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Colonial Long Rifle vs Kentucky Long Rifle

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starman

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What is the difference between colonial long rifles, like those made during the 18th century, and those of Daniel Boone’s day? I have been shooting my smoothbore Brown Bess for a while and I am now interested in a flintlock long rifle.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
Colonial long rifles were made before 1783 and the others were made after 1783. :) Actually, Daniel Boone (born in 1734) spans both periods. There are thick books published explaining the schools and styles of American long rifles. At the risk of being incredibly superficial, the earlier guns were more robust, more German like, had better carving, few metal inlays, larger bores, very limited engraving, and often had wooden patch box lids as well as brass. The barrels also tended to have heavier swamping and the hardware was almost always brass. Later guns got skinnier, often profusely carved but the quality of the carving declined, metal inlays increased, wooden patch box lids disappeared in favor of brass, bores got smaller, barrels straighter, engraving became more extensive and in some regions, forged iron hardware became popular. Decoration tended away from European traditions and toward local folk art. Toward the percussion period, most carving disappeared, guns were plainer although some had profuse use of metal inlays, which were sometimes not engraved. Basically, by the 1830s most of the artistry was gone.

dave
 

Art Caputo

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The short answer is probably not much difference, Daniel Boone’s life spanned from 1734-1824, encompassing the 18th and 19th centuries. The American flintlock evolved quite a bit throughout his lifespan. The bulk of his shooting days occurred in the 18th century. It is said that he owned several different rifles during his lifetime, but it’s quite likely that he used rifles during his younger years resembling what we refer to as “early colonial” rifles. His rifle of note called “Ole Ticklicker” is said to have been made in Pennsylvania, 40 cal, and weighed about 10 pounds,
 

starman

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Thanks, Dave. I think that pretty well covers my question!

Now, if I want to look for a Kentucky long rifle, more of the latter type that Daniel may have used, where should I look? I want a nice rifle, but expense is a consideration. Thanks!

Jack
 

rich pierce

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The colonial rifle probably spans just 30 years and we’re made in a few gun east coast making centers, while the post Revolutionary War rifles spanned almost a hundred years and a continent.

When exploring what sort of rifle would interest you most, the 2 main areas that may sharpen your focus are what part of history or regional history appeals to you most, and what you’d like to use a gun for.

Many folks are pleased to have a rifle that generally fits the bill of frontiersman it’s pioneer. Others dig deep into history, going so far as to wanting a rifle like one made by a particular maker, and putting together a whole kit, gun, horn, bag, accoutrements, clothing, and persona. Either approach is fun and engages the mind and imagination.
 

rich pierce

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Where does an Isaac Haines fit in?
So Isaac Haines was an actual Lancaster gunsmith who worked during and after the Revolutionary War. You might be surprised to find he made a variety of rifles, not a model per se, varying barrel lengths, and in later guns, a more narrow, curved buttplate.

The kits marketed as Isaac Haines rifles have correct hardware and feature 38” barrels which save some weight. Architecture is great and the wide tall buttplate is comfortable to shoot. Great choice for 1770-1785 era rifle. Of course a rifle would be used long after it was made.
 

MtnMan

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So Isaac Haines was an actual Lancaster gunsmith who worked during and after the Revolutionary War. You might be surprised to find he made a variety of rifles, not a model per se, varying barrel lengths, and in later guns, a more narrow, curved buttplate.

The kits marketed as Isaac Haines rifles have correct hardware and feature 38” barrels which save some weight. Architecture is great and the wide tall buttplate is comfortable to shoot. Great choice for 1770-1785 era rifle. Of course a rifle would be used long after it was made.


Thanks, Rich. Most of my muzzleloader career has been with Hawkens. I'm still learning about long rifles.
 

tenngun

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Those names, colonial, Kentucky, Southern Mountain, late, early Ect are all make believe names. Makers made rifles, and adapted design to what the market wanted.
For instance, German rifles tended to have shorter barrels. Most of the men buying rifles in America were British French or Dutch. They seem to like longer barreled guns. So German American makers made longer barrels.
Colonial guns tended to look like German guns with longer barrels. After the revolution deer and smaller game became the rifles target. Smaller bores became common, so slimmer guns and common .
Styles became important just for looks. The French ‘calf’s foot’ design would show up on some Pennsylvania guns.
Germanic, Scandinavian and British descended folks in the old north west leaned to inlays that could serve a real purpose like protection around pin holes or no purpose like a silver heart behind the lock.
French and Celtic people in the south tended to plain, but flowing lines.
All of our names are just an artificial grouping of many guns made in an area at a time. Even though there were exceptions to the rule, and out of style guns would continue to be used and moved in to new areas.
 

Col. Batguano

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There are a number of rifles out there that are documented to have been the real Daniel Boone's rifles and reside in museums. I think a number of our members know the locations and could post links for you. I just don't happen to have them myself. Quite a few talented builders here could make you a bench copy if that's what you're after. As I recall, they were long on utility and rather short on a great deal of embellishment.

One note as a continuance to the above post by Tenngun. Just like today, guns that were made 20-30-40 years prior (from "back in the day") tended to remain in service even though contemporary styles of the day in manufacture had changed. Guns are things that will last as long as you take care of them. I see plenty of people at ranges today with 20-30-50-80 year old guns (though they tend not to use and carry them every day).

Of course, the fancier and more embellished ones tended NOT to be utility "tools" and usually were used more gingerly than those that were less fancifully adorned. (I have fancy guns, and I have plain ones. The fancy stuff only sees the range. The plain stuff goes in to the woods with me.) Simply for the reason that the plain ones were used for what they were made for, and the purchase price was cheaper then, just as the same is true today. That's why a greater percentage of fancy guns from the period survive than those that were "rode hard and put away wet". People tend to take better care of their nicer things. A fancy gun with a lot of decoration generally won't shoot a lot better than a plain one. It just looks prettier when you're doing it.
 
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Col. Batguano

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Could you please help me understand what you mean by the term; "Predator Trap"? I'm not picking a fight. Just trying to understand.
 

tenngun

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Predator normally make up less then ten percent of a population of prey. Often less then three percent. But we find some places where there have been large die offs of animals and we find an unusually large number of predictors in the kill zone.
La brea tar pits In Los Angeles is a good example. Prey would come to drink, get stuck in the tar, predators came to eat and also got stuck, bringing more predators and so on.
We screen fo something like fancy guns, and throw plain ones away. So after awhile fancy old guns out number plain one, even though ( I think) plain guns out numbered fancy ones. We created a predator trap.
 
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One note as a continuance to the above post by Tenngun. Just like today, guns that were made 20-30-40 years prior (from "back in the day") tended to remain in service even though contemporary styles of the day in manufacture had changed. Guns are things that will last as long as you take care of them. I see plenty of people at ranges today with 20-30-50-80 year old guns (though they tend not to use and carry them every day).

Of course, the fancier and more embellished ones tended NOT to be utility "tools" and usually were used more gingerly than those that were less fancifully adorned. (I have fancy guns, and I have plain ones. The fancy stuff only sees the range. The plain stuff goes in to the woods with me.) Simply for the reason that the plain ones were used for what they were made for, and the purchase price was cheaper then, just as the same is true today. That's why a greater percentage of fancy guns from the period survive than those that were "rode hard and put away wet". People tend to take better care of their nicer things. A fancy gun with a lot of decoration generally won't shoot a lot better than a plain one. It just looks prettier when you're doing it.
The counter argument to this is that the gunsmithing/stocking business was so highly competitive at the time, and labor was so cheap compared to materials, and the outlay for something as elaborate as a rifle was so dear, that decoration was so minor of a portion of the overall cost that the proportion of fancy versus plain rifles was relatively high in favor of fancy guns.

It's kind of like automakers today; finding and buying a "plain" car without a huge amount of options is hard to do, for some of the same reasons, except labor and materials have swapped places.

I haven't decided which side of the argument I am on as both sides have compelling points, imo.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
The notion that plain guns dominated during the 18th century is not backed up by any evidence. Of course, it depends on your definition of plain. If you mean no carving, engraving, and very simple hardware, there is not much evidence they predominated. If you read the day book listings from the Moravian gun shop at Christian's Spring published by Bob Lienemann in his 2 volume history of Moravian gun making, you find that the shop was making guns with a spread of price ranges but none predominated. Many surviving Rev War period rifles are fairly plain but virtually all have some carving. They also show extensive use indicating they were not wall hangers. Many, if not most, surviving long rifles that were originally flintlocks were converted to percussion ignition. Even the most ornate. Many, if not most, of the surviving carved and decorated flintlock rifles that you see in the books were converted to percussion and later converted back to flint. There is no reason to convert a rifle to percussion if it was a wall hanger. Davy Crocket's purported first gun is a beautiful carved York County rifle. Decoration was common and the buyers could afford it. Finally, the notion that styles and "schools" are a modern invention is not accurate. Longrifle "schools" derived from important local makers that had distinct styles of architecture and decoration. They taught apprentices who carried on those styles sometimes changing and developing them after experiences as journeymen with gunsmiths outside the areas in which they apprenticed. However, the distinctions carried on through time and can be identified today by knowledgeable students of long rifles. The labels we now give them may be a later invention but those styles existed and were recognized at the time.

dave
 

Bob McBride

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I tend to agree with Dave. The early trade guns, Carolinas, etc., and other cheap imports being the Best Buy for a ‘plain gun’ would have precluded a noted Colonial/American gunmaker, whose demand would have certainly most often exceeded his capacity, from messing around in that market, much less having his name attached to an ‘ugly, unfinished’ gun. On the other hand, I do think there was a plain gun market, though the gap, I believe, between someone who could never afford a gun at all and someone who could afford a fine one or who would save until he could buy a fine one was very narrow indeed.
 

tenngun

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Well this was a time of decoration.
The timber used to secure an anchor is the cats head. Even plane working boats often had a face or cats face carved on one. And internal supports were often craved to resemble pillars
we see this in furniture or ‘cheap’metal cups..
So even trade guns had a bit of molding.
I don’t know that labor was cheap. Black slavery became a thing because too many whites left their indentured service via leg bail and could simply blend in where as blacks were easy to spot.There was a cry out for manpower all over the colonies and later the states
Labor was cheap in Europe, people came west for opportunity
Well into the industrial revolution we had our cities and slums but colonial and early federal times there was a better job just down the road.
It’s interesting that while labor got cheaper stuff got plainer. Shaker would become a much imitated style till the post war explosion of Victorian style
The guns sold at the first rendezvous were rifles for ‘Americans’ and fusils to Indians and French.
Who was buying those rifles at rendezvous?
No one left Saint Louis without one, ones own or provided by the company. So guns sold might be replacements.
How many mountain men were there at a rendezvous at one time. Were ten percent of the men having to replace a gun each year?Five?
Did that sort of numbers hold true for longhunters and overmountian men?
While the golden age of American long rifles with richly carved and inlet rifles was going on the plainer very elegant Ohio style was developing and the plainer work a day SMR was well established.
England would build millions of BrownBesses. Where did they all go.
We know many plane fowling guns were made at this time and even a gentleman’s fowling gun might be plain next to some lancasters.
Most guns became part of the great white fleet or Sherman tanks or maybe m1s
I THINK being a work of art would help a gun survive.
 

rich pierce

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Early English trade RIFLES were sturdy copies of carved Lancaster rifles of the 1770s. These were guns traded to Great Lakes tribes. Of course they could have made them plain to save time but apparently their customers expected a carved rifle.

That all changed for trade RIFLES by 1800. Carving was gone in later trade rifles. This is one data point but indicates that plain rifles were undesirable in one time frame and a couple decades later, even during the Golden Age, there was a market for plain working RIFLES.

I’m not talking smoothbores.
 

tenngun

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And there is the rub.
Styles changed fast. The maker that was making ‘golden age’ rifles was still alive making planer guns twenty years later.
I recall a letter of complaint published in the fur trade quarterly that was going on about beads that he couldn’t keep in stock the last year he couldn’t sell at all this year.
Whenever we look back at history from an attempt to recreate it we all carry out modern mind set, “what would I want if I lived in that time?’
They had a different mind set. And what makes perfect sense to us many times doesn’t seem to have crossed their minds.
 
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