New temporary exhibit explores first uniquely American firearm

Kentucky rifle exhibit at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia

Fairfax, Virginia – The Kentucky rifle, whose role in world history helped secure American independence and settle the United States, is now featured in a new exhibit at the NRA National Firearms Museum. The Kentucky Rifle, A Complete Narrative 1750-1850 spans from the classic American longarm’s pre-Revolutionary War origins to the onset of the American Civil War.

“Kentucky rifle” is the common name for the American longrifle produced during the 18th and 19th centuries. Originating in the 1740s from German “Jaeger” rifles, deemed unsuitable for the backcountry, the Kentucky rifle was an essential tool for frontiersmen. By the 1760s, the rifle had evolved into a uniquely American firearm, possessing improved accuracy over contemporary rifles thanks to modified rifling and a long barrel. Although its nickname appears in advertisements as of the early 1800s, it was not popularized until the 1822 ballad “The Hunters of Kentucky,” commemorating the Battle of New Orleans.

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