Building the Fur Trade Rifle
Students will learn the history and craft of the flintlock Trade Rifle, a muzzle loading firearm associated with the 19th-century American frontier, including the Great Lakes fur trade. Rugged, accurate yet inexpensive, it fully answered the big game shooting needs of this era and still remains a fine hunting arm. A brief history of the Trade Rifle and the conditions leading to its design will fuel discussion as students undertake this challenging but rewarding project. Hand tools will largely be used in constructing an authentic Trade Rifle from a pre-shaped, semi-inlet maple stock, using essentially the same techniques employed by the early makers. This project is appropriate for first-time gun makers, but past experience in woodworking will be helpful. During the 11-day course, students will begin their project with a pre-shaped stock of seasoned maple (suitable for an authentic flintlock Trade Rifle), a proper flint lock mechanism and heavy, rifled barrel. From there they will complete the inletting of the barrel, lock and other period-correct metal components, some of which they will fashion themselves. Students will be able to choose between a French or English-style trade gun.
Many trade rifles of this style were bulk-purchased by various fur companies from a variety of Eastern gun makers to arm their post employees & to trade to trappers. The U.S. government did the same to meet treaty obligations with the Native Nations. Trade rifle makers included Tryon, Leman, Dickert & Gill, Henry, Gonter, Griskey and many more from about 1800 to 1840. This course will begin with an introduction to the history of this craft, a tool check, and some hands-on demonstration of pertinent techniques by the instructor. Traditional early 19th-century finishing techniques will be employed in completing the gun. Some variations are possible, which may increase the materials fee.