifle that started out flintlock and was later converted to caplock.

LD

mykeal
January 10, 2013, 11:52 AM
the poor boy, southern mountain, kentucky etc would all be long guns
Generally, yes, but there are exceptions
where as the Hunter, Hawken or Plains would tend to be an overall shorter gun length?
There is no 'Hunter' style, and a Hawken is a plains style.

4v50 Gary
January 10, 2013, 01:16 PM
From Lewis H. Garrard's book, Wah-to-yah and the Taos Trail:

"Having made all necessary preparations, such as laying in a good store of caps, fine, glazed powder, etc.; and having seen the shot towers, French Town, public and private building at the instance of Mr. St. Vrain, our worthy chef du voyage, I crammed my purchases, clothes, etc., in my trunk, put it in charge of the porter, and walked to the steamer Saluda, bound for Kansas, on the Missouri River, with many kind wishes uttered in my behalf; and, after the third tolling of the bell, and in obedience to the signals of the pilot, we were stemming the uninviting, yellow Mississippi."

He was seventeen years old at the time and the year was 1846. Garrard does shoot game with his rifle. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the Fur Trade Era.

BTW, he mentions that either coffee or sugar was $1 a pound (p60).

Cosmoline
January 10, 2013, 01:22 PM
What's the group's focus beyond time frame? In that period you had a shift from flint to percussion and from handmade to mass produced. Lots of interesting new rifles and muskets were being made and the old ones were still around too. The type of game in the region tended to effect the style. There were big bore Hawken and small bore Ohio style rifles. The further into the wilderness you went the bigger the bores tended to get due to bears and buff. But of course a lot of fur trappers had no fancy Hawken.

Personally I'd suggest trying something a little different and exploring the smooth bores of the period. The 1842 Musket was one of the best ever made and one of the first items ever produced with fully interchangeable parts. It's a very important piece of world history, really. Without the technology perfected in making those muskets and the Hall patent rifles there would be no cars, computers, or anything else we've come to rely on.

mykeal
January 10, 2013, 02:47 PM
Personally I'd suggest trying something a little different and exploring the smooth bores of the period. The 1842 Musket was one of the best ever made and one of the first items ever produced with fully interchangeable parts.
+1.

4v50 Gary
January 10, 2013, 08:12 PM
Suggested reading: Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men by Carl P. Russell.

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