The Kentucky Rifle -- an American classic
In the early 1700's, the border of civilization in the American colonies was at Lancaster, Pa. It was at this place that the first truly accurate and serviceable rifle the world had ever seen was developed.
The colonists from central Europe had brought with them the military arms. These were usually cumbersome devices with propelled big 75 caliber balls. These guns were inaccurate and unreliable. They were completely unadapted to the colonists on the frontier, where wild animals roamed, uncontrolled and untamed. Actually, the wild game was a hindrance to the expansion of civilization and exploring the lands beyond established settlements. There were wild game drives that killed many animals. The Native American Indians resented this, as the colonists were interfering with their means of maintaining livelihood.
Frontiersmen confronted the problem
Among the colonists from Germany, Austria, France and other European countries, there had come men with inventive skills. The need for a portable firearm, light and handy was needed. One that could be carried all day and was ready when needed. An accurate rifle for taking game for food, warding off hostile Indians or dangerous animals. Pennsylvania frontiersmen were enterprising gunsmiths, and they set up crude rifle shops in the rolling countryside beyond the Delaware River. The thick Jaeger barrels of Europe were replaced by lighter, thin tubes made of Damascus steel. Wood stocks were made of curly maple, walnut or cherry wood. One invention led to improvements on it, and a new style of rifle was born. Created, was the word rifle.
The patched ball
Some forgotten gunsmith, perhaps by accident, hit upon the idea of the patched ball. A round ball, smaller than the inner diameter of the bore was wrapped in a piece of greased buckskin or linen cloth. Black powder was poured into the muzzle, and the patched ball was rammed in place atop the powder. Firing was accomplished by placing powder onto a pan, which was ignited by a flint, which in turn, ignited the powder charge. Ignition was a delayed affair, but the rifle was surprisingly accurate and fairly reliable. Light and portable, it kept hostile Indians in check and dispatched big and small game.
Gunsmiths formed a guild
No one made a complete rifle. Some gunsmiths made locks, others the barrels. Some made stocks. Rifle smiths gathered the best products from each and larger shops began assembling completed rifles. The Continental Congress called on men to begin penetration beyond the established settlements, and men set forth from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, pushing westward toward the Mississippi River. Towns like St. Louis sprang up.
The Continental army had no established armory. Colonial gunsmiths made arms for Washington's rag tag army, but had the accurate lightweight rifles completed by a cottage industry. The British had long, cumbersome arms, which were no match for the homemade product of frontier Pennsylvania.
Once the independence of the colonies had been achieved, exploration began in earnest. The first adventurers were Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and many more. The rifles they carried became known as "the Kentucky rifle," but actually they came mostly from Pennsylvania. The Kentucky rifle developed and improved. Soon there were better sights, set triggers of ingenious design, and improved ignition, finally fixed ammunition.
The American flintlock, or Kentucky rifle, varied from a length of 50 to 77 inches. The Lyman Brothers made aperture rear sights in Connecticut.
Riflemen with exceptional skills toured the frontier. They attracted eager crowds, and rifles were sold to the general population. The Kentucky rifle made it possible for families to gather supplies and provisions, hitching a team of horses and striking toward the west in a covered wagon. The rifle provided birds, both small and large game, and protection to ward off Indians and the badmen which came to be on the trail. The Kentucky, in its years of development, served the colonists and frontiersmen well. It was the forerunner of the early carbines invented later by Burgess, Spencer and others. Competitive shooting matches were held and records kept, proving the accuracy and function of the Kentucky rifle. Many of its pioneering innovations are, to this day, part of the basic function of firearms. The Kentucky rifle was ft gem in its day.
The Labrador retriever
There are many theories as to the origin of this very popular breed of sporting dog. It is well known that they were introduced into England, from Labrador, but there still exists some doubt as to which species of Newfoundland they stem from. It was not until about 1930 that this splendid breed began to appear in the kennels of America. After a licensed Labrador trial was held in New York State in 1931, the Labrador has conquered the hearts of sportsmen and has held this position, numerically and a view to quality. He is popular in every state as he can handle most all of the established demands of hunting. Some don't like his dead black color, but his performance as a flushing or a retrieving breed is unexcelled.
Labs are strongly built, gaining most of their size in a year. The coat is short and cockle burrs, sand burrs, and weeds are easily removed after his eager plunges into icy waters.
As a retriever, he is unexcelled, although the Chesapeake Bay retriever is also excellent. There is a distinct color phase, which runs to yellow. Retriever breeders were prominent in the 1930 eras, with many located in upper New York State. These were men who knew quality in a breed, and they did well in developing qualities important to waterfowling sportsmen. Sportsmen who simply put these dogs into that sporting area discovered the deeds on the grainfields, in search of upland game such as prairie chicken, pheasant, and sharptail grouse, in labs.
The American Kennel Club established the lab as a species in 1931, and the first American Field Championships were held.
The Labrador retriever is an ideal family dog. He will hunt for his master in the fall and will guard his kids the rest of the year. Young children have nothing to fear from this breed. Labs will put up with all of the pummeling kids will give him. When he tires of this he'll merely, and quietly, move to another area of the house with never a snarl, snap or bite. His eagerness to plunge into water or hunting cover is well known. He will enter a kennel in the hunting rig without coaxing and is always eager and aware of the task expected of him. His general appearance is that of a short coated, strong animal with dependable and trustworthy nature. Hunters, breeders, wives, and kids alike love labs. The average lab will weigh about 80 pounds and will stand at 22 inches at the shoulder.
Many are the times when I've been afield or in a duck blind with a lab and always pleased with the performance of this dog.