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My "Primative Costume" for NMLRA Primitive Range

posted Jan 26, 2012, 9:02 AM by Peter Lucas   [ updated Feb 10, 2012, 9:49 AM ]
When I
attended my first NMLRA event,  I was relieved to find out that competitors on the shotgun range were not required to wear a period "costume."  In fact, very few of the dedicated shotgun shooters dress in period costume.  Occasionally a rifle shooter wearing a fur trapper's costume will drift over the shotgun range.  However, that is a relatively rare occurrence.  

    This year's trip to the Western National Shoot in Phoenix will be different.  This year, in addition, to the shotgun events (and possibly the running boar competition), I plan in taking part in the First United States Blunderbuss Competition.  The Blunderbuss competition is to take place on the "Primitive Range."
    NMLRA Primitive matches are conducted using traditional offhand hunting-style flintlock and percussion rifles, pistols, and smooth-bore guns. Matches on the Primitive Range have developed by the shooters on the range over time and the games continually evolving.  Many of the matches involve a variety of non-traditional targets including spiting the ball on an ax blade and break two clay birds, cut a playing card, break a stick, match, chalk stick, soda straw, or clay pipe stem, hit a washer, moth ball, marshmallow, charcoal briquette, lollipop, hit a gong at various distances, cut a string or maybe two where they cross. The "Seneca" matches on the Primitive Range require the shooter to shoot shoot a series of targets from various shooting stations over a timed course.  Other primitive matches require the competitor to combine non-shooting skills such as throwing knives and tomahawks and quickly make a fire utilizing flint and steel.  

Primitive Costumes

    Unlike competitions on the rifle and shotgun ranges, the Primitive Range has a special rules with respect to costumes and loading of guns. Rule 9130 provides:

9130–COSTUMES–Certain matches must be shot in a costume of the period 1750-1840. Such matches are specifically identified in the match program. The wearing of period clothing on the Primitive Range at any and all times is desired and encouraged, but is not required.

    Protective eyeglasses are allowed and encouraged on the Primitive Range without regard to whether modern or primitive in style. However, tinted corrective eyeglasses used on the Primitive Range are acceptable only if the user has a doctor’s slip stating that the tinted glasses must be worn on a daily basis (due to glaucoma or other eye disorders),  Non-tinted commercial shooting or safety glasses may be used,  So shooting glasses with a yellow, red, dark blue, or mirror-finished lenses would not be acceptable. The rules also provide that no sighting aids may be worn or added to eyeglasses.
  The majority of competitors on the Primitive Range dress as North American fur trappers.  However, my interest in muzzleloaders has always been rooted in a different area.  I am a shotgun shooter and my interest lies more with muzzleloading side by side shotguns and wing shooting.  I wanted my costume to reflect my area of interest.   The first step was to look at some artwork from the period.  Google Books provided a great source of period books dealing with bird hunting and wing shooting. Many of period books included illustrations.    Admittedly, all of my sources were British.   However, given the common bond between the United States and Great Brittan the clothing styles of wing-shooters in the two countries should not have been that different during the 1820s.

    In most of the period pictures, the hunters wore a distinctly styled top hat.   The hats in the pictures have a curved brim and slight outward flare on the barrel.  Hats of this style are referred to as a "Wellington Top Hat" and were in use from 1800 to approximately 1860.  The Wellington Top Hat is also sometimes refereed to as a Mad Hatter's Hat.  In addition, the hunters of the early 1800s also wore high collared shirts and a cravat.  A cravat is a neckband and the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie and bow tie. Finally, most of the hunters wore wool waistcoats (vests) and wool coats which are similar to today's top coat. 

    There a number of websites which sell period correct clothing.  However, I was attempting to keep my costume expenditures to a minimum.   After some searching on Ebay I was able to find a correctly styled top hat, some period correct pants with a button fly and a wool standing collar waistcoat (vest). The costume was supplemented with a white work shirt and a scarf which could be used as a cravat.  If necessary for warmth, I also have wool top coat which comes close to matching the style of the 1820 sportsmen.  So with a relatively modest out lay of cash I have put together a reasonable facsimile of the clothing worn by the bird hunters of the early 1800s. 

    My costume for the First Annual United States Blunderbuss Championships is shown above.   Bring on the Blunderbuss championships.


Historic Illustrations of Wing-shooting Attire
    Here are a few of the illustrations which depicted hunters attired in clothing from the 1820s.
    The following image is one of my favorite sporting images.  This image was from the 1988 edition of "The Diary of Colonel Peter Hawker 1802 - 1853", An engraving by H. Adlard of a sketch by J. Childe depicting a shooting party on the 1st September 1827.  The two persons at the center of the picture are Joe Manton (gunmaker) and Colonel Peter Hawker who is shown riding a white horse.

    The following hand colored images were from The National Sports of Great Britain: Fifty engravings with descriptions.  This book was published in 1903, however, the images were produced by the Artist in the 1820s and 1830s.

    These illustrations were from The Shooter's Companion: Or Directions For The Breeding And Management Of Setters And Pointers, With A Historical Description Of Winged Game by Thomas Burgeland Johnson (1819)

 Finally, the following images were from  British field sports:
embracing practical instructions in shooting, hunting, coursing, racing, cocking, fishing, &c. ; with observations on the breaking and training of dogs and horses ; also the management of fowling pieces, and all other sporting implements (1819)