MISSOURI STATE SYMBOLS
Missouri approved its official state rifle in 2023 with the passage of SB139. Legislation for an official state rifle dates back to 2012, when Rep. Jeanie Riddle introduced a bill to designate the Hawken rifle as such; the bill died in committee. The renewed effort in 2023 began as two identical house bills (HB224 and HB530) that were combined and added to SB139 along with 2023’s other state symbol. Rep. Mazzie Boyd, original sponsor of HB224, said the state emblem designation, “bolsters the 2nd Amendment because we are appreciating and respecting the very right to keep and bear arms.” (Jaeger) Rep. Doug Clemens, original sponsor of HB530, stated, “This is a piece of the legacy of the State of Missouri,” and designating this state symbol, “says who we are in terms of…literally being trailblazers.” (Special Committee) Rep. Clemens brought forward his bill at the behest of his gunsmith Greg Grimes, owner of Trail Creek Trade Company in St. Ann, MO, and former employee of the St. Louis Hawken Shop where he made and sold modern replicas of the Hawken rifle. (Special Committee)
The Hawken rifle was originally manufactured by brothers Jacob and Samuel Hawken in St. Louis. Their double-trigger muzzleloader was also called the prairie rifle and the Rocky Mountain rifle because its intended purpose was to arm fur traders in the West. They never patented the gun. The brothers produced their first rifle in 1823 or 1825 and continued working together until Jacob’s death in the cholera epidemic of 1849. Samuel retired around 1855 and left the business to his son William. William carried on until he sold the company around 1862. The name Hawken remained attached to the gun shop until it closed in 1915.
The Hawken family made an estimated 1,000 rifles over nearly 40 years. Famous “mountain men” known to have owned Hawken Rifles were Kit Carson, Hugh Glass, Theodore Roosevelt and Missouri’s own Daniel Boone and William Henry Ashley. The 1972 feature film Jeremiah Johnson starring Robert Redford as the title character renewed America’s interest in the Hawken rifle because Redford’s character used one. Soon, replicas were available worldwide.
Missouri is the tenth state to have an official firearm.
Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)
§10.246. Official State Rifle. – This act designates the Hawken rifle as the official state rifle. (L. 2023 C.C.S. S.S. S.B. 139)
approved 06 July 2023
effective 28 August 2023
Click on an image below to enlarge and read a caption. This will open a new window in the Missouri State Symbols Flickr album.
Baird, John D. Fifteen Years in the Hawken Lode. Chaska, MN: Buckskin Press, 1971.
Baird, John D. Hawken Rifles: The Mountain Man’s Choice. Highland Park, NJ: Gun Room Press, 1976.
Hanson, Charles E. Jr. The Hawken Rifle: Its Place in History. Chadron, NE: The Fur Press, 1979.
Hanson, Charles E. Jr. The Plains Rifle. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Co., 1960.
Jaeger, Jeffrey J. “Show Me the Hawkens!” I Love Muzzleloading, May 31, 2023. https://www.ilovemuzzleloading.com/blog/missouri-names-hawken-the-official-state-rifle.
Special Committee on Tourism Hearing, April 04, 2023, Missouri House of Representatives. https://house.mo.gov/MediaCenter.aspx?selected=DebateArchive
Back to State Symbols Main Page