Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2013


Great Plains Quarterly 33:4 (Fall 2013).


Copyright © 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


Jim Garry's recent publication offers a meticulous assessment of the Corps of Discovery's arsenal. One of Garry's goals centers on correcting outdated information from well-known books, about the Corps and the weaponry the men carried, especially Carl P. Russell's Guns of the Early Frontiers (1957). The author acknowledges that historians have continuously advanced the scholarship on the Corps' weaponry, but misconceptions about the arsenal still exist, muddying the historical record. He encourages readers to view his book as a tool for placing the expedition and the weapons of the early nineteenth century in an accurate historical context.

The volume contains ten concise chapters, introduced by a brief discussion of the commissioning of the Corps and the preparations for the two-year journey. Each chapter reviews one type of weapon: the Model 1795 musket, swivel guns, blunderbusses, short rifles, pistols, edged weapons, and ammunition. Garry includes a chapter on John Shields, the Corps blacksmith, and another on the gun trade. The book's appendixes offer a detailed list of the guns carried by specific people and an essay on weapon maintenance.