J&S Hawken Rifles
notion has the Hawken Rifle synonymous with the Plains
Rifle and indeed the reputation of the Hawkens brothers is most
closely tied to that short-barreled, heavy-caliber, half-stock style
rifle. However, as gunsmiths whose efforts extended over more than
30 years, the style of the guns they produced evolved along with the
tastes and needs of their customers, both those in the fur trade and in
the local community in which they lived. Thus a "Hawken"
could be anything from an iron mounted Kentucky style rifle, to either a
full-stocked or half-stocked plains rifle, or something in between.
The Hawken brothers also produced smoothbore long-guns, shotguns, and
pistols. Records which show "Hawken" rifles in fur trade
inventories should not be taken as "Plains Rifles", but were
more likely a percussion, full-stocked Kentucky style rifle.
Although "Plains" style rifles were built as early as the early 1820's, this
style did not become all the rage until in mid 1840's, after the end of
the fur trade era. The production in the Hawken shop peaked around
the time of the Gold Rush in 1849 at about 200 rifles per year. The
Hawkens pioneered the production of a superior percussion rifle by the
early 1830's, however, by frontier standards this was an exceedingly expensive
rifle, running from $20-$28 in 1831. This was double to triple the
cost of a good quality trade rifle at that time.
All evidence shows that the Hawken was not the typical gun in the
wilderness during the 1820-1835 time period, whereas during the 1840-1855
time period it was the standard firearm.