Custom muzzleloading rifles always command a good bit of attention at the CLF Live Fundraising Auction, but this year’s event will afford bidders a rare opportunity. Missouri artist Bob Browner has donated one of his signature rifles, which is the first Hawken ever presented during the live auction.
Browner is widely regarded as one of the best Hawken makers working today, and this rifle puts his considerable skills on full display. The piece exhibits stylistic features from two original J & S Hawkens dating from the early 1830’s. One of the original Hawkens is from the collection of a Browner acquaintance; the other is a rifle attributed to none other than fur trade legend William Sublette. Browner’s creation features an extremely rare butt profile that’s not seen on the more familiar S. Hawken Rocky Mountain rifles. Browner’s rifle is based on rare examples of historic firearms, offering collectors of fine weapons the chance to own a unique contemporary longarm.
Browner’s creation is built around a robust .54 caliber, 37-inch-long barrel that’s paired with an exquisite walnut stock. Fitted with iron mounts, the rifle sports a rich, aged patina that gives it the look and feel of a centuries-old original. The furniture, including the lock, butt plate, and trigger guard, features delicate engraving. The patch box carries a unique engraving of a buffalo that’s based on a George Catlin painting. To commemorate the bicentennial of the legendary gun that was the staple of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, Browner’s rifle also exhibits an engraved “J & S Hawken St. Louis” “200 Years 1822-2022”.
Bob Browner’s custom Hawkens are in high demand and hard to come by on the open market. This collector-grade rifle is a generous donation to the CLA, as well as a tribute to Browner’s mentor in the trade, Keith Neubauer, who took Browner under his wing early in his career. In the gun making trade – whether in the 1830’s or the 21st century – learning from an experienced master has always been vital to the preservation of the craft.
The mission of passing on those skills to a new generation of makers has always been a central mission for the Contemporary Longrifle Association. “The CLA,” says Browner, “has been very good to me.”
For more information on the work of Bob Browner, contact the artist directly: 314-566-0991
Text by Joshua Shepherd.
Photography by David Wright.