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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rusty Old .54 'Santa Fe'...

Here of late I seem to be getting downright picky, about what I want in a rifle. I have specific ideas about what I want to accomplish with it; how I want it to handle and yes, how I want it to look. I expect a rifle to have some soul beyond the sights and the trigger and the hole it makes in the target. My wife, God bless her, understands my weaknesses and when she heard about this rifle, she sent me an email saying "BUY! BUY! BUY! Happy Father's Day Honey!!!" There is no doubt that I've found a treasure in her.

But the subject at hand is a rifle and this one was purchased for no other reason than the fact that it exactly fits my concept of what a muzzle-loader should be. I had been trolling for one, ever since we gave our son Josh the 'Springfield Hawken'. I have handled and put down a half-dozen in-lines that I could have bought right during the off-season, and they do have their utility- but I wanted my personal front-stuffer to have some panache, as Skeeter Skelton would say. The reproduction guns closest to my ideal rifle were the Jonathan Browning Mountain Rifle or maybe the Lyman Plains...I knew I wanted iron furniture, a browned barrel, and the 'mountain rifle' feel.

On Monday I made my usual buzzard-swoop of the pawn shop, to see what treasures had arrived over the weekend. The pistol case produced nothing and I let my eye wander the long gun rack- and WAY down on the far end I caught the lines of a Mountain Man gun. It took about one hands-on minute to sell me this gun, which appears to have been a kit version of the Track of the Wolf 'Santa Fe Hawken' or the Dixie 'Rocky Mountain Hawken' Mine appears to be the latter by Pedersoli, right down to the rear sight.

The finished guns with nice wood go for about five bucks shy of a grand. I got this one for about what the set triggers alone, would have cost you from Dixie.

The gun was not without its warts; the ramrod was missing, the 'brown' is almost rust in places and the wood isn't nearly as pretty as the linked examples. While the previous owner (a mountain-man reenactor) had let the finish go 'authentic', he gave at least moderate care to the bore and he added some 'tack-work'. This is a nice touch for a period recreation of this type. Markings are all but non-existent in its present state, but a little light cleaning may produce some. I did find a “54 caliber” and “Made in Italy” on a barrel flat, under the stock. 'Santa Fe', as I have dubbed her, is actually pretty good example of what a man might have carried between 1840-1870.

The old gun came with a load in it and once I got the rusted-shut nipple out, I primed the drum and installed an old Hot Shot nipple I had laying around. It fired on the first try and even gave good ignition with a few charges of Triple Seven. This rifle has the direct-feed nipple that angles right in to the main charge- and whoever fitted the lock managed to center the hammer fall on the nipple exactly on the nipple. Of course I had no 54 ball on hand, so the first few fired were with double-patched 50 ball. Needless to say, no groups were fired but I did manage to center a bean can offhand, at about 60 paces. The set triggers functioned

Range Time

With some Hornady .530 ball in hand, I was itching to see if this thing would shoot. But it's rained for days and my range road is swamped. I wasn't carrying a folding table, etc down there so I shot from a $5 plastic lawn chair... I never did get what you'd call a righteous 'cheek weld'. The damn 'skeeters were biting like piranhas. Starting load was 75 grains of Triple-Seven, CCI #11 'Magnum' caps and the patches were some old store-bought which I soaked in vegetable oil- way too much, as it turns out. Ignition was perfect however and the report was sharp & quick. Shooting was at 100 yards.
The plain holes left & right of the bull were ranging shots. Then I hunkered down & fired 3 more, shown in blue, for the actual group which measures 5 inches.

I think with decent conditions, a good rest & proper patches this old gun will really shoot. I've got some 2F Black coming and for me at least, it usually shoots better than the substitutes. If not, the rifle will still work fine for game shooting to 100 yards. It shoots a tad left with this load; might be dead center with the 2F. I'm real happy with what I've got here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you grow tired of that, let me know:-)
Rob of AK

Friday, June 13, 2008 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Sarge said...

HA! I ain't selling no guns to no shady Nanook boat pilot;)

BTW I really enjoyed the pics of your maritime hunting & fishing expedition...looks like I left the Land of the Midnight Sun, too soon.

Monday, June 30, 2008 10:13:00 PM  

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