Grouseland Rifle

My eyes went to the long rifle in the case. The Grouseland Rifle. Named after the home of its owner, William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory.

I stood pondering something I had heard recently. How the men of the frontier and the Civil War were of a hardier stock; the guns they lugged around were heavy. This one didn’t look too heavy but looks can be deceiving. It was a Kentucky long rifle. Try to keep that steady and fire off an accurate shot!

The Grouseland Rifle, I came to discover was only (!) 8 to 10 pounds, not horrible, I surmised, but still it would likely get heavier the longer you were hauling it around. And how the heck I would hold it steady was beyond me. I know how difficult it is to get a decent photographic shot with a telephoto lens…and that lens is probably only a pound.

Even though guns aren’t really my thing—rather gun-shy, if you pardon the pun—I could see that it was a beautifully crafted rifle. And then I stood pondering how it probably didn’t lend itself to mass shootings. To my surprise, I learned that a skilled man could fire it three times per minute. Much better than I guessed but still clearly not so deadly as today.

The rifle was built and designed by John Small between 1803 and 1812 for William Henry Harrison. John Small was a member of the Northwest Territory legislature (1799), a gunsmith, a metal worker, and a tavern owner (yes, it seems that guns and alcohol mixed even back then). (Fun fact: His tavern was one of many meeting places used by the General Assembly for the Indiana Territory.)

In 2012, the Indiana General Assembly named the Grouseland Rifle the official state firearm. That got my attention. Excuse me? We needed a state firearm? The General Assembly had the time to consider this bill but not others that could help Hoosiers in a more tangible way?

And then I was shocked to discover that Indiana joined six other states in having their own official firearm. You have got to be kidding me. State bird. State flower. Yeah, I’d see how state firearm would be the missing item in the list.

The fear of Obama taking away our guns must have prompted state legislatures to act. This bandwagon of naming state firearms seems to have started with Utah in March 2011. Ah, when I think Utah, I think M1911 pistol. My personal favorite is Tennessee’s state gun: the Barrett M82, a semi-automatic weapon.

At least most of the official state firearms are historical in nature: Colt Single Action Army for Arizona or the long rifle for Pennsylvania or the Hall rifle for West Virginia. They all have historical significance. (But the M82? This is a modern-day military weapon used in modern-day wars. Really Tennessee? That has historical significance for you?)

Interestingly, whereas the other states have a type of gun as their official gun (long rifle, Colt Single Action Army, etc.), Indiana has a specific gun as the official state gun. The Grouseland Rifle is a specially made Kentucky long rifle gifted to a particular person. In fact, the Indiana bill stipulates that a replica cannot be made unless approved by the Grouseland Foundation, which manages the Grouseland historic home of William Henry Harrison. (The foundation has allowed one replica to be produced for the state’s bicentennial.)

To see the one and only original Grouseland Rifle, venture to Grouseland in Vincennes, Indiana. It’s a beauty…and while you are there, you will learn lots about Harrison, early Indiana history, and the house, which is a National Historic Landmark. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and you’ll leave more the wiser.


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