How to Build a Flintlock Rifle: Selecting Parts for a Big-Bore Hawken
I would like to add another flintlock rifle to my collection of hunting rifles. I want a rifle for hunting big game, not just squirrels and such. A .58 caliber should do the job. A lead round ball is about 290 grains and conical projectiles are available in the 500-grain neighborhood, in case I want to hunt rhino or grizzly bear ... or something.
Why a flintlock? Why not just purchase a modern in-line muzzleloader? I have one. Or maybe a cap lock instead or a flintlock, or maybe a reproduction military musket? Flint locks are pretty. I could make a spear and don a loincloth and chase down some big game, but … I get enough of the feeling of using a primitive weapon when I hunt with a flintlock. You have to be a bit more careful in damp weather, and shooting accurately takes a little more practice, but they will get the job done, and in .58 caliber it should make a big boom.
A Bit of History of the Hawken Rifle
Brothers Jacob and Samuel Hawken moved from the East, where they were employed by the US Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, to Missouri ,and began producing rifles, shotguns and pistols in a small shop. The first documented J&S Hawken rifle was manufactured in 1831, and in that year and the year following they had orders for only 18 rifles each year. The bulk of the later firearms were caplock rifles but some of the earlier versions were flintlock rifles. The rifles were heavy barreled in calibers up to .60.
The Hawken rifle developed a reputation as a well made and reliable firearm. Legend has it that westbound fur trappers stopped in St. Louis to purchase a Hawken rifle before entering the western territories. But as these rifles sold for several times the price of the plentiful trade rifles of the day, it is probably not likely many trappers actually purchased a rifle in the Hawkens shop. Most mountain men wanted a Hawken but not many were initially outfitted with them.With the discovery of gold in California the demand for Hawken rifles increased and they became prized possessions. The sale of Hawken rifles eventually declined in the face of competition from military arms made by Colt and Sharps.
The Rifle I Want to Build
I’ve settled on a full stock Hawken style rifle with a fancy maple stock, iron hardware, and a 1" x 36” ,.58 caliber barrel. I will purchase this kit from Track of the Wolf.
Cost = $817
The cost is a little higher because I chose a fancy maple stock. It will show some curl and contrasting tiger striping.
But....If I want to reduce my budget, what can I do? I can purchase the important parts and make the rest. The important parts are the barrel, the lock, and (for me) a nice pre-carved, pre-inlet stock. Pre-inlet means that the lock is inlet, the barrel channel is carved, and the ramrod slot and hole are carved and drilled. The final fitting of the parts and the inletting of smaller parts are still required. On previous rifles I've built I did the inletting of the lock. It's not terribly difficult but takes some time and patience. For me a pre-carved stock ensures the rifle will end up pretty.
Below I've provided a list of parts and offered suggestions and savings for the parts you can make.
Parts List for a Homemade Big Bore Hawken Rifle
Dixie Gun Works
Green Mountain 1”x36” .58 barrel -$145
MP1110 Forged Flint Breechplug 3/4 X 16 Milled - $8.50
Track of the Wolf
Flint Hawken 1" slant faced breech & tang, 3/4-16 thread - $54.99
Hawken fullstock, pre shaped stock, pre-inlet,1" octagon, 38" barrel, L&R late English lock Plain maple - $175
Late English Flint Lock,right hand, with gooseneck cock,made in the USA, by L&R - $133
Sideplate,for Hawken or Plains Rifle,counterbored for 3/8" lock bolt head, steel - $2.00
Hawken Double Set Trigger, with curved front trigger, by L & R - $55.00
Triggerguard, Early Hawken Rifle, wax cast steel - $21.99
Lock Bolt, 6-32 thread, 3/8" diameter cylindrical head, 2" length $2.99
Tang Bolt Blank, 10-32 blank, 3/8" diameter head, 2-3/8" length $2.49
Early Hawken Rifle Buttplate, wax cast steel - $21.99
Hawken Ramrod Pipes,round, for 7/16" rod,wax cast brass or iron $9.99(1), $8.99(2)
Underlug for pin, milled brass, .640" dovetail $1.99(3)
Vent,Touch Hole Liner,3/8-32 thread, stainless steel,White Lightnin' $4.29
Square Blade Front Sight,wax cast brass - $8.99
Rear sight, adjustable Hawken style, with five step elevation riser, by L&R – $34.99
Ramrod, 5/16" hickory, 36" long, brass tip, 10-32 thread, made in the USA. - $12.99
Muzzle cap, H. E. Leman Indian Trade Rifle, for 1" octagon barrels, wax cast steel - $9.99
Below is a table with parts that can be made or substituted, shown in red. This assumes a stock blank which will need to be carved, have the barrel channel cut, the ramrod hole drilled and channel cut, and all the parts inlet. A big job, but it can be done. The trigger guard, butt plate and ramrod pipes can be made from steel or brass flat stock. The trigger is a basic, simple trigger with a heavy pull. The rear sight is fixed.
Of course if I absolutely had to have this rifle, and could not afford the extra $300, I could choose the cheaper parts and method I've outlined. I'm sure the cheaper rifle would be a pleasure to build. But the kit rifle with the pretty stock, adjustable sights, and set triggers will be even more pleasurable to shoot. If you consider this a rifle to keep for your lifetime and perhaps pass on, then the extra $300 doesn't seem like too much.
- How to Build a Flintlock: The Basics
My recollections of building a Tennesse Flintlock Longrifle.