Kentucky Rifle; A little Clarification


I have sometimes been asked to explain what a “typical” Kentucky Rifle is. Unfortunately, while there are many things that typify Kentucky Rifles, there’s really no such thing as a typical Kentucky Rifle. They were not uniformly mass-produced in factories, but rather made by hand in small, private gunsmith shops all over Appalachian America (eg. Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina). Sometimes they were plain affairs, with no thrilling extras, other times they were ornately engraved or decorated with gold and silver furniture. In the early days of Colonial America, a lot of immigrants from Europe found their way here, especiallly the Dutch, Irish, and Germans. Many of the Germans settled in central Pennsylvania, around York, Lancaster, Elizabethtown and surrounding areas, and undoubtedly in and around Philadelphia–the capitol of Colonial America. These Germans had their own brand of rifles dating back to the late 1600s and early 1700s–the Jaeger Rifle. When they got over here in the Colonies, they continued to make these Jaegers (pronounced Yay-Gur), and after a while, they became as much of a regional phenomenon here as they had been in what would later come to be called Germany.

Gunsmithing was (and still is) a fine handcrafted art, and many examples of those Long Rifles are still around today. During the War of American Independence, much of the Colonial military consisted of volunteers to bolster up the Continental Line. Many of them showed up with their home-grown rifles and caused a stir among the attacking British. You see, at the time it was common to use flintlock muskets–smoothbores–as military arms, and to form lines or rows, advancing towards the enemy. Rather than taking careful aim, it was the practice to have an entire line fire simultaneously in a volley of fire, in an attempt to decimate the line of an advancing enemy. So here we had all these independent “Hunters” (Jaeger is German for “hunter”) hiding behind rocks and trees and using their rifle sites to take aim at individual enemy soldiers, to great effect. The startled British officers began buzzing about these new “Long Rifles” which were being used with success against them. Although most did not know it at the time, this was the future of warfare. Up to that point, a rifle was supposed to be used for hunting game for food, whereas a musket was a military weapon. This led to the old German Jaeger rifles to be called “American Jaegers” and then “Long Rifles” by the British.

Now we get to the Kentucy Rifle. Up to this point the American Jaegers were being called “Long Rifles” by the British, and probably some locals too. Using the Long Rifle (and allowing for the generous support of the Marquis de LaFayette’s gift of 25,000 Charleville muskets to General George Washington) and some good strategies and a little luck, America won its independence from Britain. In the War of 1812, at the Battle of New Orleans, General (Yes, he later became president) Andrew Jackson led a group of some 2,000 Tennessee volunteers (another famous term!) armed with the Long Rifles they brought with them, and were able to defeat the British. After this, amid the celebration, jounalsits coined the term “Kentucy Rifle” and it stuck. So now, in the 21st century, we still call it the Kentucky Rifle. There you have it. There are still artisans in Appalachia who make these by hand, often with magnificent results. Do a search online, and you can find some absolutely beautiful Kentucky rifle artwork out there.

There is a more detailed and expanded story on the Kentucky Rifle at  There are also stories and links to many other famous firearms at this site.  Feel free to drop in and check it out!  We have authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of these guns at, in addition to a large assortment of reenactor gear, accessories and other items.  If you are specifically looking for a replica of the Kentucky Rifle, we have that too.

The SMLE; Short Magazine Lee-Enfield

Lee-Enfield SMLE

The legendary bolt action rifle produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory, perhaps better known as RSAF-Enfield, and a large number of other operations around the allied world, including the Ishapore factory in India, (both British Colonial and post-independence India) has fairly earned itself a place in history. As popular as ever, the Lee-Enfield SMLE has a large coterie of fans and enthusiasts around the world, and is still a prized sporting rifle. In fact, countless numbers of SMLE rifles were “sporterized” in the 1950s and 1960s, and later. The British term “sporterize or sporterise” refers to military models that were fitted with telescopic sights, reworked calibers and bores, and even rebuilt receivers and other customizations, to be used for hunting and sport shooting, or in some cases, just to meet legal requirements in certain areas.

In 1907, the SMLE first entered military service and proved itself in the coming Great War, (aka. World War I) and went on to prove itself in the second World War as well. Officially, the SMLE was used by the British military until around 1957, being replaced by the more modern L1A1 Self Loading Rifle, but continues to be used even today in other places, especially by police forces in India.

The bolt action rifle came at a time when rifles were generally used by infantry, and carbines were used by cavalry or some special forces. The SMLE was a sort of happy medium between the two. Of course there was criticism, as with all other new things, but the rifle soon proved itself in combat, and toned down a lot of that criticism. Although there were many ammunition variances, the one that prevails is the original military selection of .303 caliber. Ask any military rifle enthusiast about the “303” and the conversation will find its way to the SMLE. The rifle’s fast, easy loading, lighter weight and short length were not its only advantages. These things gave it a further tactical advantage by allowing the troops to coordinate their fire and surround and take the enemy’s stationary machine guns positions. Some German militants were even known to claim that they thought they were under attack by a force using machine guns. This parallels experiences by American troops fighting the Germans and Japanese with their M1 Garand bolt action rifles in World War II. Though not related to the SMLE, it is clearly its American counterpart. In fairness, I should also say that the Germans’ Mauser bolt action rifle would be a counterpart too, but on that point, the SMLE seems to be the most wildly popular, and for good reasons. I would consider none of them to be bad weapons. Three Cheers to the SMLE for earning its rightful place in history beside other great and legendary firearms that will never die.

Non-firing replicas of the SMLE for fans, collectors or re-enactors are available, as well as other famous firearms, made of steel and / or wood, with working mechanical parts, both blank-firing and non-firing replicas, framed replicas and box sets, re-enactor gear and more, Please Visit

There is also a source of information on history’s most famous and legendary firearms at GunClassics.Com, where you’ll find info, facts, photos, links and more. Also great links to historical re-enactment sites. There is also a more detailed, expanded page on the Lee-Enfield SMLE there. You are invited to drop by and check it out. Hope to see you soon!