Thursday, July 30, 2020

Kentucky Long Rifle

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Among James Harrod’s most prized possessions was his long rifle and legend holds that it was among the longest, the straightest, and the truest in the wilderness. Harrod’s long rifle was tailor made by the old Pennsylvania Dutch and legend holds that it was among the longest, the straightest, and the truest in the wilderness. Although known for years as the "Kentucky rifle", the celebrated long rifle of muzzle-loading days was developed on a Pequea Valley farm in the Mennonite region of southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was a Swiss gunsmith, Martin Meylin, who developed this new type of firearm, known interchangeably as the Pennsylvania rifle or, in what became the Bluegrass State, the Kentucky rifle.

A typical Pennsylvania rifle was made for the western hunters and weighed from seven to nine pounds with its overall length a symmetrical fifty-five inches from muzzle to butt plate. It could fire a .45 caliber led ball from three hundred yards and kill a man or beast. Its small bore, long, heavy barrel with flint lock required only a small charge, making it exceedingly accurate. The short-muzzle European guns lacked the range for killing buffalo from two hundred yards and used more gunpowder then the Pennsylvania rifles. Later, the Pennsylvania long rifle, which eventually became known as the Kentucky Long Rifle, was the primary defense and hunting weapon at Old Fort Harrod.

Making a rifle in the 1700's was a slow, painstaking task requiring about a week's time. The cost would vary from $10 to $50 or more depending upon the ornamentation and engraving applied to it. The early locks were entirely handmade down to the smallest screws, springs, and pins. The stocks, which were made of native curly maple, were selected for the beauty of its grain. Many were embellished with intricate carved designs. Patch boxes, thimbles, trigger guards, butt plates, and the various inlays which were found on the long rifles were fashioned from brass or silver and usually decorated with delicate engravings.
Photo from Real World Survivor

The barrel was the most important part of the rifle and required the most skill. Rifle comes from the German word

Most often owners liked to express the personality of their rifle by giving it a name such as "Old Sure Fire" or "Deer Killer," or in the case of Davy Crockett, “Old Betsey”. For a rifle to continue working properly, it had to be religiously cared for. The locks had to be oiled so the hammer worked correctly, and flints had to be picked sharp. Bullets had to be filed smoothly and the deerskin used to wrap them in must be oiled so the bullets did not stick to the barrel.
Photo from the Armstrong Archives

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