“From a flat bar of soft iron, hand forged into a gun barrel; laboriously bored and rifled with crude tools; fitted with a stock hewn from a maple tree in the neighboring forest, and supplied with a lock hammered to shape on the anvil, an unknown smith, in a shop long since silent, fashioned a rifle which changed the whole course of world history, made possible the settlement of a continent, and ultimately Freed our country of foreign domination.” –John G. W. Dillin, Media, Pennsylvania, September 1st 1924
The American, or Kentucky Rifle, as it is popularly known, was produced along the expanding western frontier of our nation. It is still produced today, but its “golden age” was from the American Revolution to the turn of the 19th century. “The advent of percussion ignition, interchangeable parts, and an emerging American industrial complex during the first half of the 19th century pretty much made custom made flintlock rifles, and therefore the classic American longrifle, a thing of the past.” http://www.americanlongrifles.com/american-longrifle-kentucky-rifle-story.htm
The American longrifle was modeled on a German rifle manufactured beginning in 1725. It came into fame during the Battle of New Orleans, where it was vital to the American victory on January 8, 1815. Samuel Woodworth immortalized the rifle–and the Kentuckians who carried it– in the song The Hunters of Kentucky.
Its golden age is generally accepted to be the period from the end of the American Revolution to the turn of the 19th century.
A rifle is not a specific weapon, but the method of carving or “rifling” inside the barrel, which spins the lead ball or bullet and tremendously improves distance and accuracy. Though the Kentucky Long Rifle of the 1800s was a muzzleloader, it held the distinction of being the most accurate long-range gun for several decades. And the longer the barrel, the more gunpowder can be used, and that meant longer shots. During the American Revolution, a British office became interested in the American rifle after his bugler’s horse was shot out from under him in battle from a distance that he personally measured at 400 yards. That’s four football fields!
The rifles were carried into the frontier (at that time Kentucky) by the longhunters, trappers and explorers. Typically a slender full stock flintlock rifle of about .50 caliber, which is a very large ball of lead, the rifle was often made of curly maple, with a 42 to 46 inch barrel. Add a stock, patchbox, and all the trigger mechanisms, and you have a rifle that was 5 ½ to 6 feet in length.
The most famous user of the Kentucky longrifle was Daniel Boone. “He was a skilled hunter, trapper, and trailblazer. During the early days of westward expansion, Boone’s explorations helped open the frontier to new settlements. In 1799, he led his family and other settlers across the Mississippi River into land populated by Native Americans but claimed by Spain. Boone spent the last twenty years of his life in what is now Missouri.” –The State Historical Society of Missouri