Kentucky is a state that has a lot of stereotypes with its name. When people all around the nation think about Kentucky their first thought would probably be some redneck hillbilly who never really learned how to read. Well if there is one thing rednecks love it’s to shoot guns, and that couldn’t be truer in the state of Kentucky. Guns have been a part of Kentucky since its beginning. The tragedy is that a lot of Kentuckians do not know how important these guns really are in this state. When Daniel Boone first came to this newly found territory there was one weapon that he trusted the most, his gun. Over the years, guns have gotten more advanced and have many variations, but the one gun that has been the traditional choice for all Kentuckians has always been the rifle. Through the historical years of Kentucky, the rifle has gone from being a tool to get food on the table for your family, to something treasured for its fame and for sport. It’s true that rifles aren’t as essential to life as they used to be, but Kentuckians should definitely still keep rifles close to their hearts. Whether it’s through the history of shooting rifles in Kentucky, using more advanced rifles to compete, or too simply to hunt deer, the essence of Kentucky can’t be described without the use of a rifle.
The one rifle in particular that is embedded deep into Kentucky’s history is none other than the Kentucky rifle itself. Also known as the hog rifle, the long rifle, or simply the Kentucky, this rifle has been part of the history of this great state since its beginning. Unfortunately, Kentuckians have never really learned the importance this rifle has to Kentucky, it is the rifle that put Kentucky on the map to say the least. Before its creation in the 1730s, most American colonists used small-bore flintlockmuskets that were pretty heavy (Bogan par. 2). People had to carry these heavy guns around, which made things a little more difficult to those who were exploring the American frontier. In fact, the one and only Daniel Boone had a Kentucky rifle when he ventured through the Cumberland Gap.
The reason these revolutionary guns were so popular was because of how light and graceful these guns were. As Dallas Bogan, a Kentucky rifle enthusiast, states, “These rifles also started a trend in rifles that continues to this day: the trend of putting helical grooving in the barrel of the rifle” (4). This was a brand new concept that fully expanded the accuracy and range of rifles. By putting helical grooves inside the barrel, it allows for the bullet to rotate thus balancing the turbulence caused by slight surface imperfections. The Kentucky’s main predecessor, the Brown Bessie, only had a range of 60 yards, and it wasn’t very accurate to say the least (Bogan par. 4). That all changed once the Kentucky long rifle was developed. With its helical grooved and extended barrel, the Kentucky was said to have pinpoint accuracy of up to 200 yards, which was unheard of at the time (Bogan par. 8). A little unknown fact about these guns is that they weren’t actually first created in Kentucky, for it was actually in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where these guns were first developed (Bogan par. 1). With that in mind, it might seem like these rifles do not really have anything to do with Kentucky at all, but with Kentucky being part of the American frontier that is just not the case. This rifle was the primary weapon of choice for most frontiersmen. In fact, this rifle was used so much in the hazardous wilds of Kentucky that it adopted the name of the Kentucky rifle (Bogan par. 9).
Another speculated reason that this gun picked up the nickname “the Kentucky rifle” is from the popular song, “The Hunters of Kentucky,” at the Battle of New Orleans, which was fought by many Kentuckians who used this rifle in the War of 1812. Throughout the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, these rifles were cherished, and those soldiers who were fortunate enough to own one were easily distinguished amongst the other soldiers. In fact, during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington made a special effort to recruit frontiersmen who owned Kentucky rifles, most of these frontiersmen were from none other than Kentucky itself (Bogan par. 10). The reason Washington did this was to have an advantage against the British when it comes to how far their rifles could shoot. It was things like this that helped Kentucky make a name for itself.
A Kentucky rifle was owned by practically every frontier family. To these people, rifle shooting was a way of life, for it’s what kept them safe and secure during their travels. Although, just because it was essential to surviving the American frontier, didn’t mean it wasn’t used for recreation. It is believed that many settlements on the American frontier had shooting matches on weekends and holidays (Bogan par. 16). It was these fun shooting matches these frontiersmen participated in that gave birth to a whole new era for the rifle itself.
Over the years, as technology has gotten more advanced and society as a whole enjoys powerful weaponry, the classic rifles like the Kentucky long rifle have given way to more modern rifles like the Assault rifle. Now days the only thing the Kentucky long rifle is used for is to be an antique. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that shooting rifles is uncommon. In fact, it is still a great tradition in Kentucky to hold shooting competitions all around the state. Even though it is a big tradition in this state, many people who live here don’t exactly know what shooting competitions incorporate. There are all kinds of shooting competitions that take place in Kentucky, but to stay true to the University of Kentucky Rifle team, the two main types of competition I will be discussing are small-bore and air rifle.
Small-bore rifle shooting got its start near 1919 at the United States Navy range near Caldwell, New Jersey. Back then it consisted of reentry and slow, timed, and rapid fire matches in various positions from distances of 50 yards to 100 yards. As Hap Rocketto, a small-bore rifle enthusiast, points out, “Once this competition rapidly gained popularity, the National Rifle Association quickly appointed a committee to organize recommendation for the standardization of small-bore rifle shooting.” Since the newly formed sport was essentially part of military training, the small-bore target rifles were designed along military lines in regard to length, weight, and trigger pull. It wasn’t until after World War II and the United States entry into the international shooting competition that small-bore competition really came into the form that it is known as today (Rocketto par. 3).
A typical small-bore competition consists of 40 shot matches overall with a 1600 point daily aggregated score. Usually, the first event is shot at 50 yards, and the second event is 40 shots from 50 meters. After those the next match is called the Dewar, which is 20 shots fired at 50 yards, then 20 shots string shot at 100 yards. Then finally, the last event is 40 shots fired at 100 yards. Typically, these competitions go on for a few days, and depending on how many days they last determines the final aggregated scores for the entire competition (Rocketto par. 5). Most small-bore competitions in Kentucky follow the National Rifle Association’s rules and regulations for small-bore competitions. Small-bore competitions are the most common type of shooting competitions found in Kentucky and the United States in general.
While small-bore competitions are the most common types of shooting competition, using air rifles has started to become quite popular around the country. The main difference that an air rifle has compared to a regular rifle is that there is no gun powder or explosion. An air gun can essentially have 3 different types of mechanics to shoot the projectile. Most air rifle competitions do not have requirements for which type of air rifle is supposed to be used, so it really just depends on the user’s preferences. The first type of air gun is a pneumatic powered gun.
These are the commonly used guns that a lot of kids grew up with. A pneumatic powered gun uses compressed air by pumping up the pressure in the gun to shoot the projectile. Most of the Nerf guns and Super Soakers a lot of kids grew up with used this type of air gun. Another kind of pneumatic gun is the single-stroke air gun that only requires one pump, it is obviously faster but doesn’t have the same velocity as the multi-pump air gun (NRA par. 11). The second kind of air gun is the spring-loaded air gun that is powered by the compression of the mainspring by cocking the gun manually. This air gun last longer than typical air guns, and even if they break they are one of the easiest guns to fix (Myoan par. 4). The third type of air gun is the CO2 powered air gun. CO2 is a type of air gun that is somewhat inconsistent when it comes to the changing temperatures. The reason some people might choose CO2 though would be because it is very consistent in an indoor environment with a constant temperature. Another reason these air guns can be preferred is that no pumping or manually cocking the gun is required (NRA par. 5). Despite which of these guns a shooter decides to use, when it comes to competing, air rifle matches are shot from a standing position. While air rifles are becoming more popular as a whole, nothing in Kentucky beats good old fashion hunting in the wilderness.
As a state that was founded by many frontiersmen who hunted for their own food, hunting is entangled in Kentucky’s culture. There are two different types of hunting in Kentucky, one is using a bow, and the other is using a firearm. While using a bow is fine, most Kentuckians enjoy using a high-powered rifle to kill their prey. As Kenny Lonnemann, an avid deer hunter, said in an interview, “You would want to hunt with a rifle and not some other gun because rifles give you the most range of and firearm, and that gives you the best advantage.” The most common game in Kentucky that hunters just love to shoot is the White-tailed Deer.
Despite how popular this sport is in Kentucky, there are a lot of people out there who really don’t know much about hunting at all. It is a real shame to; it’s hunting that kept the first settlers in Kentucky alive, so it is only right that Kentuckians should know more about it. One of the biggest aspects of hunting is knowing the rules and regulations for hunting in Kentucky. First off, every hunter needs a hunting license to legally kill deer. If you kill a deer without a license you are considered a poacher. A hunting license has to be renewed every year, despite if you didn’t kill the maximum number of deer you are permitted to kill the year before. Every year, each hunter is only allowed to kill one antlered deer (buck) a year, despite if you use archery or a firearm. When it comes to non-antlered deer, it depends on the county’s own rules as to how many a hunter is allowed to kill. There are counties that will allow an unlimited number of non-antlered deer to be killed, for they have an overcrowding of deer in these particular counties. Most counties, however, do have a limit as to how many non-antlered deer you are allowed to kill.
There are two major ways to hunt deer. In fact, they are so major that each has their own time of the year as to when you can hunt with them. The longer season is bow season, which usually starts in the beginning of October, but the season everyone gets excited about is gun season, which usually opens in mid-November. The main reason these hunting seasons occur in the Fall is because this is the time of the year when deer are most active during the day, because it is mating season for white-tailed deer. The opening weekend for gun season is like sitting up all night until Christmas morning waiting for Santa as a kid to some hunters. You can’t really describe the excitement you have waiting for the sun to rise while you sit in the freezing cold with your thoughts as the only sound you hear (Lonnemann, email interview). There are few hunters out there that get more excited for bow season than they do for gun season. While bows are known to be fun to use, you feel somewhat of an adrenaline rush when you get a kill while using a good old fashion rifle like they have used for centuries. Obviously, rifles have gone through some changes these last few centuries, like Kenny Lonnemann said in an interview, “I use a 30/30 lever action rifle model 94 Winchester. This is one of the best guns ever made in America and it lasts a lifetime.” Even though people are not still using the classic Kentucky rifle as frequently as they used to, hunting with a rifle in general gives a hunter a nice taste of Kentucky history.
While most of the world might see Kentucky as a place where people have a hard time talking like a normal American, Kentuckians know that there is a lot more to this state than the stereotypes that come with it. One of the biggest things people of Kentucky love is their guns. To be more specific, the rifle is usually the gun of choice for a true Kentuckian. The rifle was the gun that made this state famous. In fact, this state was more or less founded because of the rifle. Once time went on though the rifle became more advanced and people started using them for more than just survival. It started to be used for sport, to compare someone’s marksmanship to other riflemen. This started a chain reaction that lead to many different kinds of organized shooting competitions. There are even competitions that use rifles that don’t even use gun powder. Along with being used for competitions, the rifle has evolved from being used to hunt for survival, to being used to hunt for sport. No longer are Kentuckians completely dependent on what they kill in the wilderness as a source of food, yet Kentucky’s culture is so connected to hunting that it can never die out in this wonderful state. Regrettably, people from Kentucky do not realize the importance this rifle has in this state. It is a shame that so many Kentuckians are not aware of this tragedy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about the rifle being knotted in Kentucky’s fruitful beginnings, how rifles are used to compete against one another, or hunting big game in Kentucky using a high-powered rifle, when the state of Kentucky is mentioned, the rifle should be soon to follow.