The Kentucky Rifle
The Kentucky rifle was a distinctly American gun, and in fact it is sometimes called the American rifle, especially by Europeans. Because it was developed in Pennsylvania by the German and Swiss colonists who settled there in some numbers after 1710, it has also frequently been called the Pennsylvania rifle. It received the name of Kentucky rifle, by which it is most commonly known today, because it was a very popular arm with the men who explored and settled the area that later became the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.
The Pennsylvania colonists who developed this rifle came from a part of Europe where rifles were a common weapon for hunters and gamekeepers. They brought this gun with them. It was a short rifle with a large bore and usually a patch box in the stock with sliding wooden lid. In this they kept the greased patches to be wrapped around the ball in loading, thus obtaining the tight fit necessary to take the rifling.
The conditions of the New World dictated changes in this design. The barrel was lengthened for better accuracy at long ranges. The caliber was reduced to conserve both lead and powder which were frequently in short supply. The patch box acquired a hinged cover of brass to replace the sliding wooden lid, a graceful drop gradually developed in the butt, and a new series of inlays and carved designs came into being. When all these changes had taken place there appeared a long, slender, and graceful rifle which at the same time was supremely accurate.
The evolution of the Kentucky rifle was slow. The first rifles made in Pennsylvania resembled the European antecedents. The earliest alteration was the lengthening of the barrel. Then the introduction of the brass patch box cover and a gradual reduction in caliber. By 1750 it had become a new type. But still its lines were distinctly European. The butt was quite straight and thick. The graceful drop in the butt came towards the end of the 18th century, and at the same time the practice in inlaying decorative plates of brass, silver, or pewter also became popular, reaching its height about the turn of the century. This was the Kentucky rifle at the zenith of its development. Thereafter a gradual decline set in. The rifle remained accurate, but architecture and decoration deteriorated.
The Kentucky rifle was primarily a civilian arm, designed for hunting and protection against Indians in forest fighting along the frontiers. It was not designed for military use in the formal warfare of its day, but nevertheless it did make its impact felt in the hands of light infantry, sharpshooters, and other special troops. The Battle of Kings Mountain is unique as a rifle victory in the Revolution, and. in conjunction with magnificent artillery action, the rifle helped win the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.—Harold L. Peterson
Winchester Model 1897 Shotgun
In 1890 Winchester Repeating Arms Co. of New Haven, Conn., purchased a patent from the Browning brothers of Ogden, Utah, covering a slide-action shotgun with visible hammer and side ejection. In June 1893 this shotgun was placed on the market as the Winchester Repeating Shotgun Model 1893. The Model 1893 did not prove entirely satisfactory for use with
Thomas E. Wessel of Whippany, N. J. is a technical illustrator long interested in firearms.
the smokeless powder shells then coming into popular use, thus its manufacture was discontinued in 1897.
In November 1897 Winchester offered an improved version of this shotgun designated Model 1897. Initial offering was in 12 ga., solid frame only. The takedown model in 12 ga. was added in October 1898, followed by the 16-ga. takedown in 1900. Various other grades and types were eventually introduced, including the 12-ga. Trench Gun issued to U. S. troops during World War I. This unique 20" barrel shotgun had a perforated metal barrel jacket and was adapted for use with rifle bayonet.
Until 1914 Damascus barrels were optionally available at extra cost for the Model 1897. Serial numbers were a continuation of the Model 1893 series, with the first Model 1897 gun bearing the number 34151. Manufacture of the Model 1897 was discontinued Jan. 1, 1957. Serial number of the last Model 1897 shotgun was 1024700 and it was shipped from the factory on Sept. 27, 1957.
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