A tribute to the Corps of Discovery
2003 marked the beginning of the 200th anniversary of their
remarkable voyage. With the planning stage complete, May 2004 will
mark the beginning of the voyage that won't end until Sept. 2006.
I must feed my passion for history and enter into a voyage of my own.
Like the men in the Corps of Discovery, I, too, look forward to the
journey ahead, but I'm not sure just what I'm getting myself into.
It was while reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose last
year, that it suddenly hit me. Wouldn't it be nice if I, as a tribute, hung
my more modern black powder guns up and hunted strickly with a
flintlock from 2004 through to 2006. Now, the idea of building and
hunting with a flintlock wasn't exactly new for me. I've been tossing the
idea around since 1995. Even had a couple of false starts, but one thing
lead to another, and I just was not able to make things happen until I
read the book. The more I got into it, the more the fires burned within.
I want to do this, and I say here and now...
My black powder guns are cleaned and put up in the safe, tucked away
for now. From 2004 to 2006 and maybe beyond... I will hunt and bring
home beast or fowl by using a flintlock. Just like the men of the Corps
of Discovery, I will harvest my food with a flintlock or go hungry.
My goal this year is to bring home the venison with a 1792 Contract
Rifle. I will at some point build a 1803 Harpers Ferry, having most of
the parts already before finding out it may not have been the rifle used
by the Corps of Discovery. At some point I would like to build a fowler
and harvest winged game with it.
On March 16, 1803 Capt. Lewis arrived at Harpers Ferry to procure
rifles, accoutrements and other gear needed for the trip. There is much
discussion about what exactly were the rifles Lewis procured. Growing
up, everything I ever read, seen or heard about the expedition had the
1803 Harpers Ferry rifle as the rifle used by the men. But after doing
research for this tribute, I found that may not be true. The above
picture is one from the Harpers Ferry site which depicts a reproduction
1792 contract rifle. It's believed that 15 such rifles were taken out of
storage and modified with the then new Harpers Ferry type lock and
slings added per Capt. Lewis orders. The 1803 Harpers Ferry rifle did
not go into production until sometime after Lewis left Harpers Ferry.
He could have procured prototypes of the 1803, but highly unlikely.
Harpers Ferry itself acknowleges the extensive research Frank Tait has
done in identifying the 1792 as the rifle Lewis procured, and because of
that, now recognizes the 1792 rifle used by the Corps of Discovery.
So I need to procure my rifle and accoutrements. I hope to build and use
both, at least that is the plan. Right now I have settled upon a 1792
Contract rifle modified for the expedition. On the cold morning of Jan.
29, 2004 I have dispatched a horse and rider with funds to Virginia to
procure the necessary parts from Don Stith. While I await delivery, join
me in learning some things about the expedition. Spend some time at one
of our national treasures, Harpers Ferry. Some other links of interest.
Lewis and Clark took along an air rifle, scroll down at this site to Lewis
and Clark airgun. The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Inc.
Those interested in obtaining parts to build reproduction guns for this
period, I highly recommend the 1792 Contract parts put together by
Don Stith. Highly researched, his parts are a faithful reproduction of
the originals. Track of the Wolf offers a cheaper 1792 Contract kit but
this is a collection of parts taken from other kits and I'm not sure what
you'd have when done with it. Locks for the gun can be obtained from
almost any Muzzle loader parts supplier.
Village Restorations & Consulting, Inc can make faithful reproduction
What follows will be a documentation of the steps taken to complete my
rifle. It will not be a "how too" but rather a glimpse at what I did from
beginning to completion. There are alot of Longrifle artisans who build
some incredible Longrifles, they are the ones to look to for a "how too"
not me. Compared to them, I would be the water boy for the minor
leagues. So if I can do this, so can anyone else reading this and thinking
seriously of trying it.
I am armed with two very good books, Chuck Dixon's, The Art of
Building the Pennsylvania Longrifle and Peter Alexander's, The
Gunsmith of Grenville County. Hershel House's wonderful video from
American Pioneer Video, Building a Kentucky Rifle. A Man at Arms,
June 1999 magazine with Frank Tait's article on the 1792 Contract rifle.
Some sharp chisels, a collection of various hand tools, a small Delta drill
press and a strong desire to do this.
Once completed, I will continue to document my hunts for the next two
years. The good and the bad...
Future projects. A New England style Pistol. Also a French style rifle.
Hunting with the Corps of discovery
Holsters I've made