French & Indian War Era Flintlock Rifles

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Capt. Jas.

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So how many pre 1760's guns were American made as opposed to imported? How much building was going on then vs. repair and maybe restoring?
 

rich pierce

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Pure speculation/blind reasoning, but if there were 500-2000 rifles (pick a number) in the 1740s in native American hands, there were not enough rifle-making gunsmiths anywhere in the colonies to provide them with rifles, and also make a few for local sales. The output of Christian Oerter in the mid 1760's to mid 1770's was around 16 rifles per year in a well known, established shop with plenty of existing specimens surviving, several of them having returned from Europe where they were taken during the Revolutionary War. The 1740's were 2 score years earlier. Seems unlikely production rates were higher, earlier. If we do the math, we need 7 riflesmith-years for every hundred rifles produced here. Makes importation of whole rifles seem likely to have been very important. Almost all the trade goods getting into native American hands were imported. ALL the smoothbore trade guns getting into native American hands pre-1770 were imported. Draw your own conclusions, if any can be made from such ramblings. All I can say is "unless rifles were different from all other trade goods, the ones traded to native Americans pre-1770 were primarily imported".
 

Dphar

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Capt. Jas. said:
So how many pre 1760's guns were American made as opposed to imported? How much building was going on then vs. repair and maybe restoring?


There just in no way of knowing. The record keeping, other than book keeping for some businesses, just is not there.
There are a few mentions in journals and letters.
Its just not possible to figure out at this date.

We know that in 1757 Indian Goods belonging to the Ohio Company at Rock Creek had rifles and smooth rifles with first cost in London indicated. So they were likely imported from England.
They were also "best iron mounted" and the smooth bores were "very small Bores".

So we have this much at least.
The early inventories of the Christian Springs gunshop seem to be dominated by rifle parts (?)
This is 1760s. Several years after the Rock Creek inventory above.
It is obvious that there were gunsmiths here before 1740 that had to know how to make rifles.
But proving they did so??
Lots of luck.

Dan
 

Dphar

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The next question would be when did barrel forging start in America.

Dan
 

Capt. Jas.

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Rich Pierce said:
Pure speculation/blind reasoning, but if there were 500-2000 rifles (pick a number) in the 1740s in native American hands, there were not enough rifle-making gunsmiths anywhere in the colonies to provide them with rifles, and also make a few for local sales. The output of Christian Oerter in the mid 1760's to mid 1770's was around 16 rifles per year in a well known, established shop with plenty of existing specimens surviving, several of them having returned from Europe where they were taken during the Revolutionary War. The 1740's were 2 score years earlier. Seems unlikely production rates were higher, earlier. If we do the math, we need 7 riflesmith-years for every hundred rifles produced here. Makes importation of whole rifles seem likely to have been very important. Almost all the trade goods getting into native American hands were imported. ALL the smoothbore trade guns getting into native American hands pre-1770 were imported. Draw your own conclusions, if any can be made from such ramblings. All I can say is "unless rifles were different from all other trade goods, the ones traded to native Americans pre-1770 were primarily imported".

Not much of a compliment to you Rich but we think alike. :grin:
 

tg

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"As there are few records and no accurate drawings of what the guns of that earlier era actually looked like there is no way of knowing what to look for beyond lock styles and known later developments which would rule out the gun"

Hell Zonie just put a flintlock on a CVA Bobcat and you have it ...no?
 

goon

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I'm pretty sure the Bobcat's synthetic stock would fall under the category of a "later development." :grin:

Fascinating discussion though. I'm currently interested in researching rifles stocked as fowlers, so I'm thinking after I have a little time to read this thread more closely it will be of much use.
 

rich pierce

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English rifles were stocked just like their fowlers, with the common addition of a sliding wooden patchbox. There are a very few rifles in Sumway's Rifles of Colonial America volumes 1 and 2 which were stocked as fowlers (guard with no rail, round toe) but were rifled. Much more common are guns stocked as rifles but lacking rifling. Obviously some portion of those were likely rifles when first made. Especially, but not exclusively, those with double set triggers and prominent rear sights.
 
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I agree with what (I think, anyway) Zonie and Rich are saying about rifle styling, and I'll respectfully disagree in part with what Stophel and TG are saying, despite their knowledge - which, I will freely admit, exceeds mine to a great degree.

Some of the dating of rifles as "early" or "late" depends on features, particularly the stock style, that seem to correspond to examples with known dates. For some features, such as lock styles, there is definitive evidence, based on the patterns available from relatively plentiful imported locks.

For others, such as stock features, the evidence is scantier. Just because one gunsmith is known to use a certain style of architecture does not mean that he was the first to use it or that other rifles exhibiting similar archtecture, particularly if minimally embellished, necessarily come from that period.

Just as there was a lot of "wishful" dating going on in the 1960's and '70's, I think some of the reaction against that dating goes too far the other way, stating that rifles of the 1750's and 1760's (or 1770's and 1780's for that matter) looked a certain way based on the very few known examples out there, and unsigned, undated rifles must be from a later period because they look like other rifles from a decade or two later. They might be, but we just don't know. Saying that a rifle is only as old as its latest feature is correct, but only if we KNOW definitively that that feature was not around in earlier, now-lost examples.

Of course, the later the period, the more sure we can be, because more examples survive. So TG's beloved :wink: Bobcat has one or two features that we know definitively disqualify it from being HC for any period before the late 20th or early 21st century, but we don't know definitively, for example, whether the "Tulip" rifle or the "Marshall rifle" are 1750 rifles or 1780 restocks.

So while a "checklist" may not produce an early rifle, it does not also necessarily disqualify one. An honest attempt to recreate what "might" have been around is open to legitimate discussion and, perhaps, honest and well-intentioned disagreement.
 

Dphar

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From "British Military Flintlock Rifles" by Bailey
"Last summer I raised 500 foot, fifty riflemen, 800 Indians wch is a vast Charge..."
Governor Dongan of New York to the Governor of PA, 30 March, 1688"

There were rifles in French Canada by the late 1680s as well.
Surely from Europe but still rifles. So rifle use in NA goes back much farther than many might think.

Obviously there were a lot of imported guns. But saying there were no rifle makers in America in the 1740s is not supportable. Unless we believe that there were no trained gunsmiths in America by that time.

By the Revolution the natives were so used to American rifles that the British had to make Kentucky's in England as trade rifles. They did not make English styled rifles they made copies of American rifles. The natives were picky and apparently would not buy English style rifles, the American rifle was what they wanted.

So we have to ask why was this if they started out with English rifles in the 1740s or before? Were the English rifles inferior in someway to the American made rifles? Or were the rifles in the 1740s already American rifles at least in form? Were there more of them than many might think?

I am not putting this out as fact I am simply putting this out for people to think about.

One reason for importing gun/rifle barrels may have been the quality of iron available here. It would appear the gunshop at Christian Springs did not have a rifling bench prior or 1766 but were making rifles prior to this apparently with imported barrels. There is far more we don't know than we know.
From "The Frontier Rifleman" LaCrosse pg 76:
"They are remarkable at Philadelphia for making rifle Barrell Gunns,which throw a Ball above 300 yards vastly well,& much better than other Barrells. People here in general shoot very well with ball , but don't doe much with Shot".
Sir William Johnson Papers 1761.

"A large part of the provincials are armed with grooved rifles, and have their moulds..."
Colonel Henry Bouquet, Carlise PA 1758


Sounds like rifle shooters and makers to me. When did they start? It appears there were a lot of rifles around by the mid 1740s if we read "Bailey".

Dan
 

rich pierce

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I sure wish we knew more about the early Philadelphia gunsmiths. Seems surprising more is known of early Lehigh, Northampton, Allentown, Lancaster gunsmiths. And what we know of those more "frontier" gunsmiths indicates rather small capacity for production before 1760, even if they did nothing but make rifles for Indians; no repair work, no local work. Finding a Philadelphia "production" and examples of the early Philly rifles would be a terrific breakthrough.
 

jhenry1728

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I've actually been waiting for a post on this topic for a while.

That's to everyone for the great information, history, research, and analysis!
 

tg

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I have seen several mentions of 3-3/1/2 foot rifles imported, some from the Dutch for sale in the 1750's some were refered to as "lots" there is a very good chance that most in this period were imported as mentioned by others, and being that early and earler the colonial made might resemble them considerably depending on the background of the builder as some feel few of the traits that define the schools were well established at that time, Schumway does "speculate" several guns as possible 1740-50 manufacture and I find very much in common between these and 1770 guns, I think most just choose a "safe" direction lacking any dateable examples, up to a point it is hard to put a right or wrong on the choice of gun built considering the varying theories/opinions, emphasis on "to a point"
 

Maestro

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Rich Pierce said:
Seems surprising more is known of early Lehigh, Northampton, Allentown, Lancaster gunsmiths.

Not really surprising at all, considering the Moravians' penchant for record keeping and preserving those records in their archives... from its very beginning, the Unitas Fratrum kept and preserved careful and meticulous records of their church, community, and commercial life.

I spent some time last year researching their music... their music archives alone consist of nearly 10,000 manuscripts and printed works! :hatsoff:
 

joed1223

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I don't much about gun history but I find all these posts fascinating. The wealth of knowledge on this site is incredible....thanks for sharing! :bow:
 

tg

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Very true I have learned a great deal about the guns and other aspects of the past over the last decade on this forum and am very gratefull to those who share their countless hours of study with others.
 

Cheyenne

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Rich Pierce said:
Took me a while but I found a picture of a Germanic Europen original rifle with a curvaceous buttstock. A real dandy; might be 1760's or 1770's, Stophel would know better than I do. Note how similar the long wrist is to the Bucks County style. Just shows the Bucks county rifle incorporated features already around even in Europe. No ancestral relationship proposed.

originalgriffon.jpg


Any other pictures of this one? Really interesting looking rifle!
 

Dphar

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Rich Pierce said:
Draw your own conclusions, if any can be made from such ramblings. All I can say is "unless rifles were different from all other trade goods, the ones traded to native Americans pre-1770 were primarily imported".

My question would be;
Why were imported English trade rifles (Wilson's etc) American rifle look-a-likes instead of Eurpean rifle look-a-likes?
We just don't know.
We know that gun parts, rifle, pistol and smoothbore were being imported.
We know gunsmiths came over. For one thing a Journeyman Gunsmith could come to America and not be encumbered by the European Guild system which could prevent him from EVER having his our shop.
I suspect there were ALWAYS some Gunsmiths here. Probably brought along for maintenance and repair work if nothing else. The average person coming to America had not the slightest idea how to make a spring for example.
So SOMEONE had to come along to keep what ever arms they might have in shootable condition.
So thinking there were no gunsmiths in America is 1680 for example is just silly.
Near as I can tell all military units had trained gunsmiths for obvious reasons.
A. Albrecht worked in this capacity before immigrating to America.
There was a tendency, as I may have previously stated, to date guns too early in Dillon's time and I think NOW were often date them too late.
The relief carved, engraved brass patch box, long barrel, moderate caliber (low-mid 40s) was ALREADY FULLY FORMED by 1770 in America.
So did this arm just suddenly appear fully formed in the late 1760s? Very Doubtful.
We have to think about all this.
The REQUIREMENT that colonists who would not other wise own a firearm have one. Cheapest that would fill the requirement? What do you think?
Where did the natives learn of the rifle and why were they in such wide spread use by them in the 1740s.
Its very likely that General Braddock was killed by a RIFLE ball.
THEN.
Of late it is all the rage to adopt the smoothbore "because everybody had one" (never mind that it was REQUIRED by law) from this it has morphed into how effective and wonderful the SB is. As a result we see people making claims as to how rare the rifle was, that it did not exist before 1700 or 1740 (pick a date) because the SB was so useful, which has been repeatedly proven as false both historically and in contemporary use.
But this all requires selective reading of the historical record. For example there were two primary concerns over the natives having rifles by the mid 1750s. First they it was very detrimental to the Colonists due to the manner in which the natives conducted warfare. "They from a great distance from behind a tree...take such aim as seldom miseth their mark." John Bartram 1756.
Just as bad or worse the rifle USED LESS POWDER AND LEAD. Bad for trade.

The proponents of the smoothbore will tell us how much more effective it is in warfare. But the (surely) smooth bore armed French Canadian and Native scouts with Burgoyne at Saratoga abandoned the fight and virtually ALL went home when Morgan's Riflemen arrived and started scouting for the Patriots. "but the few that remained of the former (natives) could not be brought within sound of a rifle-shot..." As a result Burgoyne was blinded and had no knowledge of anything beyond his line if pickets.
Based on these and other accounts from the 1740s on the rifle was far more widespread and effective than the proponents of the smoothbore would like to believe.
Then we have the frontier thing. If the natives have rifles and "seldom miseth their mark" at long distance its hard to deal with them if inside a stockade or blockhouse and the occupants are only armed with muskets or fowling pieces.

So F&I rifle? At least some of them probably looked very much like the Resor rifle in "Steel Canvas", the Haymaker rifle owned by Hankock Taylor and a HOST of other "Revolutionary War Rifles" that could EASILY be dated 25 years too late.
Caliber? Anything over 40 probably seldom over 50.
But then this is, for the most part supposition.
But it comes from reading and thinking.
Dan
 
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