COMPANY HISTORYBud Brown and his Cherry Corners Mfg. Co. had been producing Hawken rifle parts since the 1960’s. He started with simple parts such as butt plate and trigger guard and continually added additional component parts until he had a full Hawken parts set or kit by 1973. The Hawken lock came out in 1970.
The demand for his parts was so great, that he was worn out trying to keep up and put the business up for sale in 1976.
Ithaca Gun Co. purchased the assets of Cherry Corners Mfg. Co. in July 1976 and announced plans to produce a Hawken rifle late in the year.
They began advertising the Ithaca Hawken in Muzzleloader and other gun magazines at the beginning of 1977.
Even though the Ithaca Hawken was well received in the market and had several favorable reviews published in the gun magazines, it’s sales may have not met Ithaca expectations. That combined with the difficult economy in the late 1970’s convinced Ithaca that it should divest its black powder division. They sold the Ithaca Hawken after approximately 18 months of production to Navy Arms Company. By July-August 1978, Navy Arms was advertising the Ithaca/Navy Arms Hawken in Muzzleloader magazine.
The Ithaca/Navy Arms Hawken was built entirely in the U.S. using the same tooling, dies, parts and specifications that Ithaca had used. The only difference between these early Ithaca/Navy Arms Hawken rifles and the Ithaca Hawken rifles was the barrel markings.
Sometime in the 1980’s, Navy Arms stop building the rifle in the U.S. and started importing Uberti’s Hawken rifle from Italy, but continued to market it and stamp the barrels as the Ithaca/Navy Arms Hawken rifle. They eventually dropped it from their catalog in the late 1990’s.
The Ithaca Hawken was the first mass produced rifle called a “Hawken” that actually looked like a Hawken rifle. Ithaca used all the component parts that Cherry Corners had developed including the lock, breech & tang, triggers, guard, and butt plate. Ithaca designed their own stock that was shaped and inlet by Reinhart Fajen while the 1″ x 32″ barrels were supplied by Douglas.
A lot of custom Hawken rifles in the 1970’s were being built with German silver barrel key escutcheons and nose cap or poured pewter nose cap. Ithaca chose to duplicate this look with German silver for the barrel key escutcheons, but interestingly chose to use an aluminum alloy for the nose cap.
The Ithaca Hawken was a fine looking rifle. The only major criticisms of it were that the lock panels were too wide with too much wood left surrounding the lock and the choice of aluminum for the nose cap. The forearm was nicely rounded and shaped as it should be. The stock was walnut, but that was not uncommon on original Hawken rifles.
Ithaca sold the rifle in factory finished form and as a kit with a stock that was 95% shaped and inlet and all the machining work completed on the barrel. It was only offered in .50 caliber.
While the Navy Arms/Ithaca Hawken was being built in the USA, it was the same rifle as above, just different barrel markings.
Several urban or internet myths about the Ithaca Hawken have developed over the decades. One of the most prevalent is the belief that the rifle is an exact copy of Kit Carson’s Hawken rifle in the Masonic Lodge in Santa Fe. Dimensionally and stylistically, the Ithaca Hawken is significantly different than the Kit Carson Hawken. The Kit Carson Hawken has a barrel that is 1⅛” across the flats at the breech, slightly tapered to the muzzle, and is just over 31” long. The Ithaca barrel is straight octagon, 1″ x 32″. The Kit Carson Hawken has all iron furnishings where the Ithaca Hawken has German silver barrel key escutcheons and aluminum nose cap. Besides the difference in dimensions, the butt plate, trigger guard, hammer, and snail of the breech are not the same on the two rifles.
Below is a photo of the lock area of the original Kit Carson Hawken in the Masonic Lodge and pictures of two Ithaca Hawken rifles. First off, note the difference in the width of the lock panels around the locks. Second, note the difference in the snail on the breech and the shape of the fence at the back of the breech. Third, note the difference in the shape of the hammers and particularly how the hammer on the Carson Hawken fits the fence on the standing breech compared to the Ithaca Hawken hammers. You may also notice that there are different hammers on the two Ithaca Hawken rifles. Cherry Corners initially came out with the lower hammer that’s on SN H-254 on their Hawken lock in 1970. They came out with a slightly taller hammer in 1973 for their 1⅛” breech plug. It is interesting that Ithaca used both hammers.
The truth is that the Ithaca Hawken is not an exact copy of any particular Hawken rifle. Bud Brown developed the component parts over a number of years from different Hawken rifles he had seen or photos he studied. The Ithaca Hawken is best described as a typical or generic Sam Hawken rifle of the 1850’s.
Ithaca Hawken SN H-254 pictured above may be a kit rifle. Its lock panels are shaped a little differently from SN H-225, and it shows some signs that it has at least been refinished. It serves as a segue to my Navy Arms/Ithaca Hawken kit.
It’s still in the original box, including the exterior shipping box, and has all the paperwork. Navy Arms not only used all the Cherry Corners/Ithaca dies and tooling, they kept the Ithaca pamphlets on “How to Assemble the Gun” and “How to Load, Fire, and Clean the Gun” and poster.
Navy Arms put serial numbers on their kit rifles, and I suspect Ithaca did, too. The Navy Arms/Ithaca kit barrel with SN 2564 is shown below along with the the barrels from the two Ithaca Hawken rifles, SN’s H-225 and H-254. Note that Ithaca used an “H” prefix and also stamped a “G” on the bottom flat of the barrel. Not sure what the significance of the “G” is unless it might be an inspection mark.
With just two data points for the Ithaca version and one data point for the Navy Arms version of the Hawken rifle, I have no idea how many of each were built.
Return to The Heyday Of The Hawken
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 Oren Scurlock, Jr., “A Genuine Hawken ‘Repro’”, Muzzleloader, Sep-Oct 1977, pg 17.