Blasts from the Pasts: CJ Hamilton pump

cj hamilton pump rifle
Harold's Model 39 C.J. Hamilton pump rifle.F&S

I have heard of most of the guns we use on Blasts from the Past, but I’ve got to admit the C.J. Hamilton pump is a new one on me. Yet there were millions of Hamilton “boy’s rifles” made, from 1898 to 1945. Clarence Hamilton is best known as the inventor of the Daisy air gun. In the late 1880s his invention saved the company he founded, the Plymouth Windmill Company, which was struggling to sell the vaneless windmill Hamilton also invented. The guns were produced in the windmill factory and originally given as premiums to windmill buyers, but they soon became more popular than the windmills. The company switched from being a windmill company that gave away air guns to an airgun company called Daisy, and the rest is well-known history.

Less known today are the rimfire “boy’s rifles” (because they were boy-sized and very inexpensive) that Hamilton, and his son Coello, made in Plymouth, Michigan and sold under the C.J. Hamilton name. In fact, they were so inexpensive that some were put randomly inside sacks of grain as prizes for farmers. Hamilton died young in 1902, and Coello carried on the business into World War II. There were many different models of Hamilton rifles, and today we’re featuring the pump.

Harold's Model 39 This little jewel is my Model 39 C.J. Hamilton pump rifle in 22 short. From the late 1800s up to the Second World War, C.J. Hamilton was the largest seller of "boy's rifles" with millions made. The reason they were so successful was that these things were so cheaply manufactured that almost anybody could afford one. Most sold for considerably less than $5.00. This pump is one of the rarer models and probably the most expensive. Except for the barrel, all parts are made out of formed sheet metal. The barrel is what looks like an iron rod with a hole drilled through it. Then a copper (!) lining was put in the hole and rifling impressed into it. Another piece of sheet metal was then wrapped (almost) around the barrel for added strength. Most Hamiltons were single shots. About 40 years ago I found the rifle in my grandfather's house and asked him if I could have it. I thought it was so funky it was cool. He said yes so I took it home with me. Shortly after I acquired it, I shot a prairie dog with it. Since then I've shot perhaps a dozen rounds out of it. Surprisingly, the rifling is still there and when I last shot it, the accuracy wasn't all that bad. This isn't exactly the highest quality firearm ever made in America, but it is a neat piece of Americana and it actually has some collector value.

Thanks to Harold for teaching me something new. Keep the gun pictures coming to