Did you know that seven U.S. states have officially designated state rifles, and that three more have officially designated handguns? Read on for 10 states that showcase their Second Amendment pride!
Alaska: Winchester Model 70 Rifle (designated July 2014)
The pre-1964 version of this well-built, dependable bolt-action rifle came to be known as “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” Introduced in 1936, the gun was eventually made available in nearly 50 calibers, from as small as .22 Hornet to as large as .470 Capstick. The sponsor’s bill said that the gun helped Alaskans “establish a firm foothold” in the wilderness. In 1999, Shooting Times magazine named the Model 70 the “Bolt-action Rifle of the Century.”
Arizona: Colt Single Action Army Revolver (designated April 2011)
Known as the famous “Peacemaker,” this handgun was developed for the U.S. Army in 1872 and remained its standard-issue pistol for nearly two decades, from 1873 to 1892. In addition, cowboys, lawmen and even outlaws favored the pistol, so much so that it has become an iconic firearm of the American West. Modern-day versions of Peacemakers are still fired by Cowboy Action Shooters and Wild West re-enactors.
Indiana: Grouseland Rifle (designated March 2012)
This is not a generic firearm, rather, a very specific rifle, one of a kind. Grouseland was the estate of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, who served only 31 days in office before dying of pneumonia in 1841. His Vincennes, Indiana, home became a National Historic Landmark in 1960, and his Grouseland Rifle, an early 18th century muzzleloader, is on display there.
Kentucky: Kentucky Long Rifle (designated June 2013) and Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Long Rifle (designated June 2014)
Essentially the same type and style of rifle but made in two different regions, these flintlock muzzleloaders were what the frontiersmen carried into the wilderness forests east of the Mississippi during the 1700s and 1800s. Captain John G. W. Dillin in his book The Kentucky Rifle (published in 1946) describes well the pair of firearms and their times.
“From a flat bar of soft iron, hand forged into a gun barrel; laboriously bored and rifled with crude tools; fitted with a stock hewn from a maple tree in the neighboring forest; and supplied with a lock hammered to shape on the anvil; an unknown smith, in a shop long since silent, fashioned a rifle which changed the whole course of world history; made possible the settlement of a continent; and ultimately freed our country of foreign domination. Light in weight; graceful in line; economical in consumption of powder and lead; fatally precise; distinctly American; it sprang into immediate popularity; and for a hundred years was a model often slightly varied but never radically changed.”
Missouri: Hawken Rifle (designated July 2023)
Though quality firearms, the Kentucky and Pennsylvania long rifles mentioned above were simply not suited to the larger game animals of the American West. The .40- to .45-caliber flintlocks that had served frontiersmen so well in the Eastern woodlands were no match for bison, elk and grizzly bears. Consequently, .50- to .55-caliber guns quickly became popular for those crossing the Mississippi, and the most sought-after was the heavy Hawken rifle produced by Jacob Hawken and his younger brother, Samuel, of St. Louis.
Tennessee: Barrett M82 Rifle (designated February 2016)
This semiautomatic rifle is the most modern gun on the list of state firearms. Although weighing more than 30 pounds, the gun is known as the “Light Fifty” because it uses the .50 BMG caliber cartridge, originally developed for use in M2 Browning machine guns. Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, founded in 1982 by Ronnie G. Barrett, is located in Christiana, Tennessee. Barrett personally designed every part of this strictly military weapon.
Texas: Colt Walker Revolver (designated May 2021), pictured at top
This blackpowder handgun was a collaboration between famous gunmaker Samuel Colt and Texas Ranger Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker, who wanted a handgun that was extremely powerful at close range. Created in the mid-1840s, the gun was a .44 caliber single-action six-shooter. Only 1,100 were originally made, making this firearm extremely rare and collectible today. In 2018, a Model 1847 Colt Walker pistol with its original case sold for $1.84 million.
Utah: M1911 Pistol (designated March 2011)
Honoring the life and genius of firearms designer John Browning (1855-1926), a native of Ogden, Utah, the M1911 semi-automatic handgun was one of his most successful efforts. The U. S. military purchased nearly three million of Browning’s handguns, and it was the standard-issue sidearm from 1911 to 1985, a span of nearly 75 years. Still in wide use today, the M1911 operating system was the forerunner of the 20th century’s many semiautomatic centerfire pistols.
West Virginia: Hall Model 1819 Flintlock Rifle (designated April 2013)
Produced from the 1820s to the 1840s, this breech-loading rifle was adopted by the U.S. Army and was the first breechloader used in large numbers by any nation’s army. John Hancock Hall manufactured his gun at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. In addition to this rifle, he also invented various machines, making possible the uniform manufacture of weapons with interchangeable parts. Many of Hall’s rifles, as well as other flintlocks, were eventually converted to percussion cap ignition systems.
If your state is not listed above, and you have a particular firearm in mind that you believe would make an appropriate gun to represent your state, you could be the catalyst that gets that ball rolling. Many state legislators are gun owners and NRA members. By doing a little online research you can find out who they are, then contact them and suggest that they sponsor a bill designating a state firearm. The process may take time to come to fruition—years perhaps—but 10 other states have done it. Why not yours?