Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Iconic Northwest Trade Gun

Used longer and more widely than any other firearm in American history and was the primary firearm of the fur trade from the late 17th century through the end of the 19th century. Most were manufactured by gunmakers in Birmingham and London.

This long period of use means they were introduced before the iconic Brown Bess muskets and American long rifles and were still being produced well after metallic cartridges and repeating firearms were introduced in the mid-19th century.

Nearly all have plain full length stocks, light smoothbore barrels of fairly small size (16 and 20 gauge fairly common), oversized iron trigger guards and triggers, some say for mittened hands while others say for use with a two finger pull, brass side plates with serpent/dragon motifs, front sight blades, and flat buttplates fitted with nails early on and then screws for much of the era. Some, like this example, were fitted with notch rear sights for improved sighting. Standard barrel lengths early on were between 3 1/2 and 4 feet. Later, shorter lengths were more desired, and many older pieces were shortened in the period either to make them easier to use in brush, canoes(?), or on horseback or because of damage.
These guns were utility pieces useful for hunting fowl, small game, deer, and even larger game as well as for combat.

This example has blade and notch sights, no visible maker's marks, a circle "sitting fox" stamp on the lock (generally associated with the Hudson Bay Co. but also copied by others), smooth stock with tear drop flats and nail fitted buttplate, and the standard large trigger guard bow and serpent/dragon themed brass side plate.


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