The earliest rifles generally had the caliber stamped somewhere on the barrel. On this example, the caliber “58” is stamped on the top flat behind the rear sight. The letter “B” below the caliber is believed to be the barrel makers stamp, Bauska Barrels.
Our observations indicate that all factory finished rifles have a serial number stamped somewhere on the barrel, usually on the left oblique flat near the breech, but sometimes on the bottom flat, and maybe a few instances where it was stamped on the top flat. The semi-finished rifles (rifles that left the factory assembled but in-the-white) were also stamped with a serial number from the same sequence as the factory finished rifles. The basic kits, those made up of a collection of parts and a shaped stock, were not serial numbered. If one finds what appears to be a GRRW rifle but can’t find a serial number on it anywhere, then it is almost assuredly a kit gun assembled by the customer. Below is the serial number on this early Hawken.
On later rifles, it’s common to see the serial number hand written in the barrel channel of the stock, and if it’s a half stock rifle, stamped on the end of the ramrod rib close to the nose cap.
Company and Address Stamp
Around the time that GRRW standardize their Hawken pattern, in late 1973 or early 1974 (I’m not sure of the timing regards the Leman Trade Rifle), they started adding the address stamp, “ROOSEVELT, UTAH”, under the company name. All of the Hawken rifles I’m aware of with the William Morgan lock have the company and address stamp. They range from serial number H-042 to H-143 and were likely made in 1974. The company name and address stamp can normally be found on the top flat in front of or behind the rear sight.
Near the beginning of 1975, the company stamp on the barrel was changed to a slightly arched “GRRW” over the address, similar to the catalog logo, but a different font. A single stamp was employed as this barrel stamp was used continuously until the company shut it doors in 1980 and is easily recognized due to the shape and spacing of the letters. The change from name to initials may have also coincided with the change from the William Morgan lock to the Ron Long lock on the Hawken model or about the mid-100’s in the Hawken serial numbers. I have less data on the Leman Trade Rifle, but the switch from the Kern coil spring to the Ron Long Hawken lock on the Leman Trade Rifle may have occurred about this same time. Ron Long’s Hawken locks apparently became readily available late 1974 or beginning of 1975.
We know of one factory rifle that has the full name “GREEN RIVER RIFLE WORKS” over “ROOSEVELT, UTAH” stamped on the top flat, and an additional “GRRW” in an arch stamped on the bottom flat next to the caliber stamp (see picture below). This rifle was built in June 1974, and is a Hawken of the early standard pattern that used the William Morgan lock. Based on existing records, it has one of the first GRRW made barrels. The additional “GRRW” stamp may have been used to differentiate this barrel from the Douglas barrels they likely had in inventory while they got their own barrel making operations up and running smoothly. It appears to be the same “GRRW” stamp that was used on the breech end of barrels they sold individually (see below).
This is the “GRRW” over “ROOSEVELT, UTAH” stamp on Hawken H-211. This is the lowest serial numbered Hawken I’m aware of with the “GRRW” stamp, but I suspect they started using it closer to SN H-150. The stamp is new and the letters nice and crisp.
Hawken SN 308
Hawken SN 427
Hawken SN 619
After using the stamp to mark approximately 500 half stock Hawken rifles, 1800 or so Leman Trade Rifles, 200+ Poor Boy and Leman Indian Rifles, maybe a 100 Trappers Pistols, and 90+ full stock Hawken rifles, the stamp is not as sharp and crisp on Hawken SN 619.
As stated, Green River Rifle Works started making their own barrels in 1974. A catalog from 1975 describes their new barrels in some detail and states “caliber, rate of twist, and manufactures stamp are placed on the breech face, not on a barrel flat.” The photo below shows a barrel marked as described in the catalog. We understand that this was the standard method of marking barrels sold individually. It appears to be the same stamp pictured above. When these barrels were breeched by the purchasers, the stamps would typically be filed off during the breech plug fitting process and/or covered if breeched with a patent breech. This marking would only be seen today on an unused barrel that hadn’t ever been breeched.
A barrel was listed on an online auction site a few years ago that was purported to be a Green River Rifle Works barrel and was stamped with “G. R. R. W.” in a straight line on a flat (see picture below). This is the only sample of this marking we’ve seen and question it’s authenticity. It appears to have been stamped with individual letter stamps. Other GRRW stampings we’ve seen, and know to be authentic, appear to be formed from a single stamp.
I have an authentic GRRW barrel with the initials stamped on a flat. It’s from a half stock Hawken kit that I was purchased in 1979. The stamp is a simple “GRRW” in a straight line. Here the letters appear to be part of one stamp that was struck unevenly as the “W” is well formed, but the tops of the “R’s” get fainter from right to left and only the very bottom of the “G” is visible. This is one of three kit barrels we’ve seen with this GRRW stamp on it. My kit only had a single stamp. One of the others had this stamp on the bottom flat in two places. (Click here to see kit barrel with two stamps.) The other barrel was stamped three times on the bottom flat with this stamp.
In a letter to the editor published in the March 1977 issue of BUCKSKIN REPORT, Greg Roberts explained that, “We do not stamp our name on the kit barrels any more since some people have built the rifles in a sloppy manner and then passed them off as being built by the company.” The barrel stamp shown above from my half stock Hawken kit appears to be an anomaly. Two other kits, a Leman Indian Rifle kit purchased in 1979 and a full stock Hawken kit purchased in 1980, are marked only with the caliber stamped on a barrel flat. Other GRRW kits we are aware of are also stamped only with the caliber.
Black Powder Only Stamp
We’ve seen some GRRW factory rifles with “BLACK POWDER ONLY” stamped on the barrel. This appears to be a stamp GRRW used in 1973 and 1974, but not consistently.
As mentioned earlier, all factory finished and semi-finished rifles and pistols were marked with a serial number. Each model had its own serial number sequence except the Poor Boy and Leman Indian Rifles shared the same sequence. The Trappers Pistol serial number had a “P” prefix. The half stock Hawken rifles started out with an “H” prefix in the serial number but this was dropped sometime between 211 and 262. The serial number was normally stamped on the left oblique flat near the breech. The Bridger Commemorative Hawken rifles have the serial number, company and address, and makers mark on the bottom flat. Some custom rifles also have the serial number and other stamps on the bottom flat.
The serial number was usually stamped on the under rib on half stock models near the nose cap. It was also often hand written in the barrel channel of the stock. This were likely to aid the assembly of the rifles after they had been through the process of finishing the stock and metal parts.
The caliber stamp was usually on the left oblique flat in the vicinity of the serial number. It is often the only stamp found on the barrel of a kit gun.
The makers mark may be the most informative, and at the same time, mysterious marks found on GRRW guns. They connect the gun to a specific person, the gun stocker, and create a personal connection to the gun. Makers marks have often been used by custom gun builders in modern times, and their use actually goes back hundreds of years in England where all types of craftsmen used them. Their use at GRRW probably contributed to the steadily improving quality of work as the gun stocker tended to take more pride in their work since it had their “mark” on it.
The mystery is: when did they start marking their work, why did the start, and who started it? The earliest rifle I’ve seen with the makers mark on it is Hawken H-211 which was finished in June of 1975. Another rifle in my collection, Hawken H-129, was finished in June of 1974 and does not have a makers mark. I know of another rifle, H-143, that does not have a makers mark, either. The best we can do is bracket the date sometime during the fourth quarter of 1974 or the first half of 1975.
None of the former GRRW employees that I’ve talked to could remember how the use of makers mark got started or who started it. It obviously wasn’t a memorable event to the people involved at the time.
One can only speculate that it came about with the surge of new employees and new ideas in 1974. Nineteen seventy-four was a year of growth, innovation, and new products. GRRW started its barrel making operations that year. The Leman Indian Rifle and full stock Hawken rifle were introduced that year along with the short-lived Leman Model 1822 Trade Rifle, the Gemmer 45/70, the Sporting-Target Rifle, and the Fowling Piece. There were a lot of changes occurring then.
The only other piece of evidence I’ve found is this notice that was published in the January, 1975 issue of The Buckskin Report.
Surely, the gun stockers at GRRW were using makers marks by the time Bill Brandenburg got the idea to compile a Book of Marks. But it stills doesn’t answer the question, Who started it? Maybe it was a group idea.
The marks themselves run the gamut. Some are symbols. Most are initials. Most were stamped, but a couple were engraved. Here are samples of the makers marks we’ve seen so far.
Sample Makers Marks
Don McKee 1
Don McKee 2
Don McKee 3
Greg “Griz” Roberts
Phil “Bluejacket” Sanders
The makers mark, caliber stamp, and serial number are usually, but not always, located together on the left oblique flat near the breech. It appears that all three stamps/marks were placed on the barrel by the gun stocker. Some stockers were consistent in their location and order i.e. Gardell Powell placed his mark between the caliber and serial number on a horizontal line while Don McKee often aligned his stamps vertically..