Author Topic: Average mans gun...  (Read 17226 times)

Teun

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Average mans gun...
« on: July 31, 2008, 04:04:53 PM »
I am new to all of this and was curious.

Most of the old guns that are highly prized are highly ornamented, carved, inleted, etc.  And rightly so.  But my assumption is that the average man would not have had a gun like this...his would have been more utilitarian correct?  These collector pieces would have been for the "well off" correct?  Is the reason we don't see these "plain" guns because they were used and abused and most didn't make it to our time while the fancy weapons were taken care of over the decades?  I personally really like the guns that would have been heavily used...are there others out there who do as well?

Thanks!!

Teun

Offline Longknife

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2008, 04:19:02 PM »
Teun, Yes I am one of those who appreciates the simple "working" guns over the "fancy" ones, not only because of the simple construction but also because I can AFFORD them!!!!! Those fancy ones are fer lookn'. You are right on about the plain guns being used and abused, thats what they were made for!  The fancy ones usually hung on the wall till Sunday afternoon when the owner would take a walk an nail a partridge or two.......Ed
Ed Hamberg

Offline Roger Fisher

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2008, 06:17:23 PM »
Hey T::  We notice the letters epa.gov in your E mail address.  What is that all about.  Inquring minds her on this site need to know ???

Your assumption regards the working man's gun is correct.  That is of course, a 'given'!

northmn

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2008, 06:38:46 PM »
Hansen claims that heavy barreled plains rifles were stripped down in the Gold Rush so the barrels could be used for crowbars.  I have the Trade Rifle sketch book where Hansen also mentions that the rifles were used by both whites and natives as they were affordable.  There is a theory that studies of surviving artifacts may be misleading.  Look in a military surplus store and you see a lot of small sized clothing.  The larger ones got wore out, by normal sized people. 

DP

Offline Stophel

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2008, 06:47:31 PM »
You don't see the plainer guns simply because they are not "published".  Go to a gunshow where there are antique gun dealers and you'll see plenty of them.
When a reenactor says "They didn't write everything down"   what that really means is: "I'm too lazy to look for documentation."

Evil Monkey

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2008, 07:06:44 PM »
I, for one, don't buy the 'fancy guns were wall hangers and the average "working man" used a fence post with a pipe strapped to it' theory. In europe, high end guns were made for the wealthy/royalty and often were NEVER shot. The museums over there are full of them. However, a high end euro gun is not the same thing as a high end american rifle. A low end euro would equal or even exceed what would be considered a high end american rifle in workmanship. Also consider that in the 18th century, labour was cheap and materials were expensive. The difference between a 'barn gun' and a inlaid/carved gun was labour so the price difference was likely minimal unlike today where materials are cheap and labour is high so the difference between a barn gun and an inlaid/carved gun is substantial.

Mike R

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2008, 09:39:35 PM »
We have had this discussion before.  The collections of old guns that get photographed are skwewed towards the fancier guns. Some have argued that "all" [or most] old guns were made fancy [what we are talking about here is the 18th cent longrifle mainly].  It was the style in the later Golden Age to make guns with fancy boxes, etc.   Carving on older guns was common. But, when we look at old records from gunsmiths and traders/merchants we see a different story.  Most of the guns are "plain" [so listed] and a few are "fine" [with minor variation in terms].  Just as today we have "working man's" plain utilitarian guns and fancy high-dollar ones with best wood and engraving that few can afford, I think the same held true then.  A man who made his life's work hunting for the most part, Dan Boone had three or four rifles stolen from him by Indians over the years--I cannot imagine him [raised a plain Quaker, too] owning too fancy a gun--they needed to be rugged, accurate and basically expendable if his experience is typical.  Late in life he was robbed one last time by the Osages and his son Nathan was with him.  He lamented the loss of Nathan's "fine" new rifle, but not his own, which by implication was of no account.  Many hunters worked for companies who rented or loaned them rifles--plain ones.  Now the squire on the hill may have indeed contracted for a fine rifle with carving and inlays.  The collections show us that the fine rifles were made.  But from the records I have seen I'd guess many more plain ones were made.  These plain rifles were not, however, "poor boys", which were a later period mountain rifle...

Sam Everly

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2008, 10:21:11 PM »
I live 15 miles west from Statesville, NC. that is where I-40 and I-77 meet. about 5 miles west of there is Fort Dobbs, it was built in 1757 and was as far west as they had gotten back then in NC. Only 30 years later they had made it to the Tenn. line. What i am getting at is any original rifle that is from that time line, from this area ,Statesville to Western NC. All are plain rifles , no butt plates and very little brass, most are iron (Guards). I have seen about 10 original early rifles, from these areas . I think why you don't see butt plates and they have iron guards, is material in the area was hard to come buy, Brass and iron ! But you get over east to the Salem area most are brass and have butt plates . Dennis Glazener and Earl Lanning have original Gillespie rifles from the Brevard area (Western NC.) made around 1810 give or take a couple of years. There rifles are plain, iron and no butt plates. I think by then brass would be the in thing to have , but it was just hard to get in that area at that time . As for Daniel Boone, I live no more than 30 miles form any location he lived in NC , Boy hood home to the last home in NC. As for any of his rifles from the time living in NC . From the original late 18th cent. rifles i have seen made in this local area , i would bet any one money , they where very plain. Maple stocks, no butt plates , iron guards and may be 2 brass rod pipes . No nose cap, no patch box wood or brass, not even a grease hole . Salem would have been 20 miles east from his boyhood home , and even the rifles made there (Early Rifles) Where plain rifles ,But having butt plates and nose caps , in brass. But there was brass and iron on hand there in Salem at that time ! I know of a Bryan family member that has a family rifle that is to have been owned by Boones wifes father. It is one of the none butt plate, early style rifles. And i bet Daniels would have been just like it !                        
« Last Edit: July 31, 2008, 10:57:53 PM by Sam Everly »

Teun

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2008, 10:37:22 PM »
Thanks for all the great info!! 

I am indeed an employee of the US EPA.  I am a microbiologist who works on biological  contamination in the indoor environment...mold.

I hope that satisfies any curiosities..and does not cause any problems?

I just love old long rifles and really like to converse with others who are more knowledgeable than I.

Once again thanks for the great responses!!

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2008, 11:50:56 PM »
Looking at trade guns can give an insight into this.  Even the cheapest smoothbore trade guns had buttplates, triggerguards, and ramrod pipes.  English trade rifles starting in the 1780's had all the parts and even had carving and some engraving on the locks.  Later English pattern trade rifles reflected the contemporary sporting arms.  Later American made trade rifles (Tryon, Lehman, Henry) had brass furniture, brass patchboxes and were simple copies of longrifles.

The main evidence for rudimentary guns comes from a few pockets in the hills and "mountains" from Carolinas to Pennsylvania.  Since inevitably Tennessee rifles have good to fine English locks, there is no logic supporting that they could not "get brass".  If they could get the best trade locks available, they could get brass furniture.  They forged their mounts because they were superb blacksmiths and took pride in their work.  At the same time as the "poor boys" or "schimmels" were being made, fine fully mounted rifles were being made less than 50 miles away.

I believe that rudimentary rifles with no buttplate, one ramrod pipe, etc were made to be sold as cheaply as possible while preserving the accurate heart and soul of the rifle- barrel and lock of high quality.  The customers for the "poor boy" or "schimmel" would be poor mountain folks or farmers for whom investing a lot in a rifle didn't make sense.  That is why they are also called "barn guns" in Pennsylvania.

So I have always concluded that the "average man's gun" (whomever the average man may be) was a fully appointed gun.  They most likely had limited engraving and carving, but these guns had all the parts 90% of the time.  For sure there were poor-boys and schimmels; these were notably restricted in distribution.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2008, 11:51:58 PM by richpierce »
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Ky-Flinter

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2008, 11:55:58 PM »
I am indeed an employee of the US EPA......   I hope that satisfies any curiosities..and does not cause any problems?

I just love old long rifles......

Hi ya Teun and welcome to the board,

Don't take ol' Roger's comment the wrong way (he must have a still in the backyard or something).... 

I say you can stay.  Your statement that "I just love old long rifles" tells me you'll fit in here just fine.

-Ron
Life is too short to hunt with an ugly gun.
-Nate McKenzie

Sam Everly

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2008, 01:22:58 AM »
As to the English locks , the only ones with english locks are the ones Dennis and Earl own . They are the latest ones of the group i was talking about from 1810. The other rifles are about 10 to 30 years older and all had hand forged locks . One is in the Smith - Mcdowell house in Asheville and is from around the 1770's It is fully documented to that time period belonging to the father of the homes builder . The Bryan rifle is documented to around the 1760's . Like i said all with handforged locks .This part of North Carolina was rough and had very few people then .Any "town" in the western area would have been lucky to even have a blacksmith .             

timM

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2008, 02:26:48 AM »
Interesting thread,....my favorite shooter (flintlock) is barely more than  lock, stock & barrel.  Maybe things haven't changed so much after all?

Offline gibster

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2008, 05:04:03 AM »
Hey Tern,
Welcome to the board.  I think that if the truth be known, there are quite a few folks that seem to gravitate to the plain rifles of yesteryear.  Myself included.  I have had a few carved rifles over the years, but seem to always let them go to someone else and replace it with plain ones.  Here are a few from my collection that are from North Carolina and are what I would consider an "Average Man's gun". 

J M Wood Jamestown NC

Unsigned Fullstock Jamestown NC

Unsigned Moore Co. NC

G Foltz Salem NC

D Kennedy Moore Co. NC


Offline G-Man

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2008, 02:16:36 PM »
Gibster/ Mr. Wood - thanks for posting those - I really love theat Moore Co. gun especially.  Those guns are worthy of a whole new post on NC guns.

Sam - I am very interested in the Bryan gun since they have family connections to Jacob Young and the Boones - just wondering if you could tell us a bit more - where is that gun at, maybe describe it a bit? 

Thanks

Guy
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 04:36:54 PM by Guy Montfort »

northmn

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2008, 04:29:46 PM »
Trade guns I see in my area.  As to comment on them as they were mentioned as a guide.  The NW Gun was really about as close to a mass produced gun as one could get at the time and contrary to some opinions had a rater selective customer base.  The Natives wanted certain features on the gun or no trade.  The serpent side plate was cast, but could be cast in large numbers.  The buttplate was sheet brass bent and nailed to the stock eliminate much fitting.  The trigger guard was a hardly a challenge for the average blacksmith.  Also there was competition between the HBC and the American Fur Trade company to supply the NW guns.  Both tried to cheapen them and both found it didn't work.  Any carving on the guns was rudimentary.

DP

Offline JTR

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2008, 04:49:39 PM »
Welcome to the forum Teun!
You’re correct in your assumptions regarding ‘Plain’ rifles. While a good number of ‘Fancy’ rifles still survive, a large number of Plain one survive as well, but a huge number of the plain Jane’s were also just worn out and thrown away. While I don’t have any hard proof, I’d guess that plain ones were made by at least about 20 or 30, to 1 of the fancy variety.
Obviously most of the published guns are the fancy ones as they generally attract the most attention. Some of Jim Whisker’s books show a good number of plain rifles though, I just don’t remember which of his many books have them. Perhaps one of the other guys will remember?
Personally, I’m more attracted to the fancier Pennsylvania rifles, but still have a soft spot for some of their simpler brethren as well. And at this point, the plain ones are much less expensive to buy, as a pretty nice one can be had for relatively little money, but in the way of most things, the fancy one will always bring a better return on investment.
Also be aware when looking at the pictures of the fancy ones that not all of them were just wall hangers. A lot of them were used long and hard, and subsequently have had a good bit of restoration done to bring them back to their original glory! Most of the plain ones will be found in ‘as used’ condition.
A good way to further your budding interest is to gather a small library of different areas building styles, or ‘schools’ of makers. Jim Whisker’s books have a good representation of all the various areas of gun making. Although all his books are out of print, most are still available from sources such as Amazon or other used book sellers. George Shumways books are classics, as is Kindigs “Thought’s on the Kentucky Rifle”.
Collections and interests can be eclectic or focused. Maybe you’ll find yourself enjoying those from the south as shown above, or will more appreciate those from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, or Ohio.  
You’ll find there’s a wealth of information here, so when you have questions, no matter how basic, just ask!

Again, welcome,
John







John Robbins

Evil Monkey

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2008, 05:11:22 PM »
While I don’t have any hard proof, I’d guess that plain ones were made by at least about 20 or 30, to 1 of the fancy variety

While I don't have any hard proof, I'ld guess that fancy rifles were made by at least about 20 or 30 to 1 of the plain ones. See, I can make those statements too but without any 'hard proof' it's just conjecture and really only perpetuates assumptions rather than shedding any real light on the subject. While i don't have any firm opinion on this subject, I still don't buy the 'working mans gun' was a plain utilitarian affair simply because arguments put forth are always based on assumptions derived by drawing parrallels to the gun buying public of today.

Offline JTR

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2008, 05:29:11 PM »
:D
Ok, so I assume you woke up with a knot in your PJs this morning?
John
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Offline Stophel

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2008, 08:09:50 PM »
I have never bought the "plain guns were just used up" argument.

It depends upon the area and time period.  Later in time, the guns get plainer and plainer.  If you're looking at say, a typical 18th century PA gun, then I think an "average" gun would have all the normal brass hardware, and even a moderate amount of carving.  Doing minor carving like moulding lines, teardrops, etc, is easy and quick and would cost virtually nothing, so why not do it?  Also, I think that the felt that that was just the way a gun should be done.  Missing hardware and such just wasn't right!

The "barn gun" is overdone today, I think.  What people call a "barn gun" (no buttplate, sideplate, etc,...just literally "lock, stock, and barrel") I think was fairly limited in region and time period.
When a reenactor says "They didn't write everything down"   what that really means is: "I'm too lazy to look for documentation."

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2008, 08:54:12 PM »
It is also possible that demand had an effect on what the builder produced. If he had ten buyers waiting for rifles it is less likely that he would spend too much time beautifying his product so that he could effect a timely dleivery. Economic gain was the major goal no matter how fine a craftsman he happened to be. Anyone wanting a fine gun had to wait until the demand slowed down and time could be appropriated to making same.
Dickert formed a partnership with his son in law, Gill, a merchant. Dickert made guns for this enterprise and marked them Dickert & Gill. Essentially, they were plain guns when compared with many of the others produced by Dickert. Why?
There are many factors in this and we don't know even half of them.
Dick

Offline Jim Filipski

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2008, 09:16:01 PM »

The "barn gun" is overdone today, I think.  What people call a "barn gun" (no buttplate, sideplate, etc,...just literally "lock, stock, and barrel") I think was fairly limited in region and time period.

Chris I tend to agree with you  They too being over done just as much as the fancy raised relief guns!  I feel the average gun was just were it should be -in the middle-

Just as we have customers now that want fancy ones or not so fancy ones or plain ones. ....I'm sure that folks were the same back then based on what they would like vs what their  pocket books could afford. I also think that trends of the times played a roll in what was produced

Jim
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turfman

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2008, 09:36:33 PM »
I'm sure there are regionalities, but just as an example, lets take John Moll. I have seen many plain guns over the years from jr and some good fancy ones. I've also seen at least one schimmel from jr. Taking that into consideration; I kinda believe that maybe he made to order which is natural. But take it a little further and think of the possibility that he might have had an actual inventory from time to time.  Think of as if you walk into his shop and there are 5 guns on the rack, each is stocked, barreled and locked. All the customer had to do was pick his componets.  Logical?   


BTW. The jr schimmel had a drop dead georgous piece of wood.

Sam Everly

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2008, 10:50:37 PM »
I will say your right it all was to where you where here in NC, if in the Salem Charlotte or Salisbury area you could get a rather nice gun. But before 1800 any farther west and it was just hard to get material out there in the back woods . The guns also show it, but 1810-20-30 and you could get some nice guns , with english locks and brass hardware . Also money might have been a drawback before 1800 there in Western NC, money was hard to come by. Even Iron was hard to get Phillip Sitton, Matthew Gillespies fatherinlaw set up his iron works just after 1800 in the Mills River area . The state gave him 3000 acres to set it up and it was the only one around for many many miles. He had to mine the ore , smelt the ore , cut the wood for the charcoal, make the charcoal and then do the blacksmithing .         
« Last Edit: August 01, 2008, 10:54:02 PM by Sam Everly »

Offline T*O*F

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Re: Average mans gun...
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2008, 10:57:32 PM »
I knew I had these blasted pics somewhere and finally found them.  Here's one by a well known maker that did survive.  I shoulda bought it back then.....but you know about hindsight.  A guy contacted me for information on it about 12 years ago.  Coulda got it for a couple of hundred bucks.  Don't know where it's at now.








Dave Kanger

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