Traditions .32 Muzzleloading Squirrel Rifles Reviewed

By Hovey Smith

Two Traditions' .32-Caliber Muzzleloading Squirrel Rifles
Two Traditions’ .32-Caliber Muzzleloading Squirrel Rifles
Hovey Smith
Hovey Smith

Central Georgia –-( Guns come and go on the replica market, but two that have had some staying power are Traditions’ .32-caliber muzzleloading squirrel rifles.

These two guns are different in style and pricing, but are similarly effective.

Both guns are side-lock percussion rifles and use the relatively small No. 10 or 11 percussion caps for ignition. The Traditions Crockett .32-Caliber Percussion Rifle is the more traditional design with a half stock, set triggers, brass fittings, relatively long octagonal barrel and maple stock.

Traditions makes a variety of black powder or muzzeloading tools, that are great to have when shooting black powder rifles.

The .32-caliber version of the Traditions Deerhunter Flintlock Muzzleloader  has a stock of modern design and a shorter, larger-diameter barrel. This unusually large barrel is the result of a .32-caliber hole being bored in a .50-caliber barrel blank. This expedient method of gun production allowed the same wooden stock, trigger, sights, furniture, etc., that was used on the larger-caliber deer rifle to be also employed to make a new smaller caliber squirrel gun, .

Rifle is now fitted up and stock is finished. Metal finishing comes next.

Smaller caliber rifles in .32 and .36 caliber have a lot of nostalgic appeal. They bring back the image of rugged Tennessee and West Virginia riflemen going out to gather a bag full of squirrels or pot a rabbit for his family’s supper. In many cases this might be the only rifle that the family owned.

If they had a larger .40 or .45-caliber rifle these were reserved for deer or bear hunting, as there was no need to waste that much hard to get powder and lead on small animals. Over the past three centuries wagon loads of squirrels, wild turkeys, grouse, rabbits, raccoons and even an occasional deer, bear or man was killed by .32 caliber lead spheres propelled by about 20 grains of whatever black powder could be obtained. The .32-muzzleloading rifle’s closest modern equivalent would likely be the .22 Magnum rimfire cartridge. In practice, the .32 caliber works very efficiently on small game and provides a relatively low noise load that kills well, provided that the bullets are put in the right place.

There were problems with going much smaller than the .32 caliber in muzzleloading rifles. One was that smaller-caliber guns with rifle-length barrels became more difficult to service and clean with wooden ramrods. When you are on the frontier and might have to make a replacement ramrod, it helped to have a gun where you could whittle a piece of wood to make a ramrod that was sufficiently strong to be serviceable. Another problem that I have heard of, but not verified, is that if you started to use enough powder behind .25-caliber and smaller-caliber balls to make them really effective, the balls could be melted in the bore resulting in your expelling a droplets of molten metal from the bore.

 Traditions Crockett .32-Caliber Percussion Rifle
Traditions Crockett .32-Caliber Percussion Rifle

The Rifles

The Crockett rifle is offered as both a completed rifle and as a kit gun. I elected to build the kit gun as one of the guns to be featured in my forthcoming book, Building or Restoring Your Own Muzzleloader. The Crockett rifle was priced at $469 for a new gun and $419 for a kit. There is some undeniable satisfaction in taking game with a gun that you had a hand in building, but many would consider the $50 savings as to not be worth the trouble. In the process of putting the gun together I also produced five YouTube videos, which started with Assembly Traditions Crockett .32 Squirrel Rifle Kit ( ) and progressed through Stock Fnish, Metal Finish, Shooting and presently ends with Tree Lounge Hunting with Traditions Crockett .32 Squirrel Rifle Kit

Although I do not usually hunt squirrels from a Tree Lounge tree stand, I did in this case to try this stand out before using it on deer and bear hunts later this year. I did not actually get to shoot a squirrel from this stand, but did take two while walking to it. The final video is this series is Squirrel Hunting with .32 Caliber Traditions’ Muzzleloading Rifles which may be seen at:

The Crockett rifle is more true in spirit than in fact so far as resembling either David Crockett’s ”Betsy” or “Old Betsy.” The last rifle survives and is a full-stocked flintlock. Once, in honor of an anniversary, 100 replicas of one of Crockett’s rifles were made and sold on a semi-custom basis. These guns still occasionally surface at used gun auctions. The rifle that Traditions made is more nearly after a small-caliber half-stocked Hawken rifle from a later era, and many makers sold half-stock small-game rifles during the 1850s-1870s, when this style reached maximum popularity.

Dimensionally, the Crockett rifle has a 32-inch barrel (24-inch for Deerhunter), length of 49-inches (40-inches for Deerhunter) and a weight of 6.75 pounds (6 pounds for the Deerhunter). The Crockett carries well in the arms while the shorter-length Deerhunter feels better slung over the back. The Crockett’s longer barrel also got in the way while trying to twist it through tight places and seemed to always clank against the deer stand each time I moved for a shot.

The solution to that is to leave the gun in the rack until you are in position and ready to aim at your animal. Then quietly get your gun and shoot.

I also found the shape of the Deerhunter’s stock more natural feeling when trying to shoot nearly straight up a tree and that its weight distribution felt better for off-hand shooting. Although I did manage to make some good off-the-shoulder shots with the Crockett, it was always better to brace the gun against a tree or another handy rest.

User modifications were made to both guns. I smoothed up the locks and trigger pulls on both of them as I usually do. The only other problem with the Deerhunter was that the front sight was much too low for close-range shooting. I happened to have a nearly appropriate sized South African coin and trimmed that down to proper height to make a replacement sight. Some fitting was expected with the Crockett Kit gun. I needed to install a piece of wood between the rear of the barrel and the stock, bend the hammer so that it would strike the nipple and make a cylinder of deer antler to fit around the sear bar so that the set triggers would strike it and drop the hammer to fire the gun. On both guns aluminum ramrods are supplied which removed the possibility of my snapping off a weak wooden rod in the barrel.

So far as accuracy was concerned, I could detect no significant differences between the two guns.

Certainly, the squirrels did not know the difference. With either gun hitting the squirrels required that the squirrels are sitting or moving very slowly. With only a single shot and a long reloading time, I did not shoot until the animal was still and I could clearly see it behind the foliage.

Whereas one might shoot at a violently shaking branch that a squirrel was working with a shotgun and expect to kill the animal, I wanted a clearly outlined target so that I could place the ball in the front quarter of the animal. I also preferred to have it the ball caught by the trunk of the tree, stream bank or hillside. These restraints limited shot opportunities.

This may be hard to believe for those who have to practically kick the fearless squirrels out of the way on college campuses and public parks.

Hovey Smith Hunting Squirrels
Hovey Smith after a successful Squirrel hunt.

These balls most often completely penetrated the squirrels and I have only occasionally recovered one, as I show in my video on making squirrel dumplings. That shot had raked the animal from front to back and the ball was found under the skin on the off side. While a .310 round ball weighs only 50 grains, it will usually penetrate about 2-inches of green wood. A typical load of 20 grains of FFFg sends it out of the Crockett’s barrel at about 1400 fps. giving it 218 ft./lbs. of energy. This loading is appropriate for these guns’ 1:48-inch twist barrels. The charge could be increased to 25 grains, but hotter charges will likely result in patches stripping out on these guns’ relatively fast-twist barrel and are not needed for small game.

My wild squirrels know very well that they are being hunted and are quick to head for cover or freeze in the treetops the instant I leave the house. Occasionally I will find an area where they have not been hunted for generations and in such spots it is a much simpler task to take a limit of five squirrels. At home I am fortunate to take one or two a trip. On full moon nights the squirrels will feed as much as they want at night and have no need to expose themselves during daylight.

In brief, between the two guns, I think that a person using the Deerhunter will kill more squirrels because of its better handling characteristics than with the Crockett, despite that guns higher costs ($469 vs. $299), better looks and added features. If you want to see a video of me with the Deerhunter I have Backyard Squirrel Hunting – Muzzleloader at: ( ) that provides a good look at the rifle and a bit on squirrel cleaning.

I also have videos on squirrel cooking like Squirrel Dumplings for the BBC ( where I propose cooking up a mess of squirrels for the Royal Household. The British Isles are overrun with gray squirrels, and cooking and eating them is one way to help alleviate the problem. To date, no response has been received.

The Royals often serve wild game, but I am not sure that they have had squirrels for any of their State or social functions.

About William Hovey Smith:
As a Professional Geologist and an Outdoor Writer, Hovey has had the opportunity to live and hunt over most of North America. He was always interested in outdoor writing and sold his first articles in the 1970s and have continued with newspaper, magazine and book writing every since. Hovey has done beat reporting for regional newspapers, been published in more than 80 different publications and has produced 15 books and most recently both screen and stage plays. Visit:

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Small Arms Master Gunner

This was my first gun I purchased, in 1978. I still have it, though the lock broke long ago, and I acquired many other muzzle loaders and a few more, much better quality, .32’s because it was so much fun to shoot. It was the door that opened my love of stinky blackpowder shooting, and primitive camping.

Get Out

The kit was a fun winter project and requires a lot of patience and shouldn’t be rushed. I bought the Traditions kit that included the .32 caliber and .45 caliber barrels a long time ago. When working the wood to fit the metal components go especially slow, wood can’t be put back after it’s been sanded or shaved off. I found that sand paper glued to different sized dowel rods or square pieces of wood and used with eraser motions worked best at taking small layers of wood. I put a gouge on the side of the barrel channel while… Read more »


Amen , bought a 32 Crocket about 10 years ago for my grand son. He fell in love with it and I can’t stay away from center fire. It is fun to shoot very accurate at 50 yards , beautiful little cap and ball .


I have my great, great grand fathers 32 caliber squirrel rifle from 1850s Ga
It was taken away in the Civil War by Sherman’s men on the march to Atlanta

Two years later he was plowing and plowed up his rifle that the soldiers buried at the end of a field.

He had to carve a new Hickory stock by hand.

I inherited it and have it on my wall



Nice and interesting rifle. Why does it cost more than some bolt action rifles?

Jerry Fox

I have the Deer Hunter in .50 cal. I could never find a .32 barrel and the trigger spring is weak.

jeffrey l melton

I inherited an original squirrel rifle produced by H. E. Leman from my grandfather and a story about life in East Tennessee during the great depression. Papaw would take small game with the rifle but told me about his hound dog that had been trained to hunt for small game and retrieve the animal back to my grandfather. Papaw said times were so tight that he had to conserve powder and lead, which he hand cast and that the hound was his most important hunting accessory. My .32 weighs about 8.5 pounds and is about 50 inches overall. Papaw may… Read more »

Philip Harris

Will it shoot 0 buck shot?

Deplorable Bill

The 32 cal. one will work with buck shot. It works in mine. Also, the 30 ca. Hornady hollow base wad cutters works also.

That's funny.

Watch the gun banning politicians want to ban this assault terrorist squirrel rifle! “They will ‘claim’ only drug dealers and gang members buy these!


Right on ! They’ll do anything for a BUCK of DECEPTION


I love my factory Crockett rifle it will put them on top of each other at 50 yds. But open up at at 100 and havent been able to find the load for that distance yet?

Richard Sanders

I would like to fire 125 maxiball bullets from track of the wolf in my crockett rifle. I would also like to get a faster twist that 1/48 to do this. Anyone know where I can buy a drop in barrel with say 1/20 twist or 1/33 twist?


Howdy: I just purchased a Traditions Crockett .32 kit from Midway on sale at just $320.00. I can’t wait to get it up a firing.

Ken Coutts

$750 Canadian really hate shopping up here!


hey, I ordered one too. I put it together already, but some brass parts fit a bit shabby. the butt plate didn’t fit tge curve of tge stock. I had to heat and bend the trigger plate, and the brass trigger guard was springy to fit so I just screwed it down and it cracked on one side of the screw hole…Barrel looks nice. Should shoot well. I’ve put together a Chamber’s kit yrars ago with finer results, but it takes hours! I wouldn’t pay more than 320 until they can assure good fits are a lot more likely.

Ken Coutts

After 5 long years of searching I’ve found a Tradition Crockett.32 cal rifle near impossible to get in Canada should be in the mail tomorrow so sad we can’t order from the US anymore!

steve moran

i am seeking a source for child sized black powder rifle stocks, so I can start building my grandkids their first squirrel rifles. anybody kinow of a source? thank you.

John Holdren

I recently purchased a 28 caliber, full stocked Kentucky percussion rifle, made in 1840 to 1860 according to local gun museum owner. made by Ammon Klepfer, 1828-1863. I had to remove ball (no powder) from bore, that was fun in such a small bore! I have it ready to shoot now but can not find any info on ball size or loads. I am looking for #3 shot, or #4 shot, .25 and .24. Starting with maybe 20 grains of ffg. 40″ barrel with 7 deeply cut rifling. Any info would be appreciated.

Julia L Theodorow

I am looking for information on a Belgian made Indian Monkey gun. Muzzleloader, .32 (we think), it has no numbers anywhere and just says “made in Belgium.” One clue that we are finding unique compared to what we found online, is that the clip for wading on the stock is on the right side. Any information is appreciated!!! [email protected]

Craig Strid

Hovey do you know what the thread size is on the loading rod. I need to order a cleaning jag.
I would appreciate any assistance you could give me


i was in a pawn shop here a while back and i found an old 32 or a 36 cal. it was just an old long rifle so i bought it for 25.00 some of the parts like the hammer spring was missing but i thought that it would still make a good lamp iwas told that it would make a good shooter from this guy so i started looking for a makers mark or anything that would identify the origin with no luck there is no markings of any kind and every part of this rifle looks like had… Read more »

Buck Dean

Howdy , Try Track of the for partsand ideas.I have a .32 cal I built from their parts. Not a kit but a 42 inch barrel one of. Forged Gree Mtn. barrel,Land R lock anf trigger.And the only mark on my rifle is a squirrell on a limb cast on the lock plate. No numbers,makers mark or name,no nada