Author Topic: The American long hunter  (Read 6373 times)

Offline MuskratMike

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The American long hunter
« on: July 03, 2019, 01:51:22 AM »
Here is a question that should generate a lot of interest and debate:
If the American "long hunter" of the 1750's-1770's was out for very prolonged periods of time with little or no way of being resupplied, what caliber do you think most carried? Please back up your opinions with why you think it is so.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
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Offline Sawfiler

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2019, 02:23:03 AM »
I抎 vote for a .45. Big enough for deer yet lite on powder and lead. I抦 still in Virginia, and still hunting for that same type of game...
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Offline Bob McBride

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2019, 04:32:07 AM »
Im with Jeremiah Johnson. .50 cal. Ain抰 nobody got time to chase down an injured deer or be mauled by an injured bear. Give me range and oohmph. The mule can haul the powder....

And I抦 pretty sure the knucklehead who showed up with a Smoothbore would have been assigned KP.

Offline MuskratMike

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2019, 05:29:12 AM »
Agin I repeat myself 1750's-1770's colonial "long hunter". Mr. J. Johnson would be more like 1825-1840 and in the Rocky Mountains, not the Shanadoah Valley and Kentucky.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2019, 06:38:43 AM »
You have to go with what was, not what we would choose. I抎 say 1750-1770 the majority of rifles would be .45-.55 with some outliers. Someone here compiled the data from Kindig抯 book once on calibers. There are a couple as small as .42 and some bigger than .54 from that era.
Andover, Vermont

Offline Bob McBride

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2019, 02:48:34 PM »
Agin I repeat myself 1750's-1770's colonial "long hunter". Mr. J. Johnson would be more like 1825-1840 and in the Rocky Mountains, not the Shanadoah Valley and Kentucky.

A distinction without a difference. They both would have made that decision based on the same factors. It was a business decision. .50 cal was a good compromise between stopping power and economy. That is the reason it was among the most used calibers in the period of your hypothetical professional long hunter and a professional trapper c1825-1840. That抯 my guess and it would have been my choice. It抯 not my choice today, but , in that business, then.... .50 cal.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2019, 03:05:06 PM by Bhmack »

Offline OldMtnMan

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2019, 03:23:31 PM »
What's the motive for the question, Mike?

Personally, i'd never carry a .45 if I had the option for a bigger caliber. If just one guy carried a .54 back then. I'd do the same now.

Offline alacran

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2019, 03:57:46 PM »

1750-1780, remember there were still buffalo and elk running around in the East back then. I just looked through the first ten rifles in Kindig's book and there was everything there from .45 to .72. Those rifles he considered to be pre Revolutionary War .
The John Schreit rifle was signed 1761. It was.60 caliber and rifled. The famous Edward Marshall rifle was .58 caliber.
Again 1750-1780, we are talking early rifles here, and they tended to be big bored.
So to the question as to what would I carry? It would have to be a .58 caliber rifle, considering the game that was available and the hostile natives I might have to contend with. 
A .54 would also be a good choice since you do get more balls to the pound and less powder is needed .
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2019, 05:24:23 PM »
I agree the .54 is best all around, but 90% of the time a .50 would have been more than enough.
Andover, Vermont

Offline bob in the woods

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2019, 06:25:04 PM »
The problem with your question is that the time span is too great.  1750's would see much larger calibers being more common.  By the 1770's the bore sizes were in general , tending to the .45 to 50 range . There was an article some years back which summarized a great many rifles and their calibers through the mid 1700's and then through the revolution period .  If I recall correctly, an average of .54 for the earlier rifles and an average of .47 cal for the later rifles was the result . So, it's hard to go wrong if you choose a .50 .  That said, you will still need to decide on a style for your stock, barrel, furniture etc.  Look at the difference between Chamber's Edward Marshall, Lancaster, and others.  These span the time frame you're looking at , and are very different styles.  Caliber is only one small part.

Offline MuskratMike

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2019, 07:00:14 PM »
to OldMtnMan: The motive?
No one knows everything and I most of all. I was reading a book on a Colonial ear long hunter in the 1770's it talked about lots of things and mentioned the need to conserve powder and lead as resupply was not an option unless you took it from a dead native you shot. I suspect in that era most shot the smallest bore they could get by with but I just don't know. There is so much knowledge in this forum I just wanted to pick your guy's brains a little and see what you all think.
HAPPY 4th OF JULY TO ALL THE PATRIOTS OUT THERE. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
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Offline OldMtnMan

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2019, 10:06:04 PM »
Ok, relax. I was just wondering if you wanted to copy what they did back then.

Offline bob in the woods

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2019, 10:09:51 PM »
Since the book you were reading was centred on the 1770's, the average , per the scholarly article I read, was .47
Casper Mansker's rifle was a .40 if I recall correctly.

Offline MuskratMike

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2019, 11:01:52 PM »
Sorry if I came across brash, it WAS NOT my intent. Yes I am changing my persona from Rocky mountain man to 1700's Irish/American long hunter. So many of you are fortunate enough to live on the east coast and have access to much more of that eras history than we do out here on the "left coast". Just thought I would pick your brains and see what you thought. The closest decade I can come up with for my rifle would be 1770's to early 1780's. Again thanks for the posts, didn't mean to offend.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
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Offline OldMtnMan

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2019, 11:13:56 PM »
We mountain men lose another one.  :)

Offline MuskratMike

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2019, 12:07:45 AM »
Sorry, it's just that it seems everyone out here portrays a Rocky Mountain fur trapper and most are carrying a half stock cap lock. Living a rock throwing distance from Charboneau I can see why, just wanted to be different and my SMR (Jim Kibler), and my Edward Marshall barreled rifle with matching pistol (Lowell Haarer), are flintlocks from a different era. Still a fur trapper just from the "first" western frontier.
"Muskrat" Mike McGuire
Keep your eyes on the skyline, your flint sharp and powder dry.

Offline hanshi

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2019, 12:45:43 AM »
I can see how .47 caliber was about average.  Powder and lead can't be lightened so less of those in each shot makes sense.  It seems like the longhunters would either use the rifle they already had or choose an appropriate caliber, that in their experience, suited the game to be hunted.
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Offline longcruise

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2019, 04:19:36 AM »
I think Scorch (rest his soul) did an average of the calibers in RCA #1  and came up with about. 54 average. 

I'm not very knowledgeable about the "longhunters" but if, as the term suggests, they went on long hunts then they probably employed multiple horses.  Probably more than needed since they might lose one to Indians, disease or injury.  They needed to return with meat and/or hides to their point of sale.

Given that, the weight of powder and ball was probably not an issue.  How many shots would be fired in the course of a twenty or thirty day (or even more) hunt?  Probably less than we might shoot at a weekend multiple match event.  When I attend my Association's state shoot I will fire 80 to 100 shots over two or three days.

So I doubt if they chose a light caliber for the sake of weight.

Probably not for economy's sake either.  Colonists on the frontier probably had little cash but they were relatively lightly taxed.  And were free to sell and barter at will. 

I don't accept the commonly stated idea that these folks were "dirt poor".

So, I think they probably carried whatever caliber proved to be adequate for their business.  Why would they select barely adequate when a deer, bear, elk or lion might run not to be recovered?  That would represent a monetary loss.

This of course is speculative historification without any grounded sources.
Mike Lee

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2019, 04:30:23 AM »
The long treks of the Longhunter required him to carry enough powder and lead to last. I'd say .40 cal would be a good choice


Offline TN Longhunter

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2019, 02:54:45 PM »
My take on this is 搕hey used what they had. Guns were probably the most expensive item they carried and unlike today where one can have several calibers for a variety of game, they likely used what they could find at the local smiths or more likely what was in the family.  Sure, a smaller caliber allowed for lead/powder economy but to buy a smaller caliber for that reason seems unlikely.
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Offline alacran

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2019, 03:23:35 PM »
Ok, so this is not really a question about caliber, but justifying rifles you already have to a persona you wish to interpret.
The so called "longhunter" encompassed a very short period of time. Even shorter than the fur trapping mountain man. That being said it amuses me that so many want to interpret those types of characters and there were so very few of them. So much easier to be a farmer which is what most colonials did at the time. As a farmer it is easier to justify about any rifle .
A man's rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.  Frederick Douglass

Offline Bob McBride

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2019, 03:53:23 PM »
Ok, so this is not really a question about caliber, but justifying rifles you already have to a persona you wish to interpret.
The so called "longhunter" encompassed a very short period of time. Even shorter than the fur trapping mountain man. That being said it amuses me that so many want to interpret those types of characters and there were so very few of them. So much easier to be a farmer which is what most colonials did at the time. As a farmer it is easier to justify about any rifle .

...a gaggle of farmers wouldn抰 be spending the weekend sitting around a fire at Rendezvous shooting the breeze. That persona would be at Cracker Barrel.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2019, 04:02:58 PM by Bhmack »

Offline blackbruin

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2019, 04:32:47 PM »
Ok, so this is not really a question about caliber, but justifying rifles you already have to a persona you wish to interpret.
The so called "longhunter" encompassed a very short period of time. Even shorter than the fur trapping mountain man. That being said it amuses me that so many want to interpret those types of characters and there were so very few of them. So much easier to be a farmer which is what most colonials did at the time. As a farmer it is easier to justify about any rifle .

What romance is there in portraying a farmer? Yes they were critical just as today but you wouldnt get to have a prized longrifle but some prized farming implements....lol

Offline T*O*F

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #23 on: July 04, 2019, 04:51:51 PM »
Quote
The so called "longhunter" encompassed a very short period of time. Even shorter than the fur trapping mountain man. That being said it amuses me that so many want to interpret those types of characters and there were so very few of them.
I believe there were fewer than 100 actual longhunters.  Many people assume they were on foot.  In actuality, they had horses with them, both to carry supplies and to pack their hides back.  They started out well supplied with lead and powder and were primarily in the market for deer hides which were in demand and fetched a good price.  Unless attacked by Indians and lost everything, they remained in good shape.

However, one thing has always bothered me.  I have the Cahokia court records, 1778-1780, translated from the original French.  When Clark was on this way to capture Vincennes, he took both Cahokia and Kaskaskia without a fight, as they willingly surrendered.  He resupplied from those towns before assaulting Vincennes.  It was noted in the records that there was very little meat and the French told him that the land across the river (Kaintuckee) had virtually been hunted out and deer were in short supply.  The French had been hunting and trapping there for decades before the longhunters arrived, as they had a viable commerce along their Mississippi trade routes.  Makes me wonder if the longhunters ever made it that far.
Dave Kanger

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Offline OldMtnMan

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Re: The American long hunter
« Reply #24 on: July 04, 2019, 05:02:45 PM »
Ok, so this is not really a question about caliber, but justifying rifles you already have to a persona you wish to interpret.
The so called "longhunter" encompassed a very short period of time. Even shorter than the fur trapping mountain man. That being said it amuses me that so many want to interpret those types of characters and there were so very few of them. So much easier to be a farmer which is what most colonials did at the time. As a farmer it is easier to justify about any rifle .

A mountain man was a mountain man all his life. Even if he wasn't trapping beaver for a living.