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Patriot
12-07-2007, 12:21 PM
Interesting

ARMS.

Every man who goes into the Indian country should be armed with a rifle and revolver, and he should never, either in camp or out of it, lose sight of them. When not on the march, they should be placed in such a position that they can be seized at an instant's warning; and when moving about outside the camp, the revolver should invariably be worn in the belt, as the person does not know at what moment they may have a use for it.

A great diversity of opinion obtains regarding the kind of rifle that is the most efficient and best adapted to Indian warfare, and the question is perhaps as yet from being settled to the satisfaction of all. A large majority of men prefer the breech-loading arm, but there are those who still adhere tenaciously to the old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifle as preferable to any of the modern inventions. Among these may be mentioned the border hunters and mountaineers, who can not be persuaded to use any other than the Hawkins rifle, for the reason that they know nothing about the merits of any others. My own experience has forced me to the conclusion that the breech-loading arm possesses great advantages over the muzzle-loading, for the reason that it can be charged and fired with much greater rapidity.

Colt's revolving pistol is very generally admitted, both in Europe and America, to be the most efficient arm of its kind known at the present day. As the same principles are involved in the fabrication of his breech-loading rifle as are found in the pistol, the conviction to me is irresistible, that, if one arm is worthy of consideration, the other is equally so. For my own part, I look upon Colt's new patent rifles as a most excellent arm for border services. It gives six shots in more rapid succession than any other rifle I know of, and these, if properly expended, are oftentimes sufficient to decide a contest; moreover, it is the most reliable and certain weapon to fire that I have ever used, and I can not resist the force of my conviction that, if I were alone upon the prairies, and expected an attack from a body of Indians, I am not acquainted with any arm I would as soon have in my hands as this.

The army and navy revolvers have both been used in our army, but the officers are not united in opinion in regard to their relative merits. I prefer the large army size, for reasons which will be given hereafter.

DISPOSITION OF FIRE-ARMS.

The mountaineers and trappers exercise a very wise precaution, on laying down for the night, by placing their arms and ammunition by their sides, where they can be seized at a moment's notice. This rule is never departed from, and they are therefore seldom liable to be surprised. In Parkyns's "Abyssinia," I find the following remarks upon this subject:

"When getting sleepy, you return your rifle between your legs, roll over, and go to sleep. Some people may think this is a queer place for a rifle; but, on the contrary, it is the position of all others where utility and comfort are most combined. The butt rests on the arm, and serves as a pillow for the head; the muzzle points between the knees, and the arms encircle the lock and breech, so that you have a smooth pillow, and are always prepared to start up armed at a moment's notice."

I have never made the experiment of sleeping in this way, but I should imagine that a gun-stock would make rather a hard pillow.

Many of our experienced frontier officers prefer carrying their pistols in a belt at their sides to placing them in holsters attached to the saddle, as in the former case they are always at hand when they are dismounted; whereas, by the other plan, they become useless when a man is unhorsed, unless he has time to remove them from the saddle, which, during the excitement of an action, would seldom be the case.

Notwithstanding Colt's army and navy sized revolvers have been in use for a long time in our army, officers are by no means of one mind as to their relative merits for frontier service. The navy pistol, being more light and portable, is more convenient for the belt, but it is very questionable in my mind whether these qualities counterbalance the advantages derived from the greater weight of powder and lead that can be fired from the larger pistol, and the consequent increased projectile force.

This point is illustrated by an incident which fell under my own observation. In passing near the "Medicine-Bow Butte" during the spring of 1858, I most unexpectedly encountered and fired at a full-grown grizzly bear; but, as my horse had become somewhat blown by a previous gallop, his breathing so much disturbed my aim that I missed the animal at the short distance of about fifty yards, and he ran off. Fearful, if I stopped to reload my rifle, the bear would make his escape, I resolved to drive him back to the advanced guard of our escort, which I could see approaching in the distance; this I succeeded in doing, when several mounted men, armed with the navy revolvers, set off in pursuit. They approached within a few paces, and discharged ten or twelve shots, the most of which entered the animal, but he still kept on, and his progress did not seem materially impeded by the wounds. After these men had exhausted their charges, another man rode up armed with the army revolver, and fired two shots, which brought the stalwart beast to the ground. Upon skinning him and making an examination of the wounds, it was discovered that none of the balls from the small pistols had, after passing through his thick and tough hide, penetrated deeper than about an inch into the flesh, but that the two balls from the large pistol had gone into the vitals and killed him. This test was to my mind a decisive one as to the relative efficiency of the two arms for frontier service, and I resolved thenceforth to carry the larger size. Illustration: The Grizzly.

Several different methods are practiced in slinging and carrying fire-arms upon horseback. The shoulder-strap, with a swivel to hook into a ring behind the guard, with the muzzle resting downward in a leather cup attached by a strap to the same staple as the stirrup-leather, is a very handy method for cavalry soldiers to sling their carbines; but, the gun being reversed, the jolting caused by the motion of the horse tends to move the charge and shake the powder out of the cone, which renders it liable to burst the gun and to miss fire.

An invention of the Namaquas, in Africa, described by Galton in his Art of Travel, is as follows:

"Sew a bag of canvas, leather, or hide, of such bigness as to admit the butt of the gun pretty freely. The straps that support it buckle through a ring-in the pommel, and the thongs by which its slope is adjusted fasten round the girth below. The exact adjustments may not be hit upon by an unpracticed person for some little time, but, when they are once ascertained, the straps need never be shifted. The gun is perfectly safe, and never comes below the arm-pit, even in taking a drop leap; it is pulled out in an instant by bringing the elbow in front of the gun and close to the side, so as to throw the gun to the outside of the arm; then, lowering the hand, the gun is caught up. It is a bungling way to take out the gun while its barrel lies between the arm and the body. Any sized gun can be carried in this fashion. It offers no obstacle to mounting or dismounting."

This may be a convenient way of carrying the gun; I have never tried it. Of all methods I have used, I prefer, for hunting, a piece of leather about twelve inches by four, with a hole cut in each end; one of the ends is placed over the pommel of the saddle, and with a buckskin string made fast to it, where it remains a permanent fixture. When the rider is mounted, he places his gun across the strap upon the saddle, and carries the loose end forward over the pommel, the gun resting horizontally across his legs. It will now only be necessary occasionally to steady the gun with the hand. After a little practice the rider will be able to control it with his knees, and it will be found a very easy and convenient method of carrying it. When required for use, it is taken out in an instant by simply raising it with the hand, when the loose end of the strap comes off the pommel.

Patriot
12-07-2007, 12:22 PM
The chief causes of accidents from the use of fire-arms arise from carelessness, and I have always observed that those persons who are most familiar with their use are invariably the most careful. Many accidents have happened from carrying guns with the cock down upon the cap. When in this position, a blow upon the cock, and sometimes the concussion produced by the falling of the gun, will explode the cap; and, occasionally, when the cock catches a twig, or in the clothes, and lifts it from the cap, it will explode. With a gun at half-cock there is but little danger of such accidents; for, when the cock is drawn back, it either comes to the full-cock, and remains, or it returns to the half-cock, but does not go down upon the cone. Another source of very many sad and fatal accidents resulting from the most stupid and culpable carelessness is in persons standing before the muzzles of guns and attempting to pull them out of wagons, or to draw them through a fence or brush in the same position. If the cock encounters an obstacle in its passage, it will, of course, be drawn back and fall upon the cap. These accidents are of frequent occurrence, and the cause is well understood by all, yet men continue to disregard it, and their lives pay the penalty of their indiscretion. It is a wise maxim, which applies with especial force in campaigning on the prairies, "Always look to your gun, but never let your gun look at you."

An equally important maxim might be added to this: Never to point your gun at another, whether charged or uncharged, and never allow another to point his gun at you. Young men, before they become accustomed to the use of arms, are very apt to be careless, and a large percentage of gun accidents may be traced to this cause. That finished sportsman and wonderful shot, my friend Captain Martin Scott, than whom a more gallant soldier never fought a battle, was the most careful man with fire-arms I ever knew, and up to the time he received his death-wound upon the bloody field of Molino del Rey he never ceased his cautionary advice to young officers upon this subject. His extended experience and intimate acquaintance with the use of arms had fully impressed him with its importance, and no man ever lived whose opinions upon this subject should carry greater weight. As incomprehensible as it may appear to persons accustomed to the use of fire-arms, recruits are very prone, before they have been drilled at target practice with ball cartridges, to place the ball below the powder in the piece. Officers conducting detachments through the Indian country should therefore give their special attention to this, and require the recruits to tear the cartridge and pour all the powder into the piece before the ball is inserted.

As accidents often occur in camp from the accidental discharge of fire-arms that have been capped, I would recommend that the arms be continually kept loaded in campaigning, but the caps not placed upon the cones until they are required for firing. This will cause but little delay in an action, and will conduce much to security from accidents.

When loaded fire-arms have been exposed for any considerable time to a moist atmosphere, they should be discharged, or the cartridges drawn, and the arms thoroughly cleaned, dried, and oiled. Too much attention can not be given in keeping arms in perfect firing order.

By Randolph B. Marcy
Published by the War Department in 1859, this book came a little late for the bulk of the pioneers. But it provides a detailed look at the journey in this era.

http://www.isu.edu/%7Etrinmich/00.n.guidebooks.html

Scarecrow Repair
12-07-2007, 2:25 PM
For those who don't know, what they called "cone" back then, we call "nipple" now. Thus his reference to a bouncing firearm eventually leaking powder out the cone ...

JPglee1
12-07-2007, 3:27 PM
Ive always wondered how they would remove a ball that was put in BEFORE the powder charge, on accident or otherwise....

Maybe some screw-type device on a rod?? *scratches head*


Good post, and a good read with good info. Bravo.


J

WolfMansDad
12-07-2007, 4:29 PM
Ive always wondered how they would remove a ball that was put in BEFORE the powder charge, on accident or otherwise....

Maybe some screw-type device on a rod?? *scratches head*


Good post, and a good read with good info. Bravo.


J

Yup, it's called a ball puller. For example...

http://www.dixiegunworks.com/product_info.php?products_id=11469

Patriot
12-07-2007, 4:31 PM
Ive always wondered how they would remove a ball that was put in BEFORE the powder charge, on accident or otherwise....

Don't do that in combat or you are well and truly uh-ohed :eek:

Scarecrow Repair
12-07-2007, 8:23 PM
Yup, it's called a ball puller. For example...

http://www.dixiegunworks.com/product_info.php?products_id=11469

Note that if you use one, it is important it be centered when rammed (yes, rammed) down the barrel, because you don't want it sliding off the side and wedging between the ball and barrel, you want it centered on the ball. Either get the right size to start with, or wrap masking tape around the rod to close to barrel size. It doesn't have to be a tight fit; a .58 size will work in a .69 barrel.

They work quite well, but take a lot of pull to come out, the ball is usually a tight fit, and you also have to treat it as if there is powder behind the ball; don't let an accidental discharge shove the ball puller back at you or anyone else. I almost always end up sticking the handle of my ball puller (custom made) in a deck grate and yanking the rifle.

Reenactors never use a ram rod, they just pour powder and fire, because there is always the possibility of the ramrod firing, and thaere's a crowd to watch, hoepfully.