Civil War Rifle Accuracy

Discussion in 'Blackpowder & Musket' started by Jimski, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. Jimski

    Jimski Member

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    Watching a program on the History channel about the Civil War when the moderator made the statement that the rifle's shooting mini balls were accurate up to 600 yds. I find this hard to believe. I think that even modern iron sight rifles would have a hard time hitting a man at 600 yds. Would like to hear from an expert about this. True or false?
     
  2. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    You were not shooting at a man. You were shooting at a COMPANY of men. Area target, not point target. If I miss you, I'll get the guy to your left.

    Modern iron sights at 600 yards? Yes, can be done. Not every shot, but can be done. The old "Automatic Rifle" course of fire for the M-16 had one target at 750 meters, and I have hit it. Prone, bipod, target skylined. But it IS damn tiny!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springfield_Model_1861
     

  3. SSGN_Doc

    SSGN_Doc Well-Known Member

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    Actual rifled bore long guns could be capable of minute of man accuracy to thes ranges. Sharps and remington rolling block guns with careful loading would be capable. Buffalo guns were quite accurate.

    Now if we're talking civil war era muskets or smooth bores, then they were area weapons for massing volleys of mass fire into an area concentration of soldiers as C3 already stated. Muskets were more common for general issue because it made loading faster.
     
  4. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    The auto rifle reaches out with a pattern, not a pinpoint. The semi-auto rifle designed originally to be full auto, often makes its owner struggle for accuracy.
     
  5. BillM

    BillM Active Member Supporter

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    Civil war muskets---no

    Civil war rifles? Yes, capable of hitting a man size target at 600 yds. Some more capable than others--the Whitworth
    and Sharps' may have had a bit of an edge over the Springfield and Enfield.

    600 yd iron sight man size target hit with a modern rifle? Fairly easy with the right equipment. Good bolt gun
    with a target aperture sight should hold under 6". Heck--a 100+ year old 1903 Springfield 30-06 will do
    man size hits at 600 with the issue sights.

    I believe they have been shooting "Service Rifle" matches at Camp Perry for quite some time. Iron sights,
    as issued rifles, 10" X ring at 1000 yds. Do a search for "Farr Trophy". George Farr set
    his record in 1921 with a iron sighted gun. 70 consecutive 1000 yd bullseyes!
     
  6. Sniper03

    Sniper03 Supporting Member Supporter

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    C-3 and Bill were exactly right! If you would be shooting the old smoothbore Civil War Rifles at 600 yards you could certainly hit someone in the Skirmish Line as the picture below depicts. As far as the AR Rifles in 223/5.56 doing 600 yards they do it all the time at the Camp Perry National Matches. At 600 yards the X Ring is only 6" and the 10 Ring is 12". A lot of competitors have no problem hitting these areas at 600 yards. So the history is correct! Shoot at one guy and hit a guy next to him or the second guy over. As C-3 and them stated was not a precision shot like with rifles today! They did the same with the Cannons. Shoot in the general direction and let what happened happen. There may be some civil war reenactors here on the Forum that can give you some good prospective on civil war rifles and weapons. Also the smooth bores were not the only rifles used in the later years of the civil way. They had riflings which were much more accurate!

    03
     
  7. RKB

    RKB Active Member

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    Ask the ghost of Union General John Sedgwick. At the battle of Spotsylvania Court House in 1864, his staff was ducking from Confederate sniper fire approx. 1000yds off. His comment - 'They could not hit an elephant at this distance'. Seconds later he was hit in the face and fell dead. That was not volley fire, it was aimed sniper fire.
     
  8. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    The ghost agrees. What was the question, again? :)
     
  9. MisterMcCool

    MisterMcCool Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Don't forget that innocent girl who became impregnated by a minie ball that passed through a soldier's testicle and lodged in her abdomen. :rolleyes:
     
  10. RKB

    RKB Active Member

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    "Honest, Daddy, that's how it happened! We was just kissin', and BANG!" ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  11. tinbucket

    tinbucket Well-Known Member

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    I don't own a Civil War Musket.
    Muskets were unrifled.
    I owned until some stole it in July of 76 a Buffalo Hunter .58 caliber rifled muzzle loader. With the iron sights I shot several groups of about four inch, at measured 100 yards cleaning between shots with extruded minnie balls. Best I could do.
    With a musket, which I've never shot, I understand the pattern could be over a foot.
    Perhpaps that is one reason for the tactics, of massed fire, or lines of men shooting on command against a line of men on other side of the field. I caan't imagine volunteering ,to die ,for my country lined up waiting on a volley. It is no wonder kia was so high. I much prefer making the poor sob, on the other side, die, for his country.
     
  12. RKB

    RKB Active Member

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    The 'History Channel', while it is one of my favorites, has never let facts interfere with a good story, or ratings.
    The erroneously named Minie ball (it is not a ball, it is a true 'bullet'), in a rifled musket, was capable of quite good long-range accuracy, IF - the bore, and the rifling, of the gun was properly bored and rifled, and most importantly, well-maintained to remove all corrosive fouling as soon as possible after firing - a difficult task considering the conditions at the time as well as the average soldier's lack of knowledge of the effects of black powder on his rifle's bore. Specialized long-range weapons such as the legendary Whitworth Rifle of Civil War fame, and later, the immortal Sharps and other 'buffalo guns' have borne this out. Look up Billy Dixon...
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  13. Mercator

    Mercator Active Member

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    It has never stopped amazing me. Marching in tight formation under fire was a colossal Russian roulette. Men were dispensable, that's the truth. Great bravery and a horrible waste of life.
     
  14. RKB

    RKB Active Member

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    Not true. Nearly all Civil War muskets were rifled. Suggest you do a little research.
     
  15. tinbucket

    tinbucket Well-Known Member

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    I guess I don't understand the definition.
    I always though or considered "muskets" as smooth bore as in the Revolutionary period and before and up to the Civil War and even afterwards.
    Didn't intend to step on anyone's toes.
     
  16. Rex in OTZ

    Rex in OTZ Well-Known Member

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    According to Broun it took 200 pounds of lead and iron to wound a man. he claimed over 72 million rounds of small arms ammo issued from the Richmond Arsenal alone. Kinda put a crimp in the Confederates making every round count. He claimed about 150 pounds of lead and 300 pounds of iron for every man killed.
    the average union 10 round paper bundle of ctgs =13.5 oz the ctg box full weighed 5 pounds.
    it took roughly 100 pounds of lead to take a man down. 530 gr bullets you can make approx 13 per lb of lead as i recall. times that by 100, i heard 130, but for argument sake lets use the smaller number. That takes 1300 rounds to score a hit.
    William McCarter, 116th Pennyslyvania, records in his memoirs that he was hit at Fredericksburg several times once in the left shoulder by a spent ball, and also in the left ankle. He was then hit in the right arm close to the shoulder while preparing to ram a cartridge home. The wound took him out of the action. While laying on the field, he was hit again in the wrist, but it was not serious. He had piled his blanket roll around his head, and on bullet went through six plies of blanket and rubber blanket, and he felt the impact on his skull, but it did not penetrate all the way through the blanket. When he later took the blanket roll apart, he found 32 more bullets in his blankets, and his clothes were shot to pieces. So for this one soldier, no less than 36 bullets found their mark upon his person or belongings.

    http://civilwartalk.com/threads/amount-of-ammunition-used-during-the-war.26131/


    Every Union Infantryman wore a belt set with a cartridge box and sling, cap box, and bayonet scabbard. The leather cartridge box held forty cartridges, paper tubes filled with a Minie ball and black powder issued in small packs of ten.* The cartridge box, with a removable liner made of tin that kept cartridges in order, was the safest way to protect the cartridges from sparks that could set off an explosion. Each cartridge box also had a small pouch for a cleaning kit. Union Soldiers carried sixty to eighty rounds of ammunition.* Extra cartridges that did not fit into the cartridge box were carried in pockets or a knapsack. The cap box, a small leather pouch worn on the front of the belt, held percussion caps, which had to be handled carefully because they were also very explosive. Soldiers carried a bayonet in a black leather scabbard on their left hip. With a full cartridge box, three days of rations, rifle-musket, and extra clothing, the typical Soldier's load weighed about fifty pounds.* Soldiers quickly learned what they did and did not need and would lighten their burdens over time.* Soldiers on the march left roadways littered with cast off overcoats, blankets, extra clothing, and tents.* Quartermaster wagons followed the troops to scoop up discarded items which would be cleaned and re-issued when needed.* Often troops were ordered to move in "light marching order".* Leaving their knapsacks behind in wagons, the men wrapped their blankets and gum blankets into a roll with personal items and slung the roll over their shoulder.

    https://www.armyheritage.org/educat...rmation/soldier-stories/285-civilwarequipment

    http://www.americancivilwarforum.co...hey-really-make-that-much-difference-343.html

    http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/2014/why-did-civil-war-officers-tell-their-men-to-aim-low
     

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    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  17. vulture

    vulture New Member

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    The Civil War was a tragedy in many ways, but one of the worst was the loss of life due to old tactics being married to new more deadly firearms. The combination of the "rifled musket" and the minie "ball" ( bullet actually but referred to as a ball ), created a much more accurate and deadly capability than had ever existed before, but the tactics used on the field of battle during the Civil War were basically those which had been used for ever prior to this conflict. Any time apposing forces would encounter each other the drill was to form the "old" battle formation, every one lined up shoulder to shoulder two or three men deep, then once you were in "formation" you would receive the command to prepare, aim and fire. It was a mass of lead flying from one line towards the apposing line and the result could be devastating under the right conditions, and the ranges were ridiculously close. I am not a historian, but I have looked at some of these battles and wondered if there would have been many more casualties if the men doing the shooting had actually known what they were doing, in other words had received the same training I did when I went into the service. There were a number of us "farm" boys who had been shooting for years, but there were a good number of young men from the cities who had not, and yet with the training received prior to going to the range and the instruction at the range some of these men proved to be great shots, far better than myself who thought was a "good" shot. Like I say, I'm not an expert, but I've shot a number of rifled muskets, replicas of course, and they are capable of some pretty fine accuracy. I may be wrong on this but it is my understanding that the original Enfield's had progressive rifling, which means it was shallower at the breach and got progressively deeper as it approached the muzzle and this made them even more accurate than the replicas of today.
     
  18. CaptMidnight

    CaptMidnight New Member Supporter

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    There are no such firearms as a Smooth bored rifle. It is rifled or it is a smooth bore. These are terms that were applied to cosmetics by Nimrods. The French Mini Ball greatly extended the range and lethality to shoulder arms. The Remington and the Enfield among others were and are capable of hitting man sized targets at 600 yards. These rifles were also scoped by both Northern and Southern Troops. :)
     
  19. alsaqr

    alsaqr Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In late 1950s and early 1960s i owned several pristine Enfield and Springfield rifles. Even owned an original Whitworth. Such weapons were not valuable until the Civil War Centennial. Then the price skyrocketed.

    If the bore was swabbed after every shot the Enfield and Springfield rifles could make 4-5" groups at 100 yards. If the bore was not swabbed loading became increasingly difficult and accuracy went away. In my junk are hundreds of Minie' bullets picked up from battlefields and firing ranges. Many have badly battered noses from being whanged with the ramrod while loading.

    According to his company commander, French Harding; my great great uncle killed a federal soldier who was shooting from behind a log at a distance of "not less than 300 yards". The weapon was an Enfield rifle. The fact that Harding mentions this incident may indicate that killing enemy soldiers at 300 yards with a rifle was not a common feat.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015
  20. Hawg

    Hawg Active Member

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    My repro Enfield doesn't have the same rifling as the original but it will tear Hell out of a metal five gallon bucket at 300 yards. It will also leave a hole 9 inches deep and four across in the soft dirt of a pond bank after going through said bucket. I have an original but have not shot it at that distance but it is more accurate at the distances I have shot it. I have no doubts that the stories of 600-800 yard shots are true.