Hog rifle

Gene LGene L Senior MemberPosts: 10,321 Senior Member
I thought I'd posted this before, but apparently not. Some of you BP rifle guys may know about hog rifles. When I was a kid, my mother who grew up in Elijay, GA, used to talk about her brothers' rifles. This was in the muzzle-loading era, around 1900 or soon thereafter, kinda like the Sgt. York era. There were two type, squirrel rifles and hog rifles. I inferred that hog rifles were heavier caliber rifles since there were no deer up there then to require a "deer rifle." And feral or free-range hogs roamed around and were hunted sometimes.

My mother said the caps for these rifles were shaped like "a little top hat." From this, I also inferred that the hog rifles were probably formerly either Enfields or Springfields. Her father fought in the Civil War, but I'm pretty sure he deserted and came home. Or maybe, he deserted and turned into a member of the First Georgia US cavalry. Lots of not-strongly-committed in Gilmer County, GA back then.

Woodsrunner, maybe you can chime in on the hog rifle thing. I posted this on the muzzle loading board and got several answers, some that they were "small caliber" rifles, which they weren't, or they would have been squirrel rifles. So there was a division of uses for at least two styles of muzzle loaders.
Not too many problems you can't fix
With a 1911 and a 30-06


  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    I think it was fairly common for smiths of that time and earlier to canabalize military and civilian arms for parts.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • Wild TurkeyWild Turkey Member Posts: 78 Member
    My thoughts are the "squirrel" rifles would be more of the "Kentucky" or "Pennsylvania" long rifles, flintlocks in .30 to .45 calibers with "hog" rifles being shorter, larger bore, percussion cap rifles.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,429 Senior Member
    The important part of her description of the hog rifles is the "little top hat" percussion cap- - - - -musket caps! They're larger and more powerful than the usual #11 cap used on smaller-bore guns, and they have a flange at the opening that fits the nipple. My .577 Pattern 53 Enfield uses a musket cap, as did the Springfield .58 caliber which was standard-issue for the union army. Since us unrepentant rebels couldn't be trusted with anything rifled, surplus warehouses like Bannerman's in New York cut down the barrel length and forend on leftover Springfields, bored out the rifling, and sold them mail-order to the southern states as forager shotguns. They could still be loaded with an oversized ball, but the effective range was pretty limited. Those "hog" guns were probably modified and recycled military guns.
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 10,321 Senior Member
    The era I'm talking about it was all percussion rifles. And they were pretty long. I don't know about shorter, but definitely (I guess) larger bore. I think shorter rifles are the result of horseback requirements.

    I think the hog rifles my family used were military rifle muskets. Although they probably used round balls. My uncle Harley said his brother shot a squirrel with a squirrel rifle at "a good long hundred yards." So maybe they used the rifle muskets as shotguns, too. I wish I'd known more to ask the right questions then.

    My mother moved to Marietta, GA when she was about 14 or so, and used to go up on Kennesaw Mountain before it became a National Park. This would have been about 1920 or so. She said she could pick up a bucket of minie bullets...they were everywhere.

    Also, federal laws weren't worth much in NE GA in 1900. By which time I guess the gun laws had changed a lot, although my family never went unarmed.
    Not too many problems you can't fix
    With a 1911 and a 30-06
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Maybe just the locks were military.
    Or were converted to use musket caps to circumvent or capitolize on a supply situation.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • woodsrunnerwoodsrunner Senior Member Posts: 2,725 Senior Member
    Before I commented on this, I wanted to get my ducks in a row and make sure that I knew for a fact what I thought I knew. So I called a couple of very knowlegable friends in the Southern Mountain Rifle community to confirm my thoughts.

    Basically there is no difference in the rifles that could be and were referred to as "Squirrel Rifles and/or Hog Rifles. Both were/are caplock pieces built on the lines of Southern Mountain Rifles which is very distinctively different from other caplocks (or flintlocks) from other regions such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio etc. But, usually if a Southern Rifle was .40cal or larger, the term "Hog Rifle" was more often used. A large bore, .40cal or larger, was an exception in Southern Mountain Rifles, however. The most common bore seems to have been about .36cal or .38cal, and you'll find more of these two cals than you will .32 or .40+cals.

    The large bore pieces, almost always smoothbore caplocks of .58cal that were commonly used in the Deep South, were usually Springfields or other military rifled muskets that were reamed out smooth and sold dirt cheap as military surplus. Remember, it was a violation of the law for a Southern man to own a rifled piece until up close to the Spanish American War. The federal government sold many thousands of reamed out Springfields to former slaves to put meat on the table. We didn't have these up in the Mountains "whar I growed up", but I did see one owned and used by an "older'n dirt" Black man probably not 10 miles from where Gene lives. That was 50+ years ago when I was in forestry school at the UGA.

    A fellow named Jim Webb from Virginia (not the former senator Jim Webb from Virginia) is considered to be the authority on Southern Mountain Rifle construction and terminology. If you have further need or desire for info on this subject, pull him up on the web and see what he says about it.

    EDIT: Gene says his family never went unarmed.....Gene and I are from maybe 35-40 miles apart in North Georgia. I was reared by Grandparents, and my Grandad's Father had been a Confederate Soldier. My Grandad ALWAYS had a little .32cal revolver in the right rear pocket of the overalls he wore ever day of his life! Never used it....never had to....but it was there iffen he had to have it!
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 10,321 Senior Member
    Sounds about right. My memories come second-hand and were from around 1910 or so, and I don't remember hearing anything about shotguns, but a lot about hog RIFLES. And I believe they were surplus.

    I got the idea times were like the movie Sgt. York, roughly the same era and not too far from the same location. I think the proscription on rifles wasn't enforceable back in the mountains, especially where a helluva lot of the population was pro-Union. And the rest didn't much care about flat-lander laws.

    As for shotguns, I don't know where my ancestors would have gotten shot for them. They cast their own balls, but it's a long way from NE GA to a shot tower. As I said on another forum, they were so dirt poor my grandfather made shoes for the family. Lead balls could be and was recycled when possible, (reference Sgt. York) but I've never heard of shot being available. Nowadays, we're used to Fed Ex and going to the LGS and buying shot by the 25 pound bag, but I don't think that happened back then.
    Not too many problems you can't fix
    With a 1911 and a 30-06
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