Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Pennsylvania-Kentucky Style Rifles:

The Kentucky/Pennsylvania Rifle were the earliest rifled long guns used by the Mountain Men.  The Kentucky/Pennsylvania rifle was a very long, shoulder-fired gun, generally with a barrel length of 40-46 inches.  This elegant and graceful gun had a full stock (a stock which extended to the muzzle of the rifle), with brass inlays, and elaborate carvings.  The caliber of these rifles generally ranged from .35 to .50.  Although extremely accurate, this gun was not the ideal firearm for the mounted trapper-trader in the Western wilderness.  With their narrow wrist they were a relative fragile weapon.  The muzzle heavy rifle could be difficult to load, and was clumsy to handle, especially while in the saddle, on rough trails, or in thick brush.  The relatively small caliber proved to be ineffective against grizzly bear, and buffalo, and didn’t always produce the desired results with relatively smaller animals, deer, or elk, or hostile Indians. Gradually rifle preferences evolved toward simpler, more durable, rifles with greater stopping power.  

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