Jim Bridger’s Rifle

In 1853, Louis Vasquez a good friend and business partner of Jim Bridger, had this 40 caliber half-stock rifle engraved J. Bridger 1853, and presented it to Jim for reasons still unknown.  Perhaps it had something to do with their long business association or possibly it was due to the fact that 1853 was indeed a turning point in Jim Bridger’s life.

Following Bridger’s death the rifle was held as part of a private Buffalo Bill Collection.  In 1940 the scout’s rifle and the powder horn were put to auction by Theodore Dexter, then one of the most notable rare-arms dealer in the United States, and it stayed in the private collection of Mr. A. W. McCollough of Laramie, Wyoming until 1968.  Rare-arms dealer Robert Nelson of Cheyenne, Wyoming purchased the Bridger Rifle in 1968 but subsequently sold it to another dealer in Texas where it has remained until it found a permanent home in the Museum of the Mountain Man in 1988.

This half-stock, percussion plains rifle is bored .403 Caliber (rifled).  It carries a pewter fore-end cap, brass trim, “plains” style trigger guard, H.T. Cooper back-action lock, and hickory ramrod.  The rifle’s walnut stock is decorated with inlain eagles, the left eagle engraved, “J. Bridger 1853.” An unusual feature is that its stock was built with two cheekpieces.  Riflemaker W. Ogden of Owego, New York stamped his name on the barrel.  It weighs eleven pounds and its overall length is 49-1/2 inches.

Gift of the May Schwabacher Memorial.

Overall Length: 49-½ inches
Hexagon Barrel:
Length of Barrel: 32-¾ inches
Flat to flat at muzzle: 1-1/16 inches
Flat to flat at breech: 1-1/16 inches
Caliber: .403
Under rib from Muzzle to front of nose cap: 21 ¾ inches
Tang (embedded in stock behind lock): 5 ¼ inches, 3/8 inch wide at back
Diameter: 15/16 inch
Length:  23-1/2 inches
Front pipe: ¾ inch long
Back pipe: ¾ inch long
Muzzle to front of front pipe: 4-5/8 inches
Muzzle to front of back pipe: 13-¼ inches
Front sight is ¼ inch embedded base and 7/8 tapered sight above barrel
Back sight is ½ inch embedded base, ¼ inch tall, and 5/8 inch wide
Muzzle to front of front sight at base: 1-1/8 inches
Back of front sight base to front of back sight base: 22-9/16 inches
Muzzle to front of nose cap: 21-¾ inches
Nose cap length: ¾ inch
Front of nose cap to butt plate at center of curve: 26 inch
Butt plate to comb (rise just behind wrist): 8-3/4
Cheek in:  6 inch long, 1 inch high in front, 2 ¼ inch high in back, ½ inch deep at bottom
Oval inlay: 1-3/8 inch wide, 7/16 inch tall
Bird inlay: 1-3/16 wide (wing tip to wing tip), 1-9/16 tall (top head to bottom base)
Length of Pull (front trigger to center of butt plate): 13-½ inches
Drop at heel (from top of barrel to top of butt plate): 4-½ inches
Drop at comb (just behind wrist): 1-7/8 inches
Wrist just in front of comb: 2 inch wide, 1-5/8 inch deep
Wrist in front of lock mortus: 2 inch wide
Top of barrel to bottom of stock in front of lock mortus: 2 inches
Top of butt plate to bottom of toe plate: 4-½ inches
Width at center of butt plate: 1-1/8 inches
Width at top and bottom of butt plate: ½ inch
Top of butt plate: 3 inches long
Butt plate: 3/8 inch thick at top, 1/16 inch thick at toe plate
Toe plate: 3-15/16 inch long, ½ inch wide, 1/32 inch thick