GRRW Leman Trade Rifle

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plmeek

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This posting is in response to some interest in GRRW's Leman Trade Rifles expressed in Pat McCoy's thread Green River Hawken tumbler

The first rifle that Green River Rifle Works produced when they started up in 1972 was their half stock Leman Trade Rifle. The introductory price in 1972 for this rifle was $164.95 while the regular price was $199.95.

The price was increased to $225 in 1974 and steadily increased due to inflation after that. The 1979 price was $400 and may have gone up another $50 before they closed in the fall of 1980.

Due to some innovative use of accurate stock duplicators and milling machines to inlet the mortises on the Leman stocks, GRRW was able to keep the rate of increase in the price of the Leman Trade Rifle below that of their half stock Hawken rifles which were more complicated to build and required more labor. The Hawken rifle cost $324.95 when it was introduced in 1973 and had increased to $725 in 1979 and maybe $800 by the time they went under.

From the very beginning all the way to the end in 1980, GRRW was plagued with supply problems for the component parts they needed to build their guns. Initially, the most suitable lock for the Leman they could get in the volume they needed was the coil spring lock made by Bob Kern.

An early Leman Trade Rifle.


Close-up of the Kern lock.


Interior of the Kern coil spring lock.


Note that the tension on the main spring could be adjusted as well as the let-off pressure on the sear.

GRRW produced 900 factory finished rifles with this lock and an untold number of kits.

By the way, the Leman Trade Rifle serial numbers began with #101. The other models began with #1. Here is a photo of Doc White shooting SN 101. (From Doc White's website)


After SN 1000, GRRW starting using Ron Long's Hawken lock on their Leman Trade Rifles. In 1974, Phil "Bluejacket" Sanders redesigned the Leman Trade Rifle with a new butt plate and trigger guard that they cast themselves or had cast from proprietary molds. The redesigned rifle was slimmer than the one shown above.



Close-up of the Long lock on the Leman rifle.


I don't have a specific serial number or date (some time in the late 70's) but eventually, GRRW started using Bud Siler's Mountain lock on their Leman rifles.


It is also worth mentioning that the early rifles that GRRW made were built with Douglas barrels. They started making their own barrels in 1974, and the lowest serial numbered Leman Trade Rifle I've seen with a GRRW barrel is just over SN 1000. The Douglas barrels have 8 lands/grooves and the GRRW barrels have 7 lands/grooves.

GRRW also produced two variants on their Leman Trade Rifles. One was a scaled down version for Ladies and youngun's with a short length of pull and a 7/8" diameter barrel that they called their Little Leman. The other also had a 7/8" barrel, but with a longer length of pull that was referred to in early catalogs and advertisements as a Leman Squirrel Rifle. Both these variants were .45 caliber or smaller.

Barrel size was always an option that the customer could specify. The standard diameter for the full size Leman Trade Rifle was 1", but we've seen some with 1-1/16" and some with 1-1/8" barrels.

GRRW may have sold close to 2000 factory Leman Trade Rifles and a correspondingly large number in kit form which made it by far their best seller.

An ad for the Leman rifles from the March-April 1979 issue of Muzzleloader magazine.
 

Zonie

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Very interesting. Thanks for posting it. :)
 

Mickc01

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I enjoyed your post too. I remember those and used to look wistfully at them in the old Guns and Ammo Blackpower special editions. Those were definitely ahead of their time. I really hate that they went out of business....Mick C :hatsoff:
 

Shifty

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Dang I have never saw this much info on these guns,I like them,never saw one just pics, thanks.And I like the Kern Lock.
 

JonnyReb3

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Awesome write up on a model i knew nothing about.. thank you :hatsoff:
 

plmeek

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I appreciate your encouragement, Zonie and Mike C.

Like you, Mike, I used to long for a GRRW rifle when I got into muzzleloaders back in the 70's. I couldn't afford a factory finished rifle back then, but did order three of their kits while they were still in business.

Back in 2007 after getting back into muzzleloaders following a long absence, I came across a GRRW Hawken for sale on TOTW and bought it. It was more of a nostalgia thing than anything else. The next year, I saw another GRRW Hawken for sale locally here in Colorado and purchased it. About six months later, I saw a GRRW Poor Boy on the internet, and knowing it was relatively scarce, I jumped on it. Without really realizing it, I had become GRRW collector.

I've had as much enjoyment researching the old guns and the company as I've had in acquiring and shooting them. I believe that the desire to learn as much as possible about items in a collection is a common motivation to most collectors. I also have a desire to share a lot of the things I've learned so others can better appreciate the GRRW guns they have, are looking to sell, or looking to buy.

Early in my collecting I tended to ignore the GRRW Leman half stock rifles because the pictures of original Leman half stocks I had seen in books were all classic Kentucky half stock rifles with brass nose caps and lower entry thimbles (see the middle rifle in the photo below). The poured pewter nose cap on the GRRW rifle just didn't look right to me. With the internet, I found access to a lot more pictures of original Lemans and realized that a number of them had pewter nose caps more like GRRW rifles such as the top and bottom rifles in this photo.



This picture shows another original Leman rifle (middle rifle) with a pewter nose cap. This one is also lacking a patch or cap box like the GRRW rifle. The pewter nose caps are a lot more common on originals than I previously realized.



Some original Leman rifles appear to be half stocks cut down from full stock after they left the Leman factory, but some look like they might have left the factory with the pewter nose cap. On some original Lemans, keys were used to fasten the stock to the barrel and some have pins, just like GRRW half stock Lemans.

Leman's factory produced so many guns (easily over 100,000 and possibly as many as 250,000 according to Charles E. Hanson, Jr. in his 1984 article published in The Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly), one can find almost any configuration one can imagine in a rifle.
 

Shifty

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The GRRW add for the Leman Trade Rifle kit gun states the barrel length for it but what was the barrel length on the Hawken.
 

BrownBear

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shifty said:
...it but what was the barrel length on the Hawken.
I can only speak for mine, but it was built at GRRW by Ron Paull, and has a 36" 58 caliber barrel, tapered from 1 1/8" at the breech to 1" at the muzzle. Weight is just over 12#.

Really informative write-up, Mt. Meek. Thanks! :applause:
 

plmeek

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I don't know if you can read this page from an old GRRW catalog, but it says the half stock Hawken was available in barrel lengths from 32 to 36 inchs and the full stock Hawken was available in barrel lengths from 30 to 38 inches. Based on the rifles I've seen, the most popular length for half stock rilfes were 32 to 34 inches and 36 inches for full stock rifles.



The ad for the Leman rifles shows their standard lengths. The customer could special order a different length if they wanted. In GRRW's early years 1972-74, they considered themselves as a custom gun shop and advertised as such. In the later years, they tried to standardize their products more in an effort to speed up the production and reduce costs. But even then, they were willing to do special order custom work such as this rifle that was built in the mid-70's.



This half stock Leman has just about all the extra cost upgrades that a customer could order except for flint ignition.

  • First, you will notice that it is left handed.
  • Second, it has extra fancy wood.
  • Third, are the double set triggers.
  • Fourth, it has a lower entry pipe.
  • Fifth, is the unique shaped pewter nose cap.
  • Sixth, is the Tennessee style cheek rest and higher comb.
  • Seventh, is the weeping heart lock bolt escutcheon
  • Eighth is a brass wire, weeping heart inlay on the cheek rest.
  • Ninth, it has a 1 x 36 inch barrel

Even though, they went out of business in the fall of 1980 due primarily the difficult economic conditions at the time, the eight plus years that they operated were magical. No other company came close to what they accomplished at the time or since.
 

stantdm

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I remember, in the mid seventies, to lusting after the GRRW guns and this is a great post to read. Thanks.
 

Shifty

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Thanks for all the info ,some fine looking rifles,wish they were still in business.
 

BrownBear

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Right you are.

As good as the pictures are, actually handling and shooting them is even better.

There's just something RIGHT about the balance and detail that's hard to put into words. Sets a pretty high standard for anything else you pick up, and you know when it's not there in another gun. My 12# Hawken is a chunk to lug, but it's a pure delight to shoulder and shoot.

The old guys back in the day sure put a lot of thought into handling, probably cuzz they were selling to folks who made their livings with the guns. The subtle details were there for a reason, and no factory rifle today matches up, and only a few of the custom builders.

Hats off to GRRW for getting it right and putting a few more "original" guns on the market that guys can still find now and then and afford. :hatsoff:
 

MacRob46

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Thanks very much for posting this information. I bought mine in February 1974 for $200 and it is exactly like the first gun pictured in your post. It has the Kern coil spring lock as I mentioned in a post on the tumbler issue elsewhere. Mine is supremely accurate off hand at 50 - 100 yards. It is a .54 caliber. You also clarified the barrel manufacturer for me. I had always heard they made their own barrels using machinery they got from Bill Large but I now know that mine, at serial no. 504, has a Douglas barrel, which ain't bad either. Thanks again.
 

MacRob46

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Sorry, the serial number is 453, not 504. Also, there is a different front sight on mine but these are minor details.
 

Snakebite

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My 1st ex-brother-n-law had one of these rifles. It was really a great rifle. We were just getting in to muzzle loading and he won his fair share of prizes at our monthly shoots back in the late 70s/early 80s. I just hope who ever stole it out of his truck took good care of it.
 

ndnboy

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mtn.meek, would you have any pictures of one of those leman indian rifles? thanks!
 

Zonie

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I gotta love that original Leman rifle you posted.



Notice how the hand painted "curl" stripes are running perpendicular to the edges of the wood as if the stock was made out of several different pieces.
In other words, the stripes aren't running parallel from butt plate to the front of the forearm. :grin:

I'm not saying it is in error.
I'm sure the guy/gal that painted those stripes 150 years ago did that on purpose. Maybe he thought it looked better than mother natures way of running them parallel from one end of the board to the other. :)
 

plmeek

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Zonie said:
Notice how the hand painted "curl" stripes are running perpendicular to the edges of the wood as if the stock was made out of several different pieces.
Good eye, Zonie. Apparently, this was common on Leman's rifles. Here is a picture of a friends original Leman full stock showing the artificial curl running perpendicular to the edges of the butt stock. I don't have a good full length photo of this rifle, but the lines change angle and are oriented perpendicular to the forestock.


I have one of Jack Brooks' copy of a Leman Indian trade rifle, and of course, he does the same thing. Note that the original that Jack copied had a iron butt plate as the Leman factory mixed metals on some of their rifles.


Here is a full length view of the Brooks' Leman.


Jack was meticulous in his efforts to copy the original rifle. Notice the detail squiggle engraving on my friend's original and Brooks' copy.

Original Leman.


Brooks copy.


Original Leman.


Brooks copy.


Original Leman.


Brooks copy.


It's hard to see in these photos, but the antique Leman still has its original ramrod which is artificially striped same as the Brooks' version. The original ramrod has a sheet iron tip, also. I don't have a picture showing it, but the Brooks Leman does, too.


Here is a comparison of the lock bolt escutcheon and other details such as the stamp towards the rear of the lock panel on the original and Brooks rifle for comparison.

Original.


Brooks rifle.


The practice of applying artificial stripes was not limited to Leman. Henry on other builders of trade rifles artificially striped some of their rifles. Seems this was a desirable decoration to the Indians and white fur traders.

Phil Meek
 
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