Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Northwest Trade Gun and other
Trade Arms:
These guns included the Fusee, Northwest Gun, and the Indian Rifle.  These were long guns produced for trade with the Indians.  Although they were far less costly than rifles, they were nonetheless quality firearms.  

The Northwest Gun or Northwest Trade Gun was probably the most popular flintlock smoothbore gun in the wilderness.  This style was first described as early as the later half of the 1700’s.  The Northwest gun was also called the London Fusil, Hudson’s Bay Fuke, and the Mackinaw Gun.  These long-guns were generally available in .60 caliber with a full stock.  They had an oversized trigger guard, supposedly to facilitate shooting with gloves or mittens.  The Northwest Gun lacked decorative carvings and brass inlays, although a brass serpent used as a screw sideplate was a trademark of this type of gun.  Another feature common on the Northwest Gun was a sitting fox stamped on the lock plate.  The fox faced either right or left depending on the manufacturer.  The fox convinced some Indians of the good quality of this gun.  
Most of these guns were manufactured in England, but creditable imitations were manufactured in the United States by the early 1800’s.  Interest by the Indians in rifled long guns was not widespread until the early 1800’s when a demand for the increased accuracy and range of rifled firearms developed.  Indian Rifles were essentially a plain Kentucky style rifle with modifications to the stock.  Calibers ranged from .38 to .52 caliber, generally with a flintlock ignition system.  Later Indian Rifles were made with either percussion or flintlock ignition systems.    
For more information about the trade guns see also:
Gooding, S. James, Trade Guns of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1670-1970.  Published by Museum Restoration Service, Alexandria Bay, NY. 2003.  Follows the development of the trade gun and Northwest Trade Gun in particular from the late 1600’s through to the 1900’s.