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plmeek

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I agree, Zonie, the TC Hawken is very similar to some real period rifles. I would not refer to it as a "make believe gun", but it would have been more accurate had they called it a Plains Rifle or even a California Rifle. It may not have sold so well, though.


I wonder if any half stock rifles were made as flintlocks...
So far no J&S Hawken half stock rifles in flint have been found. Other gunsmiths were making flintlock half stock rifles at the time, and of course, the British sporting rifle by 1800 was typically a half stock rifle. The Hawken brothers could very well have worked on some of these guns in the late 1820's as cleaning and repairing guns was a big part of their business. There is no reason that they couldn't have made some, we just don't know for sure.

just what was the standard HAWKEN cal,50 or 54? I am shure that they would make it in any CAL. that a customer wanted.
I haven't seen a meaningful study on the caliber of Hawken rifles. As Herb has pointed out several times on this forum, the typical way museum curators and collectors have measured bore size, more often than not, indicate too large a bore. The method I speak of is using a modern shotgun bore gauge like the one below. Most antique guns have slightly enlarged muzzles. Some of this may be from rod wear, but others were probably made this way when new so that the shooter could "thumb start" the ball, then push it down with the ramrod. A short starter, which appears to be a modern invention, was not needed. Barrels with an odd number of grooves and lands cannot be accurately measured with this type of gauge, either, since one side of the gauge would be on a land while the other side would be in a groove.

The Wrong Way to Measure the Bore of an Antique Rifle


I've studied the records of the rifles that J. Joseph Henry made for the America Fur Company. I need to finish writing that study up and send it to a magazine or post it here on this forum, but the conclusions are that 95% of the rifles ordered by the AFC for the St. Louis market were between 32 balls per pound and 40 balls per pound. This is equivalent to between .50 and .54 caliber. Two-thirds of the orders were for rifles to carry 32 balls per pound or .54 caliber. This likely indicates that the preferred calibers for the mountains and plains were between .50 and .54 caliber with .54 caliber being the most common.
 

jimairwin

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All this semi-senseless drivel has missed some simple facts. The Hawken Shop was a gunmaker's shop. They'd make just about anything the customer wanted! Some looked somewhat like the TC "Hawken" (or all the italian knock-offs) and these were unfortunately what was shown as real Hawkens in the movie JJ.

Still, there was one typical "Hawken Rocky Mountain Rifle" whether made by J&S Hawken, S Hawken (after Jake died) or Gemmer. Most folks know this, and envision the HRMR w/o consciously thinking about it.

Imagine looking at tables full of long guns, all marked Remington, and sniffing at some just because they don't look like your Remington 700. I have in my shop right now a very short percussion rifle marked on barrel and lock "Remington". It is w/o doubt an original Remington. That's what they started out making!! Sure don't look like my 1969 700BDL. Or a 1100 shotgun. Any more than they look like the old-timer in my shop. But there's no doubt they're all Remingtons. Of course Remington also made percussion muskets Zuoaves and revolvers, too. 'nuff said
 

jimairwin

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Also...I have seen and held original Hawken pistols and shotguns, too!
And I've seen and held some original HRMRs including some marvelous attempts at forgery.
 

rich pierce

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The argument that “they would make anything the customer wanted” has no support in fact. It’s an imaginary scenario. Give one instance of a known colonial or Golden Age or percussion period maker who produced a gun unlike their other guns for a customer that wanted them to do so. Then give 50 more and i’ll agree “it happened fairly often.”

Flaw #1 in the premise: assuming that a confused customer would go to gunsmith B to get a gun like gunsmith A makes. Why not go to gunsmith A?

Flaw #2 in the premise: it assumes that gunsmith B doesn’t have enough work to do in his own style.

Flaw #3 in the premise: assuming gunsmith B had the parts needed to build a gun like gunsmith A makes.
 
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toot

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as we all know barbells have lands & groves, both will give you a different reading. I use a dial Vernier, to MIC. barrels. I take both lands & grove, diameters. the lands will be the tighter readings.
 

Vintagebpcs

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Interesting discussion. I made a Hawken style full stock rifle in 54 cal flint. From my research of the Hawken family of gunsmiths, their were other brothers and the father making rifles in Maryland before the J&S move to St Lois Mo. I believe the father and brother William remained in Maryland and continued making guns too. As mentioned before I made a Hawken full stock flinter on what I guessed would have been the style coming out of Maryland. Heavy barrel, big bore with a stock more styled after a longrifle on the region. My assumption is it would be a transition to J&S Hawken in percussion for the later period. Is there any evidence of the elder Hawken's signing or stamping the guns made in Maryland? For that mater is there any documentation of Maryland Hawken guns?
 

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plmeek

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Is there any evidence of the elder Hawken's signing or stamping the guns made in Maryland? For that mater is there any documentation of Maryland Hawken guns?
Yes, several rifles are known that were made by the father, Christian Hawken, and the brother, William Hawken, who lived and worked in Maryland. The top three rifles in the photo below are marked "W. HAWKEN". The fourth rifle down is engraved "C & J Hawken" in script. It's thought to have been made by father, Christian, and son, Jacob. The fifth rifle down is engraved "S Hawken" in script and was made by Sam Hawken in either Maryland or Xenia, Ohio.



This is a Christian Hawken rifle.
 

Dale Lilly

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Inn1997 Dr Kenneth Leonard decided to sell his Hawken collection of fifteen Hawkens on loan to the Cody, Wyoming gun museum. He asked for them back. William B. Ruger of Sturm Ruger and company bought them and donated them to the museum. Ten are on display just inside the entrance. Several vary from what we evidently consider the standard for Hawkens. Here is one of them [all have been thoroughly researched]
 

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Interesting discussion. I made a Hawken style full stock rifle in 54 cal flint. From my research of the Hawken family of gunsmiths, their were other brothers and the father making rifles in Maryland before the J&S move to St Lois Mo. I believe the father and brother William remained in Maryland and continued making guns too. As mentioned before I made a Hawken full stock flinter on what I guessed would have been the style coming out of Maryland. Heavy barrel, big bore with a stock more styled after a longrifle on the region. My assumption is it would be a transition to J&S Hawken in percussion for the later period. Is there any evidence of the elder Hawken's signing or stamping the guns made in Maryland? For that mater is there any documentation of Maryland Hawken guns?
I believe the Hawken guns you are referencing as being made in Maryland were produced in Boonsboro, Maryland. Never put much research into this but there is a private museum in Boonsboro Maryland run bye Doug Bast he is the local historian for the town and has a super nice museum. next time down that way if he is open I will stop in and see if he has any references to the Hawken rifle smiths associated with the area.
 

plmeek

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Is the 'California' Hawken the holy grail?
I wouldn't call it "the holy grail", but it may solve a small mystery.

But there is still a lot more we don't know about the Hawken brothers production than we know. This is a table from Charles E. Hanson, Jr.'s book The Hawken Rifle: Its Place In History, page 22.



Hanson has tabulated in this table all the recorded orders/purchases of Hawken rifles he could find in various period documents. He was surprised at the wide range of prices for Hawken guns which he found hard to explain. He ignored the 5 guns in the "CHEAP" column, not even bothering to list their prices. The records rarely gave any details of the guns being ordered. Only a few records specifically mention whether the guns ordered were full stock rifles or half stock rifles. No mention was made about the ignition system: whether flint or percussion. There were no details about decoration of the rifles or whether any had patch boxes.

To try to make sense of the data, Hanson tabulated it by price range. He was aware of some surviving J&S Hawken rifles that were higher end rifles with patch boxes and engraving like the Leonard and the Robert May J&S Hawken rifles discussed in John Baird's first book in Chapter 6. He was inclined to think the most expensive rifles in his table were similar deluxe rifles.

But when he studied the numbers closely, there were 18 rifles in this highest price range. Comparing this to all the 101 rifles made in the J&S period, suggested that one in six rifles in the J&S period were deluxe rifles. He considered that too high a percentage and took another approach.

The few records Hanson found that mention half stock and full stock rifles reflected a significant premium for the half stock version. An 1839 record showed a 58% premium for a half stock, in an 1841 order it was a 35% premium, and in 1855 the half stock rifle was priced at a 38% premium over the full stock. He also saw a decreasing trend in the price of a half stock rifle in these records.

He visualized the half stock rifles started at $38 in 1837 and going down to $35 in 1840. He saw another price revision in 1843 to $30 that lasted until 1846. The price dropped to $26 in 1849, then to $25 in 1850 when Sam became the sole owner. They seemed to stabilize at that price, which agrees with the price that Sam recalled in his 1882 newspaper interview.

Hanson drew a dotted line in his table in the columns he saw as prices for the half stock rifle. He thought the rifles to the left of these columns with the dotted line could possibly be full stock rifles. Hanson wrote, "Under this theory the chart would show a total of 42 half stocks and 84 full stocks plus 5 'cheap' guns which may be local deer-rifle types."

In the years since Hanson's book was published, more rifles have come to light and more research in the old records has been done. The result is that we know of a few more deluxe half stock rifles, and we have discovered more and earlier records of rifles being ordered by the fur companies. The net result is that the percentage of the highest price guns has gone down and more are known to have survived. The 18 rifles in Hanson's $35 to $38 range may actually be deluxe half stock rifles and the 9 rifles in the next lowest $28 to $33 column could be plainer J&S Hawken half stock rifles. That leaves the two columns, $18 to $22 and $24 to $26, as full stock rifles with the higher priced ones having patch boxes and/or more decoration.

But all of this is still educated guessing, as the records simply didn't described the rifles in enough detail to be sure.

Why such a premium for a half stock rifle over a full stock rifle? The patent hooked breech may account for most of it. With the exception of two rifles, all surviving full stock rifles have a fixed patent breech. Undoubtedly, a hooked patent breech, common on half stock rifles, was more expensive to make and to install in a stock. The Hawken shop may have hand forged and filed the under ribs on the half stock rifles, also, which was an expense not needed on a full stock rifle. Wood was also likely cheaper than iron. The least expensive full stock rifles may have been flintlocks which was an even less expensive breech system. In the early to mid-1830's, the percussion lock, being new and in higher demand, may have been more expensive than a flintlock. whose popularity was rapidly declining in England and the US East Coast.

Surviving records often raise more questions than they answer and it is extremely difficult to connect the meager information given in the records to what we see in surviving rifles. This in not unique to Hawken rifles. The same can be said about a number of other guns throughout the early history of firearms in North America.
 

Dale Lilly

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Points West, from the Cody museum, seems to say all of Dr. Leonard's collection [see my earlier post] were made in the Hawken shop in St. Louis and are so marked. That's the first Hawken I have seen with a checkered pistol grip. I think the Hawken shop in St. Louis also responded to directions/requirements from customers. ;) Polecat
 

plmeek

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Points West, from the Cody museum, seems to say all of Dr. Leonard's collection [see my earlier post] were made in the Hawken shop in St. Louis and are so marked. That's the first Hawken I have seen with a checkered pistol grip. I think the Hawken shop in St. Louis also responded to directions/requirements from customers. ;) Polecat
Polecat,

The Cody museum has made significant changes to their exhibits and are now redoing their website. It took me a while, but I finally found that Points West article you are referring to (see it here). The museum website used to have a digital collection of guns that you could look at most of the Hawken rifles in the collection. The website currently says it is still under construction, so we can't currently look at them.

As I recall, all of the Leonard collection of Hawken rifles were made in St. Louis, but since I can't look through them again, I have to go by memory.

Someone asked about Hawken family rifles made back in Maryland. In post #28, I showed a few of those Maryland pattern rifles. I'm not sure if they fall into the Emmitsburg School of longrifles or a more generic Maryland School, but they are dramatically different than the surviving Hawken rifles made in St. Louis.

The pistol grip S. Hawken rifle now in the Cody Firearms Museum is different, but not that rare.



There are two more like it in Jim Gordon's collection in New Mexico. I posted a picture of them in another thread on this forum but will repeat it here.



All three are set up with provisions for a tang sight. Gordon's two rifles still have the tang sight. The one in the Cody Museum only has the base on the tang for the sight. This indicates to me that these three rifles were specifically made as target rifles. So yes, the Hawken shop in St. Louis did responded to directions/requirements from customers.

Another unusual J&S Hawken marked rifle in the Cody Museum from the Leonard collection is the rifle below.

J&S Hawken Kentucky Rifle_crop.jpg



At the time Baird wrote his book, this rifle was in an Alaska collection, and he only had some photos and a few details from correspondence with the owner. It was described as having a 45 inch barrel in .54 caliber and weighing 15.5 pounds. It is mounted in brass with a hooked patent breech with four brass barrel keys. The lock appears to have been converted from flint to percussion, but doesn't fit the lock mortise that well and may be a replacement.

Baird wasn't quite sure what to make of it and called it a "turkey rifle" intended for target shooting. He saw it as resembling "the product of Tennessee gunsmiths who specialized in the production of heavy rifles to be used in beef shoots and turkey matches."

The rifle actually resembles the Lancaster pattern trade rifles that the American Fur Company and other fur trading companies were ordering for the western trade. The brass mounts, patch box, and architecture are classic Lancaster trade rifle characteristics. The size and weight of the barrel are not! The Lancaster pattern trade rifles that the AFC was ordering weighed closer to 10 pounds.

Is this an early J&S Hawken rifle made before they developed the "mountain" rifle pattern? Was it an Eastern made rifle that the Hawken shop was asked to re-barrel and possibly convert from flint to percussion? Was it used for target shooting or buffalo hunting? In many ways, the super rifle that Sam Hawken said he made for William Ashley in 1823 that had a 42 inch barrel and carried an ounce ball may have looked like this rifle.

In any event, this rifle has the fewest of the "Hawken" characteristics that we have come to expect of any known Hawken rifle.
 

Dale Lilly

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Polecat,

The Cody museum has made significant changes to their exhibits and are now redoing their website. It took me a while, but I finally found that Points West article you are referring to (see it here). The museum website used to have a digital collection of guns that you could look at most of the Hawken rifles in the collection. The website currently says it is still under construction, so we can't currently look at them.

As I recall, all of the Leonard collection of Hawken rifles were made in St. Louis, but since I can't look through them again, I have to go by memory.

Someone asked about Hawken family rifles made back in Maryland. In post #28, I showed a few of those Maryland pattern rifles. I'm not sure if they fall into the Emmitsburg School of longrifles or a more generic Maryland School, but they are dramatically different than the surviving Hawken rifles made in St. Louis.

The pistol grip S. Hawken rifle now in the Cody Firearms Museum is different, but not that rare.



There are two more like it in Jim Gordon's collection in New Mexico. I posted a picture of them in another thread on this forum but will repeat it here.



All three are set up with provisions for a tang sight. Gordon's two rifles still have the tang sight. The one in the Cody Museum only has the base on the tang for the sight. This indicates to me that these three rifles were specifically made as target rifles. So yes, the Hawken shop in St. Louis did responded to directions/requirements from customers.

Another unusual J&S Hawken marked rifle in the Cody Museum from the Leonard collection is the rifle below.

View attachment 47105


At the time Baird wrote his book, this rifle was in an Alaska collection, and he only had some photos and a few details from correspondence with the owner. It was described as having a 45 inch barrel in .54 caliber and weighing 15.5 pounds. It is mounted in brass with a hooked patent breech with four brass barrel keys. The lock appears to have been converted from flint to percussion, but doesn't fit the lock mortise that well and may be a replacement.

Baird wasn't quite sure what to make of it and called it a "turkey rifle" intended for target shooting. He saw it as resembling "the product of Tennessee gunsmiths who specialized in the production of heavy rifles to be used in beef shoots and turkey matches."

The rifle actually resembles the Lancaster pattern trade rifles that the American Fur Company and other fur trading companies were ordering for the western trade. The brass mounts, patch box, and architecture are classic Lancaster trade rifle characteristics. The size and weight of the barrel are not! The Lancaster pattern trade rifles that the AFC was ordering weighed closer to 10 pounds.

Is this an early J&S Hawken rifle made before they developed the "mountain" rifle pattern? Was it an Eastern made rifle that the Hawken shop was asked to re-barrel and possibly convert from flint to percussion? Was it used for target shooting or buffalo hunting? In many ways, the super rifle that Sam Hawken said he made for William Ashley in 1823 that had a 42 inch barrel and carried an ounce ball may have looked like this rifle.

In any event, this rifle has the fewest of the "Hawken" characteristics that we have come to expect of any known Hawken rifle.
Great post. Thanks. Polecat [I should have listed the Points West URL.. so thanks again.]
 
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plmeek

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You're welcome, Polecat.

Continuing the theme Hawken variants, the fanciest of the presentation Hawken rifles is coming up for auction again. That's the G.W. Atchison J&S Hawken rifle. It sold at Morphy's Auction for $109,250.00 in October 2017.



I got a flyer from Rock Island Auction that showed it will be included in their December Premier Auction. It'll be interesting to see what it brings then. I assume the previous buyer was more an investor than a collector, but there obviously could be other reasons its up for sale again.

The lines of this rifle are classic half stock Hawken mountain rifle. But it has been dressed up a bunch with silver mounts and silver inlays. The trigger guard is typical of what one would find back in Maryland, Western Pennsylvania, or Ohio. The patch box in particular was used by gun builders in Xenia, Ohio. The Hawken brothers were reaching back to their past in decorating this rifle. The inlays are almost over done, but those in front and back of the lock panels reflect the Emmitsburg School.

52461a1x100.jpg

The cheekpiece inlay is inscribed with the owners name and the date 1836. It's the only Hawken rifle with an undisputed date on it.

Cheekpiece 2.png


The lock, breech plug, and tang are probably English imports. It doesn't have the typical lock bolt the passes through from the off side. The screw in front of the hammer is threaded into the standing breech and holds the lock on. It also has a unique single set trigger.



But if you look past all the bling, at the heart is the typical Hawken mountain rifle.
 
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I have been shooting muzzleloaders since 1980. I don't think that there is any standard to a "Hawken" rifle. Like most, I took everything in the late John Baird's books as gospel. We were told that they had browned iron barrels and fittings, thick stocks, and large calibers. Some of that is true. However we now know that there really was no standard. I think they manufactured whatever a buyer ordered or wanted. I looked at some of the original rifles at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and some clearly have remnants of blued barrels and color-case fittings. I was lucky to handle an original in a private collection and it was .40 caliber. I'm not aware of any original flintlock rifles. The Hawken brothers really liked the percussion system, and also admired the English sporting rifles that were beginning to appear.

They may have been influenced by those. The key is to enjoy what you have and continue to learn and research. Outside of a custom made rifle, IMHO the Santa Fe Hawken and the Allen Arms were pretty good replicas and good representation of what a Hawken may have looked like. My rifle is an 1840 style LH .54 caliber percussion, made by Brant Selb of Bend, Oregon. Pretty sure Jake & Sam didn't make left hand guns, but who really knows? They are not talking anymore. If every mountain man, trapper, and adventurer heading West had a Hawken, why do so few survive?
 
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