Mountain Man rifles

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

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum by donating:

  1. Nov 11, 2019 #161

    crankshaft

    crankshaft

    crankshaft

    40 Cal

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2018
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    36
    the moovies, the moovies. they always show the rider waving his gun high in the air while riding. I contend men held the gun across the saddle, While just traveling,as many old guns show much wear across the forearm ? ? . . Not in a combat situation.,
     
  2. Nov 12, 2019 #162

    tenngun

    tenngun

    tenngun

    Cannon

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    11,352
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Republic mo
    We see them cased and on slings across the back on both shoulders. Also leather butterfly holders slung on to the saddle horn.
     
  3. Nov 12, 2019 #163

    David Teague

    David Teague

    David Teague

    54 Cal. MLF Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2005
    Messages:
    1,651
    Likes Received:
    6
    And an attacker in the ground.
     
    Einsiedler and tenngun like this.
  4. Nov 12, 2019 #164

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    317
    Location:
    Wilbarger’s Trace
    Ive heard it stated that MOA stood for "my own ability"!
    I always just threw mine across the pommel and rested it on my legs. But we weren’t performing as dragoons either. Just easy hunting. Until a rodeo or something broke out! :D
     
    Brian Gibbs likes this.
  5. Nov 12, 2019 #165

    plmeek

    plmeek

    plmeek

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Messages:
    378
    Likes Received:
    155
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Bob,

    That is an interesting story and says a lot about the rifles that were used by trappers as well as Santa Fe traders. I read the book not long ago and got it specifically for that passage about Webb's rifle. I'll discuss why a little bit later.

    As Webb describes it, the Blackfeet had taken the rifle from a trapper they had killed. Evidently, they preferred smooth bore trade guns to rifles or the rifle had suffered some damage for they eventually traded it to some of Bent and St. Vrain's traders who brought it back to Bent's Fort. There it was restocked (full length) and converted from flint to percussion. This is interesting for it shows that Bent's Fort had a blacksmith/gunsmith that was skilled enough to restock a rifle and perform a conversion on it.

    Many of the trading posts in the west and earlier in the Great Lakes Region had blacksmiths and gunsmiths to repair and maintain the fort's equipment and also perform repairs for their customers. Some of the fur trapping brigades also had people skilled enough to perform these services. Lists of items taken to the rendezvous generally include hammers, files and other tools suitable for blacksmithing and gunsmithing. The lists also included spare locks for trade guns and rifles. So someone was using these tools to perform repairs in the mountains.

    The fact that the rifle was restocked at Bent's Fort also indicates that Bent and St. Vrain had suitable wood brought out from the east and kept in store. There weren't any trees growing in the territory of Bent's Fort that would have been suitable for a rifle stock. For them to have stock wood in store suggests that this wasn't an unusual repair to a rifle or gun.

    Webb apparently acquired the rifle in late 1844 and says in 1846 he "had it newly grooved, half stocked, and [added] a new lock and breech pin." It seems that not much of the original rifle remained besides the barrel and furniture. He doesn't say where and who made these changes to the rifle, though, St. Louis is a definite possibility.
     
    tenngun and Einsiedler like this.
  6. Nov 12, 2019 #166

    Tanglefoot

    Tanglefoot

    Tanglefoot

    Pilgrim

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2012
    Messages:
    143
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    Texas
    Gentlemen,
    One of the functions of a Mountain Man's primary firearm was defense against hostiles. One of the reasons hostiles respected the Mountain Men was the accuracy with which they used their weapons at long range.
     
  7. Nov 12, 2019 #167

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    317
    Location:
    Wilbarger’s Trace
    Good morning Phil,

    This was also why I found this so interesting and wanted to share! Those same facts!
    It reminded me of a very similar occurrence that happened in my very neck of the woods circa 1837-ish.
    In the memoirs of Noah Smithwick (The Evolution of a State), he opened up a gunsmithing/blacksmith shop on the very edge of the then frontier in a place known then as Webber’s prairie. This was still a pretty wild neck of the woods. Lots of activity from the locals. Especially pony raids and such.
    He relates how one of the local ranging company officers brought him a rifle to re-groove at his shop. Apparently his shop was well equipped enough to be able to attend to this task as he opened up the customers rifle to approx. 12 to the pound. The man wished to have a sure fire buffalo stopper. The customer was very satisfied with the work and proceeded to go about shooting buffalo for their robes.
    Long story short. The customer was very sucessful obtaining robes and shipped them down the Colorado river (Texas) by flat boat. Unfortunately he lost the entire shipment when the flatboat capsized down river close to the gulf coast.
     
  8. Nov 12, 2019 #168

    plmeek

    plmeek

    plmeek

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Messages:
    378
    Likes Received:
    155
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    The reason I got interested in James Josiah Webb's book was because I came across this old newspaper clipping that I had cut out and saved almost 30 years ago. In reading it again, I couldn't recall ever reading or hearing about Webb's Hawken rifle anywhere else. I got real curious about the rifle and wanted to find more information about it.

    [​IMG]

    I ordered the same book that Einsiedler posted pictures of just to see what Webb might have written about the rifle. Eventually, I got to the passage about "Old Blackfoot".

    As you can read in the images that Einsiedler posted, Webb's description did not include any reference to the Hawken brothers. What Webb said about the maker of the gun was,
    This doesn't fit the Hawken brothers. Sam was still very much alive in 1849 and active in gun making. Jacob had died in May of that year and had been active in gun making up to his illness and death. But the man told Webb his father "has been dead many years". The only thing that fits is that Jacob's son, Christopher, did go to California in 1849 in search of gold, but Santa Fe was not the normal route to the California gold fields.

    The article says the rifle has the initials "J.G.P." on the barrel. The book says the makers initials are on the gun, but doesn't say what they are. It also doesn't say any thing about the person whose initials are on the rifle working in the Hawken shop. Some Hawken rifles exist that have commercial barrels with the barrel makers name on the barrel, but I know of no example where an employee of the Hawken shop put his initials on a Hawken rifle.

    Webb says the man that came into his store and identified the rifle was from Boonville, Missouri. None of Jacob's or Samuel's sons lived in Boonville prior to 1849. It just doesn't fit.

    The newspaper clipping appears to be another case of "buyer beware". It did not include any photos of the rifle, so I'm not sure what the rifle David Condon was selling looked like. The article says it was .50 caliber, had a 42 inch barrel, and was iron mounted. Some surviving Hawken rifles exist with barrels that long. Was the rifle Condon had for sale a Hawken? Did it have a Hawken stamp on the barrel, too? Can't say at this time. Was it the rifle that Webb describes in his book? Probably not, unless there was a well documented provenance that traced it back to Webb.

    If it wasn't originally a Hawken rifle, could the Hawken shop have been the place that Webb took the rifle to have it "newly grooved, half stocked, and [added] a new lock and breech pin"? Possibly. But does that make it a Hawken rifle?
     
    SamTex1949 and Einsiedler like this.
  9. Nov 12, 2019 #169

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    317
    Location:
    Wilbarger’s Trace
    Phil,

    I concur that the newspaper story just doesn’t add up.
     
  10. Nov 12, 2019 #170

    tenngun

    tenngun

    tenngun

    Cannon

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    11,352
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Republic mo
    HBC men across Canadian plains and the pacific north west who worked in to the Great Basin area seem to have commanded the same respect from Indians as did rifle armed Americans.
    Recall the tribes in the west were small and the loss of a man was a national tragedy. Any open attack was very risky. It was MM numbers not rifles that kept them safe.
    We did have one fight where the Indians were so close wads were falling amount the MM. this means ranges in the twenty five yard range, maybe less.
     
    Einsiedler likes this.
  11. Nov 13, 2019 #171

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

    70 Cal.

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,569
    Likes Received:
    257
    Location:
    St. Louis, Mo
    7379EEFE-B042-4BC0-82DA-D5EAC6D7ABE9.jpeg Phil I sent you an email a while back about a cheekpiece inlay for my Deringer Trade Rifle build in progress. Look at what my artist friend Tom Curran made.
     
  12. Nov 14, 2019 #172

    tenngun

    tenngun

    tenngun

    Cannon

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    11,352
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Republic mo
    On carrying a gun BAB16711-6612-45D5-90B6-EBBC99A12D3F.jpeg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2019
    DaveC likes this.
  13. Nov 15, 2019 #173

    ugly old guy

    ugly old guy

    ugly old guy

    40 Cal

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2019
    Messages:
    276
    Likes Received:
    120
    In who's wild imagination did the "mountian man" "carry a tight fitting stick" in the barrel "to prevent the ball from moving ahead"?

    In the event of an ambush by hostile "indians" or critters he would not have time to remove the stick; sending both ball and stick downrange, provided he had time to fire. Needless to say, this would destroy any accuracy.

    Admittedly there are verified accounts of individual Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War getting "excited" during a battle or skirmish and sending their ramrod down range.
    So far as I know, no Union or Confederate troop was ever scewered by a ramrod in battle.
    (Although I did hear of a participant at a Reeinactment being so scewered, which is why ramrods are not allowed on the battlefield at reenactments.)

    No. They did not pause the battle so they could run down field and retrieve their ramrod.

    Whoever it was does not know of what he speaks.

    A "tight fitting" stick is not going to keep the patched ball from "moving ahead".
    A patched ball isn't going to "move ahead" or roll down/out of the barrel if carried muzzle down. The friction of the patch forced into the rifling accomplishes that.

    "The stick and the ram rod was used as a bipod for long distance shots"

    Guess again. That would make for a mighty wobbly/unstable bipod.
    While the "mountain man" did on occation use "shootin' sticks" they were generally purpose made of "sticks" or branches at least 3/4 to an inch in diameter, and were carried by his horse or mule when not in use.

    "The tight fitting stick could be used as a spare ramrod"

    Ummm ... Nope.
    A "tight fitting stick" would not clear the patch, getting stuck somewhere close to the muzzle.
    Ramrods are a loose fit for a reason.

    I've never seen such nonsense.
    That "person"/ "self proclaimed expert authority" knows not of which he speaks, and has less than zero credibility.
     
  14. Nov 15, 2019 #174

    tenngun

    tenngun

    tenngun

    Cannon

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    11,352
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Republic mo
    ??? I’m thinking that was Ruxton that said that. Can’t look it up as I don’t have a copy right now.
    The mountains weren’t Vietnam 1968 where in an enemy was behind every tree.
    It was pretty open country. Even today, and it was less forested back then.
    Moving through an area where bear or Indian might be lurking I don’t think anyone would do this, but traveling across open country it makes a lot of sense.
    I’ve tried this. A 5/8 dowel sanded down to fit, fitted with a tip to screw on jags.
    Not living outside for a year cut off from extra supplies it was just an extra piece I didn’t need, but.... it combined with the ramrods held by left hand and shot from a kneeling position it worked well.
    This was Hanson and Wilson by the way.
    Just noting the drawing by Kurz done just after MM period shows a slung Gun. The time it took to get the gun out off the back gun, sock off, and in to firing postion would not be significantly slowed by removing a wiping stick. I would argue against the chance of Indians trying to ambush a party of ten or twelve armed men, and would doubt a grizzly doing the same.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
    Rudyard likes this.
  15. Nov 15, 2019 #175

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    317
    Location:
    Wilbarger’s Trace
    One of the best bucks I ever shot, I was using my rifle’s wiping/ loading stick (3/8") as a monopod. Out in West Texas Pecos river country.
     
    DaveC and tenngun like this.
  16. Nov 15, 2019 #176

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

    rich pierce

    70 Cal.

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,569
    Likes Received:
    257
    Location:
    St. Louis, Mo
    We were not there. Period accounts are all we have. Reasoning based on our limited or extensive experiences afield really does not help reveal what was commonly done in a particular place and circumstance. Many choose to think, “that would not work for me. It’s ridiculous!” and find their feelings about something to be historical proof. If that gives closure, that’s cool but I remain unconvinced. I keep in mind that people in similar circumstances once used atlatls successfully or went hungry.
     
  17. Nov 15, 2019 #177

    Rudyard

    Rudyard

    Rudyard

    40 Cal

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2019
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    189
    While I have never portrayed a mountain man at R' vous I have had a lot of bush trips though remote mountainous regions very often only a week long in our New Zealand mountainous forests & tops 13 days was the longest here , one was 10 days & I carried a 45 Wheelock & slew 7 ferrol goats . I used a variety of rifles flint and percussion of which last my favourite was my 24 bore two grouve for belted ball . I avoided tracks , I sort of explored as much as hunted . I some times did keep a rod in the barrel as spare & to clean with . But we don't have hostile tribes to consider . But on four occasions in the 70s I undertook to make' passages' through the Coast Range of British Columbia .First via Taklayoko Lake & the Homathka to the junction of the Mosley creek & up it to Takla Lake . I used a pea rifle guessing that it would be rough on the 451 rifle I had at the time .I got That right !. It was Moskito and tangeled canyon hell for 11 days . I got Salmonela and recall wakeing to see vegetation growing illucinated inside the Supe crew quarters I stayed in (Fire suppression crew camp ).I shot two Mule deer the last I was so exhausted I drank the fountain of blood that spurted out like some demented cave man. However I resolved to try again later in the year (As late September killed off the underfoot stuff and killed moskitoes ). Come hell or high water I was going to reverse the earlier failure .For that trip I descended the Mosley river, cut over into the Tiedman glacier thence onto' Murderers bar ' ere I traced the old waggon road route to Bute inlet and to work at the logging camp up Cumsack creek . My rifle the same 451 military match I made from an unused Martini Henry barrel . So I won that round after 11 days .While I faced a bull Moose up close , I brassed it out and only shot Grouse & Frankolin .The passage number three I descended the Klina Klini River via the settlement of that name meeting a recluse couple on Shilling Lake where we shot my double16 bore ex flint restocked by me since this was I consider the best gun for such big country trips. Shot in the right barrel & a ball of 20 bore patched in corduroy in the left . In case needed ( the very LAST gun Ide ever consider would be some dead weight Hawken object.) I did once go 7 days with a long rifle on the islands (Vancouver Island ) Tisitika river but never considerered one thereafter .'If your going to carry weight make it edible' is my maxim' . Well the Klina Klini prouved hard going and a swollen Hoodoo creek had me fell two pines and just got away with it but 17 days later Ime working at the logging claim up Knight Inlett till Ide fattened up & left. The last such passage was again the Mosley Homathko river it via Teadmann glacier Dumbell Lake and Tellot to Rassmussan's creek to camp in the historic 'Cleft Camp ' used by the road builders who where killed by Chillcotin Indians on near by ' Murderers Bar' ' in 1863. On that trip I took a 490 three grouved rifle as Ide been to a R vous in Alberta first it was meant for a three winged bullet and shot well up to 500 yards but I used swaged TC Maxies and mostly decorated my camps as the days passed rather than carry the lead all I got was grouse but I wasn't hunting as such .12 rather wet days again I set one as crew at Cumsack creek then out when the snow stopped operations I was Camp Carpenter or Boom mans off sider or Donkey Doctors off sider or if non other needed set beads which on a snow covered 45 degree slope pulling straw line or pushing bells was no fun. Hence I have by Experience formed my views re the ' Mountain Mans Choice' sort of thing . OH final bit in the unfinished Long rifle I did also carry a cleaning rod in the barrel which as the guns rod seized by rains prouved wise but spying running Salmon I upped and fired noticing a bit of recoil then found I had speared the fish with two holes .Hmmm but I heated up the guns rod freed it scoured it thinner with river gravel and carried on to make a rude log raft & paddled up the salt chuck to Beaver Cove . Nice views of Cruise liners & killer whales . Rudyard
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2019
    Euan and tenngun like this.
  18. Nov 15, 2019 #178

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    Einsiedler

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    504
    Likes Received:
    317
    Location:
    Wilbarger’s Trace
    The difference with me is when I’m out hunting, Im not trying to prove anything historical or otherwise. :) But I understand your point.
     
  19. Nov 16, 2019 #179

    Bo T

    Bo T

    Bo T

    40 Cal.

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2016
    Messages:
    456
    Likes Received:
    36
    I enjoy these discussions that evolve from the OP of what rifles the MM carried to that of the idea that the rifle was the supreme tool for their endeavors. This encompassing hundreds of millions of acres of the Rocky Mountains and arguably 4 decades of time. For a company man turned free trader, a trade gun was pretty much all that was available on credit. And it was pretty unlikely that he would be able to afford (if it became available) a rifle in the near future. A rifle offered no advantage in a willow stand where the beaver were trapped. The trappers subsisted on beaver during much of the year. Who had time to hunt for other game? I actually recall discussions like this 50 years ago ;) I knew one Vietnam Vet who would park his car on the edge of a heavy thicket, grab his smoothbore and later come out the other side with his deer. I'd suggest that it depends on what the MM was doing, where and the time frame.
     
    Rudyard likes this.
  20. Nov 16, 2019 #180

    tenngun

    tenngun

    tenngun

    Cannon

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    11,352
    Likes Received:
    1,721
    Location:
    Republic mo
    I should add, style.
    I argued above how useful a smoothie can be,
    but....
    In 1700 rifles were pretty much confined, with few exceptions, to Central Europe. It’s unlikely any were in America, or at least very few. By 1750 what rifles there were were mostly in Pennsylvania, but they quickly spread to Virginia Maryland and Southern New York.
    In 1750 the boys on the frontier of the southern colonies or south of the St Lawrence were shooting smoothies.
    1770 many frontiersman had a rifle gun, and during the war did well with them. After the war the activities of frontier rifleman was well celebrated. By 1800 a rifle was ‘Americas Gun’.
    Then came Jackson and the ‘Kentucky Rifles’. Even if the reality was most of those rifleman were shooting muskets didn’t matter to the myth. By 1825 rifle and America was synonymous.
     
    wparent and Rudyard like this.

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page

Group Builder
arrow_white