The Hawken Rifle

The Hawken rifle was a muzzle loading rifle built by the Hawken brothers, and used on the prairies and in the Rocky Mountains of the United States during the early frontier days. It has become synonymous with the "plains rifle", "the buffalo gun", and the fur "trapper's gun". Developed in the 1820s, it was eventually displaced by breechloaders (such as the Sharps rifle) and lever-action rifles which flourished after the Civil War.

The Hawken "plains rifle" was made by Jacob and Samuel Hawken, in their St. Louis MO shop, which they ran from 1815 to 1858. Their shop continued to operate and sell rifles bearing the "Hawken" name under later owners William S. Hawken, William L. Watt, and J. P. Gemmer, until Gemmer closed down the business and retired in 1915.

Samuel and Jacob were trained by their father as rifle smiths on the east coast. They moved west and opened a business in St. Louis at the beginning of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. The brothers' claim to fame is the "plains rifles" produced by their shop. They produced what their customers needed in the west, a quality gun, light enough to carry all the time, capable of knocking down big targets at long range. They called their guns "Rocky Mountain Rifles," reflecting their customers: fur trappers, traders and explorers.

The earliest known record of a Hawken rifle dates to 1823 when one was made for Willaim Henry Ashley. The Hawkens did not mass-produce their rifles but rather made each one by hand, one at a time. A number of famous men were said to have owned Hawken rifles, including Auguste Lacome, Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger (this rifle was on loan to GRRW for several years), the same was true for the Kit Carson Hawken, the famous Mormon body guard Orrin Porter Rockwell carried a Hawken, Joseph Meek, Jedediah Strong Smith, and Theodore Roosevelt were just a few that depended on this maker's guns.

Jim Baker 18181898 18391873 Hawken
James Beckwourth 17981866 18241866 Hawken
William Bent 18091869 18261869 Hawken
Black Beaver 18061880 18291870 Leman
Joseph Bissonette 18181894 1831-1856 Leman
Kootenay Brown 18391916 18621910 Leman
Kit Carson 18091868 18251868 Hawken
Jean Baptiste Charbonneau 18051866 18291866 Hawken
William Craig 18071869 1831-1856 Leman
Alexander Culbertson 18091879 1833-1879 Leman
Warren Angus Ferris 18101873 1822-1864 Hawken
Boone Helm 18281864 18501864 Leman
Antoine Janis 18221890 18361858 Leman
Seth Kinman 18151888 18491864 Hawken
Antoine Leroux 1803-1861 1822-1861 Hawken
Liver-Eating Johnson 18241900 1843-1871 Hawken
Ben Lilly 18561936 1871-1883 Leman
Joseph Meek 18101875 18281856 Hawken
Stephen Meek 18051889 18271889 Leman
Robert "Doc" Newell 18071869 18291869 Leman
Thomas L. "Pegleg" Smith 18011866 1841-1857 Hawken
Ceran St. Vrain 18021870 1833-1861 Hawken
Thomas Tate Tobin 18231904 18371878 Hawken
Joseph R. Walker 17981876 18321863 Leman
Pauline Weaver 17971867 18301867 Leman
Dick Wooten 18161893 1841-1871 Hawken
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth 18021856 18321837 Hawken
Harry Yount 18391924 18661924 Leman
Jim Bridger 18041881 18221868 Hawken
Mariano Medina 18121878 1838-1852 Hawken
Louis Vasquez 17981868 17231858 Hawken
William Thomas Hamilton 18221908 1852-1851 Hawken
James "Bear" Moore 18501924 1868-1890 Leman
Montague Stevens 18501949 1868 - 1888 Leman
Mariano Medina One of the richer fur trade businessmen.
Thomas Tate Tobin Known for his temper and mean character.

2020  - Green River Rifle Works Collectors Association [ GRRW-CA ] is on the scene and building guns similar to those of its predecessor Green River Rifle Works [ GRRW ].  Yes, we have Hawkens; half stocks, full stocks, and the popular Bridger Hawken.

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The Hawken Half Stock Rifle

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The Bridger Hawken Rifle

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The J&S Hawken Rifle

The H.E. Leman Rifles

H.E. Leman and his rifles were a major supplier to the fur trade, the native Americans and those venturing forward into the unknown in the days of the westard movement. Many of the famous mountaineers of the west carried Lemans along with a Hawken if available. With a little research you find more information about Mr. Leman than you ever wanted to know (a lot of repeated details written by the late Charles E. Hanson, Jr. of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chardon NE.

The Leman Trade Rifle (half stock percussion) was the first rifle that GRRW produced. Carl Walker was Green River Rifle Works first employee, he also was the one to build this firms (GRRW-CA) first rifle, an H.E. Leman Trade Rifle. When some of the former employees of the old firm (GRRW) got together in 2016 the first rifle ordered and built was an H.E. Leman Trade Rifle just like done 40 plus years before. I was the one to order this rifle for just that reason as mentioned.

 2017 - The H.E. Leman Rifles are back with the gunsmiths of Green River Rifle Works Collectors Association bulding the guns of the past. Just like those build 40 plus years ago with the same details taken in the building of these wonderful rifles.

GRRW called the smaller version of the Leman Trade Rifle a "Little Leman" which is not correct according to collectors of these guns and seen in advertisements of original guns. The correct name is "Squirrel Rifle" seen below in an ad from a 1940 lisitng of several  of them at $27.50 price range


The North West Trade Gun
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2017 - The H.E. Leman NW Trade Gun is back with the gunsmiths of Green River Rifle Works Collectors Association bulding the guns of the past. Going from the Barnett Trade Gun that most copy today to an H.E. Leman NW Trade Gun because of the length of pull and the drop in the butt stock. Over the years of talking with trade gun shooters at matches developed for them the biggest complaint is what was just mentioned. See the chart below for the differences in different firearms thoughtout history with such issues.


Typical North West Trade Gun by GRRW Collectors Association. The walnut has some figure, wish you could see this figure. It  sports an  antique rust blued barrel and lock with matching trigger guard. This is a 20 bore for ball or shot.  SOLD

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This gun was stunted from birth,  the buttstock was cracked and the fore-end crooked , so I amputated to save its life and it became a Blanket Gun. Made me feel like a Civil war surgeon. It sports all the usual  features of a NorthWest gun in 20 bore, except no buttplate or ramrod pipes. The Indians may have hidden these guns under blankets but they were more often used horseback like a heavy dragoon pistol, one shot then it became a club. I  applied  a few tacks to Indian it up some, and it grew some beads and feathers, too. The barrel illustrated is the back end of the real thing. Try a .600 caliber ball and about 80 grains Black. It will brighten  up your night.

The barrel was custom made by Kelley, about 14″ long, tapered and banded. The lock is an English Trade lock by Davis, the trigger is meant to be pulled with two fingers, just like your Indian buddy  pulls a bowstring.

NorthWest guns came with all kinds of finishes, this one sports antique rust blueing of barrel and lock. The color is a deep blue-black.  Buck Conner (a friend, partnered with GRRW.CA and NW Gun Collector Association) says the best original NW gun with original finish that he or Charles E. Hanson Jr. (Museum of the Fur Trade fame) knew of was rust blued in this fashion. The trigger guard has been left in the white, nice polished,  just like the original was.

This gun has a stainless counter-bored touch-hole liner for quick ignition. The barrel is smooth-bore, of course. It has never been fired, not even a scratch on the frizzen. 

After talking to Buck the barrel is marked with my cipher, plus 
LONDON and a Tombstone Fox (The tombstone with a sitting fox over E.B. - used by Edward Bond to mark Hudson's Bay Company Trade Guns) on the top flat, a blossom with TB (Thomas Barnett) on the oblique flat, along with GRRW CA  NW 03 CA,  (this is the third NW Gun built by the Collectors Association).

We are always hearing from the "so-called experts" about the "North West Trade Gun" or the "Hudson's Bay NW Gun".  The more they talk you find they don't know what they are talking about having only read or handled a few of these firearms. One area is the locations of the rings on the barrel (wedding bands), you will hear someone claiming thye have measurements of the exact location. When we hear this, get ready for all their unfounded information (off the road stories).  Here's what we know is fact on these guns and the wedding bands that everyone has a different idea as to correct locations and there are many.

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