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Backwoodsman magazine was started in 1980 and is published bi-monthly. We are dedicated to preserving Old Frontier living, primitive hunting and fishing, tool and weapons lore, and wilderness survival. Each issue includes articles, information and how-to projects associated with this unique period of North American history.

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  • How to build shelter, canoes, firearms and bow-and-arrows
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September/October 2016 Featured Article

The TC
Hawken Rifle


by Robert Dunn

Though I didn't find my Hawken rifle in the dead frozen hands of Hatchet Jack, I do own a .50 caliber Hawken "Plains Rifle". Firearms have always been a big part of my life. Learning their history by reading, watching television and movies is something that I still do and firearms are a big part of that history here in what is left of the United States. When I was young, shortly before moving to Colorado I saw the movie, Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford. At the beginning of the movie, it was said of Jeremiah Johnson, "He was looking for a Hawken gun, .50 caliber or better. He settled for a .30, but damn it was a genuine Hawken, you couldn't go no better!" The timing couldn't have been better, as I carried the memories of that movie with me on all of my adventures in the Rocky Mountains I too felt like a "greenhorn" when I first explored my new surroundings. I've had that quote from the movie rolling around in my head for literally decades and recently, I had a chance to buy a left-handed Thompson/Center "Renegade" Hawken muzzleloader and I took it! The name Hawken rifle, has become a generic term for numerous black powder rifles with certain characteristics, sort of like referring to all types of cotton swaps as Q-tips. These days, a Hawken rifle is a half stocked double trigger muzzleloader that is between .45 to .58 caliber, has a short heavy barrel and is built for purpose with very little ornamentation... a gun that is more of a cherished tool than a prized heirloom possession.


To read the rest of this article, order the Sept/Oct 2016 issue online