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View Poll Results: Have you ever heard of either of these shots before?
Yes 36 75.00%
No 12 25.00%
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Old June 5, 2005, 01:42 PM   #1
butch50
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Two Great Rifle Shots

On the third day of the Adobe Walls seige, June 30, 1874 near Amarillo, buffalo hunter Billy Dixon was challenged to pick off one of a party of Cheyenne horsemen atop a butte east of the hunters sod fort. Dixon steadies his rifle across a bag of corn and squeezed off his Sharps Big .50 and shot the Cheyenne from his horse at seven-eighths of a mile! Billy modestly shrugged it off as a "scratch" shot, meaning it would be tough to do again.

By comparison: Ten years earlier while with Federal General Nathaniel Banks' Red River expedition; Captain John Metcalf made a similar shot, but not by Kentucky windage the way Dixon did. Metcalf who was a West Point graduate dedicated to long range sharpshooting, had been ordered to drop a Confederate general in camp, out of range, across a mile wide Louisiana valley. Metcalf had 24 hours to ready for the shot for which he had devoted his entire military study.

Metcalf had a 30 pound, muzzled loaded target rifle with a long 25 power telescope. A surveyors transit gave him the precise 5,467 foot range to the tentpole, before which the Confederate officer would stand at the next mornings Reveille. Metcalf took 50 men to build his firing bay on the crest of the highest Federal hill. Down went a firm, heavy planked floor. To it is bolted a firing table, and to that is fitted a scaled swivel for exact elevation and traverse. Metcalf spent the night with ballistics and trajectory tables. Now he has measured load in grains of black powder, his angles for range, wind and drift. When the rifle is aimed at the Confederate, the barrel of the target rifle angles sharply into the sky. It is locked there, no hairs breadth tremble to throw it yards wide of the target. The captain squeezes his shot. Slightly over four seconds later, the down arcing bullet drops the far away officer, wounded.

One of science and one of art.

From Off the Beaten Trail by Ed Syers.
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Old June 5, 2005, 08:46 PM   #2
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Long range sniper

Another part of the "story", don't know if it's true but it was on a History or Discovery channel several years ago.

Supposedly the snipers of that era had to be either college graduates or at least have mastered Trigonometry to figure the ranges. The rest of the story says the General was standing at a mirror getting ready to shave when the trigger was pulled. He then turned around, took a couple of step to retrieve something from his kit and took the two steps back to the mirror just in time for the bullet to strike him.

That's got to be one of the wierdest sniper stories I've heard.
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Old June 5, 2005, 09:48 PM   #3
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mmmm just think what they could do with a .50BMG
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Old June 5, 2005, 10:24 PM   #4
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Voted no, but on second thouhgt, I think I had heard the Cheyenne one before.

Great stories, though, especially the Civil War one. Sounds more like artillery than sniping.
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Old June 5, 2005, 10:43 PM   #5
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The mile long sniper shot by Metcalf turns out to be a myth. See: http://www.snipercountry.com/SnipHistory.asp#Metcalf (Scroll down to "Captain John T Metcalf, US Army Engineers".)
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Old June 6, 2005, 02:22 AM   #6
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The tip off would be getting the range with a transit, you dont get distance with a transit. I also dont think 24x scopes where very common back then too..most then had 0 power.
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Old June 6, 2005, 11:07 AM   #7
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I do believe they had scopes back then. Maybe not, but I think so. Of course, not everyone got one, but if you were sending a guy to do something like that, you'd probably get him teh best equipment oyu could/
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Old June 6, 2005, 11:25 AM   #8
essexcounty
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Art and science? How about crap luck? Either shot could probably be duplicated on a one-shot basis. I think one unlucky Indian and one unlucky General. Essex
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Old June 6, 2005, 11:40 AM   #9
butch50
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Quote:
The tip off would be getting the range with a transit, you dont get distance with a transit. I also dont think 24x scopes where very common back then too..most then had 0 power.
If it is a myth then the transit thing doesn't matter, but if I remember correctly you can get precise distances using a transit or transits and using triangulation and math. To get precise distance you need precise angles, hence a transit.

They should have had scopes back then, I don't know about the power, but remember that ground glass telescopes had been around since Copernicus so the basic technology was there for several centuries. How many officers carried binoculars and telescopes?
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Old June 6, 2005, 05:47 PM   #10
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Mike Venturino did a story on "Adobe Walls" in the June 2005 "GUNS" Magazine.

The Billy Dixson shot is de-bunked in this article.
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Old June 6, 2005, 06:15 PM   #11
Johnny Guest
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A 25X rifle scope during the War for the Liberation of the Southern Confederacy?

No, I really doubt it.

Optical types MAY have been experimenting with compound lenses during that period. I'm pretty certain the astronomers had some reflector telescopes. But a simple two-lens tube to be mounted on a rifle of the day? I don't think so.

Way back in high school, I read that the traditional brass draw-tube had a maximum magnification of about three power. Even back then, It tickled me when Gregory Peck as Horatio Hornblower snapped open his spyglass and could identify the captain of an enemy vessel at two miles.

I admit I'm shootin' from the hip here. Anyone with better telescope information, please contribute.

Also, given the era on point, this very interesting topic may play better in Black Powder and Cowboy Action Shooting Forum. Our own 4V50 Gary is a published authority and learned researcher in the field of black powder sniping and military sharpshooting. butch50, there's nothing wrong with the thread in Art of the Rifle - - I just think it'll draw more interest and better-informed replies in Black Powder.

Best,
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Old June 6, 2005, 07:50 PM   #12
4V50 Gary
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Thanks Johnny for the vote of endorsement

Billy Dixon is for real. As Mal pointed out, Metcalf is fiction. Bill Edwards told me so (not really, I read his book) and he's kind enough to allow me to quote him in entirety in my own work-in-progress.

As for optical devices, we've had them on rifles as early as the First Civil War when The House of Hanover got kicked off the Continent by George Washington & his raggamuffin upstarts (thanks George & gang for all your pain & suffering to give us this great nation! ). I don't think the telescope rifle saw any combat back then though. There were plenty of rifles equipped with telescopes, or in the venacular, telescope rifles, by the time of the Mother of American Family Feuds (1861-65). Go to Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Spotsylvania Court House, West Point, Southern Railroad & Civil War Museum in Kennesaw, Smithsonian American History Museum if you would like to see a period telescope rifle.

Also check out this thread if you want to read about the blackpowder sharpshooter: Bedtime Stories

BTW, go to the link Mal posted and look for the article, "The Lone Marksman Revisited." That's my article that was published a few years back.
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Old June 8, 2005, 08:11 PM   #13
4V50 Gary
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Mike Venturino may have challenged Billy Dixon's shot, but Bob Glodt proved it possible. Check out this 3 part article:

Glodt, Bob, "The Battle of Adobe Walls," in Black Powder Cartridge News, Nos. 22, 23 & 24.

Can anyone send me a copy of Mike Venturino's article?
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Old June 9, 2005, 05:48 PM   #14
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Mike didn't challenge the shot, just the distance. With a range finder at the site, the distant buttes are at 600 and 1200 yards he says. The distance of the shot has been reported as 1028, 1200, 1500, and 1538. The two lesser distances are certainly possible. Even if the distance has been twisted, they would still be amazing shots under the circumstances. And the story that surrounds the event is still astounding.

The "GUNS" magazine site will let you get a PDF copy for very little, or it might be available free in a few months.
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Old June 10, 2005, 07:32 AM   #15
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It's my understanding that the Billy Dixon shot was measured in paces. If that's the case, then there would be a discrepancy in the number of paces depending on the length of stride of the person(s) doing the pacing, (with an average step being 30") and may not take into account ground contour from the shooter's position to the point of impact.
With the shortest distance between two points being a straight line, the laser range finder shortens the paced distance over ground.
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Old June 10, 2005, 03:39 PM   #16
butch50
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No doubt the laser is a more accurate means of checking the distance. At 3,600 feet (1200 yards being the greater distance by laser meaure) that is .69 miles. The story I copied said 7/8ths of a mile, when the shot may have been closer to 5/8ths instead. I don't think I could do it.

How does this compare to modern day competition? Is there a 3,600 foot or thereabouts equivalent for competition?
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Old June 10, 2005, 07:44 PM   #17
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Jes read an article on Adobe Walls in one of my Magazines......

good thing them fellows had revolvers too......
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Old June 17, 2005, 09:51 PM   #18
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Thanks Smince for the clarification. The articles I cited said there were three possible bluffs and the one that fit the description the best was at 1538 yards. Glodt duplicated the shot with 76% hit ratio (36 out of 42 shots fired).
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Old June 17, 2005, 10:06 PM   #19
butch50
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Almost exactly 7/8 of a mile!
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‘‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.’’ ~ Mahatma Ghandi, "Gandhi, An Autobiography", page 446

‘‘The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun.’’ ~ Patrick Henry
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Old August 8, 2005, 01:14 AM   #20
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wild west tech

the mentioned the adobe wells shot on wild west tech.
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Old August 8, 2005, 05:40 PM   #21
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I've read about the Adobe Walls story before, never heard of the other. Can you imagine what the indians thought after that shot? I don't think I'd be sticking around too long if I were them.

On another note, the shot Gus made at the outlaw squawking like a chicken in Lonesome Dove was one to be remembered, the way he shot under them to lure them into showing themselves (thinking they were out of range), then cranking up the sights and tagging the moron. Okay, granted that was fiction, but it's not too far of a stretch to believe those types of shots happened every once in a while back then with guys behind the gun that had been shooting since they were 2 yrs old. With a little luck, it could be done once in a great while I'd think.
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Old August 8, 2005, 05:48 PM   #22
butch50
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Your right about that. They grew up with rifles in their hands, and their very lives depended on them. Given human nature and talent you can bet that there were a lot of outstanding shooters roaming around back then, and that a lot of the truly great shots of all time were never recorded at all.
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‘‘The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun.’’ ~ Patrick Henry
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Old August 8, 2005, 06:59 PM   #23
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You ought to study up on Jack Bean. Billy Dixon hit AN Indian whilst shooting at a group with a borrowed rifle. Jack Bean hit THE Indian he was aiming at with his own (scope sighted) rifle. Range ca. 1200-1300 yards.

In the later years before Sharps folded in 1881, about 25% of the rifles made were shipped with factory installed telescopic sights.
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Old August 9, 2005, 06:50 AM   #24
4V50 Gary
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BTW, Jack Bean will be mentioned in my own book. It's in Chapter 14 on the post-Civil War era that preceded the Dawn of Sniping.

Presently I'm waiting for the last reader to get back to me and after I incorporate the changes, it's back to the editor. Geez, it looks like it won't be out until 2006.
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Old August 16, 2005, 09:57 PM   #25
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heard both of them over the years the adobe shot was made with a remington as his sharps was in for repair at the time
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