Author Topic: The Schools of the American Longrifle  (Read 987 times)

Offline John Morris

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The Schools of the American Longrifle
« on: March 25, 2020, 05:04:32 AM »
In my introduction, where many folks here welcomed me with open arms, one of the replies mentioned that after I become familiar with the craft and the history, that I may develop a taste for specific schools of rifles, paraphrasing here.
So, I went out on the world wide web and did a search for "American Long Rifle Schools" and I mixed the search words up a bit too, and mainly I came back with, well, schools for building rifles, not necessarily the different schools/styles of rifles. But I did hit on one video that explained the "Nine Schools of North Carolina Longrifles" by Bill Ivey and Kenneth Orr. I know for a fact you all have seen the video, but here it is anyway just in case there are any new guys like me here who have not.

So this leads me to my next question, aside from books, I have one book ordered now and anxiously awaiting its arrival, but aside from books, can anyone point me to a resource that may have other schools of makers? I am assuming since we have nine schools in NC, there must be other schools in other states? Do I make sense?


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Offline Marcruger

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2020, 05:31:29 AM »
I am not sure how far back the word "school" goes in longrifles.  Suffice it to say that there were centers of longrifle production back in the old days.  Often, makers and their pupils ended up making a certain style that was recognizable.  Shapes, patterns, and decorations that were similar.  For modern researchers, they can look at these shapes and details and say, "Lancaster", or "Berks" or "Salem" without reading a makers signature....if there is one. 

I know Bill Ivey, in his wonderful book on NC guns, leaned heavily on the term "schools".  Don't get too hung up on that. Just know that guns from certain areas looked a certain way.....usually. 

If I were in your shoes, I'd seek out gunmaker styles from the area where you were born.  Or, if you're an Army brat, where you think of most as home.  I am fortunate that I am from NC, and the NC guns are now heavily documented.  That said, in the day NC had lots of imported English smoothbores on the coast, often elaborate slim longrifles in the Piedmont, and common man guns in the mountains and overmountain areas.  Throw in "Carolina" trade guns too.  So even one state can have a huge swing in style.  Pennsylvania too. 

I hope this helps a little.  God Bless,  Marc

Online heinz

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2020, 05:45:53 AM »
John, see if you can score a used copy or "Thought on the Kentucky Rifle in the Golden Age" by Joseph Kindig, or even better get your local library to borrow you one.  It is great on covering the rifle making schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Another set of texts, the two volume "Rifles of Colonial America" is even better in many ways but is more expensive.  The library on this site has a great deal of useful information and examples from various areas or "schools" and it is free
kind regards, heinz

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2020, 04:11:01 PM »
KRA discs.
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Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline WadePatton

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2020, 05:32:02 PM »
John I kicked around the idea a while back in Over the Back Fence (where old posts expire) about a flow chart or family tree sort of organizing these schools of guns and some folks agreed that it'd be a great idea, but nobody sketched one out.

I think part of the difficulty is that experts tend to disagree on details, the other part is that it would have to be divided into time periods as well. Some experts might be best familiar with only one or two regions or time periods and not feel confident discussing nuances of others.

I know I've focused my attention on TN and neglected PA, VA, NC and the earliest guns. But I've learned some things about them all. The trickiest thing is that "Kentucky Rifles" doesn't just mean those made in Kentucky, but is the general term to cover most all guns of our interest. IOW Kentucky rifles were made in each state. It has to be utterly confusing for the novice.

And then there are the Ohio, NY, and SC made guns.  Guns were made everywhere, but each location doesn't necessarily make a school.

I'll not get hung up on the term: School, Group, Type, Area or whatever anyone chooses to call a recognizable segment of the "American Longrifles".  The term American Longrifles isn't perfect because many are smooth bores or fowlers. Choose  your imperfect term and know that others may use different terms.

PA-made guns are often well known by county and even by the maker as well. Guns were made all over TN, but the most celebrated and archetypical are those of East TN, which varies somewhat, plus the Cumberland guns, which are a class unto themselves.

I yet think a few gentlemen/students/scholars of our early American guns could put together a family tree, perhaps in two or three time divisions that could roughly link together the development of the guns. There'd be a lot of footnotes and imperfections but that's just the nature of life.  Problem is finding the funding or motivation for this to happen, and the folks who'd engage in the discourse/disagreements that would be part of the process. Perhaps some day*.

Until then, do look at the reference materials these folks suggest, make notes, and hang in there as you sketch out your own ideas of how it was. 

*Would be an excellent American History project for student at university or graduate studies, if they yet do that sort of thing. The student could interview the most learned folks around, maybe get pics from grand collections, could let each person tell his version and then try to weave it into one balanced, historically accurate perspective.  That'd take care of some legwork, but again, folks would fuss that this or that wasn't exactly right-could be fantastic project really.
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Offline BFox

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2020, 07:18:06 PM »
John,
I would second Mike's (succinct) advice. The CDs from the Kentucky Rifle Foundation give you high resolution photos of some of the best examples of longrifles out there. Most issues focus on a single school or region while a few are "greatest hits" compilations.
As was mentioned earlier, probably the best orientation for the evolution and characteristics of each of the schools is the latest edition of Kindig's "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age".  It has all the original content as well as some new color photos and updated research. You'll find yourself referring to it often.
The KRF CDs and publications are available at kentuckyriflefoundation.org.
Welcome; you're in for a great journey!
Bernie

Offline Nordnecker

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2020, 08:52:05 PM »
Yeah, you are in for a great journey, and it'll be interresting to see what you're drawn to. I guess it's easy for a lot of us who live in regions where guns were made, to pick a type of gun for that reason alone.
My forebares have been in Virginia since 1607 so I am naturally biased toward VA guns. But my 2nd was a Tenn rifle, then a N.Carolina then back to VA for my last 2. I'd probably want a Maryland gun next.
There's so much to learn. This hobby leads to unexpected historical interests.
Surely you had relatives back East somewhere. Maybe that can help you narrow down your interests for a place to start.

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2020, 08:53:18 PM »
Anyone can go to our museum area here on ALR and see rifles organized by states and schools.
St. Louis, Missouri


Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2020, 03:10:58 PM »
I hope this helps a little.  God Bless,  Marc

It helped a ton, thank you as always Marc. I am from Southern CA. not much going on here for long rifles, but my closest region that does have an interesting long rifle history is Texas, the Alamo has a very interesting history with the rifles and muskets.
Here is a link I found regarding that. Pretty neat. https://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2019/2/24/remembering-the-guns-of-the-alamo/
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Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2020, 03:12:55 PM »
The library on this site has a great deal of useful information and examples from various areas or "schools" and it is free

That I like Heinz! Free is good, many of these books will be on my Christmas list though, they are pretty pricey, but, I had not thought of using my local library that is a wonderful idea, thanks.
John Morris

Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2020, 03:14:04 PM »
KRA discs.

Thank you Mike, didn't know what KRA was till I read BFox's reply, thanks for the lead.
John Morris

Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2020, 03:21:42 PM »
I'll not get hung up on the term: School, Group, Type, Area or whatever anyone chooses to call a recognizable segment of the "American Longrifles".  The term American Longrifles isn't perfect because many are smooth bores or fowlers. Choose  your imperfect term and know that others may use different terms.

Until then, do look at the reference materials these folks suggest, make notes, and hang in there as you sketch out your own ideas of how it was. 

*Would be an excellent American History project for student at university or graduate studies, if they yet do that sort of thing. The student could interview the most learned folks around, maybe get pics from grand collections, could let each person tell his version and then try to weave it into one balanced, historically accurate perspective.  That'd take care of some legwork, but again, folks would fuss that this or that wasn't exactly right-could be fantastic project really.

Wade, thanks for your reply, I need to get beyond the terms and just enjoy them for what they are, I was watching a YouTuber last night on the subject, can't find the video now, but he distinguished the guns by two basic categories before we get in the weeds of other differences, I am not sure how factual this statement is but here goes, correct me, him, if this is wrong.

"A rifle is a rifle because of the rifled barrels, a gun without rifling is called a Musket".

Is this correct?

And man, what a neat American History project indeed  for a university student, I am surprised there is not a wiki on this subject. Somewhere.

Thanks Wade, and thanks for your in depth reply, appreciate it greatly.
John Morris

Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2020, 03:27:00 PM »
John,
I would second Mike's (succinct) advice. The CDs from the Kentucky Rifle Foundation give you high resolution photos of some of the best examples of longrifles out there. Most issues focus on a single school or region while a few are "greatest hits" compilations.
As was mentioned earlier, probably the best orientation for the evolution and characteristics of each of the schools is the latest edition of Kindig's "Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age".  It has all the original content as well as some new color photos and updated research. You'll find yourself referring to it often.
The KRF CDs and publications are available at kentuckyriflefoundation.org.
Welcome; you're in for a great journey!
Bernie

Advice taken, and looking at books again, now. I have one book on order from NMLRA "Flintlocks Ė a Practical Guide for their Use and Appreciation" based on a suggestion here. But dang it, it's on hold, no shipments till after April 7th, their office is shut down due to Covid19, but hey, just hope they all get back in one piece, and healthy.  :)

I did follow up on KRA discs, and those are cool, I could see myself later investing in a few of those, I love collections of information like that. Thanks Bernie
John Morris

Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2020, 03:41:05 PM »
Yeah, you are in for a great journey, and it'll be interresting to see what you're drawn to. I guess it's easy for a lot of us who live in regions where guns were made, to pick a type of gun for that reason alone.
My forebares have been in Virginia since 1607 so I am naturally biased toward VA guns. But my 2nd was a Tenn rifle, then a N.Carolina then back to VA for my last 2. I'd probably want a Maryland gun next.
There's so much to learn. This hobby leads to unexpected historical interests.
Surely you had relatives back East somewhere. Maybe that can help you narrow down your interests for a place to start.

Nordnecker, this is most certainly turning out to be more a journey than I had initially thought, before I just wanted to make a rifle, and shoot it, that's it. Before joining here, I did not know the builder-shooter culture was so alive and brimming with information related to our nations history. I love history, I am a huge American History buff (colonial and revolutionary periods mainly, but all of it I love), before my interest in the Longrifle came to fruition, and the rabbit holes I am finding myself in right now as a result of joining here, are amazing.

You have a very interesting history yourself, 1607! Now that's some lineage!
Being half Irish and half Wales, with my ancestors settling originally in Vermont and Southeastern Quebec, then migrated to Illinois and Wisconsin, I have my main family today, first cousins, uncle, aunt, grand folks til they died, all in Illinois, so perhaps I could start with that region and see what I find, that closely relates to me. I appreciate that bit of personal advice, it personalizes it all and bring it home.

Thanks again Nordnecker, great advice as usual.
John Morris

Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2020, 03:41:34 PM »
Anyone can go to our museum area here on ALR and see rifles organized by states and schools.

Thanks Rich, I think I found it! Appreciate it.
John Morris

Offline WadePatton

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2020, 06:22:30 PM »
...A rifle is a rifle because of the rifled barrels, a gun without rifling is called a Musket".

Is this correct? ...

Yes to a degree.  My take: "Musket" generally means early (and usually military) style, before rifling became prevalent. Back when most all guns were smoothbores the term musket fits. As rifling came into vogue, guns became known as much by their bore type as other characteristics: Smoothies, Rifles, Fowlers, and the kicker --smooth rifles (a gun that looks like a rifle (has rear sight usually and other characteristics) but no rifling in the bore.

Later smoothbores are generally called  Fowlers, or smoothies (or smooth rifles-if shaped like a rifle) rather than muskets.

What's the difference in a military musket and a civilian musket?  Not much, but the military gun will have bayonet and sling, whereas civilian guns may or may not have a sling and rarely have a bayonet. But that's getting way out of my area of studies.

Generally speaking Earlier guns were chunkier, larger in bore, and shorter in bbl.  Then as rifling changed the nature of the beast, bores got smaller, stocks became slimmer, and barrels got longer.   But that Fowling guns kept their bore size...and again--I'm running out of my schooling and will shaddup.  ;)

Carry on, you'll do well. The complications and nuances can be bewildering but that you're yet looking for the underlying structure, or framework. So don't get lost in details-yet.  There's plenty of time for that.
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Offline John Morris

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2020, 04:21:45 AM »
Thank you Wade, appreciate it all once again.
John Morris

Offline Ky-Flinter

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2020, 05:33:04 AM »
I am not sure how far back the word "school" goes in longrifles......

I believe Joe Kindig, Jr. proposed using the term "School" to categorize long rifles into groups based on regional characteristics in his book Thoughts of the Kentucky Rifle in it's Golden Age, published in 1960.

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Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2020, 04:52:08 PM »
...A rifle is a rifle because of the rifled barrels, a gun without rifling is called a Musket".

Is this correct? ...

Yes to a degree.  My take: "Musket" generally means early (and usually military) style, before rifling became prevalent. Back when most all guns were smoothbores the term musket fits. As rifling came into vogue, guns became known as much by their bore type as other characteristics: Smoothies, Rifles, Fowlers, and the kicker --smooth rifles (a gun that looks like a rifle (has rear sight usually and other characteristics) but no rifling in the bore.

Later smoothbores are generally called  Fowlers, or smoothies (or smooth rifles-if shaped like a rifle) rather than muskets.

What's the difference in a military musket and a civilian musket?  Not much, but the military gun will have bayonet and sling, whereas civilian guns may or may not have a sling and rarely have a bayonet. But that's getting way out of my area of studies.

Generally speaking Earlier guns were chunkier, larger in bore, and shorter in bbl.  Then as rifling changed the nature of the beast, bores got smaller, stocks became slimmer, and barrels got longer.   But that Fowling guns kept their bore size...and again--I'm running out of my schooling and will shaddup.  ;)

Carry on, you'll do well. The complications and nuances can be bewildering but that you're yet looking for the underlying structure, or framework. So don't get lost in details-yet.  There's plenty of time for that.
If you are in my shop and use the term "smoothie" you will not leave alive. Or smoke pole, front stuffer, rock lock, flinter...the list goes on. In fact conversation is best avoided in my shop.....just shut up and listen.
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Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

Offline smart dog

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2020, 06:17:12 PM »
Hi John,
Be very careful about what you learn from You Tube.  There are a lot of pretty ignorant folks posing as "experts" on there and on other internet venues.  The internet is a great resource but it is also a "force multiplier" of misinformation and junk enabling it to spread like a virus.  Begin to build a solid foundation with the books and CDs mentioned by others.  They are vetted, however new scholarship often updates those venerable sources.  The ALR site is also good because of our virtual library but also there are builders, collectors, and historians that frequent it and offer information as well as correct and vet misinformation.  With regard to your question about rifles and muskets, your You Tube source is a bit confused.  Musket is a term derived from Spanish "mosquete" meaning a large-bored military firearm. It does not necessarily mean smooth-bored, however, up until the 19th century, virtually all muskets were smooth bored for rapid loading.  The first matchlock muskets were very heavy, usually fired from a rest, very large caliber, and designed to fire a bullet with enough force to penetrate the body armor worn by soldiers and cavalry at the time.  If you go to a museum that has a collection of 16th and 17th century armor, you will often see breast plates with small dimples or dents in the chest areas. Those are often marks caused by proofing the hardened steel breast plate against shot from a firearm, usually a pistol or hand gonne.  The early muskets were designed big and heavy to shoot bullets capable of piercing that kind of armor.  Muskets were smooth to facilitate rapid loading and firing but sacrificing longer range accuracy and power.  The tercio and later linear battle tactics placed a premium on rapid fire and volume of shot.  In the 19th century, development of fast loading bullets that had hollow bases that expanded into rifling upon firing resulted in the famous rifled muskets used during the Crimean and American Civil wars. These were still fairly large caliber guns despite the rifling. Later that century, calibers were greatly reduced and the term "musket" for military long arms was more or less abandoned.  So there are rifled muzzleloaders and there are unrifled "smooth bored" muzzleloaders.  Those smooth-bored long guns may include muskets, smaller and lighter carbines and fusils, civilian fowling guns designed primarily for bird shot, shot guns (what we generally call more modern fowling guns) and smooth rifles (guns styled like rifles with sights but no rifling). Rifles can also include muskets, carbines and rifled fusils.

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Offline Daryl

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2020, 10:37:15 PM »
Well presented, David. I knew all that stuff, but being able to put it into understandable prose
as you have, is yet another talent, well done.
Mike, you break me up.
We've guys up here who sometimes "need to cast some leads for my black powder". ::)
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 10:40:29 PM by Daryl »
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Offline elkhorne

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2020, 04:23:05 AM »
John,
Welcome onboard to ALR! Another angle you might find a specific geographic interest for yourself to decide on a rifle school/ style/maker would be to explore your family history. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out you may have some notable historical figures in your family tree to tie to your rifle building. I did a couple of years ago and after several months of research, found my great great grandfather was an early rancher in Texas before statehood, a relative on my dadís side of the family fought with Washington in the French and Indian War and American Revolution and a relative on my motherís side was from Tennessee and fought with Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. The records even showed a copy of his pension from the War of 1812. These re the types of things lurking in many of our families histories that are just waiting to be discovered. You very likely could find an ancestral relative to build your rifle around and even try to mirror their persona if you ever get into re-enacting. Just so,e more food for thought!
elkhorne

Offline Ky-Flinter

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Re: The Schools of the American Longrifle
« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2020, 05:32:51 AM »
......Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans......

Great suggestion about exploring one's lineage, but I think you mean Andrew Jackson.

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