Mountain Man rifles

Discussion in 'Rocky Mountain Fur Trade' started by crockett, Sep 21, 2018.

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  1. Oct 4, 2019 #141

    Tanglefoot

    Tanglefoot

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    Lessee now .... (Counting on fingers) .... Lucy's 46 this year. She came to visit in 73 and stayed. She's made considerable meat and taken some plunder too. She shot plumb through a young bull buffler at the front shoulder once. He was a-runnin' and quarterin' away from left to right. That .490 round ball taken him in the crease behind his shoulder, through both lungs, clipped a big artery comin' off the main pump, and hit the off-side shoulder joint then ricocheted out through the base of his neck. He made two-three strides and fell. We found all the damage during the "autopsy" but never did find the ball. The exit wound was the size of a quarter, though. Lucy's plain, but she shoots plumb center!
     
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  2. Oct 8, 2019 #142

    plmeek

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    Einsiedler, I really like your Lancaster "style" mountain rifle. That looks very close to the rifles produced in Lancaster and Philadelphia for the fur trade. The only thing missing is the brass patch box, but then you called it a "re-stock", so the patch box may have been too damaged to re-use. Very believable rifle. I like the buffalo powder horn, too.

    And of course, I like your GRRW Leman Trade Rifle. I'm a big fan of GRRW guns as evidenced by my website GRRW.org, check it out if you haven't visited it already.
     
  3. Oct 8, 2019 #143

    Einsiedler

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    Thank you Mr. Meek!

    I do enjoy my “restocked” rifle. The builder reffered to it as his interpretation of a restocked government contract rifle possibly for the fur trade. Has some distinct contract parts incorporated into it. I need to get out and shoot it more!

    My Leman above is #1691 on your Collectors site! LOL. We have conversed before. ;) I have personally kilt more deer and wild hogs with it than any other rifle of any kind I own. Like I alluded to earlier, it is my "wedding" rifle from 1979.

    Again please keep this thread going. I love the subject!!!
     
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  4. Nov 8, 2019 #144

    Einsiedler

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    Ran across this story in Webb’s book on his time on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua trail, concerning a rifle he took in trade from his business partner. Just found it an interesting story and wanted to share, as well as attempt to resurrect this interesting and informative thread!
    Story starts toward the bottom of first photo. Sorry for poor pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Nov 9, 2019 #145

    Dphar1950

    Dphar1950

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    Blackhand. Smoothbore in the West? This is a fallacy unless you are a native or a clerk at some post wanting to shoot Prairie Chickens for sport. Or its all you can get where you are. The smoothbore is not very useful in the West. And even on the Eastern frontier it was not held in high regard. There are accounts of men getting off flatboats in Ohio and being laughed at for having a fowler. In an account of a man captured off a flatboat on the Ohio stating that he and he traveling companion had "nothing better than light fouling pieces" don't have the exact quote handy but this is very close. Living in Montana. I have shot a number of deer and antelope and one elk at a range that would at best be iffy and generally out of the question with a SB. And yes I have tried hunting with a Trade Gun. Something I have no inclination to repeat. In the was the number of smoothbores found in estate inventories in the east is misleading but people looking at these fail to take several things into account. First as people aged their eyesight generally failed. My grandfather took the hunting squirrels with a shotgun and I asked my Dad why he said it was because his eyesight failed. So I suspect that many of the full octagon "smooth rifles" were not smooth when made. Then we have the militia laws. Which required men to have a gun and a supply of ammo even if they had no other use for it. Thus the east was full of estate inventories with SBs that likely have not been out of the closet in who knows how long. The cost of using a SB was higher than that of the rifle. This is detailed in DeWitt Bailey's "British Military Flintock Rifles" where we see that by the 1750s the traders were complaining that selling the rifles to the natives reduced their sales of powder and lead. We also learn that by the 1740s many natives in the East were rifle armed. This all being the case. The rifle is a far better choice in the west of one knows how to use it. Shots of 150 to 175 yards on game are not uncommon out here and the extra cost of the powder and lead would be a factor for someone operating in the west. The prime use of the shotgun was night guard duty with the Brigades. Then we have value. The story of "Old Blackfeet" is a classic. The busted rifle was traded from the Blackfeet and taken all the way to Bents Fort. Restocked and then used there for rifle matches until it was traded off. It was the rebuilt at least one more time and used for considerable periods afterwards. Trade guns and smooth bores were not worth saving. In Colonial Frontier Guns by Hamilton we find that while its proven that the Natives had significant numbers of rifles none show up in the trash heaps of village sites while there is an ample selection of various trade gun parts. The rifle barrels and parts were to valuable to just throw way. The Western Tribes did not seem to have the same skill with the rifle that the Eastern Indians such as the Shawnee, Iroquois and Delaware did. Finally, on the frontier there were more rifles than in places like NYC. Probably several reasons. The rifle gave an advantage and was actually needed if 10-15% of the people attacking you were rifle armed. Its very difficult to deal with someone in a tree shooting over the walls with a rifle unless you have a rifle to counter him with. Then we have the ammunition cost thing again. In the West almost all the game was on the plains. Lewis and Clark started killing elk in what is now Nebraska. And there were far fewer trees than we have today.
    This photo was taken in Northern SweetGrass County MT. The narrow tree line to the south is Sweetgrass Creek. I can literally see to the horizon from this point or to the Beartooth range to the South and West. To the South East its too the horizon. The prime cover in use of terrain. And may low crawling as was done to get the 100 yard+ photo of the Antelope which was shot through tall grass. Or walking on one's knees to get close enough as I have done. It's really fun if the snow is over 12". So I have no use for a smoothbore. IMGP0080.jpg P1020760.jpg
     
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  6. Nov 9, 2019 #146

    Dphar1950

    Dphar1950

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    They are not all that useful out here unless maybe for running Buffalo. Other than that there is little practical use for one. Most seen in Museums out here have a rear sight, including one cut down to make a pistol length in the Mammoth Museum in Yellowstone NP so I see the no rear sight on trade guns rule for matches silly or at least not supportable historically. These are in the Helena Museum. View attachment 18201 . DSC03032.jpg DSC03035.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  7. Nov 9, 2019 #147

    Einsiedler

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    On the subject of horse accidents again. I wonder what kind of rifle Christopher Carson was packing when he was de-horsed making the assault on the Mexican militia cavalry/lancers at San Pasqual. He stated his rifle was broken into two seperate pieces.

    It is said he ended up fighing with a carbine and ctg box taken off of one of the dead American dragoons.

    Familiar with the Carson-Beale Hawken of a bit later. Lt. Beale USN was with him and Kearny in this fight.

    For those interested in more on this Hawken.
    https://americansocietyofarmscollec...-The-Carson-Beale-Hawken-Its-Identificati.pdf
     
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  8. Nov 9, 2019 #148

    Dphar1950

    Dphar1950

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    The Hawken by late 1830s was far more durable than the eastern rifles. And durable is really nice when spending a lot of time on a horse.
    We really have not idea what the real production of the Hawken Shop was. But given the way guns were used (used up) in the west well into the 20th c the fact there are so many survivors tells me they made more than a few. Horse back use is notoriously hard on firearms to this day. The weight increased in later years for a couple of reasons. One the percussion system was harder on barrels than the softer FL ignition. This is show by the fact that there were failures in England when converting FL shotguns to Percussion. Also the used of steel as a barrel material may have been a factor. While technically stronger than iron, unless the alloy is proper and inclusions well controlled its not a safe as iron for ML use. Then the increasing use of Picket bullets in matches in the East increased breech pressures. Finally the improvements in the powder increased the pressure as well. I would also point out the someone who is in shape is not bothered much if at all by a rifle weighing 12 pounds or so unless then have been spoiled by modern light weight firearms.
     
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  9. Nov 9, 2019 #149

    Einsiedler

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    " I would also point out the someone who is in shape is not bothered much if at all by a rifle weighing 12 pounds or so unless then have been spoiled by modern light weight firearms."

    I remember them days!!! I had an old mountain rifle back in the 70’s that was as heavy as a dead Baptist preacher!!!

    It was a shooter, tho!!!!!
     
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  10. Nov 9, 2019 #150

    tenngun

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    I have to respectfully disagree.
    I have taken elk muleli and antalope in the west with a rifle gun but all were within ranges a smoothbore would have worked well.
    The number of smooth bores sent west seem to underline their usefulness.
    ‘Americans’ are said to have only reached for the rifle, but French Spanish and Indians preferred smoothies.
    The plains and mountains of Canada were much like America and HBC provided mostly smooth bore and encouraged men to carry a smoothbore over a rifle since at sixty yards it shoots as well as a rifle and that’s were most game was taken.
    The Métis ran a trade in pemmican mostly supplied by smoothies.
    Before the first ‘Americans’ brought a rifle gun west smoothies were taking game. And before that archery fed a lot of mouths.
    Today lots of game fall before pointy sticks. Mostly at ranges well in the range of a smoothbore.
    Russians got as far south as California feeding them selfs with smoothies along the way.
     
  11. Nov 10, 2019 #151

    tenngun

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    I would also add that the smooth rifle were guns reamed out to smooth after the build is a myth. Most smooth rifles seem to have been built that way. They were advertised as ‘rifle mounted fusils’
     
  12. Nov 10, 2019 #152

    ugly old guy

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    Were these "failures" unreliable ignition or blown/split barrels?

    Percussion is not "harder" on a barrel than a flintlock.
    The same load used before conversion will produce the same average internal barrel pressures after conversion.
    B
    The breech on both flintlock and percussion have a "vent" if you will, for pressures to escape. (if they didn't the spark from the cap or flash from the pan would never reach the main charge, wgich fires the arm) The cap on a percussion nipple does not seal that passage, insofar as pressures are concerned.
    More tban once I witnessed newbies shooting a heavy load in which their hammer was blown back to half cock or full cock upon firing.

    (Yes. I did tell them to lower their powder charge. I informed the one newbi using FFFFg in his .45 caliber, that he needed to get some FFFg or FFg. FFFFg is priming powder for a flintlock.
    Historically, it was not and never has been intended for the main charge, except in very small caliber arms, such as .22 caliber and .25 caliber.)
     
  13. Nov 10, 2019 #153

    Billy Boy

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    From looking at pictures of old, original firearm invoices from the period, in various publications, I see the term ‘plain rifle’ referring to a rifle without bling, simple, built to conserve cost. “Plains Rifle” seems to me to be a misapplication of this grade term.
     
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  14. Nov 10, 2019 #154

    Einsiedler

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    Yes, I believe this same conclusing was made by several close to 40 years ago.
     
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  15. Nov 11, 2019 #155

    Einsiedler

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    The reason I also own a NW trade gun is simple. They are an iconic firearm of the period. I have a nice custom gun marked Barnett.
    The cow elk I took back in 2018 was well within fusil range. Matter of fact probably the closest elk I’ve ever taken. But I do agree that from my standpoint, and elk hunting experience, one of my several larger bore rifles would be more to my liking. Just my rambling this morning.
    I really have grown fond of the “restocked" government rifle I posted photos of earlier. It is a .54 calibre. If and when I can ever get back up to the mountings, it will probably go along with me.
     
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  16. Nov 11, 2019 #156

    ugly old guy

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    AMEN, Brother! AMEN!!!

    Even before the War of Independance it was "common knowledge" that rifled arms were more accurate and had a useable range of more than 30~40 yards.

    The MM knew he would be taking longer shots than 30~40 yards. Why would he want to handicap himself with an inferior (for his needs) arm?

    Punt Guns and smooth bores were the provenance of the professional waterfowler.
    Smooth bores by those who hunted waterfowl and "upland game" to feed their family.
    Farmers kept a smooth bore in the barn (and maybe a rifle just inside the back door of the house) for fox, wolf, snakes, and rats.

    As today, one had a choice between a smooth bore (AKA: "Shotgun") or Rifle when purchasing a new arm.

    As is the case today, they bought the one that best fitted their needs. ... If they had more than two consecutive operational brain cells, and had more sense than the gods gave idiot geese, that is.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
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  17. Nov 11, 2019 #157

    Byron A Rudrow

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    Personally since I would have at least one pack horse and I consider my self to be fairly intelligent person and a lover of Muzzleloaders.............I would have both a “Rifle” and a “Smoothbore”......both Flintlocks! You my now continue the eternal debate that can never and should never end.....except for me since I have both and will continue to acquire more until they put me under the ground.......and even then, I’m taking them all with me!
     
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  18. Nov 11, 2019 #158

    tenngun

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    R.G.A Levinge was quoted by Carl Russell this way. Advocating use of a smoothie “which throws a ball true at sixty yards. It is the best weapon for deer hunting as most shots got in the woods are at that distance. In 99 cases out of a hundred a patched ball will fly nearly as true as true as one fired from the best rifle.
    Hanson in”The Indian Fusial” recorded Hampton Swain using two ball in eighteenth century smoothies strike at fourth five yards consistencly in a twelve inch circle, single ball giving six inch groups.
    While common for Americans to use rifles the fact that smoothies were so in evidence right up through the advantage of breech loading rifles tells us of their usefulness.
    Trade rifles were first sent by the us in to the Indian trade in the 1790s but were making and selling imitation ‘London Fuze’ through the factory period and remained a stock in trade for the fur companies.
     
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  19. Nov 11, 2019 #159

    ugly old guy

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    You consider that "acceptable" accuracy?!?

    6 inches at 45 yards works out to around 12 MOA or more!
    That is horrible "accuracy".

    That is not "acceptable accuracy" to anyone that I know.

    I sure would not accept such poor accuracy under any circumstances - with the possible exception of hurricane force crosswinds. (and under such conditions I probably would not be shooting anyway.)

    Even back then, a not a "target rifle" ML rifle was capable of sub 2 MOA accuracy. (2 MOA = two inch groups at 100 yards and 1 inch groups at 50 yards.)
     
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  20. Nov 11, 2019 #160

    tenngun

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    It will put deer in the pot.
     
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