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Thread: A Question About Buffalo Rifles...

  1. #21
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    The 1877 Sharps catalog lists telescopic sights at 35$.
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  2. #22
    Boolit Master

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    Where the newer unertls scopes have 1/2"-3/4" elevation the Malcomb mounts had 1 1/2-2" of elevation in them. I would also be these buffalo hunters had bases or mounts that put the starting zero as close to the bottom of travel as possible, leaving as much of the elevation adjustment as possible for use.

  3. #23
    Boolit Master



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    Quote Originally Posted by ascast View Post
    Now I heard it all ! I have a 20x Unertl on my Sharps and with standard blocks it will zero a little past 250 yards. To hit any past that is quess work hold over, and you could do as well with plain iron. 20-30 power ! rubbish ! The back end would be 5 or 6 inches off the barrel. Maybe there was one, or two, but they wern't used past day number one. YHou wold need a modren cutting edge range finder to go with it.
    The civil war and buffalo era scopes had much different mounts than your Unertl. Todays reproduction civil war and buffalo era scopes have no problem shooting past 1,000 yards with BPCR's. It would have been no different during the day. Scopes didn't have click adjustments. Most had a screw and used venier scale same as the staff sights.

    As to hold over the normal process was to start shooting close. The herd bulls first and continue shooting as the herd move away while increasing elevation as the herd moved away until they started to miss than move too close again and repeat the process until the skinners had all they could handle.

    The journals of the day and the rifle catalogs indicate the scopes had been used in significant numbers for buffalo hunting and long range sharpshooting during the civil wars.

    The percentage of civil war rifles that were scoped was minuscule compared to the total number of rifles. More common with the sharpshooters.

    https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+b.....-a0147466234

    Sight Savvy

    It is probably true most bison hunters used their rifles' buckhorn-type rear sights coupled with one sort or another of blade type front. However, Frank Sellers in his book Sharps Firearms says by 1876 about one fourth of the rifles shipped westwards carried scopes. Also the Sharps Rifle Company drilled and tapped the tangs of their Sporting Rifles for peep sight mounting, so it's a safe bet some hunters used such. Conversely Remington did not drill and tap their Sporting Rifles' tangs for peep sights, but did offer one mounted on the barrel called the "Combination Open & Peep Sight." It was a $2.50 option.


    One other specialty shooting style that scopes were relatively common back in the day was otter and seal hunting on the west coast.

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    Last edited by M-Tecs; 02-10-2018 at 05:07 PM.

  4. #24
    Boolit Buddy
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    Doesn't Ned Roberts in his book "The Muzzleloading Cap Lock Rifle" also mention 20-30 power scopes his uncle, the yankee sniper used, and for target work in New England? I would expect Mr. Roberts knew exactly what he was talking about as well as Mr. Mayer when compared to someone trying to compare today's mounting system and scopes to those of 140+ years ago.
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  5. #25
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  6. #26
    Boolit Buddy
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    Unertl mounts or no, you still have to get the back end up to makes 1,000yd or more shots. Of all those pictured, 2 might go that distance; one a percussion bench gun and the other on a Sharpes precision rig. The rest are too low to go much past 20 rods or 220 yards. Well with in iron sights killing ranges. Are any of those pictured over 6x ? I like to see a pic of a 30x tube scope. Ned Roberts book? I have that somewhere, I'll have to look it up. Bench rest work in New England you say ? We were talking about Buffalo hunting west of the Mississippi, but a gun's a gun.

    M-Tecs can-t pull up your pics not sure why

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by country gent View Post
    Where the newer unertls scopes have 1/2"-3/4" elevation the Malcomb mounts had 1 1/2-2" of elevation in them. I would also be these buffalo hunters had bases or mounts that put the starting zero as close to the bottom of travel as possible, leaving as much of the elevation adjustment as possible for use.
    yup, I think any BPCR out there would need more than 1.5 inch vertical travel to go a full 1,000 -1,500 yards. You might check that on your own vernier, I could be wrong.

  8. #28
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gunlaker View Post
    There aren't a lot of scopes shown in the new book by Marcott, but the old scopes seemed pretty decent. Orville Loomer has a heavy Sharps with what he estimates is a 20x original scope. The old scope mounts were definitely lower to the barrel than what you buy from MVA these days.

    I shoot a scoped rifle in Creedmoor and my 1000 yard sight setting for with a 28" scope puts the eye at nearly the exact same height above the comb as my long range MVA soule sight ( which also didn't exist back then .

    A range finder would be pretty handy . It doesn't take much at all to miss at great distances if you don't know the exact distance!

    Chris.
    How much vertical travel on that scope mount? Is it mounted far back? or more towards the barrel middle?

  9. #29
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    Not an old Buffalo rifle, but they are fun to shoot
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  10. #30
    Boolit Man
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    Guys, I've had a tough time getting my head straight about all the claims and attributes made in the past by various authors and the use of early scoped rifles. Up until the Civil War, scoped rifles were rare and the scopes very primitive at best. Most of them had limited elevation and were adjusted to shoot 40 rod target matches. Some Whitworth rifles that the south used had good elevation adjustments but they were rare as most had the scopes fixed to the side of the rifle. Until Malcolm scopes came out, there were few scopes that had decent windage and elevation and I don't know how many rifles were equipped with them during the civil war.
    Also, there are physical limitations on how much you can bend light without losing the image or having a very narrow field of few. Scopes of 20-24X must have been very dark and hard to aquire the target. That's why scopes with a straight 3/4" tube are usually limited to 3-6X. When it comes to buffalo rifles, most hunters were illiterate and spent their life earnings to get equipped. I can just see him on his hide lying on the prairie with his new set of Malcolm scope instructions. "Let's see now, which way do I move my knob to get the bullet to move right and where do I set my elevation to hit that buff?” When Frank Mayer writes about a buffalo that he puts at a half mile and says his first shot went through the paunch. To that I say, B.S. Being off 50 yds at that distance means a change of 40” in elevation. Those of you that have shot at one of the gong matches like Alliance or the Quigley know how tough it would be to get on with just 3 or 4 shots if it wasn’t for that sign out in front of the target that gave the yardage.

  11. #31
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    GUSA #6
    People will forget what you said...
    People will forget what you did...
    But People will NEVER forget how you made them feel

    Want to join in adult conversation about shooting the old ways without the hysterics associated with other places?http://historicshooting.com/mybb/index.php

  12. #32
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have found this to be a moving target. When I was a kid, we read / were told scopes were rare during the Civil War and after. Now days it seems they were as common as 4 legged dogs. I have read that most seen were not scopes, but plain tubes- Unertl and Redding and I think Belding & Mull offered them. They do help seeing the target. I am no optic guru, but general more power means bigger lenses, longer length or prisms such as in common binoculars. Modern scopes are generally 12-14" long, yet put in a full barrel length tube so they look right. Modern lens grinding is light years ahead of the 1800's , so better scope.
    Frank Mayer- was he not the guy who, somehow managed to patch up a bullet for field use? If I recall, he had some .44 bullets but was abler tp wrap them in kid skin to get them up to 45 call, for yet another 2 mile instant kill shot. Whiskey please
    Don- that is a nice rifle. I am quit sure it never was in any Buffalo camp. Scope looks like a 40 rod mount at best. thanks for sharing more whiskey

  13. #33
    Boolit Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    Yeh well it doesn't take that much elevation on a malcolm type scope to reach 220 yards, the scope on that rifle would likely get it's 44-77 bullet to 1000 yards without much trouble, and maybe a touch beyond.
    Mayers book is full of questionable stuff. Patching the 44 bullet in buckskin to fit a 45 is one of the more questionable things, that 44 bullet was most likely around .438 diameter to start with and it's really questionable whether or not it would even fit in a 45 case.
    Last edited by Don McDowell; 02-10-2018 at 10:26 PM.
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  14. #34
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by baogongmeo View Post
    1st Sergeant John Ryan of Company M ,7th Cavalry , had a scoped Sharps along on the Little Bighorn campaign that he ,reportedly, used to good effect from Reno's position. It was in 45/70 and he had traded an Infantry Sergeant a case or two of the 405gr. Cavalry ammo for a like amount of the 500gr. Infantry ammo. . This occurred at Ft. Abraham Lincoln. When the organized metal detecting search of the site was done several years ago, a few 500gr. 45/70 bullets with Sharps rifling were found in the area where Sgt. Ryan had used his rifle to remove some Indians from a high point who were sniping into their position.
    Quote Originally Posted by ascast View Post
    yup, I think any BPCR out there would need more than 1.5 inch vertical travel to go a full 1,000 -1,500 yards. You might check that on your own vernier, I could be wrong.
    I need about 110-120 minutes or so to go from 200 to 1000 yards on my long range rifles. On a 28" MVA scope ( granted it's a little different than the original mounts ) you need 0.005" per minute so I need 0.55" to 0.60" travel to go from 200 to 1000.

    If you used original style mounts with dovetail blocks you'd need maybe twice that adjustment range if the dovetails were near the ends of a 34" barrel.

    There is some interesting stuff in this thread. It's been a few years since I've read Sellers' book, I'll have to read it again. The new Marcott book on the 1874 Sharps is quite good too. Lots of neat details in there.

    Chris.

  15. #35
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by ascast View Post
    How much vertical travel on that scope mount? Is it mounted far back? or more towards the barrel middle?
    I am using an MVA Creedmoor mount which has tons of travel. I don't know what the max range is on my rifles, but considerably more than 1000 yards with that scope. I'd need a taller cheek rest than the Shiloh one for past 1000 though as it'd be pretty uncomfortable. The mounts are 17" apart. Basically about half of the distance between the front and rear sights on a Sharps.

  16. #36
    Boolit Master
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    Here are is a picture of some of my long range rifles.

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    The top rifle is a Sharps 1874 in .45-2.6" with a 28" MVA scope and the second is a Borchardt in .45-2.4" with a 23" MVA scope. Both setups work for long range. The older mounts have greater spacing, but are also closer to the barrel centerline.

    If you do some searching for Orville Loomer's Tollofson rifle you will see a picture of his original Sharps long range rifle ( target rifle ) with original scope. It's probably the coolest Sharps you could find, except maybe one of Frank Hyde's Borchardts in .45 2-7/8ths...

  17. #37
    Boolit Master
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    Actually here is a thread on the Shiloh forum of Orville's. Although not a rifle used in buffalo hunting, it's an example of an original setup capable of fantastic accuracy. Orville has a reproduction of a 1000 yard target shot with it in the old days. That target would be the envy of many long range shooters of today.

    http://www.shilohrifle.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=19669

    Chris.

  18. #38
    Boolit Master

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    When I ordered the MVA scope with long range creed more mount and windage adjustable front the gentleman I talked to said that on my 45-90 with 500+ gen bullet it should get me to 1100-1200 yds with the standard blocks. I could use a taller block in the rear and gain more but the rifle might not zero at shorter ranges then. Thay make blocks of 10-20-30 minutes height

  19. #39
    Boolit Buddy
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    I thought Frank Mayers in his book stated he used German made Volmer scopes ( probably spelt it wrong)

  20. #40
    Boolit Master

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    For a long time, any Sharps rifle, especially if it was in one of the bigger .40 to .50 calibers, was termed a “buffalo gun” almost generically. Then someone got hold of the factory shipping records, and the bottom fell out of the “buffalo gun” market. You could send in your serial number with a check and get a “factory letter” detailing when your gun left the factory and who it was sent to.

    If your rifle was sent to D. Kirkwood of Boston in 1879, it was not used on the buffalo range, no matter what the caliber or style. If it went to Schuyler, Hartley and Graham of New York City in 1874, it would certainly need supporting documentation to be a believable buffalo rifle. A lot of Eastern gun cranks were just like we are, buying the “biggest and baddest” just for the Experience.

    On the other hand, if it was sent to F.C. Zimmerman and Co. of Dodge City, Kansas in 1872 or F. E. Conrad of Ft. Griffin, Texas in 1874, there really isn’t any other reason besides hide hunting for the thing to be there.

    Of course, if it was shipped direct to a noted buffalo runner, it’s a dead certainty. But most of these rifles, if kept in the family or donated by them to a museum, don’t show up on the market. Those in Marcot’s book mostly have the barrel sights.

    Maybe somebody has a later, revised edition, but my Sellers book illustrations show that every rifle but one likely shipped to the buffalo ranges has only the regular barrel sights. The exception has a tang sight, which is noted as being a later replacement. Some of the fancier ones sent West to J.P. Lower and others were likely for target shooting or sporting purposes. Lower, Gove, Walter Cooper and others supplied and supported (and even participated in) a lot of these activities.

    I wouldn’t doubt that some of the more gun-savvy pros (and a lot of thrill-seeking amateurs) had better sights, or even telescope sights, but this was not the norm. And I’m sure Frank Mayer made his paunch shot way out there. There were many notations of “remarkable shots” back then, but of the wounding and misses, little remains except the rather restrained comment by someone (I forget who) who admitted that stunt shooting on live animals was “hard on the game.”

    I have one of my takeoff Shiloh blade front sights and an old fashioned copper penny out in the shop, waiting to be sawed in half and put together per the instructions on the Shiloh site. After I get my .44-77 wrung out with target sights, I hope to see how it does with the standard equipment, so modified. If I get regular hits on the Pigs, it would be all that any rifle, even a modern one, would need for hunting.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check