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Chambers English vs New England Fowlers

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Onojutta

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After planning on it for a long time, I was just about ready to order a Pennsylvania Fowler kit from Chambers for this winter until I decided that I wanted a fowler that had a little less in common with my last build which was a Lancaster rifle. That left me with the English Fowler/Officer's Fusil and the New England Fowler/Militia Musket kits as runners up. For the past few weeks I've been torn between the two and could use some insight. Winter is coming quickly and if I don't make up my mind soon I am liable to spend it remodeling another bathroom. 😜

I am not a re-enactor and don't have any strict PC requirements; however, I live and hunt in southeast and central PA and I like the idea of a fowler with lineage to what might have been used in these parts during the middle of the 18th century when this was the frontier. I also have ancestors who came over from Germany and England and although I don't know many details about when or where, the idea of a gun that would be similar to what one of my ancestors might have carried on the frontier is alluring. I know that British style fowlers were made in and around Philadelphia, but would a NE style fowler have been common in this neck of the woods during the middle of the 18th century?

Some other practical considerations include 20 gauge for the Fusil vs 10 or 12 for the NE (11 gauge is not currently available). Having two flintlock rifles, I don't plan to shoot much round ball with the fowler, so there is the "which bore is better as a dedicated shotgun" debate. I do plan to hunt small game and upland birds including turkey.

As for length, the Fusil is 57" and the NE is 62" overall. My Lancaster rifle measures just about 60" which can be a bit awkward transporting in vehicles or fitting in my ground blind, so I like that 57" seems more portable. Then again if we're talking fowlers, most of the originals were much longer than even the NE. And admittedly, how well a flintlock muzzleloader fits in a Toyota should be pretty far down the list of important considerations. But at 57", does the English Fowler/Officer's Fusil really pass for a true representation of a common fowler as the first part of its namesake might imply, or is it more of an aristocrat's gun that would have been relatively rare in those days?

Howbout balance and handling? Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to try either one on. Both are similar in weight; the 10 gauge barrel weighs about 3/4 lb less than the 12 according to Chambers. I would probably go with the 10 to save that weight so either finished gun would come in around 7-3/4 lbs. Does one handle or balance particularly different than the other? Howbout for swinging at birds on the wing?

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts. I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who owns or who is familiar with either of these guns and what your thoughts are. Why did you choose yours and how do you like it?
 
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dave_person

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Hi,
You really should buy Grinslade's "Flintlock Fowlers". It would help you understand many of the questions you asked. My choice given your bird hunting premise would be 16 gauge. The larger gauges would work well too except most modern muzzleloading barrels made in those sizes are too heavy and do not mimic the light feel of the originals. I believe Rice makes a nice thin walled barrel in 4140 steel but I don't know if it is an option for one of Chamber's kits. You may be able to get them to use a 16 gauge because the external dimensions of those barrels can be the same as 20 gauge barrels and therefore also lighter. Fowler barrel lengths varied a lot and it is a mistake to believe they all had really long barrels. Mid 18th century English fowlers were generally 39" to 46" long with 42" very common. Someone living in SE PA during the mid 1700s would likely not have a NE-made fowler. They could easily have modest quality imported English fowlers and I don't mean cheap trade guns. Photos below show and original imported English example that spent its working life in America. The barrel is 39 inches and 14 gauge.



You can learn much more about those great guns here:

dave
 

rich pierce

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I second the motion to get Grinslade’s book on Colonial fowlers. Lots of inspiration there.

It seems the challenge is that you want a kit gun. I’ve heard Kibler’s next offering will be an export quality English fowler largely patterned after one in Of Sorts for Provincials by Jim Mullins. No ETA yet.
 

dave_person

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Hi Rich,
I am disappointed with Jim's apparent choice, which is still not determined I believe. It is such a boring gun. I think I will offer to send him the fowler pictured above to copy. It is much, much more elegant and better quality.

dave
 

rich pierce

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Hi Rich,
I am disappointed with Jim's apparent choice, which is still not determined I believe. It is such a boring gun. I think I will offer to send him the fowler pictured above to copy. It is much, much more elegant and better quality.

dave
Hi Dave,
I’m not sure the one you’re proposing would be any more difficult to plan. And his English lock would fit the one above better in my view. He normally prefers more elegant guns, so he may be open to considering this one.
 

Onojutta

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I second the motion to get Grinslade’s book on Colonial fowlers. Lots of inspiration there.

It seems the challenge is that you want a kit gun. I’ve heard Kibler’s next offering will be an export quality English fowler largely patterned after one in Of Sorts for Provincials by Jim Mullins. No ETA yet.
Yes, that is precisely the dilemma. I have Grinslade's book, as well as some other reference material, and have read dave's fantastic tutorials over at ALR. If I were building the gun from a blank I would indeed build it to specifications different from what is available with the Chambers kits. But since this will be my first fowler, I'd like to start with a kit gun, and that limits my options which I have tentatively narrowed to the two in question.
 

rich pierce

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Since the PA fowler is off the table, either of your proposed smoothbores will build up into a fine gun. I’m not crazy about really big bore smoothbores because I like to shoot round ball. And my .69 New England gun is plenty big and about my limit for comfortable shooting. I use 85 grains of FFG and after about 15 shots I start to feel it. But your mileage may vary.
 

Capt. Jas.

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The gun in question AFAIK is not etched in stone. I imagine the boring example was considered as a viable piece that would be representative for the common man in the colonies so it would be attractive to reenactors more so than builders. I am also in the camp that would like to see a nice lined fowling piece with standing breech that could be gussied up or made as a basic import piece.
I think however that Jim is now considering an American style to utilize maple stocking. I'm sure his choice will be superior in quality but it would be nice to see something made available that nobody is offering.
 

Onojutta

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Hi,
You really should buy Grinslade's "Flintlock Fowlers". It would help you understand many of the questions you asked. My choice given your bird hunting premise would be 16 gauge. The larger gauges would work well too except most modern muzzleloading barrels made in those sizes are too heavy and do not mimic the light feel of the originals. I believe Rice makes a nice thin walled barrel in 4140 steel but I don't know if it is an option for one of Chamber's kits. You may be able to get them to use a 16 gauge because the external dimensions of those barrels can be the same as 20 gauge barrels and therefore also lighter. Fowler barrel lengths varied a lot and it is a mistake to believe they all had really long barrels. Mid 18th century English fowlers were generally 39" to 46" long with 42" very common. Someone living in SE PA during the mid 1700s would likely not have a NE-made fowler. They could easily have modest quality imported English fowlers and I don't mean cheap trade guns. Photos below show and original imported English example that spent its working life in America. The barrel is 39 inches and 14 gauge.
Dave, as to your first statement highlighted above, would that include even the 46" barrel bored out to 10 gauge that Chambers would supply? I prefer light as possible and my line of thinking was that if the overall weight of the gun was somewhere around 7.5-8 lbs, that would still be on the light side of many of the guns presented in Grinslade's book.

Speaking of Grinslade's book and to the second statement highlighted, with the exception of BS11 and BS12, every British Fowler presented has a barrel length greater than 50". But the guns in Grinslade's were British Fowlers made in America. When you say English fowlers, assume you are referring to those brought over from England? Were those generally shorter in length than their American made counterparts?

And last, if the NE school of American gun making was the largest (was it the earliest?), couldn't we expect that the market for those NE guns would have moved west with the frontier or spread throughout the colonies through trade, etc.? Or did the guns remain relative local to their places of origin back then?
 

rich pierce

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I’ll chip in here. I believe many to most of the colonial British style fowlers were waterfowling guns used in Long Island Sound and thereabouts. So long barrels and big bores made sense. The same may be true of Hudson Valley fowling pieces, that they were more for waterfowl than upland game and general use.
I’m finishing a plank- built 24 ga NE fowler that should come in right about 7 pounds. I expect that in New England, some coastal and CT River guns were for waterfowling, and in other places the fowlers being made were general purpose guns.
I surmise that English export fowlers not intended for the trade to Native Americans were general purpose guns with barrels in the 3 and a half to 4 foot length range and of modest bore. Guns for Native trade tended to be standard rises in bore and barrel lengths and light weight.
 

Capt. Jas.

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I agree with Rich. The Grinslade book shows mainly the heavy duck guns/waterfowling pieces. They are not light birding pieces. Another thing to keep in mind is that what are referred to as "British style" are NOT British guns (there are only two or three small photos of English guns in the book) but mostly New York made guns that generally utilized English type hardware and styling. That said, they are not representative of the racy styled English birding/rough shooting piece but more so the heavier duck guns.
 

Buckskinn

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I was debating the same thing and just got off the phone with Barbie, ordered the English Fowler as recommended by Dave in Walnut. Unfortunately English walnut is in poor supply and ridiculously expensive, so went with upgraded American. They did have one option that I had to put off... What type of lock should I get, Colonial or English Round-faced? I assume English, but figured I would get experts opinion.
 

Buckskinn

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Also, I see that Kibler offers an English lock.... Wonder if Chambers would discount lock? I assume dimensions would be the same as far as the plate itself???
 

rich pierce

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No, the Chambers and Kibler locks are not interchangeable. It might insult Jim Chambers if you suggest you want another vendor’s lock. The Chambers lock is outstanding.
 

Grenadier1758

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I would lean towards the Chambers Round Faced English Lock. The lock plate is interchangeable with the Chambers Colonial (Virginia) Lock.


The main difference is the relief border and the "waterproof" pan. I think the round faced lock looks better on the fowling gun with the other English architecture.
 

Capt. Jas.

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They are both English just pick according to the grade of gun you want it to represent.
 

satwel

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I built the Chambers English Officer's fusil about 6 years ago. I am very happy with it. It is light-weight, slender and shoulders nicely and it's fun to shoot. I bought it to use in the smoothbore events at the NMLRA territorial matches. I've won a few medals with it as well as a turkey and a bag of potatoes at a turkey shoot in Maine. So far I've only shot patched .590 round balls. I've yet to fire buck shot. The round faced English lock is first-rate, the barrel has a pronounced taper with dramatic flare at the muzzle. I'm no expert on authenticity, but to me it looks just like the pictures of Dave Person's English Fusils. My only regret is that I didn't install a silver wrist escutcheon when I built it.
 
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