Test: Pedersoli Traditional Hawken muzzleloading rifle in .54 caliber for left-handed shooters

Is the “right” gun right for you too? The majority of firearms are designed for right-handed shooters, although a considerable proportion of people are left-handed. In general, it is assumed that 10 to 15 percent are left-handed. In addition to true left-handers, there are also people who are functionally right-handed, but have to use their left eye and hand permanently due to eye defects or injuries. In shooting, this means that such right-handed people use their firearms from the left side. This means that far more than 10 to 15 percent of all shooters do so: a clientele for whom tuned manufacturing is worthwhile. Increasingly, these "lefties" are equipping themselves. There remains the field of muzzleloaders. The originals date back to a time when left-handers were often converted to right-handers. Nevertheless, firearms optimized for these customers are not a new topic: they have been around as long as rifles have been rested on the shoulder with a stock. Now, one of the two authors of this article also belongs to this part of humanity, known in boxing as the "southpaw". As such, he owns three "left" firearms from different manufacturers and in different calibers that are over 100 years old. No wonder we paid attention when Master Tim Lorenz of Pedersoli Service Point mentioned the new left-handed version of one of their rifle models. So the rifle from Italian manufacturer Pedersoli was ordered for testing: a .54 muzzleloading percussion rifle bearing the model designation Traditional Hawken Target Left Hand. 

The Pedersoli Traditional Hawken is suitable for beginners

The general price trend does not make concessions even to muzzleloaders. You can complain about this, but you have to accept it, because comparisons with prices of past years lead nowhere. In the meantime, inexpensive entry-level firearms are also interesting for manufacturers who did not offer such products before. Pedersoli has enjoyed a good reputation for years as a manufacturer of high-quality, but often quite high-priced newly made classics. Nevertheless, the Italian company now also offers entry-level products. This merely means that price-driving machining is avoided. Experience has shown that this does not affect gun accuracy at all: ultimately, only the shooter's skill determines the actual performance.

The Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target barrel and percussion lock stripped. Not only the entire action showed neat and solid workmanship. Even the barrel wedge, which is here again pushed all the way into the stock, is slotted lengthwise and secured against loss by a pin.

The Traditional Hawken Target that belongs in this field is not an exact replica of a rifle from the legendary workshop of the American brothers Jacob and Samuel Hawken. "Hawken Rifle" is understood here as a collective term for half-stock muzzle-loading rifles. Like all Hawkens, it is more of a hunting rifle. Nevertheless, it can be used for target shooting. The style is similar to the Pedersoli Rocky Mountain Hawken. But it is shorter, lighter and in a "left hand" version (by the way, one of eight in this series, which consists of percussion and flintlock models). Everything is the other way around: lock and hammer are on the left, the stock is slightly casted to the left, and the cheek piece is on the right side of the butt.

The Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target is also available with a flintlock mechanism, in both right and left hand versions.

For comparison, here is a Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target as a flintlock version for right-handed shooters. The flintlock version is also available for left-handed shooters, just as there is a percussion version of the Traditional Hawken Target for right-handed shooters.

But after the short digression on the flintlock models, back to our Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target "Lefty" with percussion lock. The fact that the barrel surface was smoothed, not polished, before bluing shows that it is entry-level. One looks in vain for a checkering or holes for quick diopter sight mounting, as well as a barrel that can be removed and a patent breech plug. The stock of the gun is American walnut, its surface is silky matte and smooth, also inside. Accordingly, this section probably received completely pore-filling matte lacquer. It does the job, but chic is different – and more expensive. If you want it to be different, you have to do it yourself: paint off, fine sanding, then polishing in several steps with a pad and linseed oil. The woodwork is good, even where you can't see it. The barrel bed, for example, is cleanly machined and splinter-free. However, if you want to max out the gun's potential, you can bed the barrel at least in the breech area. There is a small patch compartment in the rear, the trigger guard is screwed on and not recessed. Again, if you want it different, you have to do it yourself. The fit between metal and wood is good, without metal protrusions, brass fittings are all polished. Pedersoli designed the stock in such a way that the rifle can be aimed from a standing or lying position. Primarily, it should be used standing at 50 meters. For 100 meters, a sling would be necessary, but there are no mounts for it. 

Above the countersunk muzzle of the Pedersoli Traditional Hawken sits the side-drifting front sight. The ramrod of the rifle has a screw-in cleaning head.

For the firing mechanism, Pedersoli used the variant known in the USA as "drum and nipple". This type of percussion lock was used in the past for converting flintlocks. A drum equipped with a touch hole and nipple was screwed into the flash hole. The drum supported itself in the lock plate in the recess for the no longer needed pan. The rifle also offered a cleaning screw – helpful if you forget the powder when loading: loosening the screw allows enough propellant to be poured in to fire the bullet out. This is not possible in a match, where every shot counts. But in training, you can help yourself in this way. Two screws, held in place by brass rings, fix the lock in place. There is no counter plate. The lock proved to be fast. The trigger, of the German set trigger type, always released safely in the test. The sights consisted of a Buckhorn rear sight with rectangular notch and a slightly inverted V-shaped front sight. The sight picture was good and allowed accurate aiming. 

The buckhorn rear sight of the Pedersoli Traditional Hawken is made of spring steel and can be adjusted in height by means of a sliding elevator.

The rear sight can be adjusted in height using a wedge-shaped step elevator. For windage adjustment, the front sight has to be moved in the dovetail. The wooden ramrod has a brass cap at the rear and a cap made of the same material with an internal thread at the front, into which a cleaning head suitable for the caliber is screwed as standard. Nevertheless, a separate ramrod was used. Experience has shown that rifle ramrods like to break if it tilts even slightly during loading or cleaning. For cleaning the barrel with water, use a cleaning gun. The force with which the breech screw in the trigger plate is tightened can influence accuracy. All screws used here (including the breech screw) require screwdrivers with a very narrow blade. These are not found in all the usual bit sets, so you have to buy the tool or grind it yourself. 

Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target left-hand version specs and price


Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target Left Hand

770,- Euro
1 Schuss
1.134 mm
Barrel Length:
730 mm
Twist Length:
1.200 mm (Drall 1:47“)
Trigger Pull Weight:
3.790  g
Left/Right Version:
Features: walnut stock, lacquered, with German cheek piece, patch compartment and brass fittings. Blued barrel, blued screws and trigger blade, color case hardened lockplate. Percussion system ("drum and nipple"). German set trigger, wooden ramrod, breech screw, driftable front sight, Buckhorn rear sight (elevation adjustable).

On the shooting range with the Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Target

Two of the shooting patches used in the test of the Pedersoli "Lefty" Traditional Hawken Target.

Before firing for the first time, remove all preservative from the barrel, remove the touch hole screw and nipple, degrease their threads and coat them with a suitable release agent. This prevents freezing. Pedersoli advises .535" (13.59 mm) bullets, loads between 70 and 100 grains, and a .01" (0.25 mm) patch. Experience with other .54 Hawkens shows that even smaller loads allow accurate hits. The factory tips suit hunting; for target shooting, the loads are too hot. They produce powerful recoil in the short, lightweight rifle, which is uncomfortable even with common 15-round series. In addition, the hottest loads are not always the most accurate. Since target shooting is all about a hole in the right place, the testers tried lighter loads between 52 and 63 grains of Swiss No. 2 (CH2) black powder. They shot the Hawken out of the box. Hits were centered, allowing the front sight to stay where it sat. When firing at 50 yards and with the “six o'clock hold", the rear sight should be two steps up on the elevator. Even with heavy loads, this elevator held its position.

In series one, we used .535” bullets as recommended. These could only be brought into the barrel with patches of the aforementioned thickness using a loading hammer. But that deforms the bullets – bad for optimal hits. In series two, used .530” bullets, which could only be loaded using a bullet setter. The powder was always fed into the barrel with a barrel-length funnel, and wiped dry after each shot. The gun shot great, even in longer series without any flyers or sudden changes in the point of impact.

Considering that the diameter of the "10" ring on the target is exactly 50 mm, most shots could be placed there with the top load of 58 grains. In total, the testers fired 86 times with various loads. Conclusion: it works. Although or precisely because everything is the other way around, the thing does what it's supposed to. And the price-performance ratio is okay. 

 What we liked: What we liked less:

-  Practical and neatly worked

-  Good accuracy

-  Slightly creeping set trigger out of the box

-  The plasticky varnish

For more information please visit the Pedersoli website.

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