In Praise of the Hawken

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I'm also a Hawken man, .54 caliber. I like the history and its ties to the American West. I have tried different ones over the years. Like many I started out with a CVA Mountain Rifle in .50 caliber. I then went to a LH T/C Renegade also in .50 caliber. Later I tried two different smooth-bore trade guns, a French and a Northwest type. Try as I did, I just could never get them to shoot where I was confident to deer hunt with them.

When I returned to the muzzleloading attraction I purchased a LH percussion Hawken from Brant Selb. It is hands down the most accurate, reliable, and nice-looking rifle I have ever owned.
 
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While I have shot the Kentucky style flintlocks for decades, the Hawken holds a very special appeal for me. I think many of us in the baby-boomer generation cut our teeth on the “Hawken”. I acquired a TC Hawken kit back in the 70’s when NJ established its first muzzle loader season. ‘Authenticity” at the time had not entered the picture as we were consumed with the luxury of extending relatively short effective range of the bow and buck-shot only shotgun allowed. Success with that Hawken loaded with a patched round ball was immediate, with that Hawken quickly becoming an inseparable deer hunting companion through the shotgun/buck, antlerless, and muzzleloading seasons for several years. As my knowledge in muzzleloading grew, I graduated to a more representative example of the Hawken, when I stumbled upon an “in the white” Western Arms/Sante Fe Hawken. While more aesthetically appealing and closer in design to the classic Hawken, it was longer and heavier, creating a challenge for my youthful 145 pound frame. While later on the Western Arms Hawken posed no issue(given +40 pounds of ballast), back then I continued to favor the balance and ergonomics of that first TC Hawken. That rifle is still in possession and going strong almost 50 years later.
A crummy old Polaroid photo of my first Hawken buck.
667174DA-83BC-4E09-97B0-3F700B1569C8.jpeg
 
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I confess, I love the aesthetics of an American longrifle. I like the long barrel, the full stock and a few other details that might sound more like I’m describing feminine anatomy than a firearm. Then there’s the history — both romantic and utterly practical for it’s time. In all likelihood, I’ll be picking one up in the next year or so.

However, after spending nearly a week in the backcountry with my Hawken as my constant companion for the third consecutive year, I have to admit that I might be, practically speaking, more of a fan of it than the longrifle. Granted, I own a Hawken and not a longrifle. But I own a longer-barreled smoothbore that shoots pretty well itself. Not only did I leave it behind, but I was glad that I did.

So what have I learned to appreciate about the Hawken? First and foremost, portability. The Hawken is a spritely 7.5 lb. That’s much easier to carry around all day than something in the 9 lb range. Where I was hunting, there is very little flat ground and a trekking pole is needed just to get up a little higher on the slopes to where the deer usually are. I’m in fairly good shape but rugged country calls for lighter gear. Having a lighter rifle is a huge advantage for these all-day excursions up slippery canyons, down deep, steep draws and through brush so thick the deer can hold tighter than quail.

Likewise, shorter barrel is also a huge advantage while hunting in the thick cover of these woods. Even just hiking in to camp requires constant ducking, stooping, climbing and creek jumping. While sitting on the side of my pack, it’s hard enough keeping that shorter barrel from snagging or banging into a downed log I’m ducking under. I couldn’t imagine having to contend with another 10+” flagging up there.

The ho-hum 1:48 twist, neither ideal for round ball nor conicals, has proven itself to be amazingly versatile. Once I learned about how to navigate patch thicknesses, I’ve managed to get respectable groups with both. I haven’t tried a sabot yet and may never need to. But lead ball, bismuth ball, ITX, power belt and Thor have all given me solid deer-hunting accuracy out to 75-100 yards. I’ve only managed to get one deer with it so far. But the rifle did it’s job without a fuss.

I’d still like to get a flintlock. But the percussion system is much appreciated where I have to camp in a humid creek bottom all night. Even after several days of a charge sitting in the barrel, it still goes *BANG!* when I pull the trigger. A little softened beeswax around the nipple seals the powder and primer from the elements. Homemade caps or purchased, homemade powder or purchased, it all works — reliably. It’s hard to expect more than that in a hunting weapon.

After 3 years of late season hunts, this Hawken has really grown on me. It’s not an “authentic” Hawken by any stretch. In truth, I only bought it because I got a good deal on it. I may yet end up putting some better sights on it or tinkering with it a bit more. But I find myself wanting to change out my main centerfire rifle for something with similar size, weight and handling of this Hawken.

So, as much as I like the looks of a longrifle and the history of a flintlock, I think my main hunting muzzleloading rifle is definitely a Hawken.
My first muzzleloader rifle was a Remington zouave from navy arms many years ago. I felt the same way about that gun that you express about your Hawken. I could drive tacks with that rifle and because of it I have since had an affection for the .58 caliber minie' bullet.
 

Phil Coffins

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I wonder if there will ever be a time when people will call a half stock muzzle loader anything but a Hawken. It’s become so common that soon I’ll start calling any car a Mustang! :D
 
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@Rudyard does beautiful work. The scenery in the photos is also outstanding. I spent about three weeks in New Zealand in 1985, driving to different camping spots, seeing the sights and hiking in the mountains. It was one of the high points of my life.

I can see that a light-weight rifle would be a smart choice if you are walking, "riding Shank's mare" through those rugged mountains. The American plainsmen, who carried twelve and thirteen pound Hawkens, were horsemen. In reading the original accounts, we also see frequent references to them taking advantage of any possible rest for shooting... Against a tree, propped on a "wiping stick," across the saddle on the horse's back, or whatever was available. Uncle Dick Wootton said they preferred to shoot offhand, but most of the other chroniclers of that day mentioned shooting off a rest.

This is a good thread. Thanks to @Nuthatch for kicking it off!

Notchy Bob
Horsemen!!
 

Nuthatch

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Nuthatch . . . .

Do I see a grey, laminated stock in your photo?
Indeed, you do. It is a Traditions model that had a limited run. The barrel also has a brushed nickel kind of finish. I think they stopped making it around 2007.
 
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I was recently at the Kit Carson Museum in Taos, NM they had a replica, the original is in Santa Fe, This rifle was a large caliber with heavy barrel, i would think it went in the 9 pound plus category
 

Nuthatch

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A spritely 7 & a half pounds ? .If I was going to carry any gun hunting it would be borderline at 6 pounds & a pet mid 18thc Provincial English 50 cal I made to be 5 pounds .As you carry a gun more than you get to fire it and locally at least there is no need for long range or extra powerfull loads. But at 5 pounds its a joy to carry .
Regards Rudyard
No offense taken here. My centerfire rifle is around 10.5 lb and my smoothbore is about 9 lb. So, to me, 7.5 is a dream. I guess it's all relative. If I could have something about the same length and minus a pound or two, you better believe I'd be interested. With PRB, recoil certainly isn't an issue. As I said, I prefer the aesthetics of a longrifle. But I hunt some incredibly tough terrain where both size and weight matter a lot. And there's a lot of other essential gear and clothing to carry for a day away from camp (not counting what it takes just to get to camp). So having less fuss with a rifle is much appreciated.

Chasing blacktails in remote, poison oak infested coastal canyons and mule deer up in the high country is absolutely nothing like any whitetail hunt I read about from others. Some places, like where I just hunted, would be absolutely unsuitable for livestock, except for maybe goats. It's foot-traffic only. And few people are dumb enough to go down there once, let alone return. I've learned that there is never a perfect piece of equipment -- only an adequate compromise based on conditions, objectives and experience (and maybe mixed with some artful appreciation).
 

hanshi

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Anything up to about 7-1/2 lbs is "light" to me, as long as it has very good balance. Heavy is 9-1/2 lbs like my .54; it doesn't hunt any longer.
 

Coinneach

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I confess, I love the aesthetics of an American longrifle. I like the long barrel, the full stock and a few other details that might sound more like I’m describing feminine anatomy than a firearm. Then there’s the history — both romantic and utterly practical for it’s time. In all likelihood, I’ll be picking one up in the next year or so.

However, after spending nearly a week in the backcountry with my Hawken as my constant companion for the third consecutive year, I have to admit that I might be, practically speaking, more of a fan of it than the longrifle. Granted, I own a Hawken and not a longrifle. But I own a longer-barreled smoothbore that shoots pretty well itself. Not only did I leave it behind, but I was glad that I did.

So what have I learned to appreciate about the Hawken? First and foremost, portability. The Hawken is a spritely 7.5 lb. That’s much easier to carry around all day than something in the 9 lb range. Where I was hunting, there is very little flat ground and a trekking pole is needed just to get up a little higher on the slopes to where the deer usually are. I’m in fairly good shape but rugged country calls for lighter gear. Having a lighter rifle is a huge advantage for these all-day excursions up slippery canyons, down deep, steep draws and through brush so thick the deer can hold tighter than quail.

Likewise, shorter barrel is also a huge advantage while hunting in the thick cover of these woods. Even just hiking in to camp requires constant ducking, stooping, climbing and creek jumping. While sitting on the side of my pack, it’s hard enough keeping that shorter barrel from snagging or banging into a downed log I’m ducking under. I couldn’t imagine having to contend with another 10+” flagging up there.

The ho-hum 1:48 twist, neither ideal for round ball nor conicals, has proven itself to be amazingly versatile. Once I learned about how to navigate patch thicknesses, I’ve managed to get respectable groups with both. I haven’t tried a sabot yet and may never need to. But lead ball, bismuth ball, ITX, power belt and Thor have all given me solid deer-hunting accuracy out to 75-100 yards. I’ve only managed to get one deer with it so far. But the rifle did it’s job without a fuss.

I’d still like to get a flintlock. But the percussion system is much appreciated where I have to camp in a humid creek bottom all night. Even after several days of a charge sitting in the barrel, it still goes *BANG!* when I pull the trigger. A little softened beeswax around the nipple seals the powder and primer from the elements. Homemade caps or purchased, homemade powder or purchased, it all works — reliably. It’s hard to expect more than that in a hunting weapon.

After 3 years of late season hunts, this Hawken has really grown on me. It’s not an “authentic” Hawken by any stretch. In truth, I only bought it because I got a good deal on it. I may yet end up putting some better sights on it or tinkering with it a bit more. But I find myself wanting to change out my main centerfire rifle for something with similar size, weight and handling of this Hawken.

So, as much as I like the looks of a longrifle and the history of a flintlock, I think my main hunting muzzleloading rifle is definitely a Hawken.
Well I have to admit that although I've been a long term Flintlock owner and active shooter of them, I've realised that nowadays what with Flints being so expensive and getting more difficult to source I'm about to order a TOW LH fullstock Hawken rifle kit in Percussion.
I'll still be persisting with my Flinters but hoarding my Flints more stringently.
BTW am I the only guy getting peeved off with other shooters asking for free Flints or some for sale every time I attend Range and /or Rendezvous ?
No way am I going to be that charitable anymore.
 

Coinneach

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Longrifle is great --but I am a hawk for Hawkens. Think about it. The Hawken influenced
many other rifles. The design and elegance of the rifle meant conformity to the human
body. When a person first picks up a Hawken and shoulders it--watch the face. There
is an immediate emotion attached to the feel of a Hawken design. It is easy on the
muscles and back-, light but effective for its purpose. With shoulder strap it is like
a Parrot on the shoulder along for the ride. With millions of purchase decisions over
many decades of time= Americans have spoken. The Hawken is an American Classic.
As I see it the nightmare of owning a Hawken Rifle is that sooner or later a group of Blackfeet Braves are going to murder your woman and burn your Cabin down; maybe we're safer with a Leman or Vincent Rifle .....
 

Coinneach

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At the risk of being ostrasized for critizeing Hawkens I consider them as awful affairs being too heavy by far .A spritely 7 & a half pounds ? .If I was going to carry any gun hunting it would be borderline at 6 pounds & a pet mid 18thc Provincial English 50 cal I made to be 5 pounds .As you carry a gun more than you get to fire it and locally at least there is no need for long range or extra powerfull loads. But at 5 pounds its a joy to carry . I have made them for patrons (Up market customers !) ditto long rifles but for all practical purposes the 5 pound rifle will do me . 26'' 50 cal round with a swamp its enough .But then Im'e a feable 77 year old but Iv'e done a LOT of bush miles too . My maxim is' if your going to carry weight make it edible ' within reason. I once took this gun for 13 days setting of with 47 pounds all up gun ,swag ,tucker , all up inc cloaths shot a big trout. caught a good size eel, knocked off a red deer & barreled a goat & coverered 60 + bush miles

( Browns river to the Salisbury plains via the Aurerie , Spey, Dommet, Ugly, Karamea, Roaring Lion ,Lesley
& out by Flora. for any who know the regions of North West Nelson NZ)

Seemed enough. and I've done 18 day trips down some Pacific coast Mountain rivers never wieghed the kit but it included no heavy rifle & the best suited I found was a double shotgun ball in the left & small shot in the right (Converted from flint old restocked gun of 16 bore ) .
Nothing on the scale of Mackenzie, Thompson ,' Tete Juan,' & Simon Frazer but at least a sample .
Tilting at windmills ,
Regards Rudyard
Fine doins Rudyard.....fine doins.

"Was it worth the trouble" (Ol Griz).
 
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Ref the Jonathon Browning rifle, are they still available ?
No , they haven't been made for at least 30 maybe 35 years .Many years ago I got my hands on a sales brochure and I sure wanted a JBMR . I finally found one NIB -new in box , and did not like it at all , and sold it . To me it did not look or feel right . Unlike my Uberti Hawken .
 
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Well I have to admit that although I've been a long term Flintlock owner and active shooter of them, I've realised that nowadays what with Flints being so expensive and getting more difficult to source I'm about to order a TOW LH fullstock Hawken rifle kit in Percussion.
I'll still be persisting with my Flinters but hoarding my Flints more stringently.
BTW am I the only guy getting peeved off with other shooters asking for free Flints or some for sale every time I attend Range and /or Rendezvous ?
No way am I going to be that charitable anymore.
For years , every time I got an order from Track I would buy 50 or 100 flints , I did a stock take a couple of weeks ago and found I had over 1200 Brandon Flints and 300 French Honey flints , so I now have enough to last me the rest of my life . Funny thing no 11 caps are in short supply here in New Zealand . And you are quite right , people ask for flints " they are only rock so you can easily get more " type conversation I have made Jasper flints and they work well , and am investigating a source of chert in a nearby river .
 
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As I see it the nightmare of owning a Hawken Rifle is that sooner or later a group of Blackfeet Braves are going to murder your woman and burn your Cabin down; maybe we're safer with a Leman or Vincent Rifle .....
I feel much safer with an Edward Marshall rifle… 😉
 

unclelouie

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I was recently at the Kit Carson Museum in Taos, NM they had a replica, the original is in Santa Fe, This rifle was a large caliber with heavy barrel, i would think it went in the 9 pound plus category
i was their too. I have 3 Hawken rifles for sale. one was copied off of Carsons original. it was hand made by Aldo Uberti in Italy. he only hand made 1000, then he turned it over to his son who produced the Santa Fe. I'm in my 80's next year, looking to sell these rifles to someone who will appreciate them. any body interested ? call 801-889-5055 I'm in Utah.
 
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