One of the black powder rifles which I've been interested in for many years has been the Lyman Trade Rifle, which is made in Italy by Investarms. This is a half-stock, percussion muzzleloader similar to other sidelocks which were very popular before modern inlines took over most of the muzzleloading market. Unfortunately, while Lyman offers left handed Great Plains Rifles and Deer Stalker rifles, they do not offer the Trade Rifle in southpaw format.
A few years ago I noticed that Cabela's sells a rifle that they call a "Traditional Hawken." It actually bear little resemblance to original 19th Century Hawken rifles, but I noticed that it bears a striking resemblance to the Lyman Trade Rifle. It turns out that it, too is made by Investarms. In fact, the Cabela's Traditional Hawken is basically the same as a Trade Rifle, with the addition of double-set triggers, a cap box on the stock, and different sights. Best of all, it's available in left hand configuration. Early last week I decided to take advantage of the 5% cashback I get with Cabela's for ordering after clicking through my Discover Card account page, and a Father's special that Cabela's was running on shipping. The Big Brown Truck dropped off my new rifle last Thursday. A couple of pictures of my rifle are here.
The rifle I ordered is in .50 caliber with a percussion lock. It came with an Investarms user manual and a Cabela's guide to shooting BP guns. The stock is made from some nicely figured European walnut. Wood to metal fit is good and the blueing on the 29 inch barrel is well done. The rifling twist is 1 turn in 48 inches (often expressed as 1:48). This twist was typical of original Hawkens and is suitable for shooting either a patched round ball or conical bullets, so it's often referred to as a compromise twist.
The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, and has a wide, curved-V notch, very similar to an express sight. The front sight is a fine bead. I'd prefer the square notch and blade setup found on the Lymans, and may change the sights. A fiber optic front bead would be much easier to see against anything other than a paper target.
The rifle has a patent breech, in which the nipple screws into a bolster which is integral with the breechplug. There is a flash channel through the bolster leading to the base of the powder charge. For ease of cleaning the barrel can be removed from the stock after driving out a retaining wedge. This then allows you to put the breech end of the barrel into a bucket of hot soapy water and pump the cleaning solution through the barrel as you run a wet patch up and down the bore. This gets the black powder fouling out quickly, and if the water's hot it will warm the barrel so that it dries quickly.
Today the weather finally cleared from about a week of rain, and I had some time to take the Hawken to the range. Overall, I'm quite pleased. Lock time is fast and I had no misfires. The barrel is new and the lands are still sharp, so some of my patches are getting cut. Once the bore breaks in after a hundred rounds or so, this should go away and groups should improve. As it is now, if I do my part it'll group into about three inches offhand at 50 yards.
The load I was shooting today consisted of a swaged .490 round ball, pillow ticking patches, Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil patch lube, 80 grains of FFg Goex black powder, sparked by an RWS cap. I'm hoping that it will shoot the .480 balls I used in my longrifle well, which will help my logistics aside from being easier to load. I'm also planning to try conical bullets like Maxi Balls or Lyman Great Plains bullets at some point.
Once I get the piece dialed in at 75 yards, it should be a good deer rifle.