For those of us who truly love guns, there is really nothing better than learning about and collecting antique firearms. The mechanics alone (not to mention the beauty and history) of these firearms is truly astounding. For those of you who haven’t yet caught the collecting bug, I want to share some of the facts that got me hooked quite some time ago.
To start, it’s important to know what we’re talking about when we speak about antiques – a gun from the 1980s, no matter how solid the construction or high quality the materials is not an antique. On the whole, we’ll only be referring to guns produced prior to the beginning of the 20th century – that means that everything is over 100 years old. Secondly, there are two main types of guns that we’ll touch on here – the first is the older muzzleloading guns. These are guns used mainly prior to the 18th century and are those that we often seen in movies about the Revolutionary war. The hero on the front line loads his gun with black powder and fires away. And the second is the slightly younger and more standardized cartridge firing. Most collectors prefer cartridge firing guns as their provenance (or history) is easier to document.
Most thorough antique gun collectors in the United States focus on several main eras including the Pre-Napoleonic era (roughly from the founding of the US until the Civil War), the Civil War era, the Old West, and the Prohibition era. There are firearms of all sizes, quality, and value in each of these eras. Some collectors like to specialize in just one period while others span several. And once you leave the United States, the world of antique gun collecting gets even bigger.
For today, as I’m really just aiming to give a basic understanding of what it is that interests me in the antique gun field, so we’ll do a brief run down of several of the guns that fit into the first collectors period – the Pre-Napoleonic era. But you should remember the check back here often as we’ll outline additional periods and guns once or twice a month.
The Kentucky Rifle is the only gun of American origin of the famous Pre-Napoleonic era firearms. It makes it an important piece in any collection of American firearms. This longrifle was developed in the Lancaster, PA region in about the 1740s – that’s a whole 30 years before the Revolutionary War – and continued to be produced until well into the 20th century. While history is sketchy on the origins of the rifle, most agree that the legacy of the firearm was a product of German gunsmith’s who emigrated in about the 1620s. This rifle stood out in the colonies as the only American produced gun in a sea of expensive European imports. It was truly the start of the American love affair with firearms.
While Americans imported most of their firearms from Europe, it was thanks to a solitary group of frontiersmen and Indian fights that the Kentucky Rifle found its market. These men valued the long-range abilities and accuracy of the rifle. While it took nearly a full minute to load the rifle, sharp-shooters could reliably hit a target more than 300 feet away – that’s over 3 times the going rate at that period. This was an incredible gun during the period – and what makes it even more special is that it was created on our own soil using only American ingenuity.
While we’ve only given you a glimpse of the history of the Kentucky rifle, we hope it’s enough to spark an interest in you to learn more about antique guns.
Image from here.