ST. LOUIS — A new addition was made to Missouri’s state symbols in August, the Hawken Rifle. This rifle has its origins in St. Louis, thanks to Jacob Hawken, who initially began his journey in Virginia in 1808 before eventually settling in St. Louis in 1825.

Missouri officially designated the Hawken Rifle as its state rifle in 2023 through SB139. This recognition came after combining two separate bills (HB224 and HB530) into SB139, which was approved on July 6 and went into effect in August 2023.

According to the NRA blog post, Hawken’s career started in the East. He worked as an armorer at Harpers Ferry National Armory, part of Virginia, where records show that he was employed there until February 1818.

After leaving Hawken found himself in New Madrid, Missouri by 1818 and eventually established a shop in St. Louis by 1825. He founded the shop with his brother, Samuel Hawken. They initially crafted flintlock guns but transitioned to percussion guns, which became the main creation of the St. Louis shop.

The Hawken brothers were known for crafting “plains rifles,” large-bore firearms with half-stocks, often chambered in .50 caliber or larger. The Hawken shop wasn’t limited to producing rifles for grizzlies and bison; they also made firearms for various hunting purposes. 

On display at the NRA’s National Sporting Arms Museum within Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, you can find a.38 caliber rifle marked with “S. Hawken St. Louis.” This .38-caliber Hawken rifle, recently donated to the museum, was originally purchased by the donor’s great-grandfather, Florenz Dieckmann, in 1849 at the St. Louis shop. This firearm served as a companion for deer and turkey hunting in Missouri.