What were the most common "Indian" rifles?
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Thread: What were the most common "Indian" rifles?

  1. #1
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    What were the most common "Indian" rifles?

    Indian as in Lakota, Cree, Apache, Cherokee...

    What were the most common arms used by the various tribes from Colonial times to the end of the "Indian Wars" at Wounded Knee?

    If any of you have examples or photos to share, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks, Guy
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  2. #2
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    No photos, but from the reading I've done, the correct answer is "whatever they could get their hands on". When you talk from colonial times through the end of the Indian wars, you're covering a lot of territory. I do know the smoothbore trade gun was quite popular through colonial times right up to the Civil War times. Simple, could shoot buck or ball or both, easy to maintain and inexpensive. Even among European settlers, this style of firearm was far more common as a working man's gun than the fine longrifles.

    I've seen later photos of native Americans with all sorts of lever actions, spencer carbines, sharps, 1861 Springfields, flintlocks and goodness only knows what. I'm not absolutely sure we could say what was the most common as I think it depends on era and location. I do believe over the years, the smoothbore Trade gun would have to rank up there pretty high as one of the most popular, if not the most popular.

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    I've attached an article on the Battle of Little Bighorn. 2,361 cartridges, cases and bullets were recovered from the site which reportedly came from 45 different firearm types.

    Battle of Little Bighorn: Were the Weapons the Deciding Factor

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  5. #4
    Gun Wizard
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    From what I have been able to read, the Indians of the plains liked the rimfire repeating rifles, when they could get them. The digs at the Little Big Horn battle sites seem to agree with that. I have also read that the Indians found a way to reload and "re-charge" the used rimfire brass. I would like to know a lot more about this myself.
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  6. #5
    "Opinionated Texan" Marlin Fanatic
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    They usually wound up with what was being faded out.

    When the 1892 Winchester came out, the traders sold them 1860 Henrys & 1866 Winchesters.
    Many carried Spencers. So far as I understand it, 94's weren't that common, although several
    have been sold at auction as certified Indian reliques. But if you think about it, it makes sense,
    The Plains Indians were for the most part defeated by the late 1890's, which is when these rifles
    would have been widely available in the west.
    Here is an interesting link:
    Weapons of the Plains Indians
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  7. #6
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    What about pre-colonial? The Natives used guns from French, Irish, and Spanish well before English Colonial latecomers came to America.
    Last edited by HighPriest; 10-26-2013 at 11:02 PM.
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  8. #7
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    I would wonder just how many pre colonial guns the Indians could have had, as powder was an item in short supply even for the "gringos" coming in. But the Lewis and Clark dairies mention the odd trade musket if memory serves. We all talk about making BP from the three common ingredients, but GOOD BP takes a little more quality control than just mixing the charcoal, Potassium Nitrate and sulphur together in the appropriate qtys.

    I used to shoot a bit of BP way back, and my first complete gun built, was a Southern "PoorBoy" style flint lock. Ol Daniel Boone or Hawkeye either one, would have had about 4 arrows in his backside given any amount of moisture in the air, should Mr Murphy have tagged along on the trip. Point being, I seriously doubt the Indians lined up to give away their trusted weapons, for a Match lock, or even flint lock trade musket the first couple of years they came around.

    As others have mentioned, the digs at the Big Horn, as well as other areas, and known camps, they certainly did not have any given issued piece, they ran the gamut from Trapdoors, Henrys, and no doubt Winchester 66 and likely what ever else they had captured, or traded for over the years.

    I am now cursing myself, cant find two books that discussed some of the above. One was a Winchester numbers book, I believe by Campbell, that compared pricing for all the popular Wins over the years, to present, showing their relative value to gold, and it gave their original cost. Even then, lever action guns were not cheap in comparison to a daily wage, thus military surplus single shots, often bored smooth, likely settled the west as much as any famed "cowboy" rifle ever did.

    The other was "The Gun", author I dont recall, but a recent publication. It gave historical data from various sources, as too what BP sold for "on the street", as well as prices of cased ammo per round, once it got much west of the KA state line, it had built up quite a bit of 'shipping" costs. And it was often about as rare as ammo is now. I dont recall the numbers, but remember thinking that I had no clue as it would have been that expensive. At the price given, no one shot rabbits or squirrels for the lunch every day, when a snare would have worked just as well.

    And now, unless they are in my basement, I cant find either book! I am going to have to bring back my policy of NEVER loaning a book to anyone, friends, enemies, my family no one!!!
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    Does it occur to those that believe that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, may be because that guy takes the time to take care of his grass?

  9. #8
    Sooth Sayer #1 Contributing Member
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    Depends on the time frame ,At Custers defeat they out gun the US Armys 1873 trapdoors with ,Henrys 1860,yellowboys 1866, and a few 73 Winchesters. Most Inidan police were supplied Remington pistols,1875s and then later 1890s and almost all were nickeled. Being that most Indians were well known for not taking care of there firearms( My grandpa was like that) and the army thought they'd last longer. The plains tribes were bad about removing the crescent steel or brass butt stock and use them for fleashing hides. They'd wrap leather or hide on the ends for butt pads. In earlier days most Indians preferred muskets even when others were out. They could find flint,Powder was easy enough to get and lead for casting. And at times used rocks as ball. Once self contained ammo was common they started to come around. When Geronimo surrendered he was wearing a nickeled and engraved colt 45 that had been sent to NY from the factory only a year before That's something, that somehow it got to his hands in that short of time. He also was carrying a rare silver washed Winchester 73. Very fine arms indeed, but most photos of him is with trapdoors.. As for as the Cherokees, which is my Moms people. They tended to carry mostly newer and better because they were one of the civilized tribes. And until the trail of tears, were as wealthy or more so than the whites they admired so until tricked out of most of there wealth. They lived in houses ,farmed,ranched, owned black slaves, built roads,schools, even banks and such. But were fine warriors as well. Ive got a couple books on the subject. Not here but in Enoree. One I just showed RB Rider when he came to visit me Thursday titled the Great Guns. If you want to borrow it and any of the others, Ill gladly loan em to ya. And mail em out probably Monday. I don't mind a bit and if something happens to em(which Im sure want) its no big deal. If I was there I would have my books to go to and tell ya more. But Im at this one now. Just let me know. Randy,
    Guns dont kill people.Dads with pretty Daughters do..

  10. #9
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    There are several diary entries by traders, scholars, and military officers stating that in the southern colonies by the mid to late 1700's that the indians had completely abandoned the smoothbore in favor of "rifled guns".

    According to most references cited in 'colonial frontier guns' rifles where much more common than conventional history would have us believe.

    Later out west I have seen pictures of indians armed with just about any gun you could expect a white person to be armed with.
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  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by HighPriest View Post
    What about pre-colonial? The Natives used guns from French, Irish, and Spanish well before English Colonial latecomers came to America.
    You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Thank you.

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