.54 caliber. 36″ octagonal barrel secured by two wedges. SN: NSN. Blued finish, iron furniture, double-keyed half-stock. Barrel marked “S. HAWKEN ST. LOUIS”. Unmarked, single screw percussion lock is unadorned and equipped with double-set triggers. Typical Hawken form with long, double screw iron tang, double keyed half-stock with iron nose cap, scroll shaped iron triggerguard and iron butt plate and toe plate. Barrel mounted with a dovetailed semi-buckhorn fixed rear sight and a dovetailed German silver front sight blade. Heavy barrel measures 1.125″ across the flats. Includes a heavy wooden ramrod that appears period with a brass tip and brass fitting on the reverse.
No name is more synonymous with the rifles of the great plains and pre-Civil War western expansion than that of Hawken. Jacob Hawken moved to St. Louis from Hagerstown Maryland in 1818 and was followed by his younger brother Samuel in 1822. Jacob had learned the trade of gun making from his father Christian and also spent time working at the US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Initially the Hawken brothers appear to have focused more on traditional gunsmithing and repairs in St. Louis than firearms manufacturing. The earliest guns they produced would have certainly been flintlocks with percussion guns not becoming typical until the early 1830s. Early St. Louis Hawken-marked percussion rifles were brass mounted full-stock guns that followed the general form of the Pennsylvania style rifles they would have produced in Hagerstown. Subsequently the brothers introduced the prototypical “Plains Rifle”, also referred at times as the “Rocky Mountain” rifle. These were typically very sturdy iron mounted large bore percussion rifles with double-set triggers that ranged from .52 to .60 caliber. They utilized heavy octagonal barrels that were typically 30″ to 40″ in length, normally measured at least 1.125″ across the barrel flats, were usually rifled with seven grooves and were typically retained by two iron keys. The guns regularly utilized commercial locks marked by their makers or retailers. Fixed sights of the buckhorn rear and Rocky Mountain blade front were typical as well. These rifles were so perfectly adapted to the life of the mid-19th century plains hunter and mountain man that their popularity inspired a number of local gunmakers to offer guns of the same general pattern. Variations of the Hawken theme were produced by such famous St. Louis makers as Albright, Beauvais, Dimick and Gemmer.
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