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Rifles of the Fur Trade

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Joined
May 10, 2021
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Location
Bethany, OK
During the 70's while sitting around the camp fire a frequent topic of discussion, sometimes heated, involved what particular rifles were really the Mountain Man's favorite. During this time just about everyone was convinced that the Hawken rained supreme but when discussing the earlier years, pre 1835, names such as Krider, Leman. Gumph, and Tyron were seldom if ever mentioned. Another name we were blissfully unaware of was John Joseph and later his son James Henry. So much has been learned and documented today that these names should be common knowledge, but unfortunately aren't.

JJ Henry and his son J Henry operated a prosperous gun building firm that was really more factory than shop in Boulton, PA. During the 1820's-50's they were one of the primary suppliers of trade rifles to the American Fur Company and others that traded to both Indian tribes and free trappers as well as being issued to their own hunters and trappers.

Below is a rifle I just finished that used the J. Henry "Lancaster" or "American" style as an inspiration as it is not an exact bench copy. Customer had a few special requests but it generally conforms to a J. Henry trade rifle of the pre 1830 style that would have been available.
 

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The Hawken Rifle may have been their favorite, but it most likely was a Leman, Kreider, Tryon, Gumpf, Deringer, Henry or some other maker's rifle that they shot. The Hawken Plains Rifles heyday was really right at the very end of the fur trade era. Inventory lists of trade goods list the Hawken rifle at maybe less than 1/10 of the quantity of rifles ordered and usually at more than twice the cost of the other rifles.
 
Hawkens went out the door at twenty five dollars, Leman got thirteen for his and later reduced price to twelve fifty. Products sold on the frontier could bring gross price four times the Saint Louis price. A well to do man could live well on five hundred a year.
Just a tad of perspective
 
I missed this thread until today. The rifle shown is a beauty, well researched and very well made and finished!

As for interest in a Leman trade rifle, you bet! I would be interested! I’m not in the market to buy one right now, but I would enjoy seeing the build progress and reading the commentary.

You do good work!

Notchy Bob
 
I missed this thread until today. The rifle shown is a beauty, well researched and very well made and finished!

As for interest in a Leman trade rifle, you bet! I would be interested! I’m not in the market to buy one right now, but I would enjoy seeing the build progress and reading the commentary.

You do good work!

Notchy Bob
I've built a number of Lemans over the years. They were solid, sturdy working rifles but still had nice lines. The area around Bolton and Lancaster PA had a number of shops (actually small factories) that catered to the fur companies, traders and Indian agents and all of their rifles bore a lot of similarities, so many that I suspect they shared a lot of parts. J. Henry, J.J. Henry, Krider, Gumph, Leman, and others were all selling to the same markets. Will be starting an "English" pattern J. Henry soon and will try to take pictures as it progresses.
 
Beautiful rifle!!

Love to hear more about the specs: caliber, barrel length, LOP etc.

Looking to have a rifle very similar made in LH sometime in the future.
The barrel is a 7/8" diameter, 36" long .50 caliber. The barrel is a bit lighter than the originals but like most of us the customer is getting older and didn't want a 10 pound rifle, this one comes in at about 7 1/2 pound. Lock is a Chambers late Ketland. Took some doing to stretch everything in but customer needed a full 15" LOP so set the buttplate as far back as possible and set the barrel, lock and triggers a bit further forward than I usually would. Tried to shape the stock so it would not appear as long in the buttstock area as it actually is. Would love to visit about a future project just send me a PM.
 
I agree with you 110% sir,

Hawkens had a great run, but the ones you mentioned had produced more weapons than the Hawken brothers.

I grew up near the Lancaster factories of several of those mentioned and once in a great while an original shows up at a gun show.

I have several original H.E. Leman trade rifles purchased back in the day by family members. Here's a picture of one of those old rifles, a little ruff but still in complete condition.

Thank you.

Buck
Beautiful rifle sir!
 

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