Smoothbore and Mountain Men?

Discussion in 'Smoothbore' started by Amikee, Aug 26, 2011.

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  1. Aug 27, 2011 #21

    Marc Adamchek

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  2. Aug 28, 2011 #22

    Steve Tobler

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    Wow, I guess my comment was totally incorrect.
    Just another dumbass comment from a newbie ... sorry.
     
  3. Aug 28, 2011 #23

    Amikee

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    No, not at all a dumbaxx! We have some great informations going through the net here. So glad this topic came to me :haha: LaB :bow: nice researxh :thumbsup: thank you all for great informations!
     
  4. Aug 28, 2011 #24

    tg

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    I understand where you are comming from Labonte I was not choosing a side, I was trying to avoid several pages of speculation and all the "they coulda wouldas" by gently proding you and Rod and a few well researched guys into the mix, thanks for the information you provided, I should have worded my post better.
     
  5. Aug 28, 2011 #25

    redwing

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    It is interesting regarding taking game. In the L&C journals it refers to eating habits. The men consumed on average 9 Lbs of red meat per day per man. The rivers were full of fish which they refused to eat. When possible they traded for dogs from the NDNs, they liked dog meat. There was also mention of eating coyotes. They did not mention shooting small game with shotguns. Lead was very scrace they hoped the ball would remain in the carcas and would hunt for hours for a stray lead ball. Not likely a hand full of lead shot would have been spent on a skinney old Jack Rabbit. :nono:
     
  6. Aug 28, 2011 #26

    Rod Lassey

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    Since we're talking employment situations---if you're employed by a fur company, and that company is to furnish you a gun, and their stock is NW guns...guess what you're going to be carrying.

    "His horse, alarmed by the sudden report of the gun, sprang forward throwing off by the action his fusil which he was carrying carelessly across his saddle, seeing this an Indian sprang forth instantly from the thicket and pounced upon it..."

    "We each possessed a fusil brought to this country expressly for the Indian trade, a light kind of gun which is used only by the hunters on our side of the mountains for running buffalo. However, my companion appeared quite expert with his weapon, and made several very good shots with it."

    ---Both quotes from Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains.

    In the end, like anything to do with history, there are no cut and dried answers, it all depends on who, what, when, where.

    Rod
     
  7. Aug 28, 2011 #27

    Amikee

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    I'm coming from Eastern Europe. Also not choosing sides. I started this topic out of curiosity. Glad to have all of You on the board :grin:
     
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  8. Aug 28, 2011 #28

    CoyoteJoe

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    I believe Dan Phariss gave you the best answer. While the "versatility" of the smoothbore may be a debatable advantage, it's limited effective range is without doubt a serious liability in the west. The smoothore's huge appetite for powder, wads and lead is also a serious liability for anyone living far from a source of supply. As Dan said, why would one throw an ounce of lead at a rabbit when the same ounce of lead could make two .54 caliber balls with which one could secure a ton of meat?
    I've had some limited experience with subsistence hunting. I had the best of both worlds, a combination rifle and smoothbore. I carried both barrels loaded but what I found in my own experience was that I fired the smoothbore very seldom if at all. And that was in hunting small game exclusive, and ammo availability was no concern. For the type of hunting where one silently stalks the game a rifle is simple more effective, does less damage to meat and fur, the ammo is lighter to carry and the rifle still has the range advantage.
    Please don't get the idea that I despise the smoothbore, in fact I just love shotguns. But if I had to choose one firearm with which to feed and defend myself the only debate would be the caliber and style of RIFLE.
     
  9. Aug 29, 2011 #29

    tg

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    THe lack of preference for shot guns reminds me of my grabdfather in abiut 1900 he bought an Austrian Lorenze I believe, at an auction in Colorado he was 10 years old he used that gun for a decade untill he moved to S Dakota and married my grandmother he told me that he contributed to the cook pot with rabbits, prarrie hens and whatever he could drop with that old gun which still has the bayonet, (I have the gun now), there is little rifling left in the .54 barrel, he said hewould carefully pick out bags off small pebbles the size he preferd for use as shot but his favorite as I recall the stories was the sniped ends from horeshoe nails that he got from the local smith which he pounded around to get a "better" shape, I was a bit surprised that in the frontier areas of Colorado at the turn of the century 40 years after the war that there were still a supply of musket caps readily available, he was a small man in stature about 5'9" and he told me that when he first used the gun and for the firts few years he would take aim and let loose a load then after the smoke cleared pick himself up and run to see if he had dropped that animal he was shooting at, what a time that would have been to live. The "shotgun" was at that time still in use by those who had little choice in the matter of what they uaed to survive.He later was a deputy sheriff just before WW1 and shot a prisoner in the leg who was escaping from the store room that doubled as a jail.

    "In the end, like anything to do with history, there are no cut and dried answers, it all depends on who, what, when, where."

    Yeah rod, if we could always remember those guidlines many threads would run their course in a much smoother more civilzed manner, and I suspect a bit more might be learned by all parties concerned.
     
  10. Aug 30, 2011 #30

    shortbow

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    Food for thought here. The assumption is being made that a rb gun of .50 to .54 would have been the normal MM weapon when he had a choice because with the smaller ball and greater range he could down a ton of meat at less cost than he would need with a fusil or similar in the 20g range.

    However, several years ago I read a period autobiography of a Taos MM, and IIRC it was the James Ohio Pattie book. I remember in that book being quite suprised reading about him and is fellows shooting at buffalo with their rifles, because they expended many, many shots to down one animal and in fact lost more than they actually managed to kill.

    I haven't shot a buffalo with a smoothbore, but I have read that many a MM chose one when running buffalo so they could ensure downing the animal. And aside from running buffalo, those early herds were easy to approach closely and I bet getting in range of one to shoot him with a smoothbore would not have been any great feat of stalking prowess.

    Then as now "whompability" may have been a factor when a prospective gun buyer had a choice? :hmm:
     
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  11. Jan 16, 2020 #31

    Lonesome Charley

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    This was an excellent thread, thank you all for all the great information. I am a greenhorn when it comes to the real history of the western fur trade. For many years I have read the journals and historical writings of the Rocky Mountain trapper. My first and only muzzle loader has been an Allen Sante Fe Hawkin, that I bought in the mid 80s. Now as I am closing in on retirement I want to get deeper into the life. These threads are great. I love reading every word. As for rifle vs fusee, my understanding is that for the most part it was as much cultural as anything. My dad thought me years ago, “ never fear the man with a collection of guns, but the man with one, as they know where that gun will shoot every time.” If you know your smooth bore then it will be the right gun for you.
     
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  12. Jan 16, 2020 #32

    Pukka Bundook

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    Lot of good stuff written on this subject.
    Never say never or always, but to me a rifle would work much better in a stand-off with hostiles. (Make them stand further off!)
    Having said that , Manuel Lisa carried a cut-down brown Bess I believe. (and wouldn't be the only one.)

    I too think D Pharris gives one of the best answers.

    Someone mentioned on the previous page that a trapper with bad eye-sight may prefer a shotgun.
    Me, I think a trapper with poor eyesight on the high plains would stand a real good chance of getting his hair raised.
     
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  13. Jan 17, 2020 #33

    tenngun

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    Near a decade old thread resurrected.
    I fell in love with smoothies when I bought a Centermark, and as I do love them smoothies it colors my view. We talked about uncorrected vision, and numbers traded, versatility vs economics( bunny for an ounce of lead, elk for half an ounce) and that even by 1825 the myth of the frontier rifleman was firmly established ( rifleman beat the British twice don't ya know).
    The plains and much of the mountain country itself was less wooded then today, so a hundred yard plus gun did have an advantage over a fifty yard gun.
    Hmmm.
    Before 1100 there was a culture on the plains. Then between 1100 and 1400 the plains were hit with severe droughts and mostly depopulated. The Anasazi culture collapsed. most of the ‘western tribes’ or plains tribes migrated there after 1400. The Anasazi moved in to the Rio Grande Valley and were just starting to rebuild when the Spanish showed up. The Dini (Navajo/Apache movesd south out of Canada in to the south west. Blackfoot lived north of the Great Lakes, moved into the edge of the sub arctic forest in a great arch that brought them to their western home land. All sorts of Sioux speaking people moved up the rivers from the Mississippi and on to the plains. At the same time Canadian sub arctic people migrated south along the edge of the Rockies and east on to the plains.
    Some farmed, most were hunter folk. they might rimrock a herd, or burn off a grass land. And they would be happy to take advantage of a flood kill, but for the most part they took game the old fashion way. One critter at a time. These new plains people had the plains to them selfs, and it was a promise land. For two centuries their numbers grew. Then the great dog came. And when they learns to ride him they boomed even harder.
    French started sniffing around the plains in the 1660s but few white me came until after 1810. For nearly three centuries Indians grew fat off the meat of the plains.
    Taken in a treeless open environment with pretty low quality bows.
    I’m darned if I can see where a fusil good for fifty/ maybe seventy five yards is a handicap. Doubt it? Ask the Clovis and the mega fauna they hunted out.
     
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  14. Jan 17, 2020 #34

    Loyalist Dave

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    Well you find an excellent example, when reading this thread, of the different viewpoints concerning "factors", that often plague historians and archaeologist. As a fellow with a degree in archaeology and a minor in history, I can attest it can be a big problem when it comes to deciphering evidence.

    So factors concerning firearm selection in the black powder era...

    Availability....both in cost and in existence. The user has to be able to afford the rifle or gun, and it has to be there for sale. Was credit ever involved as it was for the hide hunters in the Illinois country in the 1760's, who almost to a man got a rifle (on credit) and paid for it after several months of harvesting hides? Did the Western Native Americans choose a flintlock when caplocks came into vogue, or were flinters all that was offered either because they were cheap to get wholesale by the traders or pragmatic because the traders wanted the caplocks to stay in "white hands"? Even in modern times, you will find countries where the hunters are using outdated tech or rather strange shooting applications, because the authorities won't permit them to get close to state-of-the-art arms.

    Logistics..., How long can the owner go without needing resupply and still get the job done? A 12 gauge rifle or smoothbore gets 12 shots to the pound of lead, while the .54 rifle or 28 gauge smoothbore gets 28 shots per pound of lead. When using shot in the smoothbore at least an ounce would be used for either 12 gauge shotgun or 28 gauge shotgun, so that's 16 shots per pound. How close would the user be to resupply or how often would there be a rendezvous for the same reason? Do you choose a flinter because you can resupply with flints in the wilderness...but not caps? Do you choose a smoothbore because if nothing else an almost smooth quartz stone from a creek will get you a deer, when you can't find lead ball?

    Application..., Does the rifle in a certain caliber get the job done? Does one need a 100 yard standoff capability to survive? On the other hand in the previous posted example of fellows going after bison, the much larger smooth bore at close range from horseback was a much better option. Perhaps even a SxS to bring down such a large animal would be needed. How often did the trappers hunt bison..., compared to the Native Americans who were also competing for furs? To a trapper does the idea of shooting small game with shot even come into the equation? IF it's survival then eating the meat of the animals caught in the traps does conserve ammo, and a lot of the frontiersmen in the fur trade grew up on the frontier, so they understood and some had even used a "rabbit stick" to gather rabbits, so no ammo wasted and no noise made.

    Ethnicity..., Some of the choices may be due to previous experience, and teaching by adults when the users were children. Now that they have grown to where they can chose a gun, the adult gun buyer may chose what they know and with what they are confident. So Native Americans used to trade guns might be interested in them over rifles, and as mentioned some Nations where rifles were well known did not want trade guns. Flintlocks survived longer in some areas over caplocks for the same reason, even when availability was no longer the factor. The French areas of Canada where heavy use of 20 gauge fusils was established, appear to have kept that even when Canadians were moving West into to British Columbia and then South into what would one day be the American Rocky Mountains.

    These factors are not limited to the fur trade, nor even to guns. I know that Lewis and Clark ran low on blue beads, as that was the color most valued by the Native American that they encountered. I also know that Africans trying to acquire flintlock arms often would only trade for them IF they looked a lot like a Brown Bess. They had been exposed to the Brown Bess in the past, and that was what they wanted...so Belgian tradegun makers made a lot of bess-esque trade guns for the African trade. This continued into the 20th century. So did muzzleloaders in certain parts of the United States, due to application and logistics. I have read where a young man had acquired a '73 Winchester lever-action in .44-40, and was quite proud to have such a superior rifle than that owned by his father and uncle. On a bear hunt the father and uncle carried .50 caliber muzzleloading rifles, while the young man carried his Winchester, and it's relatively expensive "fixed" ammunition. On a treed bear, the young man shot the poor bruin four times without causing it to die and fall out of the tree. The uncle, finally having seen enough of this demonstration of the "superior" rifle, downed the animal with an instantly fatal shot from his muzzleloader, "loaded for bear". Muzzleloaders continued into the 20th century in Appalachia, where this final tale originates.

    LD
     
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  15. Jan 17, 2020 #35

    Lonesome Charley

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    There have been many great points in this thread, some I had already considered and some I had not. I have always felt that if one was heading west from the settlements no matter if it was in 1810 or 1840 they took the weapon they had. If it was a smooth bore or a rifle, they knew the weapon. The companies did supply both rifles and smooth bores for the trade and for the brigades themselves. If a person joined a brigade and already had a firearm would they then take on the debt of a new one or stick with what they had. Once in the mountains and they had a season of work under their belt they might spring for a newer weapon, or might not. Mountain prices might have kept some with what was already working. This is all assumption on my part, but if a young man left his home in Kentucky or Tennessee or where ever for the adventure of the west, he might carry the Lancaster that he had always used or the fowler that his pap had given him to learn to hunt with. It just seems to me that in the mountains any rifle or smooth bore of that era would fit. Skin trappers might want a trade gun for close work while working their trap line. Hunters would want something that would punch a ball out farther than a smoothie. Camp keepers might want the double to keep the pest out of camp and fend off rabid critters. So in my perhaps ignorant mind one used what worked best in most cases and what one had was made to work when they couldn’t use anything else. Even today it isn’t that common for game to be taken outside of 100 yard and that is game that is skittish of man. I have never dropped a deer over 100 yard and that is with a more modern rifle. Even buffalo can be stalked up to a few yards today and for meat the last thing you want it to run an animal. For fun maybe but not for meat. The hide hunters a few decades later knew that it took a lot to stampede a herd of buff. My great grandfather was a market hunter in the 1870s and 1880s and he told my dad stories of getting close enough to get as many animals as he could with the few shots he could get off. A covey of quail with one shot or a flock of ducks with one shot or three deer with three shots. Granted he was using a repeater on the deer but getting close was the trick. I am planning on building a fowler for my first build then I want to build a JJ Henry Lancaster pattern for my rifle. I don’t see either one being out of place ay either a woodsman fair in TN or a Rendezvous in Montana.
    I love reading all the history of this time and these places and I want to thank everyone for so much great information.
    LC
     
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  16. Jan 17, 2020 #36

    tenngun

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    Pat MacManus wrote a story about his first deer. And talked in it about other who had shot a little spike buck, but as the years went by that little guy grew until he was the king of the mountains.... in the memory of the shooter.
    I would add to what you say that history is an artifact. Our volume of records are relatively few when compared to number of lives represented.
    The historian forms an idea after reading some source material, then looks for records that confirm his idea. He teases a thread from the tapestry and says ‘behold x’. While the tapestry stands tattered and worn and unfortunately full of holes behind him.
    There is ample evidence of smoothies and rifles being available to men in the west during the rendezvous period.
    The statement that the French and Indians took a fusil while ‘Americans’ reached for the rifle is a memory, and we have no reason to doubt its validity.
    Though we must ask is racial prejudice at work? Did no French Canadians ever grab rifles, any Indians? Did 100% of ‘Americans’ grab a rifle, or was it 95%,or less. Like our little spike, did the memory of the percentage of reaching for the rifle grow till from 95% or less (75%:eek:)it became always reaches for the rifle.
     
  17. Jan 18, 2020 #37

    Lonesome Charley

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    All very good information. Thank you. I plan on building both the fowler and the JJ Henry Lancaster. I am sure that the smoothie will fit in at rendezvous along side the trade rifle. Most of my deer hunting is in fairly heavy timber or recently logged areas where a 75 yard shot is a long one with most being under 50. And scouting for the deer is always a good time to bag a grouse or two as well. If I get out to the open country where I need to punch out to 100 or beyond I will use the trade rifle. I don’t seen any issue with not being Period Correct with either one.

    Exaggeration is a funny thing. I am an avid fly fisherman..and even with myself that 12” rainbow might become and 18” rainbow next year...Got to love tall tales and a fertile mind...LOL
     
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  18. Jan 19, 2020 #38

    nkbj

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    Ever pistol pop a sage hen for lunch while the girl friend is stirring the breakfast fire, your tail is on a log and left hand is filled with coffee? Ever crawl out of the tent, look up at big eyes and atlers and think "oh golly I'm glad he didn't step on us!" How about step into a little clearing where a beaver dam had created a silted up flat decades before and there's a mating pair of moose?
    Yeah, gimme a smoothbore and I could get by just fine. And if in the days of yore I was in wide open country and needed a rifle to keep a bunch of angry people at bay, well, there wouldn't be enough of me to defeat them.
     
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  19. Jan 19, 2020 #39

    Lonesome Charley

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    I have popped a spruce grouse when out to take care of natures call. Woke up on morning up in the Pasayten with a big ol mule deer standing over me looking me right in the eyes and my rifle leaning against a tree across the camp. Damn how I love the back country.

    In reading about the Indian wars, it wasn’t often that when they attacked they didn't have the upper hand to start with. Only a tough defense did any one push them back. Apaches were known to only fight when they had the advantage and a sure thing. A rifle or a smoothbore if one is alone won’t make much of a difference. I think it was more about the odds than the weapon in a lot of cases.
     
  20. Jan 19, 2020 #40

    Pukka Bundook

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    There are lots of recorded instances where hostiles liked to keep out of rifle shot. By the time they are in shotgun shot, whoever it was would be in real trouble I think.
    Many of the hostile tribes didn't like to lose braves, and getting too close to rifles was one way to do it. It took all the fun out of hair -raising.
    I grew up a smooth -bore shooter, but it the wide open, a rifle still makes sense.
     
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