Buy Teddy Roosevelt's Big-Bore Hawken Rifle at RIA's Premier Auction

Zac K
by Zac K
With legendary craftsmanship and ownership, this Hawken rifle will be a highlight of the upcoming RIA sale in Texas. [Rock Island Auction]

The revolvers we recently showed you on Wheelgun Wednesday aren’t the only items with an impressive Wild West history that Rock Island is about to auction off. How can you top a revolver owned by George Armstrong Custer and another revolver that appeared at the Battle of Little Bighorn? Here’s how—with a big-bore Hawken rifle owned by Theodore Roosevelt himself, and reportedly by the legendary Kit Carson before that!


If Kit Carson really owned this rifle before Roosevelt, it is possible it was ordered for buffalo hunting, given the big-bore configuration. [Rock Island Auction]
While Roosevelt is quite deservedly famous for his time as president, he led a rugged and exciting life before he took office, including time as a rancher and deputy sheriff in North Dakota as well as his much-publicized service in the Spanish-American War, fighting with the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (better-known as the Rough Riders) in Cuba. He was an avid hunter over his whole life. His participation in the 1909-1911 Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition led to the collection of many specimens that filled the halls of the Smithsonian and New York’s Museum of Natural History for generations afterward.
Theodore Roosevelt, in the years before his presidency, dressed as a Wild West hunter.

On that famous trip, he used the most up-to-date firepower he could get his hands on, most certainly not this .70-caliber percussion Hawken rifle, which he likely purchased as a collector and lifelong admirer of mountain man/military scout/buffalo hunter Kit Carson. While Roosevelt’s political career leaves him far more famous today, Carson himself was a legend during the late 1800s for his adventures as an explorer and trapper and his wartime heroics.

With fine details and useful features such as a peep sight and double set triggers, this rifle was crafted to be a hunting weapon to be proud of and one that could be trusted for accuracy in the field. [Rock Island Arms]
Rock Island Auction’s write-up says this is one of the largest-caliber rifles made by the Hawken brothers of St. Louis, and that it could have been used for target shooting as well as buffalo hunting. Kit Carson owned multiple Hawken rifles and gave some away to friends, but Roosevelt did not acquire the rifle this way, as he was only a boy when Carson died in 1868. If the rifle was indeed Carson’s, Roosevelt acquired it from someone else who had got it from the Wild West hero.

However it was acquired, the Roosevelt family firmly believed the rifle had been Carson’s, and it was part of the collection of The Theodore Roosevelt gun room, Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island for many years. It remains in exceptionally fine condition, with the auction house listing the following details:

The most obvious difference setting this rifle apart from most Hawken rifles is its immense weight. While noted as weighing 18 pounds above, we find that it actually weighs 19 lbs. 3.3 oz. on our scale. Much of that weight comes from its heavy barrel. The bore measure approximately .70 caliber (14 bore) which is significantly larger than the typical .54 caliber (28 bore) found on many of the classic Hawken rifles. The browned barrel is cleanly marked with the “S. HAWKEN ST. LOUIS” marking used following Jacob Hawken’s death in 1849 and by the Hawken shop even after J.P. Gemmer had purchased the shop. The muzzle is cut round for using a bullet starter, and the barrel features seven-groove rifling, traditional dovetailed blade and U-notch sights, and a very nicely shaped breech plug. A very rarely seen adjustable peep sight is fitted to an integral base on the upper tang. Rather than barrel wedges like a normal sized Hawken rifle, the heavy barrel is secured via a screw passing through an winged iron washer in the bottom of the forend. The casehardened lock has no visible markings. The rifle is equipped with adjustable double set triggers and has iron furniture that matches the furniture on other classic S. Hawken rifles, including the distinctive finials on the trigger guard and toe plate. The walnut buttstock has a pewter forend cap, checkered wrist, and shadowline cheekpiece in keeping with the styling of the smaller Hawkens.

Roosevelt was a war hero and conservationist before and after his presidency. Even his most famous hunting expedition was a means of filling museums with specimens for the advancement of general knowledge.

The rifle will go on the block on May 18 in Bedford, Texas, with Rock Island estimating a price of $55,000 – $85,000. However, considering Roosevelt’s Smith & Wesson No. 3 revolver sold for almost a million dollars in 2022, it would be unsurprising to see the Hawken go for a six-figure sum, especially with the Kit Carson tie-in.

For more details, visit RIA’s listing here.

Zac K
Zac K

Professional hoser with fudd-ish leanings.

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2 of 5 comments
  • Sam  Beaux Sam Beaux on May 09, 2024

    70 caliber what a beast!

  • Uniform223 Uniform223 on May 11, 2024

    People forget how much of a badass Teddy Roosevelt is!

    He was shot in the chest before a speech he was going to give. With extreme moral clarity he called for the crowd not to harm his would be assassin and to let police take him into custody. Fortunately, a pocket book in his breast pocket slowed the bullet down enough so the shot wasn't considered fatal... according to him! He realized that he wasn't coughing or splitting blood so he quickly bandaged his wound and proceeded with his speech. It was only after his speech did he get medical attention.
    Doctors concluded that it would be a safer option to leave the bullet is. The bullet remained lodge in his chest for the rest of his life.

    After being shot and calming the crowd he said, "I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose."