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NORTHWEST TRADE GUN BARREL – A VERY SCARCE RELIC OF THE GUNS TRADED TO THE INDIANS ON THE FRONTIER BY THE FAMOUS HUDSON’S BAY AND AMERICAN FUR COMPANIES:  Probably one of, if not the, most under appreciated firearm of the North American Frontier, the Northwest Trade Gun dates back to the earliest years of western expansion into the interior of the unexplored continent.  Arguably the most established and constant commodity of the fur trade, and traded to Native Americans and European trappers alike, the Northwest Trade Gun was manufactured for over 200 years with only minor changes in the pattern and specifications.  

While firearm technology certainly advanced, and for so many practical reasons the flintlock gave way to the percussion lock, and in turn the metallic cartridge dominated the market in the years following the Civil War, in reality no collection of firearms accumulated with the intent to represent American history can be considered complete without the inclusion of the Northwest Trade Gun.    

Long after Sam Colt and Oliver Winchester had dominated the frontier gun market; and Christian Sharps’ heavy rifles had gone silent when last of the large buffalo herds were gone, these simple muskets with their distinctive serpent side plates, oversized trigger guards, and octagon-to-round banded smooth bore barrels continued to be stocked in the inventory of remote trading posts.  Through the turn of the 20TH Century, they were carried into the mountain ranges, open plains, and vast deserts by the native people who relied on the Northwest Gun’s dependability, simple – and importantly, easily repaired – mechanics, and readily available ammunition.  In short, no other single firearm was carried through as much of American history, from the primeval forests of the east to the shores of the western coast, as were these Northwest Trade Guns.   

This relic Northwest Trade Gun Barrel was found along a water course in Nebraska in the 1960's.  The barrel measures just shy of 40” including the tang, and from all appearances retains its full length with no sign of shortening.  The bore measures .60 caliber, well within the standard bore diameter range of the trade guns.   

The drum and nipple screwed into the side of the barrel suggests it was part of a gun which was originally manufactured as a flintlock.  As was the case with so many of these guns, at some point in the period of its use it was converted to percussion by installing the drum and nipple and replacing the flint hammer and frizzen with a percussion hammer.   

The barrel has the typical trade gun octagon to round profile with the classic two sets of wedding bands at the transition.  The bands are still legible, but faint at some points as they pass into the bottom of the barrel due to the aging.  All three of the stock pin mounts are intact along the bottom of the barrel and the rear sight is still present.  Note that the muzzle end of the barrel has a definite bend in it.    

So far as firearm relics go, any surviving relic parts of a Northwest Trade Gun are note worthy due to their scarcity.  The harsh environments in which the guns were used - and lost - and the far reaches of the West in which they were carried, simply were not conducive to leaving a concentration of these relics to be found, and very few of these trade gun relics survive to be held in collections.  Possibly dating from the time before the Indians had access to the metallic cartridge guns, and certainly present during the active conflicts of the Indian War engagements in the west following the Civil War, this relic Northwest Trade Gun Barrel is a unique offering.  (1010)  $350


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