Lewis and Clark Weapons
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Lewis and Clark Weapons and Arms

Summary: This article about the Lewis and Clark Expedition provides interesting facts about the weapons and arms that were taken on the historic journey that began on May 14, 1804. The safety of the men of the Corps of Discovery were of prime importance to the mission and it was essential that they were equipped with weapons to enable them to hunt for food and for defense. The expedition was essentially a military mission and the majority of supplies for weapons, arms and ammunition were obtained from Harpers Ferry Armory.

Lewis and Clark - Lewis and Clark Weapons

Lewis and Clark Expedition for kids: Lewis and Clark Weapons
The men chosen for the Corps of Discovery were military men who had served in the United States Army. These brave men had a variety of different skills but it was essential that each was able to use the weapons available to defend themselves if necessary and to use the weapons for hunting. The name of the Corps gunsmith was Private John Shields. The men of the Corps wore uniforms and drilled daily. Strict discipline was maintained to ensure the safety of the men and the success of their historic mission.

List of Lewis and Clark Weapons
The following list of Lewis and Clark weapons provides and overview of the weapons, arms and ammunition used by the Corps of Discovery:

1 Long-barreled air rifle
15 Gun slings (a strap attached to a firearm)
176 Pounds (80 kilograms) of gunpowder packed in 52 lead canisters
24 Large knives
420 Pounds (191 kilograms) of sheet lead for bullets
500 Rifle flints
Powder horns
15 Prototype Model 1803 muzzle-loading .54-caliber rifles "Kentucky Rifles"
15 Model 1795 Springfield” muskets

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Black Powder Guns
Every soldier on the expedition was well armed and carried weapons that included either an Army issue rifle or musket. All the firearm weapons of the Lewis and Clark expedition were single shot, muzzle loading, black powder guns with flintlock ignition.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Rifles
Full stocked, the .54-caliber rifles had an original barrel length of 42 inches but Meriwether Lewis stated that he had the weapons 'prepared' for the expedition. There are no details of the modifications but it is believed that the barrels were shortened to make it easier to fire the weapons from a canoe.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Muskets
The other weapons used on a daily basis were the “Charleville pattern” musket which was the standard weapon of US soldiers of the time. The musket was a 69 caliber smoothbore, which is now called the “Model 1795 Springfield” musket.

Lewis and Clark Weapons
Both the rifle and musket weighed nearly 10 pounds and required nearly one minute to load a single patched shot. Lead balls, powder horns and powder measures, were required accessories.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Care and Maintenance of Weapons
It was essential for the weapons had to be kept in good working order and each man was issued with a barrel stopper, called a tompion, in order to keep rain, snow, mud and dirt ot of the weapons. It was also obligatory to have a rawhide cover, called a  "cow's knee" to keep the lock, frizzen (striker), and pan dry.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Large Weapons - The Cannon and Blunderbuss
Larger weapons were also supplied to the expedition and used as weapons on the boats. A small 1.5 inch bore cannon, or swivel gun,  was mounted on the bow of the keelboat, and a large-bore shotgun, called a blunderbuss, on a swivel guide was mounted on the stern of the keelboat. The pirogues (flat-bottomed boats for hauling supplies on inland waters) each had a blunderbuss mounted on its bow.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: The Isaiah Lukens Air Rifle
Isaiah Lukens, a gun maker from Pennsylvania provided Lewis and Clark with one Air Rifle.  The Isaiah Lukens Air Rifle fired its bullet with compressed air, rather than by flint, spark, and powder. The air rifle therefore used compressed air to shoot its .31 caliber bullet. It was different to the black powder rifles as it made little noise or smoke when fired but the weapon possessed astounding power and extremely rapid. The Isaiah Lukens Air Rifle could fire between 20 to 40 shots before recharging with the air pump.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: The Spontoon
In addition to the amazing air rifle Lewis also carried a weapon called a spontoon. The spontoon was a type of European half-pike halberd, a pole-arm which that was once used as the primary weapons of all foot soldiers. The spontoon was replaced by modern weapons but it was later used as a symbol of rank and used it like a mace, in order to issue commands to their soldiers.

Lewis and Clark Weapons: Addition types of guns
As leaders of the expedition Lewis and Clark were allowed to take additional personal guns. Meriwether Lewis Lewis took a case of matched pistols and an extra-long smoothbore, called a "fowler". William Clark took a small 36 caliber "squirrel rifle" and an "elegant fusil" which was a light-weight gentleman's sporting smoothbore weapon. Both leaders also carried a military-issue "horseman's pistol"  Lewis and Clark both used their personal weapons to trade with the Native Indians for supplies.

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Lewis and Clark Expedition: Lewis and Clark Weapons

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