In Praise of the Hawken

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I can only echo what @Spikebuck said. I'm glad you have found enjoyment and success with your rifle, and I do like the dark-finished mountings on the one in the photo. However, "Hawken" has become a very generic, nonspecific term. While the original Hawken brothers did turn out some lighter-weight, smaller-caliber rifles for the local Missouri trade, they are best known for their "mountain rifles," which typically shot a half ounce ball or larger, and weighed 12 or 13 pounds. Francis Parkman carried a Hoffman & Campbell rifle that weighed 14 pounds, and if I remember correctly the barrel was over forty inches long! Tom Tobin's Hawken, which is still in existence, also had a barrel just shy of forty inches:

View attachment 107346

It appears to me that the term "Hawken" or "Hawkins" has been loosely applied to various plains and mountain rifles for a long time, and not just those from the actual Hawken shop. There were some very bright and literate fellows crossing the plains in the 1840's and 50's, and they nearly always wrote of the border men's weapons as "Hawkins rifles," even though the name "Hawken" would have been stamped clearly on the barrel. I think frequently they were likely referring to a type of rifle, even back then, rather than a specific maker, just as we refer to any tissue as "Kleenex" and any blue jeans as "Levis." So, "Hawkins" was not just a misspelled proper name; it was an eponym. The practice continues. I read an article from the 1960's that stated "Kit Carson's Hawken was made by Benjamin Mills of Harrodsburg, Kentucky," and I found a review written not too long ago of the "Pedersoli Tryon half-stock Hawken."

In any event, I enjoyed your post, and hope you continue to find pleasure and success with your rifle.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
I've been mulling the idea of one of those Kibler kits. I wish the SMR could come in .50. As of now, I don't yet trust my craftsmanship enough to slap down $1k for what will end up being a rather basic-looking, roughly finished rifle in my hands.

I've seen some more "authentic" Hawkens with flint ignition and longer barrels. So I'm not really sure what is the most period correct and figure that there are a lot of different combinations that could have been around at the time to suit the market, just as there are today. What I know for certain is that I wouldn't have wanted to carry my longer and heavier smoothbore on this hunt. And, yes, my Hawken is not an authentic type. It has plastic fiber-optic sights that are misplaced on such a styling. But if I replace those sights, I'd likely do something similar as it helps with my eyesight in low-light conditions -- something I'm appreciating more as I age a little. As I figure, life is for the living.
The 'Hawken' plains (mountain) rifle was the Masters' interpretation of what was wanted a and needed in the West. Usually longer barreled and heavier than the Franken-Hawken repros most of us know, It was generally carried on horseback, so weight was less of a problem. It had a beautiful combination of land/groove width and depth, and twist which would handle large charges or lighter ones accurately with patched ball. I have built a few guns, but never a Hawken (the 'en' suffix in the name equates to an 's' in German, that's where the 'Hawkins' moniker comes from). They are far more complicated to build than meets the eye. BUT, I have a .45 caliber (my favorite) one inch across the flats barrel that is over 40 inches long, and a Siler classic percussion lock with a messed up plate and a hooked breech assembly laying around that are screaming for buffalo meat; well, deer creatures anyway, LOL! Maybe the plate could be changed out to a Southern Mountain type and the barrel trimmed to a more correct length for a Hawken full stock. The finished rifle would weigh around 12+ pounds, and could be shot from rest, (my left arm is partly paralyzed). Probably be a bench gun for me. The challenges of muzzleloading lead us ever on! Maybe my infant grandson Arden Jay will be able to use and appreciate it someday...
 
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unclelouie

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Remember you can heat up flints in the fire and they knap better and spark better.
If they have been heated once,leave them alone. Flintlocks are all the craze because
they are "off the grid' and do not require caps or primers. In California if you try
to buy modern ammo--you have to register the gun. Will this ever happen for BP?
Who knows. BUT With Flintlock you bypass the choke-hold of needing caps
which if not available,you possibly have an unusable rifle.
 

unclelouie

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my understanding is that muzzleloaders are considered obsolete weapons. percussion or flint doesn't matter. no restrictions are applied.
 

Nuthatch

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I think your info on CA law isn't quite accurate. But, whatever the legal side of it is, the recent popularity of MLs has more to do with the lack of CF & RF ammo availability than legal and regulatory hurdles. There's a lot to criticize when it comes to our politicians. But this one is just the market doing its thing.

Caps and cap components are still easier to get out here than flints. Loose powder? Fughetaboutit! There's some in obscure places but you'll likely pay double what it's selling for elsewhere. So flintlocks are pretty hard to run unless you're mixing your own. But subs and pellets are still around if you're patient and can wait a few weeks.
 

beardedhorse

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Was reducing old e mails and came across an old Green River Rifle Works Collector's Association newsletter. Bill Fuller of Alaska had a J and S Hawken marked muzzle loader that looked like something made earlier further East than St. Louis (Maryland or Ohio?) It had a lock that was originally flint and converted to percussion. Can find exact date and issue of newsletter and more details on it if any readers are interested.
 

beardedhorse

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Heat treat on flint and chert should only be done if you know that particular rock. Some cherts, flint can be more easily knapped by heat treat while others will be too soft and ruined. Agates are best shaped with a lapidary saw and difficult to re knap when dull. The GRRW Gazette article was Vol. 3 Issue 1 Aug 2017 by Doc White entitled An Unusual Hawken. Pages 4-6. .58 swamped 40" barrel. Rifle weighed 14 lbs. Maryland style butt plate and late brass patch box. Walnut full stock. Typical Hawken style patent hooked breech with long tang. Shorter trigger bar on double set triggers typical of Eastern rifles. Doc White calls it pure Maryland with some Lancaster styling. Barrel is clearly marked J S Hawken. The author encountered the owner and rifle in Alaska in 1966 or so. Not sure where the rifle is today or owner is still alive. Unfortunately the Gazette has stopped being published. However, one of the more traditional original half stock percussion Hawkens in the collection is in a New Mexico private museum. I was fortunate enough to actually handle it but more intent on measuring the Modina Hawken that the others.
 
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Was reducing old e mails and came across an old Green River Rifle Works Collector's Association newsletter. Bill Fuller of Alaska had a J and S Hawken marked muzzle loader that looked like something made earlier further East than St. Louis (Maryland or Ohio?) It had a lock that was originally flint and converted to percussion. Can find exact date and issue of newsletter and more details on it if any readers are interested.
Not my sort of gun but many would be very pleased to hear of the converted Hawken .Ime sure .
.Regards Rudyard
 
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Remember you can heat up flints in the fire and they knap better and spark better.
If they have been heated once,leave them alone. Flintlocks are all the craze because
they are "off the grid' and do not require caps or primers. In California if you try
to buy modern ammo--you have to register the gun. Will this ever happen for BP?
Who knows. BUT With Flintlock you bypass the choke-hold of needing caps
which if not available,you possibly have an unusable rifle.

"Remember you can heat up flints in the fire and they knap better and spark better."

OK, so I assume that one has to wait until the said Flints are cooled down before the knapping commences.
 
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Not my sort of gun but many would be very pleased to hear of the converted Hawken .Ime sure .
.Regards Rudyard

Green River Rifle Works (GRRW) in Adelaide South Australia use to make Lemans, and Hawkens in both authentic Flinter full stocks (earlier Hawken) and the later half stock percussion Rifle.

When they closed up in the 80's, their key craftsman Allan Vaisham kept the business alive working out of his shed at home (he also wrote a Muzzle loader section in the SSAA magazine for years, you may remember it mate).

Allan made me a superb full stock FL Hawken in .54 cal which I later foolishly sold when I had to downsize before moving overseas for some years.
 
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Now don't get me wrong I dearly like Hawken rifles , that is modern made copies of an original, all Historically correct etc . Some time ago , after re reading John Baird's books and Charles Hanson's books and a few others I came to realise that there were very few Hawken's used in the fur trade , and I needed something earlier in Flintlock . after more research I decided on a J Henry English pattern .
The rifle's story is ( all my firearms have a story or history ) There was a trapper heading for beaver country , so he brought one of J Henry's English rifles (After all he was English), a horse a mule and assorted necessaries . He rode off greenhorn like with his new rifle draped awkwardly over his saddle horn . After a few adventures he arrived in St Louis , where he determined to have the long rifle cut down , so he called in to Hawken's gun shop and had them cut the barrel down to 34 " which made the rifle handle much better of horse back . Hawkins told him to keep the brass fore end cap for trading later on . Off he road into the mists of time and a world of adventure . Eventually the rifle by this time named Hannah ended up in my hands .
Actual fact I got my friend Earl to make me cut down J Henry English pattern rifle with a shortened barrel minus the brass fore end cap , The barrel is a swamped .54 Colerain barrel cut down to 34" The lock is a L&R Manton and Ashmore flintlock the brass furniture is from Track and the stock is New Zealand grown English walnut , I put the rear aperture sight on a while ago as my eves don't look too good any more .I have a 2 leaf rear sight if I ever need to go back to the original. I also added a white lightening flash hole liner with the vent dilled to 3/64" , like all my ML guns, the rifle weighs 8.8 pounds , has a crisp under 2 lb trigger pull , one can remove the sear spring , fully cock the lock and give the hammer a hard flick and it will not fire , the frizzen is hardened the old way , packed in a iron box full of bone dust and leather scraps and put in the fire for a night . Hannah shoots a 5 shot 1½" 50 meter group off a rest when the nut that holds the butt does his job . Sorry about the photo quality 20211209_155534 (3).jpg 20211209_155559 (2).jpg 20211209_155624 (2).jpg
 
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My current "Hawken" is a recently acquired TC .45 cal Seneca. Where I hunt there's a lot of steep climbs and thorny brush to navigate through. Although I typically only walk about a mile, a heavy rifle takes a lot of the fun out of the process. At around 6 1/2 lbs this gun is just a pleasure to carry in the woods. I was worried I wouldn't be able to shoot it that well, but it turns out I can put 4 out of 5 offhand shots with it into an 8" circle at 100 yards. I don't plan to shoot at deer much past 50 yards so I'm feeling ok about it.
 
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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.
There's just something manly or American about the Hawken style; it would have been around longer except cartridge guns came in and of course the bison almost got 'extincted" as the West became populated.
 
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Now don't get me wrong I dearly like Hawken rifles , that is modern made copies of an original, all Historically correct etc . Some time ago , after re reading John Baird's books and Charles Hanson's books and a few others I came to realise that there were very few Hawken's used in the fur trade , and I needed something earlier in Flintlock . after more research I decided on a J Henry English pattern .
The rifle's story is ( all my firearms have a story or history ) There was a trapper heading for beaver country , so he brought one of J Henry's English rifles (After all he was English), a horse a mule and assorted necessaries . He rode off greenhorn like with his new rifle draped awkwardly over his saddle horn . After a few adventures he arrived in St Louis , where he determined to have the long rifle cut down , so he called in to Hawken's gun shop and had them cut the barrel down to 34 " which made the rifle handle much better of horse back . Hawkins told him to keep the brass fore end cap for trading later on . Off he road into the mists of time and a world of adventure . Eventually the rifle by this time named Hannah ended up in my hands .
Actual fact I got my friend Earl to make me cut down J Henry English pattern rifle with a shortened barrel minus the brass fore end cap , The barrel is a swamped .54 Colerain barrel cut down to 34" The lock is a L&R Manton and Ashmore flintlock the brass furniture is from Track and the stock is New Zealand grown English walnut , I put the rear aperture sight on a while ago as my eves don't look too good any more .I have a 2 leaf rear sight if I ever need to go back to the original. I also added a white lightening flash hole liner with the vent dilled to 3/64" , like all my ML guns, the rifle weighs 8.8 pounds , has a crisp under 2 lb trigger pull , one can remove the sear spring , fully cock the lock and give the hammer a hard flick and it will not fire , the frizzen is hardened the old way , packed in a iron box full of bone dust and leather scraps and put in the fire for a night . Hannah shoots a 5 shot 1½" 50 meter group off a rest when the nut that holds the butt does his job . Sorry about the photo quality View attachment 108564 View attachment 108565 View attachment 108566
Your photos are fine, and this is an interesting post. Thanks.
 
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Out of the box, IMHO the great planes is a finest rifle, commercial, ever built. My first one would always shoot better than I was capable. My only grip, the front sights were / are to wide
Have not tried it in Flint as I moved on to custom rifles. My Favorite is the Jaeger style
 
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My current "Hawken" is a recently acquired TC .45 cal Seneca. Where I hunt there's a lot of steep climbs and thorny brush to navigate through. Although I typically only walk about a mile, a heavy rifle takes a lot of the fun out of the process. At around 6 1/2 lbs this gun is just a pleasure to carry in the woods. I was worried I wouldn't be able to shoot it that well, but it turns out I can put 4 out of 5 offhand shots with it into an 8" circle at 100 yards. I don't plan to shoot at deer much past 50 yards so I'm feeling ok about it.
I have a 'de-farbed' Enfield from Blockade Runner from about 10 years back. The workmanship on it by Mr. Todd Watts is excellent, but the musket, being a "lawyer-barreled replica", weighs ELEVEN pounds! Compared to a North Star Trade Musket I just found that weighs 6-1/2 lbs. Yes, weight is everything when hunting, but I don't hunt! Good luck with your stalking and harvesting!
 

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