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 A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....

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Buck Conner
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PostSubject: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....   February 16th 2018, 10:39 am

SUBJECT: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....

Every time the subject of the NW Trade Gun comes up you'll find everyone is an expert and when questioned about the parts that make up one of these guns most don't have a clue as to what was really correct. Most of the "in-the-know" talkers are just repeating what was passed down from another with his knowledge coming from another and so on. 

This has always been a sore point for me and the so called living history groups. With a little research (now available on-line), how easy is that? You don't have to go to a library and spent hours just getting to the subject matter of your searching for.

Those that are dedicated to such areas just grit their teeth with some remarks or written statements that are not even close to the subject in question. 

The NW Trade Gun is a good example for posting this topic. There are a few so called experts telling everyone on the Internet about "correctness" for the "wedding bands" seen on these modern gun barrels. They really need to do a little research before making statements showing they hadn't even tried to be close to being correct.

We have heard issues with the modern barrels being offered for NW guns today making me do a little search on the Internet about the location of the "wedding bands" to be sure I gave the correct information. 

It's interesting how the different barrel maker families produced their products for the cottage industry in Europe back in the day.  Yes this was where the term "cottage industry" started, not the 60's hippies as most think. From the 1600's through the 1800's families in Europe and North America worked in this manner. One family group where suppliers of wood blanks, another family sawed out the stock blanks, another group supplied barrels, locks, misc. hardware and so on. Then those pieces would go to those different firms to assemble the firearm, such was the case for the NW Trade Gun. These firms in the early days didn't have time to build every little piece, the reason for the cottage industry idea as they were producing these guns in the tens of thousands offered over the whole world. Cheaply made, easy to assemble, no frills, just a plain working gun for everyone no matter what color the skin. It wasn't until H.E. Leman and others got into the game with their modern day assembly methods for producing everything needed that the industry changed.

Now back to the "Wedding Bands" seen on the barrels of these guns and on some other firearms of better quality.

Today it seems what we think is the norm or standard location of the "bands" on the barrels really isn't true. I searched the old records and microfiche available and couldn't find a set standard when looking at both our government and proofing house contracts. These bands were located in a number of configurations - they run all over the place when looking at dozens of different guns built. 


If you use the entry hole on the forearm for the ramrod as your line for viewing the wedding band location on the barrel, you'll see how the bands go different directions (no set standards).


Thank you for the time.

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Randy Johnson



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PostSubject: Re: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....   February 16th 2018, 11:14 am

Kinda shopping around for NW trade guns recently and the search has led to a few articles on originals. I have come to the conclusion that, while there was a general style, NW guns could vary a great deal. Kind of like Ohio/Indiana rifles.
What I would like to find, but haven't, is evidence that some were sold east of the Mississippi as sort of an early 19th century version of hardware store shotguns. There probably wouldn't have been a lot of surplus military stuff available but there has always been (metaphorically speaking) a market that prefers Blue Grass Hardware to Stevens and Winchester.
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Buck Conner
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PostSubject: Re: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....   February 16th 2018, 11:37 am

My family have been collectors of antique anything, guns included for 100 years. The NW Trade Guns back East are often called "squirrel rifles" by antique dealers. 

These guns were originally traded in the eastern colonies (New England states) and eastern Canada decades before moving west. Some of the earliest trade guns were sold in the 16th century and as time went by became a single shot break open shotgun made by Harrison & Richards with HBC stampings only markings (1950 era). There are standards and proofing house requirements that had to meet European and our government contract requests. These are strict guidelines that were always followed for the configuration of these firearms.

I have written several books, newsletters and reports on the NW Trade Gun over the years, was at the Museum of the Fur Trade every other month visiting with Charles E. Hanson, Jr. gathering information for my next project. You mentioning hardware stores, Edward K. Tryon Hardware - Phila. PA founded in the mid 1850's and still in business today supplied NW Trade Guns to the traders and later the westward movement, as did several other eastern firms. Is that far enough East for you ...

I'm picking up a GRRW Collectors Association H.E. Leman NW Trade Gun on Saturday in Roosevelt UT. This is a copy of an original early Leman gun seen at different museums back east and as far west as Denver over a 4-5 year period before being purchased and retiring to a private collection. It's a small caliber (50 cal.) with early nailed butt plate, early style lock details and forward wedding bands (common on early guns). Once in hand I'll provide some pictures of several of these guns we have built in the last few months at GRRW.CA.

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strong eagle



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PostSubject: Re: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....   February 17th 2018, 3:10 pm

waksupi builds really good ones. you can find him on cast boolits. if you want the real thing call or write the people who run the fur traders museum at chadron nebraska. they have dozens and dozens of them. i dont agree with their policy, as they sell off stock to keep the place running. im sure they will sell you one. for a couple of years they had a russian belgium made side lock for their army. it was heavy but i never ever saw a better made side lock. looked for it the next year, they sold it off. they now have a perfect condition in the white 50/70 springfield conversion. suppose they will sell it off. it is like new. if i had the money i would buy it. i think they have more trade guns of every barrel length you could ever see. dozens and dozens of them.
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Buck Conner
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PostSubject: Re: A few facts on the NW Trade Guns....   February 18th 2018, 8:32 am

@strong eagle wrote:
waksupi builds really good ones. you can find him on cast boolits. if you want the real thing call or write the people who run the fur traders museum at chadron nebraska. they have dozens and dozens of them. i dont agree with their policy, as they sell off stock to keep the place running. .......... i think they have more trade guns of every barrel length you could ever see. dozens and dozens of them.


Make that hundreds of trade guns from all around the world. Several times a year the staff high grades those guns to keep the best for the public to view. In the back room they have parts, junkers and misc pieces to be used to give you the best viewing experience of what each maker produced at the time. I have purchased, traded or swapped items there upgrading our collections as well as reducing some items that weren't as good as the one available. It's not only money, its keeping the best possible (whatever) for their inventory and in the displays. What you see in the cases is only a small part that's in their inventory.


For one of the best books on the NW Trade Gun see For Trade and Treaty, Firearms of the American Indians, 1600 - 1920, by Ryan R. Gale. We sold Track several of the NW guns in Ryan's book who now owns those guns.

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