There are a number of different type longarms in use in the early days of our history ranging from the colonial years through the 1850's. An individual may have a favorite type of weapon (as in a Kentucky longrifle), a desire to participate in a specific era (as in joining a French and Indian War or Revolutionary War re-enacting unit) or just possess a nice, custom made rifle for hunting which complies with local black powder hunting laws. On this page I shall try to describe the most common long arms for a number of periods in our history. The customer may choose from among them, however should the gun he is interested in not appear in this list, he may email me with his desires and I will reply with the usual information as to down payment, estimated cost, time for construction etc.

Colonial Musket

The colonial musket was essentially of two types: those more or less following the English Brown Bess tradition in style, and those following the French pattern of musket. The English Brown Bess musket was most likely the pattern for gunsmiths in the American colonies as these colonials had been chartered by England and mainly populated by English settlers. In point of fact, the musket used by our forefathers during the Revolutionary War was of both types. Stolen or "appropriated" Brown Bess muskets, muskets manufactured by local gunsmiths in the Brown Bess pattern, and muskets bought or donated to the revolutionaries by France in the French musket tradition. The main differences were in calibre and method of fastening the barrel to the stock. The Brown Bess was of .75 calibre (yes that is 3/4 of an inch in diameter of lead coming your way!) and its barrel was fastened to the stock with pins through lugs on the bottom of the barrel. The French musket was of .69 calibre and its barrel was fastened to the stock with iron bands around barrel and stock much like a barrel is held together. Aside from these differences, there were differences in outward profile, and in type of lock. Both were of course flintlocks, but the Brown Bess used a large lock which was rather rounded in contour and the French lock was flatter and a bit smaller. Stocks were always of walnut (English walnut in the case of the English and French walnut in the case of the French of course for you woodworking types!!!) In early years the stocks were either painted black or stained with tar. In later years they were stained brown, hence the name "Brown Bess". Government issued muskets had the arrowhead stamp on the stock and the crown on the lock in the case of the Brown Bess.

The Trade Gun

The trade gun was generally produced for trade with friendly indians. Again, both the French and the English governments attempted to gain indian support for their causes and manufactured guns to give to indians swearing allegiance to them. And again, these trade guns generally followed either the French or English musket patterns, or followed the pattern of Fowler guns (described in next paragraph). Generally the indians, upon acquiring these guns, sawed the barrel to a shorter length for ease of use in dense woods. Eventually the arms producers manufactured indian trade guns with the barrel already shortened. The trade guns, as were the muskets above, were smooth bore guns with no rifling. They could be loaded with either a round ball or with shot. In some cases colonials under duress and out of balls would even drop stones or cut up nails or whatever else was at hand down the barrel!!! These guns were often decorated by indians with feathers, paint, brass or iron tacks etc. to their own liking. They were somewhat cheaper and more unreliable than government issued muskets as they were for the indian trade. Stocks were of walnut or maple generally.

The English (or French) Fowler

The fowler was a type of bird gun. As such it was always a smooth bore gun and fired small shot. It generally had a relatively long barrel, sometimes as long as 50 or more inches. Also, the barrel was a round, tapered barrel though it could be octagon from the breech forward for about 1/4 or so length and then round tapered for the remainder. They were relatively slender guns, with a short (apparently to the eye) buttstock. Most generally they were flintlock, as by the time of the percussion era the shotgun had been fully developed. The fowler gun was to be found in early colonial days and was carried during the early revolution when "citizen soldiers" were required to provide their own firearm for duty. As a weapon against man, they were loaded with buckshot or with a round ball. Fittings were generally of brass or silver, and there was little or no carving except on very fine fowlers. This was for the most part a gentleman's gun. The fowler was found stocked with walnut, cherry, maple, and any other suitable hardwood of the time, though mahogany was reserved for only very fine furniture.

The Transitional Rifle

This rifle appears just as the name implies. It is a transition between the very large calibre and heavy, almost clunky looking German hunting rifle and the long, slim, modest calibre Pennsylvania/Kentucky rifle. It has elements of both guns. They were generally of a shape between the two, were larger bored in calibre than the average longrifle yet smaller than the .60 calibre or more German hunting rifle. They for the most part had a sliding wooden patchbox as a carry over from the German hunting rifle. They were stocked in walnut or maple (maple being easier to get in the new world) and fittings were mainly of brass. Carving was normal of a style reminiscent of the elaborate German hunting rifle, but more provincial and beginning to take on its own American flavor. The most famous of these kinds of rifles were made in the Nazareth, Bath, Easton area where Moravian settlements had sprung up in northeastern Pennsylvania. This was the type of rifle carried by Edward Marshall during his famous "run" to stake out a land grant obtained from the local indian tribes.

The Pennsylvania Longrifle

(better known as the Kentucky Rifle)

This gun, as discussed on my other page(s) was a purely American development deriving from the German hunting rifle. Various attempts had been made to impart upon the fired ball a spin so as to stabilize it in flight. Grooves were cut into the barrel in various ways until the right formula had been found. In the beginning, straight grooves were cut, then rounded bottom grooves, spiraling grooves of various designs until the Germans, among others, had developed a rifled barrel which, when combined with a leather, linen, cloth or paper patch, fit the grooves tightly enough to take a good spin and become more accurate. Also, the accuracy was aided in no small part by the patch performing two purposes: it served as a gas seal imparting greater velocity, and it allowed the ball to fit tightly into the bore without having to drive it down with a mallet. This alone aided accuracy as a musket ball sort of "rattled" down the barrel pushed by the gasses until it left the muzzle face and generally took the direction of its last bounce! The gunsmiths of Pennsylvania first developed the true American longrifle in response to requests from frontiersmen and hunters. There were many schools and derivations of style but for the most part these guns were made of curly maple or plain maple, had iron, silver or brass fittings, and were made in both the flintlock and percussion era. Some were profusely carved and engraved. This is the rifle seen in movies of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and more recently, Last of the Mohicans.

Tennessee/Southern Poor Boy

The Southern Poor Boy rifle was a working gun. As the name suggests, it was a rifle that most could afford in one way or another. In outward profile and form, it was a Kentucky longrifle, but not in the romantic sense we know the Kentucky rifle from TV and movies. It did not have lots of shiny brass or silver fittings and inlays, it was not engraved and carved, and in fact had the barest in hardware - generally of iron. Often, the poor boy only had one ramrod pipe, and no patchbox at all (unless there was a simple hole drilled into the buttstock in which to have tallow or grease for the patches.) It it had a patchbox it was probably of iron, and fairly simple in design. It as often as not would not have a muzzle cap. But it was a longrifle, and as accurate as any longrifle. This was the gun Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett REALLY carried. As stated, they were working guns and the guns of the frontiersmen had rough usage. Picture living in the woods, traveling several days or weeks in that wilderness, and trying NOT to be noticed by hostile indians and animals. You would NOT want shiny parts on your gun, or too many things hanging off of it to catch on branches and bushes. It would be in the rain, dropped occasionally by accident, banged and bumped around quite a bit even if you were being careful. The last defense was to use it as a club!! This gun had to be simple and rugged, and only Hollywood and our TV producers envisioned the frontiersman as carrying a very fancy fully engraved and inlayed and carved gun. Such guns MAY have been presented to famous woodsmen from time to time in recognition of their notoriety and fame, but they continued to use their favorite old simple rifle when humping the woods for days on end. The rifle would be made of whatever hardwood the frontier gunsmith could get his hands on, such as maple, walnut, whatever. It had iron mounts. It was stained brownish or left in its natural state and only oiled to protect it from weather. It generally had the shape of other fancier longrifles of the Southern pattern, but was much simpler. A good rifle, in colonial days, may cost a man a half year's wages. This was a working man's gun.

The Schimmel

This gun is little known, but is the Middle Atlantic Colonies version of the Southern Poor Boy. It was commonly known as a "barn gun" in Pennsylvania for the simple reason it too was a working gun often left in the barn or kept close at hand when working in the fields. It followed the style and shape of whatever gunsmith school had made it, but it was generally fitted only with a buttplate, one ramrod thimble, and a trigger guard. It had no carving or inlays. It was often made of plain maple, cherry or walnut. Few have survived, as it was a working gun and was banged around quite a bit. Then too, often the parts were scavenged for other guns when it became worn out. Quite often, the parts would be bartered back to the gunsmith as part payment for a new rifle. The gunsmith then tuned the lock, replaced worn parts, refreshed the barrel the same parts could then end up in a very fancy merchants longrifle!! This was an era when NOTHING was thrown away that still had use and utility. Locks could be converted into percussion from flint and many were.

The Hawken or Plains Rifle

This rifle developed for use in the plains and mountains of our western regions. It was almost always of percussion ignition. It was almost always half-stock in making. It was always heavier and more ruggedly built and did not have any of the "shiny stuff" found on Kentucky rifles. It was as often as not used on horseback. It was large calibre to bring down bears and buffalo and native Americans who contested their right to hunt and trap in areas under their control. It could be dropped from high on horseback and thus needed to be especially rugged. If it had a patchbox, it was a simple round affair. Mounts were of iron. Hawkens made what was considered the finest of such rifles and the man moving west beyond the Mississippi bought one if he could afford it and find one for sale. Henry made similar rifles. As did others. They were all nearly identical in form and substance. There are many fine mass produced examples of this rifle to be had on the market. I will make such a rifle if a customer desires, but I may as likely direct him to one of the Manufacturers who produce authentic replicas. There are some fine ones.

A Final Note

There were, of course, many other types of firearms in use during the years 1620 through 1850. I have tried to describe in general terms the most common guns to be found in use by re-enactors, history buffs who are also shooters and hunters, and those who desire a fine blackpowder firearm to use or just admire. I hope the information proves interesting to the newcomer, and that it explains some of the general choices available to somebody desiring a custom made blackpowder long arm. This is an exciting and fascinating topic. I have learned much over my 30 years of study, but am no expert in any one type described. I have many reference books and to become an expert in just ONE type would take a lifetime. I am in no way advocating or extolling such things as war, armed conflict, what the native Americans suffered in our expansion from the East Coast to the West, nor in what our forebears suffered at indigenous people's hands in that same expansion. There may come a day when firearms are merely historical relics. There may come a day when man progresses beyond violence in the settlement of his differences. However, as long as man has free will there will always be, in my opinion, those who would TAKE what the want from others who HAVE it by the force of arms. These guns described above played a very important part in defending its owners from such people.