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Old September 10, 2018, 04:12 PM   #1
ratshooter
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Guns Of The Mountain Men

Ask about anyone what rifles the beaver trappers and mountain men carried with them and you will be told they carried Hawken guns made by Sam and Jacob Hawken in St Louis.

I thought so too. But a little more reading and google searching turned this up. I also stated in another thread on the sister forum that I also suspected that those eastern men who came west probably brought their eastern rifles with them and used them in the mountains. It looks like my guess was correct. And there were many more non Hawken rifles in the mountains than you would think. This article makes it sound like Hawkens were sort of scarce by comparison. Its a good read. Hope you like it.

http://traditionalmuzzleloader.com/index.php/rifles

This rifle maker also supplied a lot of the rifles used by trappers and explorers and supplied trade rifles to the government. Henry lemon supplied a huge amount of rifles for a long period of time until his death and the closing of his plant.

http://americansocietyofarmscollecto...051_Hanson.pdf
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Old September 12, 2018, 08:42 PM   #2
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Good info thanks for posting! I recently purchased a used IA Hawken rifle and have been really enjoying breaking into BP firearms. Now I just need to get that ball out I rammed home without any powder on my first trip to the range haha.
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Old September 13, 2018, 02:06 AM   #3
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Most had a hawkins gun which was a short barrel big bore rifle in either flint or cap with a half stock. Made for use on horseback mainly.
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Old September 13, 2018, 03:34 AM   #4
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Hawkens were definitely in the minority. Many just brought the eastern rifle they had, and for those that bought a "plains" rifle, there were many makers other than the Hawken brothers. There was Leman and Derringer among others. Probably most common were the "hardware store" grade guns, assembled quickly with off the shelf locks. The whole "Hawken" craze was started by Hollywood.
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Old September 13, 2018, 10:39 AM   #5
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Most were looking for a short, big bore, well made and accurate. Who made it probably wasn't very important to them
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Old September 13, 2018, 10:03 PM   #6
ratshooter
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Quote:
Good info thanks for posting! I recently purchased a used IA Hawken rifle and have been really enjoying breaking into BP firearms. Now I just need to get that ball out I rammed home without any powder on my first trip to the range haha.
Hey Chowder welcome to the madness. To remove your stuck ball remove the nipple from your gun. Trickle some 3F powder down the nipple hole. All you can get in there. Screw the nipple back in and put on a cap and fire it in a safe direction. The ball should come out. They come out hard enough to do damage so be sure your backstop is sturdy.

I like to grind up the powder for this so its about like table salt. It goes down the nipple hole a lot better. I have made this mistake enough times that I made a dispenser from copper tubing with a spout on it and filled it with finely ground powder. Its over 20 years old and still gets used on occasion. My bud just did this and we used this trick to clear his gun.
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Old September 13, 2018, 10:07 PM   #7
ratshooter
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Quote:
Most had a hawkins gun which was a short barrel big bore rifle in either flint or cap with a half stock.
No most didn't have a "HAWKEN" gun. That was the point made in the links I posted. Did you read them? Hawken rifles were rare and not often seen. They were about the best but the Hawken brothers couldn't build enough to supply all the mountain men or the later westward expansion. And the early guns were fullstock rifles, not half stock guns.
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Last edited by ratshooter; September 14, 2018 at 05:53 PM.
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Old September 14, 2018, 08:11 AM   #8
reinert
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"Thoughts on Firearms"

"Today's gun buffs seem to be creating history myths as they go. Recently, drawings of well-used flint Hawken rifles and pistols have been published- but NO such guns exist! I'm from Missouri-show me a piece of a flint J.&S. Hawken. All surviving mountain rifles known to have been carried during the beaver harvest are Pennsylvania trade rifles. The trading companies sold them by the thousands. No S. Hawken ever went to a rendezvous, and the Hawkens carried by Carson, Bridger, Johnson, etc., were the last guns they owned-not the first. Most Hawkens were the ultimate development in Plains Rifles-fine guns, but too late for the beaver men.
Most trappers carried a large-bore rifle, some used trade guns, and double-barreled shotguns were popular for night guard duty. Pistols were common, often in pairs. Percussion weapons were unusual in 1830 and common in 1840."

From: "The Mountain Man's Sketch Book," Vol. 1, James Austin Hanson & Kathryn J. Wilson.

(BTW, my copy of the sketch book dates October, 1976)

I remember seeing a photo of a full-stock Hawken a long time ago, that LOOKED like it had been converted from flint to percussion, but couldn't be proven that it had indeed been changed over. And if you've never been to the Museum of the Fur Trade, near Chadron, NB, go there; you won't be disappointed.
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Old September 14, 2018, 08:39 AM   #9
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If you visit "The Museum of the Mountain Man" in Pinedale, Wyoming you will see what they used.
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Old September 14, 2018, 11:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Recently, drawings of well-used flint Hawken rifles and pistols have been published- but NO such guns exist! I'm from Missouri-show me a piece of a flint J.&S. Hawken.
Quote:
No S. Hawken ever went to a rendezvous
From the link I posted.

Quote:
The earliest Hawken rifle known to be used in the Rocky Mountains was purchased by William Ashley in 1823. This was a special order heavy rifle. It had a 42 inch long barrel and was bored for a one ounce ball (about .68 caliber). On the return trip from the mountains Ashley reported killing a buffalo from a very long distance with a single shot from this rifle. In 1832 Lucien Fontenelle purchased a Hawken rifle and 500 percussion caps. Andrew Drips bought a Hawken rifle and a spare lock. Etienne Papin and James Jackson each purchased Hawken rifles that year as well. Although the Hawken rifle was not the most common rifle in use during the rendezvous period, existing account records list no fewer than 44 mountain men who purchased Hawken rifles between 1831 and 1840.
If Ashley had a Hawken in 1823 it almost had to have been a flintlock fired rifle. If at least 44 Mountain Men purchased a Hawken you can almost bet that at least one made it to a rendevous.

The history of what happened nearly 200 years ago wasn't well recorded and saying what happened in an absolute sense would be hard to do. But Hawkens were not common even later in the century.
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Old September 14, 2018, 01:12 PM   #11
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Ashely's Hawken; now there's one gun that's been discussed for many, many hours. As far as I know, it's never shown up anywhere other than in the story that he had it; no doubts from me, that's for sure. John Baird, author of the book, "Hawken Rifles; the Mountain Mans' Choice," had a fantastic full stocked, flint Hawken that was representative of what Ashley's Hawken may have looked like. That rifle was in .69 cal., too. I got to see it once at a Nat'l rendezvous back in the 70's, a beautiful thing. That gun was put together by a group of fine gunmakers for Mr. Baird, and if I remember right, I believe it had a Bill Large barrel on it. I still have all my old "Buckskin Report" magazines that I take out from time to time to reminisce from back in the 70's and 80's when that magazine ran its course. I also believe John Baird named that rifle of his, "Ol' Bodacious." I have a couple of old shooting buds that built scratch guns of what a flint, full-stocked, .69 cal. Hawken should've/would've looked like in their gun building efforts, and in the vein of the Ashley gun. Maybe some day we'll get to see a real, bona-fide flint Hawken, but until then, a replica full-stocked Hawken flinter is one cool looking gun (IMO).
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Old September 14, 2018, 02:38 PM   #12
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reinert I wish I had your experience. I got into BP guns in the early 1990's but have only been to a couple of rendevous and then only on a budget. But it was fun. My BP rifles have been more for hunting and playing with rather than historical reenacting stuff.

But BP rifles did more to teach me and direct me learn about history than any teacher in school I ever had. I have one issue of MuzzleBlast and wish I had a big stack of them to study and read. My bud had a couple of boxes full when he died but when I asked his family about them they didn't know what happened to them. Too bad. I would have read ever word in them.

Muzzle loading guns may be slow to load and have a limited range compared to the off the shelf guns of today but those men who used them a century or three ago were still well armed.

I guess I need to order that Baird book on Hawkens. Here is another good link if you haven't read it already. I like the letter to the editor about too many Hawken stories.

http://grrw.org/the-heyday-of-the-hawken/
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Old September 14, 2018, 03:13 PM   #13
reinert
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ratshooter,

Don't be afraid to let that BP bug bite you good and hard. That's not venom being injected, but "Good Medicine." It's a good trail to follow; stay on it. The availability of info and material to advance your knowledge on muzzleloaders and/or anything historical is unbelievable these days, when compared to what was available back in the mid-70s when I started my journey. I'm just really glad I got to meet and shoot with a fine bunch of knowledgeable folks back then to get me on the right track with my whole experience with traditional rifles, and the according camp gear. The journey and the learning never really stops, and that, too, is a good thing. This has been a fun thread. Thanks for starting it.
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Old September 14, 2018, 04:24 PM   #14
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They were clean-shaven too, because Indians wouldn't trade with "dog-faced" men.
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Old September 14, 2018, 08:32 PM   #15
Model12Win
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Originally Posted by Armed_Chicagoan View Post
They were clean-shaven too, because Indians wouldn't trade with "dog-faced" men.
Poppycock.

Many contemporary paintings show men with beads.
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Old September 16, 2018, 03:51 PM   #16
Chowder
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Originally Posted by ratshooter View Post
Hey Chowder welcome to the madness. To remove your stuck ball remove the nipple from your gun. Trickle some 3F powder down the nipple hole. All you can get in there. Screw the nipple back in and put on a cap and fire it in a safe direction. The ball should come out. They come out hard enough to do damage so be sure your backstop is sturdy.

I like to grind up the powder for this so its about like table salt. It goes down the nipple hole a lot better. I have made this mistake enough times that I made a dispenser from copper tubing with a spout on it and filled it with finely ground powder. Its over 20 years old and still gets used on occasion. My bud just did this and we used this trick to clear his gun.
Thank you for the advice! I will definitely try that as soon as I can get back to the range. What do you use to grind down the powder? I tried the compressed air method and that didn't work but I will try this our for sure.
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Old September 16, 2018, 06:51 PM   #17
ratshooter
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Hi Chowder. I just used a coffee cup and a 1/2" wood dowel with end sanded into a round shape. No big deal to do. The powder grinds easily.

And if you have some 3F it will work. The secret is to just get enough powder down the channel to push the stuck ball out of the barrel.

If you try this and the ball doesn't come all the way out make sure you push the ball back down to the breech. Then load with powder again. If you need to put a little liquid bore cleaner down the bore to soften the fouling.
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