TR on the “pea-rifle”

In reading Teddy Roosevelt’s “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman” last night I gleaned a bit of information I had not previously seen in print. It seems that the common bullet weight of the American Longrifle or “Kentucky Rifle” was approximately 100 grains. These rifles were the primary American hunting and military arms from about 1740 through the early 1800’s. In describing the difficulties of hunting Grizzly Bear and other large game with these weapons, Roosevelt says “These men carried but one weapon: the long-barreled, small-bored pea-rifle, whose bullets ran seventy to the pound…” There are 7000 grains to the pound, yielding the 100 grain weight. For comparison, a modern .32 ACP standard load according to the Hodgdon Data Manual uses a 71 grain bullet, while the standard 9mm Parabellum load is a 115 grain bullet. Interesting that TR considered that loading to be a “pea-rifle.”

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2 Responses to TR on the “pea-rifle”

  1. Rand says:

    When you consider that many muskets of the time of the Kentucky Long Rifle had calibers in the .57 and .58 range, it is a pea-rifle. For example, the Minie ball, primary rifle ammunition of the Civil war for both sides, was 480 grain, fired from .58 caliber muskets.

  2. sammy says:

    I am sure Randy is aware of this, but for those other readers who may not be, the MiniƩ ball was used in rifles as opposed to muskets as stated above. A musket is a smooth bore weapon while a rifle has a barrel which employs grooves, raised ribs, or bore shape to impart a spin to the projectile.

    Beyond that oversight, Randy is quite right. In Hunting Trips of a Ranchman TR affirms that “A rifle, to be of use in this sport, should carry a ball weighing from half an ounce to an ounce.” 480 grain is just over one ounce.

    Of course, the reason I made the point that it was called a pea-rifle is to draw comparison to the 55 to 77 grain projectile that our current military cartridge employs.

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