I have met very few people who understand the immense importance of this expedition. After much study I would class it in the same magnitude of our time as when we put a man on the moon! They were going into totally uncharted wilderness just before leaving Lewis wrote in October to Jefferson of a set of Giant Mastodon bones and tusks that had been found and went to see them. Patrick Gass stated in his journal “the best accounts informed us that we were to pass through country possessed by numerous, powerful warlike nations of savages of gigantic stature, fierce, treacherous and cruel and particularly hostile to white men.” So you can imagine the thoughts in thier minds about this. But studying the few years prior you can see that this was President Thomas Jefferson’s pet project, he sent Lewis to the best schools on each subject and looking at the supplies, he made sure they had the best equipment of the day. Lewis and Clark were charged with sending back all the data that a person could think of, and they did. Every different plant, fruit , berries, and grass. All types of soil samples, major climate changes of areas they went through. Very extensive mapping. Many skins, skeletons and sometimes whole animals were sent back to Washington during the the expedition. The detailed drawings, paintings of fish, plants and how the Indians used them, animals, insects, astrological charts, detailed study of each Indian tribe, their languages written down for the first time, their habits including sexual habits, even what type of merchandise they needed and how much money could be made selling to each tribe. They completed their mission through all kinds of the most difficult trials imaginable and with a staggering amount of information that was years before it could be all published.
We were contacted by Mr. Leon Budginas, he
let us know he had purchased this rifle and wanted us to take a look at it.
When he arrived I was astonished at the serial number being 15. After
carefully going over this gun, I noticed that the gun was very different in
many ways than the standard early 1803 Harpers Ferry rifle. The lock plate
had a more pointed tail, the butt plate was made in two pieces brazed
together similar to many German Jeagers. The trigger guard had different
shaping, the rear thimble had different wedding bands and finale on the
tail. The barrel rib was hollow sheet metal as on English Guns (much lighter
than the 1803 production). The barrel was lighter in the midsection, tapered
and flared in the round section instead of the normal straight taper of the
production 1803. The octagon portion was thinned and rounded on the
underside as on many English and French hunting rifles. The front thimble
was straight with a small lip and the rear sight had an extremely tiny sight
notch which is important because the design change on them was mentioned in
the Dearborn Arsenal Letter. These differences made the gun almost a pound
lighter than later guns.
I contacted Ernie Cowan and Richard Keller who like myself believed it was extremely unlikely that the expedition carried modified 1792 Contract rifles as some have said. Lewis stated in his letters & journals that his 15 short rifles were manufactured at Harpers Ferry and the rifles and extra parts were made all interchangeable. Because the 1792’s had already seen 8 to 10 years of hard frontier service and from a gunmakers point of veiw, to try and take 15 rifles by 17 different makers and make them all interchangable would have been next to impossible. You would have to of thrown everything away, but possibly the screws. It is totally illogical considering the major importance of this expedition to President Jefferson and the future of this country to even think that Captian Lewis would show up at Harpers Ferry Arsenal (with a letter from the Secratary of War telling them to make anything he requested) and ask them to patch up some old guns for a 3 year expedition. Only a fool would stake the lives of himself and his men on a modified, sawed off 10 year old rifle and Lewis was no fool. Michael H. Maggelet has published a very extensive research article on times and dates on Lewis and Harpers Ferry that shows more than enough to settle this question. Ernie Cowan and Richard Keller have lectured and written extensively on the Lewis and Clark Rifle and Air Gun showing logical proof that the expedition used the Harpers Ferry Rifle. Third when the Secretary of war ordered the production of the Harpers Ferry Rifle on May 25th his first sentence was “The being a shortage of rifles in Public Arsenals and those on hand not being as well calculated for actual service as could be wished” that means all they had left of the contract rifles were 3rd rate. Upon Mr. Cowan’s detailed inspection he came up with the same conclusion as myself. Basically, because of the construction and design changes, this has to be one of the 15 rifles carried by Lewis and Clark. When you really look at the Harpers Ferry rifle it really does not have any attributes of a Military rifle it is built like an English Hunting rifle, I believe it was just that, then adopted as a military rifle, because it was a rifle built exactly the way the Frontier Army needed it, a well made, dependable, lightweight, balanced, no frills rifle. The master armour Joseph Perkins at Harpers Ferry was an english trained master gun maker prior to coming to America, that could explain the English influance on this rifle. I beleive this rifle was already in design when Lewis showed up, especially when you read the specifications that Dearborn set forth when he ordered Harpers Ferry to produce the rifles he described. He did not pull these specifications out of the air, he had to have something in front of him that he was describing. He was the Secretary of War not a gun maker.
Many people refer to the highly romanticized 1807 painting of Lewis by Saint-Memin holding a long gun with supposedly sling swivels but no sling as 99% accurate. But Lewis & Clark stated they auctioned all the guns and equipment off at St. Louis when they returned, so they would not of had a rifle left to pose with for the painting. The painting was done over a year after returning from the expedition, so it is irrevellant. If you look at this painting or wood cut it looks more like Robin Hood in tights with gaudy strips of fur hanging all over his coat and a giant fur hat with two long tails. The gun looks more like a dime store prop gun with giant funny looking trigger guard. The butt stock shape is unlike any firearm I know of. My 10 year old grandson draws a gun better than that. Some think that Lewis’s Rifle had to have sling swivels because he ordered 15 gunslings at Harpers Ferry, but they do not look at the next lines on the order where he ordered rifle and musket flints because he had at least 15 to 20 muskets on the expedition with the regular soldiers that went with him and the volunteers. All muskets used slings and no American Rifles were ever ordered with sling swivels until 1814. In the Riflemans Handbook of 1812 it says that a rifleleman did not use slings because their rifle is to be ready in hand at all times. Mr. Cowan and Mr. Keller have named this gun an 1800 US Short Rifle, because it was a distinct weapon prior to the December 1803 changes that became the standard type I Harpers Ferry 1803 Model. At the current time we adopt this terminology as this is a distinct weapon. There should be much more information coming out on this weapon this year.
We are offering this parts set copied from Rifle #15 because we believe it is one of the rifles carried on The Lewis and Clark Expedition and there are more than enough differences between it and the Type I production to make it a distinct model. Stock design is almost the same as Type I less the brass nose band. Hardware is noticeably different. Barrel is tapered and flared (swamped) front to rear. Rib is much lighter. Rear sight is totally different and the lock is more slender. We are also interested in producing an exact duplicate in a left hand version of this rifle if we get enough feedback on it, so let us know if you are interested.
|935||Set of Lock Castings||$125.00|
|935 AS||Assembled Lock||$295.00|
|935 LP||•Lock Plate||$18.95|
|935 TJ||•Top Jaw||$12.95|
|935 FS||•Frizzen Spring||$18.95|
|935 SS||•Sear Spring||$12.95|
|935 MS||•Main Spring||$18.95|
|935 TJSX||Top Jaw Screw||$9.95|
|935 LSS||Lock Screw Set||$19.95|
|935 BP||Butt Plate||$29.95|
|935 TG||Trigger Guard||$29.95|
|935 TP||Trigger Plate||$12.95|
|935 SP||Side Plate||$12.95|
|935 SLSX||Side Lock Screw (2 Needed)||$4.95|
|935 FT||Front Thimble||$10.95|
|935 MT||Middle Thimble||$10.95|
|935 RT||Rear Thimble||$12.95|
|935 RS||Rear Sight||$19.95|
|935 FRS||Front Sight||$9.95|
|935 PB||Patch Box||$29.95|
|935 PBB||Patch Box Button||$9.95|
|935 PBLVS||Patch Box Latch V-Spring||$10.95|
|935 PBDS||Patch Box Door Spring||$10.95|
|935 BRP||Breech Plug||$19.95|
|935 BK||Barrel Key||$9.95|
|935 BUL||Barrel Underlug||$5.95|
|935 TASX||Tang Screw||$4.95|
|935 BUR||Barrel Under Rib||$39.95|
|935 STDR||Stock & Parts Drawing||$14.95|
|935 RR||Ramrod 33" (Steel)||$49.95|
|935 PARTS||Parts Set with Set of Lock Castings||$895.00|
|935 PARTSAS||Parts Set with Assembled Lock||$995.00|
•Included in a Set of Lock Castings.