Author Topic: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All  (Read 1653 times)

Offline Mtn Meek

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Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« on: September 22, 2019, 10:52:10 PM »
Morphy Auctions had this rifle on display at the Colorado Gun Collectors Show this past May.  I was struck with how similar it is to the TC Hawken.  Just confirms the notion that Hawken made all kinds of ML rifles and one should never say never.

The rifle is brass mounted and has a style of trigger guard common on HE Dimick rifles.  The caliber is .50, so it's not one of their small caliber sporting rifles for the local market.  Could have been meant as a target rifle like the pistol grip rifles we know of or...

In The Hawken Rifle:  Its Place In History, Charles Hanson, Jr. transcribed an ad that William Hawken and Tristram Campbell ran in the Missouri Republican from January 1855 to January 1856 that advertised "Mountain and California rifles made to order."

Hanson wrote, "The advertisement refers to 'Mountain Rifles' which were apparently the conventional Hawken rifles well-known to collectors.  What a Hawken 'California Rifle' was is still a question."

Maybe this is an example of a Hawken "California Rifle".

The patent breech is not hooked. Except for this, the lock and breech is close to what we see on the Kit Carson Hawken.

The barrel is stamped with the proper Hawken stamp.

Brass mounted, finger spur on trigger guard, and a single barrel key--makes it hard to say that the Hawken shop never made a rifle like the TC Hawken.

More pictures can be seen on the auction site.
Phil Meek


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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2019, 12:29:07 AM »
That is a great looking Hawken, thanks for bringing it to our attention and providing the link.

It is my opinion that nobody, not TC, or any other mass production facility can match the old masters, or those that now build some of the great contemporary rifles being made today.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2019, 12:32:34 AM by WESTbury »

Online rich pierce

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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2019, 12:51:45 AM »
Itís the architecture and skimpy barrels on the TCs that stand out as different. Oh and the sights and the tang and the triggers and the shallow rifling and so on.
Andover, Vermont

Offline smart dog

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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2019, 03:12:27 AM »
Hi Phil,
In my opinion, except for the trigger guard, there is nothing similar to a TC Hawken.  The lock panels, cheek piece wrist, comb, just about everything except being half stock is different.  I am also sure there is not a coil spring powering that lock.

"Flick Lives!"

Offline Bob McBride

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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2019, 03:44:44 AM »
Oh come on. If you look through the bottoms of two coke bottles it does look something like a TC Hawken.

Offline Mtn Meek

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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2019, 04:39:24 AM »
I agree with the comments above.  The TC Hawken is a poor copy of even this Hawken.

It's just that when, in the past I've heard someone criticize the TC Hawken, they most often started out with the brass hardware, the odd trigger guard, and the single barrel key.  They usually stopped there and didn't get into the stock architecture and other details.

To cash in on this common criticism of the TC rifle, Art Ressel at The Hawken Shop came out with steel replacement parts for the brass furniture and a more conventional shape Hawken guard for the TC Hawken.

The Hawken Shop Catalog 2, pg 18

Obviously, most of my post was tongue-in-cheek.  But I did want to call attention to this particular rifle for its uncommon hardware and the possibility that it may be a Hawken "California" rifle mentioned in some of their advertisements.

The photos on the auction site are pretty high definition and can be enlarged to see a lot of detail.  This combined with the retention of much of the original finish, makes the rifle a good study piece for gun makers.  One can see where bits of the original varnish has flaked or chipped off the wood in the image of the cheekpiece side of the butt stock.  The varnish has obviously oxidized and is much darker than when the rifle was new.

The description calls it a "walnut" stock but I don't remember thinking that when I saw the rifle in person.  Looking at the pictures enlarged, it looks more like maple to me.  The stock may have been stained, but it doesn't appear to have penetrated the wood much based on the worn areas.  It's likely that the varnish itself included some color like violin red.
Phil Meek

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Looks Like Thompson Center Got It 'Bout Right After All
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2019, 09:30:42 PM »
I have wondered about those St. Louis "California" rifles, and would enjoy reading a discussion.  I also went so far as to purchase a copy of Shelton's California Gunsmiths 1846-1900.  I've found a couple of brief references in other places, including a past issue of Wild West magazine (sorry.. I don't have the citation handy).  It is my impression that these were rifles built for emigrants and hunters headed for California some years after the "Mountain Man Era."  There was plenty of big game in the Golden State in those days, including numbers gigantic California grizzlies.  These tended to be big-bore rifles, I believe. 

Meanwhile, the "Dimmick" style triggerguard appears to be a very common, if not predominant style on the rifles made in California.  From the pictures I have seen and references I have found, I would venture to say these later California rifles had slightly shorter barrels than the earlier "plains" rifles, and were typically half-stocks.  If you Google "percussion California rifle" and look at the images, you might find a few surprises.

Finally, and maybe veering off a little, Henry Leman also made a lot of rifles for the California trade (see ASAC Bulletin #51, p. 51/16).  There is a nice photo of a Leman California "Bear Rifle" in Caravaglia and Worman's Firearms of the American West.  It looks like a beefed-up, short barreled fullstock "Indian rifle," except it reportedly has Bear Rifle engraved on the top barrel flat.

Back to the original post, I agree that there is a clear similarity between the Hawken that is pictured and the "Hawken" offered by T/C.  The devil is truly in the details, but superficially, they are similar.  One final point to be made is that I don't know of anyone who has made a serious attempt to duplicate the Hawken bore.  John Bergmann built a beautiful Hawken style fullstock for me a while back, and we did the best we could (thanks to Bobby Hoyt) to replicate a Hawken barrel, with seven grooves and a tapered bore to simulate the "choke" that the Hawkens were known to have put in their barrels. This one is .54 caliber.  Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to get it out and shoot it yet, but I sure am looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, the true definition of a St. Louis "California rifle" continues to elude us.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife