January 2011 Cover Page

January 1940  
  
The Rifleman's Journal
A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Camp Perry - 1939

This Month:
Hap Rocketto - Hap's Corner
George Wingate - International Match Shooting
Germán Salazar - Reloading .308 for 1000 Yards


15 Cents 

Cartridges: 1000 Yard .308 Case Capacity and Other Problems

1000 Yard .308 - Case Capacity and Other Problems
by Germán A. Salazar

This article is the fourth in a series on loading the .308 for Palma  or other forms of 1000 yard shooting. In the third part of the series, we stressed the importance of keeping the bullet at or above 1.2 mach at 1000 yards and gave you the tools needed for calculating the MV you will need in order to accomplish that goal. We called the resulting MV your "magic number." We now shift our attention to an examination of the .308 case's limitations and how to make effective use of its limited case capacity in order to reach the magic number safely.

The Fundamental Problem
In the 1950's, when the T65 cartridge was on the drawing board, target shooting at 1000 yards was not one of the design goals. The principal goal was to create a full-power cartridge, closely duplicating the performance of .30-06 M2 ball ammunition, in a shorter case.

This was accomplished using ball powder and allowed a shorter receiver for the new M14. The resultant savings in material and weight in the rifle, as well as in the ammunition met the military establishment's goals. Unfortunately, that short case, which became the .308 Winchester, is only barely able to generate the ballistics needed to meet our goal of 1.2 mach at 1000 yards and is a definite step backward from its predecessor for purposes of long-range target shooting.

All of this would be of little importance to us were it not for the simple fact that the rules of Palma shooting require using a .308 (or the even more inadequate .223). Therefore, we must find ways to minimize the adverse impact of the .308's limited case capacity.

More Schooling
Now that the obligatory History lesson is out of the way, let's turn to Physics. For those of you who slept through Physics class when you were in school, this is the time to pay attention. The first lesson to remember is that in a pressure vessel such as a cartridge case, pressure is inversely proportional to volume. In other words, for a given amount of fuel (powder) contained within the vessel (the case), pressure will increase as the volume of the vessel decreases. When the pressure level is 55,000 psi to 60,000 psi, very small changes in case volume will result in very large changes in pressure. Don't disregard the differences illustrated below simply because they appear to be numerically small - their effect on chamber pressure is quite significant.

The second physics lesson has to do with how chamber pressure and muzzle velocity are interrelated. Chamber pressure and muzzle velocity are directly proportional. Assuming the use of the same bullet, as you increase pressure, you will increase MV. However, not all forms of increasing chamber pressure will result in the same amount of MV increase. For instance, a hot primer might raise chamber pressure by 5,000 psi compared to a mild primer, but the increase in MV is relatively small compared to a 5,000 psi increase from additional powder. Why? The hot primer's explosion contributed to the peak pressure but because it generates very little gas volume compared to burning powder, the primer's extra pressure does very little to drive the bullet down the barrel to a higher MV. If you were to look at the pressure curves of two loads as just described (one with a hot primer and less powder, one with a mild primer and more powder) the peak pressure would be the same, but the load with the mild primer would hit peak pressure a little later in time and the down-slope of the pressure curve would be gentler as the additional gas volume from the powder charge keeps driving the bullet longer.

The third lesson: What if we want to compare the same bullet and powder type in two different cases? In order to reach a certain chamber pressure, you will use more powder in a higher volume case than in a lower volume case. Although peak pressure will be the same when the charges are properly adjusted to each case's volume,the higher powder charge in the light case will generate more gas which keeps working for you all the way down the barrel and ultimately will deliver a bit more MV at the same peak chamber pressure.

The fourth and final lesson is that heavier bullets work best with slow powders and slow powders require heavier charges in order to reach operating pressure. Slow powders also tend to have longer, thicker granules, making them pack less efficiently in the cartridge case, so a light, high volume case is highly desirable when shooting heavier bullets.

Case Comparison
Getting the amount of powder necessary for our magic number MV into the .308 case, while maintaining safe pressure levels, is the objective. Our task is complicated by the fact that the variance in capacity of different types of .308 cases exceeds that found in any other cartridge by a wide margin. The failure to acknowledge that variations in case capacity have a significant effect on pressure has led many reloaders to very unfortunate results.

Let's take a look at a few types of .308 cases used (sometimes unsuccessfully) by long-range shooters.  It isn't my intention to present all of the .308 cases that can be used, just a reasonable sample.  The figures cited for case weight and case capacity are from a single case of each type, drawn from my inventory; obviously there is some variance within each lot and from lot to lot.  However, I checked twenty samples of each type for case weight and picked the sample case from the middle of the range. Case capacity was measured on cases in full-length sized condition.  Please don't take these weights and volumes as being any sort of an absolute; check your own cases and make your own comparisons. My purpose is to show you the how and why of things, not to do your work for you.

 WCC 58 - For many years, this was the Holy Grail of .308 long range shooters, Western's 1958 match brass has enough capacity to drive the 190 Sierra to its magic number MV with IMR 4064. The development of high BC bullets and powders with greater density than IMR 4064, eliminated the WCC 58 case's unique status for long-range .308 shooting.

Case weight - 147.1 gr.
Case capacity (water to top of neck) - 57.40 gr.


WCC 60 - Western's 1960 match cases are heavier than the WCC 58 cases, but still reasonably light and useful for many of the loads we prefer with 190 gr. bullets and today's powders.
Case weight - 156.25 gr.
Case capacity - (water to top of neck) - 56.75 gr.







Remington BR - The original small-primer .308 case.  It was meant to be reformed into BR size cases but has often been used full-length.  I don't use this brass anymore because I prefer large primer .308 cases as I've described in other articles.
Case weight - 157.20 gr.
Case capacity - (water to top of neck) - 56.15 gr.






Winchester (current production) - Widely available, good capacity, high quality of manufacture, this is my first choice for Palma brass today.  Excellent case wall uniformity, thin necks and good capacity make it very desirable for LR shooting.
Case weight - 157.40 gr.
Case capacity - (water to top of neck) - 55.80 gr.




Lapua Palma - Lapua cases, both in the traditional large primer format and the newer small primer "Palma" variant are widely used by long-range .308 shooters today. High quality of manufacturing, consistent case and neck wall thickness make Lapua cases a popular choice with 155 gr. bullet shooters.
Case weight - 173.00 gr.
Case capacity - (water to top of neck) - 54.90 gr.


Lake City LR - I don't know anyone using LC LR cases for Palma shooting, but someone will try just because they are marked "LR". Apart from the headstamp, these cases are essentially the same as Lake City Match. These cases have relatively low capacity and poor case wall uniformity, a bad combination of factors for success. Shooters new to long-range, especially those with a service rifle background might (mistakenly) think this brass is worthwhile - that will inevitably lead to disappointment.
Case weight - 177.45 gr.
Case capacity - (water to top of neck) - 53.45 gr.



When is a .308 Not a .308?
Although the case itself is the primary determinant of powder capacity, the chamber dimensions also play a role. Notwithstanding many shooters' somewhat misguided perception that a "tight"chamber is an accuracy enhancer, the opposite condition, a somewhat large chamber, is more likely to be a benefit to the match shooter. A case fired in a chamber that is close to the maximum dimensions standardized by SAAMI can hold about 2 gr. more powder than one fired in a so-called "tight" chamber.  Of course, unless the reloader has a special sizing die made to match that fat chamber, there will be no benefit realized and given the expense of such a die, this is not a very popular approach, although it is not unheard of.  As with the super-light brass, the big chamber is less interesting now that we have a broader range of choices than just the 190 Sierra and IMR 4064, a good, traditional combination, but one that requires all the case volume possible.

A frequently seen chamber variant is the long throat. An increase in throat length of 0.100" will yield approximately a 2 gr. increase in case capacity; similar to what the fat chamber will do.  The relatively short neck of the .308 case makes a long throat an important consideration when bullets in the 175 gr. and higher category are to be used. However, unlike cartridges with  a longer case neck such as the .30-06 which can easily handle bullets across a broad weight range with a standard throat, the .308 will be limited to a relatively narrow weight range of bullets with a given throat length.  This isn't to say that you can't physically load and fire any bullet weight in a standard .308 throat; but simply that you will may not be able to effectively load them for 1000 yard shooting. 

So when is a .308 not a .308? Any time you have a chamber with dimensions that differ from SAAMI and that includes most match chambers. That is why you need to be extra cautious when listening to load data from others. Most .308 match chambers are actually a semi-wildcat and load data from one may well be dangerous in another - they aren't all alike!

Throat Comparisons
Throat length is another important consideration for the long-range .308; seating depth will be determined by the throating and it will affect chamber pressure. As we noted earlier, pressure is increased when case volume is decreased; therefore, throat length should be selected with a close eye on the bullet weight you intend to use. Heavier bullets present special problems as the powders most suited to those loads tend to be bulkier and require more case volume while the heavier, longer bullet will soak up case volume unless a special throat length is used.

Let's look at some photos of seating depth variations using the Sierra 155 gr. and 190 gr. bullets with two different throat lengths. The two chambers used for the comparison are the Palma 95 chamber which is fairly standard for 155 gr. bullet users and a chamber with a longer throat, more suited to 190 gr. bullets. The chamber I presently use is a bit shorter than the long-throat chamber I show here as this one is a bit too long for the 175 gr. Berger which I use most of the time. 

Here we see the 155 gr. Sierra in both chambers. The dimension shown next to each bullet is the case base to ogive length as measured with a Sinclair hex nut comparator. The difference in throat length between these two chambers is about 0.075". The long-throat chamber is clearly too long for effective use with the 155 gr. bullet. With minimal throat wear, you would be unable to seat the bullet to the lands and even in new condition, it really doesn't leave enough of the bullet in the case to ensure that the case has a firm and consistent grip on the bullet. On the other hand, the Palma 95 chamber, which was designed for use with this bullet, places it in the perfect location to compromise adequate case grip versus powder capacity and allows for some forward adjustment of the seating depth as the throat erodes.

Next we see the Sierra 190 gr. bullet in both chambers. The throat length on the long-throat chamber was determined with this bullet in mind and it is well suited to it. You can see that the bearing surface ends above the base of the neck, there is ample case grip, room for forward adjustment and the intrusion of the boattail into the powder space is held to a minimum. The Palma 95 chamber, which is not suited to this bullet, has the bearing surface below the base of the neck which can cause neck tension problems if a donut develops, and, of course, there is a great deal more intrusion into the powder space by the bullet. Bear in mind that the 190 gr. bullet is used with slow, bulky powders and you see that this intrusion into the powder space is especially problematic.

Checking Our Numbers
As I mentioned above, the throats in these two chambers differ by 0.075". If I were to lengthen the long-throat version a bit more to the 0.100" difference which I noted could provide a 2 gr. increase in powder capacity, the bearing surface of the 155 gr. bullet would be out of the case entirely, but it would remain suitable for the 190 gr. and 200 gr. bullets.

Some of you might be wondering if my estimate of a 2 gr. increase for a throat difference of 0.100" is an educated guess or if it can somehow be confirmed.  Well, it can be confirmed and it's not too hard to do.  Take a fired case, and drill out the primer pocket - this is easier to do if the case is in a body die so that the drill press vise doesn't crush it.  Now weigh the case and bullet to be used.  Seat the bullet to the longer length, fill with water through the primer pocket and weigh the whole thing (put it into the scale pan in case some water drips out.  Now, shake out the water, reseat the bullet to the deeper setting, refill with water and weigh it again.  I did this with the 190 gr. Sierra seated at the Palma 95 depth (2.165") and 0.100" longer (2.265").  The difference in water capacity was 1.95 gr.  The difference in powder capacity will be a bit less, of course, but close and certainly enough to make a difference in pressure and ultimately in the MV that can be safely attained.

Coming Next
As I wrap up this Part 4, I hope that the dangers inherent in indiscriminate interchange of load data are apparent to you. In Part 5 I'll show some of the ugly results of ignoring the information contained in this article and we'll discuss a few other areas of concern, as well as some reloading tips.

Cartridges: 1000 Yard .308 Load Development

1000 Yard .308 Load Development
by Germán A. Salazar


This article is Part 3 of a series on loading the .308 for Palma or other long-range shooting disciplines. The first part was Palma Preparation and Loading in which I covered some of the principal objectives of a .308 load for Palma shooting. The second part, Loading the .308 for Palma Matches gave detailed information on component selection and my approach to meeting the goals described in the first article. In this article, we will examine the essential requirements of a long-range .308 load, and we'll emphasize some important cautions for the reloader new to 1000 yard shooting.

How To Fail
My observation of the reloading failures of many shooters, particularly those new to long-range shooting, leads me to the conclusion that most of those failures are the not the result of too little information, but rather of too much information combined with the recipient's inability to filter it in a meaningful way. Shooters are a friendly and gregarious lot, there's never a shortage of advice for the new shooter at a match; then there's the internet with it's almost endless supply of advice, usually from anonymous forum posters whose experience and qualifications may well be limited to pecking at a keyboard. The new shooter, who is asking about a specific cartridge, the .308 for purposes of this discussion, often believes that all of this information is: a) good; and , b) applicable to his rifle - he is usually wrong on both counts. Frankly, much of the information that gets passed around in person and on the internet is ill-informed and dangerous and there is enough variability in brass, chambers, barrels and components that one person's experience is rarely directly transferable to another person's reloading.  The only thing more dangerous the mindlessly copying someone else's load is taking bits and pieces from different loads and thinking they'll somehow produce a usable load.  We'll discuss this at greater length in Part 4 of this series, but this is exactly what leads to many accidents.

Although these observations are applicable to all ammunition reloading, loading the .308 for 1000 yard shooting presents a special set of problems and leads to even more misinformation and dangerous practices than we see in other cartridges. To be as blunt as possible about it, you can't rely on anyone else's information when reloading the .308 for 1000 yards; you must develop your own loads in your own rifle with your own components. This level of reloading is very critical, even some of the semi-commercial ammunition being sold for this use exhibits dangerous pressure in some rifles - there is simply no short-cut to a safe and accurate 1000 yard .308 load, you have to do the work. I'll show you how, but I can't do it for you; if you can't do it, your best bet is to avoid the .308 at 1000 yards, your eyes (and your neighbor's) are worth more than another day at the range.

The Magic Numbers
The single biggest challenge in long-range shooting with a .308 is keeping the bullet above the transonic range as it reaches the target. Once it dips into that velocity range, accuracy will be compromised and in many cases the bullet will become unstable and a potential danger to the target marking crew. In light of the foregoing, our primary concern is keeping the bullet out of that transonic range and the first magic number that we must keep in mind is 1.2 mach (1.2 times the speed of sound). The speed of sound through air varies with atmospheric conditions; accordingly, there is no absolute velocity for 1.2 mach, it will depend upon the conditions present at the range where you shoot.

The second magic number is the muzzle velocity that you will need to have in order to ensure that your bullet remains at or above 1.2 mach at 1000 yards.  We'll discuss that next.


Working the Numbers
If you aren't already familiar with it, now is a good time to go to JBM Ballistics and get acquainted with its functions. There are many other ballistic programs, of course, but I use JBM because it is accurate, complete, online and free. Once you're there, click Ballistics, then Calculators, then Trajectory; that will put you in the right place for the calculations needed for this project. Two key atmospheric inputs to JBM are your range's altitude above sea level and the temperature; humidity and atmospheric pressure are far less significant. Google Earth is a very useful tool for determining a range's altitude; temperature will, of course, vary depending on the season. However, because cold air is more dense and thus increases drag, MV must be higher in cold temperatures to ensure having 1.2 mach at 1000 yards. Your calculations will be adequate if you use the lowest temperature you expect to encounter during a season as your standard temperature.

JBM has a very complete library of bullets which includes any realistic bullet choice for long-range shooting with the .308. When available, I recommend using the bullet choices with  the (Litz) designation; these include Bryan Litz's very accurate BC numbers. Once you enter a bullet choice from the library, you can ignore the other bullet input fields such as BC, weight, etc. as they are all embedded in the library choice.

To get started, enter your range altitude, temperature, bullet choice and a reasonable velocity. As an example, let's use my altitude of 1640 feet, ambient temperature of 65 degrees, the Berger 175 Long Range BT (Litz) and a muzzle velocity of 2830 which happens to be my standard load. The JBM results show that the remaining velocity at 1000 yards is 1.263 mach. The actual velocity number is interesting (1418 fps) but is actually irrelevant.  If we were to take this 2830 fps load to a range with an altitude of 50 feet above sea level, the remaining velocity at 1000 yards would be 1348 fps which is 1.201 mach - which number tells you more? That's right, the mach number tells you more, it tells you what you need to know!

Let's look at the numbers a different way; back at my local altitude of 1640 feet, how low can my muzzle velocity be with the 175 Berger LRBT and still stay at 1.2 mach at 1000 yards?  A minute or so trying different MV inputs gives me the answer - 2730 fps is the minimum muzzle velocity required to stay at 1.2 mach at 1000 yards with this bullet at my altitude and ambient temperature.  Therefore, my second magic number is 2730 fps.  These calculation need to be performed prior to the next step because that second magic number will be your focus in load development.  Remember, 2730 fps is MY magic number, not yours, you have to do the calculations to come up with yours - it depends on your bullet choice, the altitude of your range and the lowest temperature at which you expect to shoot.

Range Loading and Chronographing
The chronograph is an essential tool for developing your .308 long-range load - you really can't get by without it. Reloading at the range makes the process much more efficient and isn't particularly hard to do, I really recommend it at this stage of load development.

Get to the range with an adequate supply of sized brass, the primers, powder and bullets you intend to test, and get to work. Work up to your magic number velocity and record the charge weight and powder type and lot number. From there, if there are no adverse pressure signs, you can continue varying your charge weight as you seek accuracy, but remain vigilant for pressure signs! There's a hidden trap in this process - you can't develop a load that leaves you no safety margin because everything is subject to some change. It might be a hotter day than you predicted at the match so pressure increases, you might run out of your existing lot of powder and have to substitute another on short notice, who knows, many things can happen so don't take your loads right to the maximum.

The most important point to keep in mind is that additional velocity does very little to increase wind drift resistance. Find the load that gives you accuracy at safe pressures and is above your magic number for MV, after that, there isn't any increase in MV that will genuinely alter wind drift in a noticeable manner - but it sure can endanger you with excessive pressure!

As we've discussed in many previous articles, a good long range load will typically have a low standard deviation (SD) of muzzle velocity, so this is something to look for. If you are above your magic number for MV, are seeing no signs of excessive pressure, have a relatively low SD (10 or lower) and are seeing good accuracy, you're done. From this point forward, your job is to shoot to the load's capabilities.


Coming Soon
In Part 4, we'll discuss how case capacity and seating depth can affect your loads and pressure.

History: Advertising 1908 - 1910

I always enjoy seeing old advertisements, earlier we featured advertising from 1905 - 1906, this time we move the calendar up a few years to 1908 to 1910.  There's a lot to be learned from these advertisements, not just about the products, but about the times. - GAS -

Advertising 1908 - 1910
by Germán A. Salazar




























Hap's Corner: The Lake Erie Dead Zone

The Lake Erie Dead Zone...
by Hap Rocketto

It was a dreary Sunday early in October and we were heading up to Blue Trail Range for a Connecticut Big Bore League make-up match. It had rained cats and dogs in April on the day the season began, causing a postponement and here we were, on the rain date, with the leaden sky spitting on us again. Call it symmetry or call it bad luck but things were not looking good. It rained on the first day of the season and here it was, six months later, raining on the last day of the season. It was hard to work up enthusiasm for the match but it was a team obligation that must be met, even though we were in serious danger of being rained out again.

The Red Sox had been eliminated from the post season just a few days earlier so what little conversation broke the early morning quiet was somewhat half-hearted baseball talk from the disappointed fans. The radio, turned down low and tuned to public radio to listen to weather reports, droned on in the background. This is our standard protective practice for drives to rifle matches; for reasons unknown, early Sunday morning non public radio programming in Connecticut is inexplicably given over completely to evangelists and polka music.

Suddenly our ears perked up, as the words “Lake Erie” crackled out of the speaker and into our conscious. To serious shooters Lake Erie is synonymous with Camp Perry, the “Mecca of Shooting”. Conversation dropped off as I turned up the volume and we listened to a story on something called the “Lake Erie Dead Zone.”

The announcer went on to explain that in a dead zone there is so little oxygen along the lake bottom that fish cannot survive. Scientists have monitored the phenomenon in Lake Erie's central basin from Ashtabula to Cleveland for years, but 70 miles west, in the Sandusky sub-basin, the problem has worsened to the point that there is no oxygen at all. Maybe that is how he defined it but the term had a whole different meaning to a carload of shooters, all who spend a couple of weeks each summer on the southern shore of the lake pursuing Xs.

In my case, I recalled a leg match where I fired ten well aimed rounds down range in a 300 yard rapid fire stage. After a nerve wracking wait, with my target in the hole and the adjacent targets up for scoring, I was informed that I had insufficient hits, not all in the aiming black, and would I care to challenge or accept the score? My wallet was out in a flash and a crisp dollar bill was soon in the hands of the block officer who laboriously wrote out a receipt. In a few seconds my target popped up with no spotters and the chalkboard, with the number ten neatly printed next to the zero, swinging slowly from side to side on its right hand side. Not a shot on the target yet the elevation and windage for 300 yards was set on my rifle, and there were no shots on any adjacent targets. Quite a mystery and the only logical explanation was that an anomaly in the earth’s magnetic field had opened and closed, like a worm hole, on my point and sucked all ten of my bullets into the Lake Erie Dead Zone.

My brother Steve mused on his debut into long range shooting at Perry. The first year we shot the match was 1975, the only year the Leech was 30 shots, with unlimited sighters, in 30 minutes. We had zeroed in a pre-64 Winchester Model 70, chambered in .30-06, which I had purchased from the estate of the late, great Connecticut shooter Butch Langerstram. I was in the pits and Steve was first up. When I came out of the hole I found a terse note attached to the rifle, “Use your M-14. I’ll explain later. Steve.” That Steve’s plastic MTM ammo box was filled with empty brass certainly piqued my curiosity.

Steve related the sad tale at lunch. He was unable to get on paper and after firing all 50 rounds in the futile attempt he was ready to give up and leave the line. However, his efforts had attracted a crowd of interested bystanders who rushed to his aid with team scopes and stocks of .30-06 ammunition, which they pressed upon him. Steve was too much of a gentleman to give up when he was the center of such attention. He lay there firing away the free ammo with abandon as he was instructed to hold on the right side of the frame, the left side of the frame, the top of the frame, the top of the berm, the target to the left, the target to the right, just about everything in sight but the power plant’s cooling tower. He ran out of time before he ran out of enthusiasm, advice, and free ammo. And what of the 86 shots fired in 30 minutes without a hit on paper? You guessed it, the same magnetic anomaly opened up and then snapped shut in front of my brother’s rifle’s muzzle and the Lake Erie Dead Zone accepted another small offering to the gods of shooting.

The radio program ended, interest waned in the story, and our conversation returned to baseball. Recalling the golden days of baseball when Willy Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Duke Snider patrolled the outfields of New York City’s ball parks, my brother recalled a sports writer’s comment that Willy Mays’ glove was the place where triples went to die. Much the same, said he, may be said of the Lake Erie Dead Zone, the place where Xs go to die.

History: The Beginnings of International Rifle Match Shooting

To Americans, General George Wingate, the author of the article below, is a familiar figure as he was the driving force behind the rifle movement in this country.  Here we present his account of the earliest international rifle matches: those between Ireland and the United States.  For those with a desire for further reading on this subject, I recommend Irish Riflemen in America, by Arthur Blennerhassett Leech, captain of the Irish team as well as Report of the Executive Committee of the Amateur Rifle Club Upon the International Match, which, although little known, is a very detailed account of the 1874 match.  The Irish team did not sail home immediately after the 1874 match and Major Leech's book presents a great deal of information regarding the remainder of their trip and is well worth the time.  - GAS -

THE BEGINNINGS OF INTERNATIONAL RIFLE MATCH SHOOTING
By General George W. Wingate
Captain of the First International Team
 
NOTWITHSTANDING the experience of the Civil War had demonstrated that soldiers who could not shoot straight were of little value, and notwithstanding also that instruction in rifle shooting was regularly given in European armies, no such instruction existed in this country until the organization of the National Rifle Association in 1871. Theoretically, there was an army text book on the subject, a, translation from the French, but it was of no value and was not used.

The National Guardsman served his entire term of enlistment without firing a shot, and the regular did the same, except when he shot at Indians or game. A system introduced by the writer in 1867 in instructing Company A of the 22d N. G. N. Y., was adopted by that regiment as a whole and was printed by it for the use of its officers. This was elaborated in articles written for the Army and Navy Journal and led to the formation of the National Rifle Association on November 24, 1871. Its officers were: President, General A. E. Burnside; Vice-President, Colonel William C. Church; Treasurer, General John B. Woodward, and I was its secretary. General Burnside’s connection with the organization was nominal and on July 22, 1872, he resigned, and Colonel Church was elected in his place and General Alex. Shaler vice-president.

Creedmoor was purchased in 1872, the State contributing $25,000 and New York and Brooklyn each $5,000. I made a personal examination of the ranges at Wimbledon, and together with John A. Church, the engineer, inspected the ranges in Canada. Creedmoor was laid out from the results of this investigation. At the request of the N. R. A. I wrote a “Manual for Rifle Practice” which was for many years the only work on the subject. The first meeting at this range took place June 21, 1873, and was participated in by representatives from most of the New York National Guard organizations and the United States Engineers, and by a squad from the regulars of Governor’s Island, the latter being at the foot of the list.

The object of the National Rifle Association was to promote military shooting with military rifles. Several clubs were formed inside it to practice off-hand shooting, and the Amateur Rifle Club was organized for the promotion of long range firing. This was a small club, which included, however, nearly all the riflemen who subsequently became famous in the international matches and I was honored by being elected as its president.

One of the chief features of the Wimbledon meetings of the British N. R. A. was a match for a shield presented by Lord Elcho in 1862 which was annually competed for by teams of eight from England, Ireland and Scotland respectively, at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards with match rifles, 15 shots at each distance in any position without artificial rest. In 1873, the Irish team under Major Arthur B. Leach won this match by a previously unparalleled score. Fired by their success Major Leach published in the New York Herald a challenge, on behalf of the Irish Rifle Association, to the riflemen of America to shoot a match in the autumn of 1874, under the following conditions: Targets and scoring same as adopted by the National Association of Great Britain (which was the same as those at Creedmoor); ranges, 800, 900, 1,000 and 1,100 yards; rifles any not exceeding ten pounds in weight, but without telescope sights or hair triggers. Position, any, but without artificial rest. Team to be from eight to six men, at the option of the Irish. The American team to be composed exclusively of riflemen born in the United States and to shoot with rifles of American manufacture, the Irish team to shoot with rifles made by Rigby of Dublin. As the challenge was to decide the rifle championship of the world, a sufficient stake was to be put up, not for the sake of pecuniary gain, but as a guaranty that the Irish team would meet the representative shots of America.

This challenge was brought before the directors of the National Rifle Association, but that board was too dignified a body to recognize “a mere newspaper publication,” or a communication which was not addressed to it. It was ascertained later that the challenge was not sent to the N. R. A., because it was not known to exist. The Amateur Rifle Club, however, was less particular than its parent association. At a meeting held on February 4, 1874, its executive committee was instructed to correspond with Major Leach and endeavor to arrange a match.

The action of the club in doing this cannot be described otherwise than as audacious. It had been organized only a short time, and its total membership was but 62. During the year 1873 it had had but five matches, all of which were at 500 yards. In these matches it was the habit of such of the members of the club as participated (who never exceeded nineteen in any one match) to lie in a long row in front of the targets in the prone position, each man in a squad firing alternately at the target to which he was assigned. Not a single member of the club had ever shot beyond 600 yards. As is well known, the atmospheric difficulties to be encountered at firing at long range are very much greater than at midrange and require greater skill and experience.

The rifles which were then in use in this country were without Vernier scales on the rear sights and were used without wind gauges. Hepburn, who was a skilled mechanic, used to supply the want of a wind gauge on his rifle by tapping his foresight to one side or the other with a hammer, an act which excited considerable jealousy among his fellow members who were not skillful enough themselves to imitate him. Our rifles did not even have a flat or “shotgun” butt. That used by the writer was an abomination in the shape of a crescent, which, while good enough in firing from the shoulder, when used in the prone position struck the collarbone in such a way as to create a practically permanent lump the size of a hen’s egg and of all the colors of the rainbow.

The targets used at this time had square sub-divisions, but without what is known as the “center.” At mid-range the target was six feet square, the bullseye two feet and center four feet square. At long ranges the target was six feet high and twelve feet wide, bullseye three feet square, center six feet square. The count was 4, 3, 2.

The scores in the 500 yards matches of the Amateur Club during 1873 indicate to any rifleman the skill, or rather want of skill, of its members, the winning scores being 25, 27, 26, 25, 27. Not only were the members of the club without experience and without proper sights upon their rifles but there were then no American rifles in existence which could be depended upon to do accurate firing at the ranges selected for the match. Above all, the club, though prosperous enough, was without the means which would be required to meet the heavy expenses connected with organizing and training a rifle team and with the running of such an important match.

For a club of this description to undertake to shoot against men like the Irish team, who were provided with the finest match rifles, having Vernier and wind gauge sights, who had been practicing for years at extreme ranges and who had just defeated the selected long range riflemen of both England and Scotland by an unparalleled score, seemed preposterous. Perhaps if the club had fully realized the contract undertaken it would have hesitated. Acting, however, upon the principle, “Nothing venture, nothing win,” the Amateur Rifle Club proceeded to arrange for the terms of the match and to qualify themselves if not to win, to at least make a creditable endeavor to sustain the honor of the country.

As it was impossible to shoot at 1,100 yards at Creedmoor, that distance was eliminated. The stake was agreed on as being £100 or $500. The club had been a good deal troubled as to where it should get this money, but was relieved from the difficulty by the Remington Arms Company and the Sharps Rifle Company, each of which agreed to contribute one-half. These firms also guaranteed that they each would turn out, in time for practice for the match, an American rifle which in point of accuracy would be equal, if not superior, to the celebrated Rigby rifles which were used by the Irish team. Unlike the Rigby rifle, the new guns were to be breech loaders so the contest was to be one of old style muzzle loaders against the modern breech loaders.

These arrangements having been made, the Amateur Club formally accepted the challenge on behalf of the riflemen of America and issued an appeal to such riflemen to participate in the matches. In view of the small membership of the club it was hoped that there would be a general response to this invitation. Long range shooting, however, was at that time a thing entirely unknown. Neither ranges, rifles nor riflemen existed and no candidates for places upon the team, outside of the members of the club, presented themselves.

Early in the spring the promised rifles were made and they proved to be marvels in the way of accuracy. They were 45-caliber breech loaders (what is known as the Creedmoor pattern). They shot a 550-grain bullet, slightly hardened, of the same general description as the bullet used by the Irish, with a usual charge of 90 grains of black powder.

It had been generally supposed that a breech loader would be inferior in accuracy to a muzzle loader. To a certain extent this is the case where the rifle is shot without cleaning, as the pushing of the wad down on top of the powder practically cleans the barrel after each shot. In this match, however, cleaning between shots was permitted, and the man using the breech loader had the advantage that in looking through it he could know that it was perfectly clean. There was also danger that he would forget to put a bullet upon his charge, an accident which occurred to Sir Henry Halford during the Centennial match, although he had a servant who was specially instructed to watch him to see that he did not commit such a fault.

The first match of the Club at the ranges which had been selected for the International competition took place on May 30, 1874, and had a decided tendency to produce a chill in the hearts of those who were anxious for American success: There were five shots at each distance, highest possible score 20, making a total of 60. The shooter also had the advantage of two sighting shots. The following are the seven highest scores: 46, 44, 39, 38, 36, 35, 31. These matches were continued, the winning scores showing a steady improvement, namely: June 20, Conlin, 45; June 27, Bodine, 45; July 11, Dakin, 48; July 25, Canfield, 45; Aug. 8, Hepburn, 54; Aug. 22, Hepburn, 54.
 
It soon appeared that the number of those who could spare the time for the necessary practice, who would come within the restrictions of the match and who possessed sufficient skill to make it worth while for them to shoot for places, would be just sufficient to make up a team of eight with one or two reserves. Having been elected as the captain of the team I soon found that all my time and energies would be occupied in looking after the team, and that while I ought to shoot occasionally during the practice, in order to keep myself in touch with the team, it was out of the question to think of shooting in the match itself.

In the practice of the men, as well as in the subsequent matches, the difference between the Americans and their opponents, whether from Ireland, England or Scotland, was marked. Each American was constantly studying to devise some new idea. When one was presented every member of the team gave it a fair trial. If it proved to be as good as the method which he had been previously using he adopted it with the idea that he might make it better. In this way by constant experiments and after frequent failures many valuable improvements were developed.

One of these was the system of team shooting which is now universal. Each of the rifles, of course, required a more or less different elevation and wind allowance. From the records used in the different matches I tabulated these elevations so as to determine the relative difference between each rifle. The men shot in a certain defined order. When one was shooting the man who was to follow him set his rifle to the same allowance for elevation and wind as the one firing. When the bullet struck, the second man could tell by its position if his rifle was correctly sighted, and if the conditions remained unchanged would shoot as soon as possible. If the shot, however, was outside the bullseye, he made whatever alteration in his sights its position showed was required. In this way each member of the team profited by the experiences of the other so as to make the practice as nearly as possible to resemble that of one man firing continually.
 
Our opponents on the other hand were firmly impressed with the idea that what existed was right. They would not adopt an innovation unless it was absolutely demonstrated that it was a great deal better than the system which they were using. Even then their prejudices against innovations were so great that the tests which they gave a new idea often were not fair. They shot as individuals, each man judging of the wind and elevation himself and paying but little attention to what those preceding them were doing. As individual shots they were superior to the American team particularly at 1,000 yards, but they had no idea of team work.
 
One of the ideas which experience in handling the team led me to adopt and to which the victory was largely owing, was in making up the firing squads to put two of the best judges of wind and elevation to open the firing at each range and to select the steadiest and most reliable men to fire the final shots. The steady practice under the new team system soon made a marked improvement in the scores. These gradually improved day by day and we soon found ourselves doing better than we had any right to reasonably anticipate. The fear of disastrous defeat passed and the hopes of victory began to be entertained.

The Irish team arrived on the Scotia on September 15, 1874. In addition to Major Arthur B. Leach, the captain of the Irish Rifle Association, and the team itself, the party included the Viscount and Viscountess Massareene and Ferral, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and his daughter, Alderman Manning, and a number of other ladies and gentlemen. The Irish were immensely pleased with the appearance of Creedmoor and stated they considered it the best range they had ever seen. They were much impressed with the difference in the atmosphere from what they were accustomed to in Ireland and England and said they could hardly believe that the 1,000 yard firing point was really that distance from the targets as the latter seemed so much nearer than what they usually shot at.

The 26th of September, 1874, was fixed for the date of the match and it was arranged that the two teams should practice together upon the 22d and 24th days of September. The practice on the 22d, although somewhat informal, gave to the Americans considerable encouragement, although they came away from the range with the feeling that the Irish team were more than their equal at the 1,000 yard distance. The practice on the 24th was in fact a rehearsal of the International match itself, the only difference being that the reserves as well as the team were engaged.

The following is a description of the members of the teams:

American: Henry Fulton, civil engineer and lieutenant in the 12th Regiment, N. Y. N. G. He was a veteran of the Civil War having been confined as a prisoner at Andersonville. He invented the Fulton position, lying on his back, drawing his knees up V-shaped, putting the barrel of the rifle between his crossed legs, putting his left arm behind his neck, holding the butt of the gun in his left hand, the elbow of the right arm resting on the ground. G. W. Yale, superintendent of the Sharps Mfg. Co., lay on his right side, resting the gun over the left leg with the stock under the armpit. Col. John Bodine, former colonel of the 19th N. Y., shot in the prone position, as did Henry A. Gildersleeve, an attorney, lieutenant colonel of the 12th and a veteran of the Civil War. Thomas F. Dakin, a brigadier general N. Y. N. G. L. L. Hepburn was a practical gun maker employed by Remington. He had made with his own hands the guns which he and Fulton used. He shot in substantially the same position as Yale. The reserves were J. T. B. Collins and Col. E. S. Sanford.


The Irish team consisted of Major Arthur B. Leach, Captain; John Rigby, an old Wimbledon champion, and the head of the old gun works of John Rigby & Co. James Wilson, a young Belfast merchant. Dr. John R. Hamilton, a surgeon in the British Army and champion of India in 1870. Josiah K. Milner, a Dublin merchant. He lay upon his back and rested the muzzle of his rifle between his toes; the rear sights being on the butt. Edmund Johnson, a Dublin jeweler, who shot in the same position as Milner, and Captain Philip Walker, a British officer. All the team shot in the prone position with the exception of Milner and Johnson.

The match took place on September 26, 1874. The day was hot and dry with considerable mirage; the visitors finding the heat rather excessive. The attendance was large and rapidly increased during the day as the newspaper telegrams led the public for the first time to realize that there were prospects of an American victory.

I do not think that I ever can recall a busier or more exciting day. The targets were arranged in groups of two, numbers 19 and 20 for one team, 16 and 17 for another, 18 being removed. Major Leach won the choice, and took 16 and 17, toward the inside of the range. The wisdom of this choice was manifested at the 1,000 yards, where the shade of a large tree made it very refreshing to his men. The captains of the teams each named a man to sit by the marker at each target, to see that he performed his duty faithfully. Each also named a man who sat with a telescope by the scorer and saw that the scoring was correct. Several times during the match a, doubt occurred in regard to a shot. In such a case the firing ceased, and the markers with their watchers came out and inspected the target.
John Rigby opened the match, making a “center,” scoring three. Lieut. Fulton followed with a "bullseye,” scoring four; Captain Walker followed in the British team and made a miss. The Americans shot steadily and well, and at the end of the firing at 800 yards their score was 326 out of a possible 360, the Irish score being 317. Fulton, of the American, and Hamilton, of the Irish, each made 58 out of a possible 60, that is, 13 bullseyes in 15 shots.

As the firing continued, the crowd, which numbered 5,000, extended itself in a solid mass along the rear of the teams and at an angle to the front on each side for a distance of nearly 500 yards. Behind the teams large bulletin boards were erected upon which the score made by each shot was posted. Everybody, however, had a score book and kept his or her own score. When a shot was fired there was silence until the smart spat of the bullet upon the target would come back at an interval of about three seconds. Then there would be a murmur in the crowd like the sound of a gentle wind “He’s on.” If the white disc was shown, everybody would say “bullseye,” with the effect of a sort of a roar. If it was a center or a miss, the sound was much milder. At the finish at 800 yards a recess was taken during which lunch was had in a large tent.

After lunch the riflemen returned to work at 900 yards. Here both teams set themselves to work in dead earnest, the Irishmen to wipe out the nine points which stood against them, and the Americans to raise their advantage as high as their skill would permit. The Irish gained at this distance, and at the end of the fifteen shots they had made 312 points while the Americans had scored but 310, leaving the latter but seven ahead. Fulton and Yale shot remarkably well at this distance. Dakin, on the other hand, did not shoot up to his average, having one miss and two outers, making a score of only 45.



The teams then moved to 1,000 yards. Here the tension became extreme. It was known that the Irish were better at this distance than the Americans, and it was felt that only by extraordinary efforts could the Americans maintain the lead they had. The friends of each team gathered behind them and cheered to such an extent that both Major Leach and myself were obliged to go together and to beg the crowd to desist for fear of affecting the men they were cheering.

As shot after shot was fired, the anticipation became more and more intense. Hepburn and Dakin of the American team both began with misses, and Dakin made two more in his fifteen shots, making his score only 41, the lowest score in the match on either side. Fulton, however, came up most nobly under the pressure. He made 56, making a total record of 171, which was something at that time unparalleled, and which really saved the match. Milner made a miss, which was really a bullseye on the wrong target, a mistake which brought down upon him the opprobrium of his friends and nearly broke his heart.



The Irishmen shot with greater rapidity than the Americans. This was not because the muzzle loaders could be shot faster than the breech loaders, for the contrary was the case. The Americans, however, shot strictly under their team system, and when two men were lying down to shoot one held his fire until the shot of the other man was recorded so as to have the benefit of the experience which it gave. They  also frequently consulted as to what was the cause of a bad shot, particularly at 1,000 yards. The Irish, on the other hand, frequently fired simultaneously at their two targets and consulted much less than did the Americans, each man relying upon his individual judgment. When the Irish had finished their score it was found that they were ahead. One by one the last of the Americans shot, and the lead which the Irish had obtained was obliterated.

When Dakin fired his last shot and made a miss a hollow groan went through the American ranks. Col. Bodine was the last to shoot. He had been selected with special reference to his steadiness under excitement and nobly did he justify the confidence that had been placed in him. The Irish score was 931, the American 930. If he struck his target his team would win by one point. If he missed the match was lost. The crowd had pressed inside the ropes, and formed a long V extending for several hundred yards on each side of the firing point and leaving scarcely room enough to make it safe to shoot. All held their breath and fastened their eyes on Col. Bodine. He had been kept in ignorance of the exact condition of the scores, but he knew perfectly well that everything depended upon his shot.



Calm and imperturbable, as if engaged in ordinary practice, with blood dripping from a handkerchief in which he had tied up a cut on his hand received from a broken ginger-ale bottle a few minutes before, Col. Bodine stretched his long form out into his familiar position and taking a long, steady aim fired. Every one of the thousand pairs of eyes present were shifted from the man to the target, a little point half a mile off. Breathless silence prevailed. Then came the spat of the bullet accompanied by a roar from the crowd, “He’s on,” and then came slowly into sight a large white disc which showed that a bullseye had been made and the match had been won. The disc lingered apparently lovingly upon the center of the bullseye, the most charming and welcome sight I think I ever witnessed.

America had won by three points!



When the result appeared pandemonium broke loose. The sky was darkened with the hats which were thrown into the air. Men danced and thumped each other on the back and whooped and yelled and acted like crazy people. I remember I found myself standing on a chair behind Bodine waving my hat (which, however, I had sense enough to hold on to) and leading the cheering. But to this day I have not the remotest idea of how I got there from the place where I had been standing behind him watching the wind flag to give him warning in case there should be any change.

A forest of hands were stretched forth from every side towards. the Colonel, who was plainly very much embarrassed as well as astonished by these great demonstrations. Everybody looked upon him as the savior of the national honor, and he really well earned the title, the “Old Reliable,” by which he has since been known. After the excitement had ended and the throng scattered over the ground looking for their hats had to some extent dispersed, the winning team was called together and Lady Massareene, in a few appropriate words, pinned upon the breast of each man the badge intended for the winning riflemen. As each was addressed, he said a few words of thanks. The most characteristic of these was probably the remark of Hepburn “that what gave, him most pride and satisfaction was to think that he had made with his own hands the rifle which that day had made the highest score ever made in a match.”

While the score made by the Americans was beyond their anticipations, the same was the case with their opponents, who averaged 155 and 1/6 per man. It is gratifying to know that not the slightest question arose among any one connected with either team in regard to the perfect fairness with which the match was conducted. The marking, scoring, and management were unexceptional, and everything was managed on both sides in the most sportsmanlike and honorable manner. Though sadly disappointed by the result, the Irish team accepted their defeat with the utmost manliness, and while conceding that it was unexpected to them, frankly acknowledged it was fairly and honorably won.

It would be difficult to adequately estimate the great impetus to rifle shooting in the country which came from this first international match. Before the match took place Creedmoor was almost unknown, and but little interest in rifle shooting existed in the National Guard or in the army and none among the public. The result was an enormous advertisement. Rifle ranges and rifle clubs were started all over the country.

The next year, 1875, the Irish team challenged the American team for a return, to be shot in Ireland. The contest took place at Dollymount, near Dublin, and, although the Irishmen made a higher score than had ever been made in Great Britain, they were defeated by thirty-eight points, 967 to 929. In 1876, the Centennial year of America, another international contest was held at Creedmoor, wherein the American team won the Palma trophy over an Irish team by 22, a Scotch team by 63, an Australian team by 64, and a Canadian team by 203, mainly, I believe, owing to the manner, in which their splendid team organization enabled them to follow the fluctuating wind.

In 1877 a British team again appeared at Creedmoor. In that contest the Americans made a grand total of 3,334 to their competitors’ 3,242, with the result that in 1878 no contestant for the Palma appeared, and the American team shot a “walk-over.” In 1880 an American team again shot at Dollymount, in Ireland, making 1,292 points against the Irish 1,280. The shooting in this match was superior to anything which had previously been known; making in 270 shots, 221 bullseyes, 41 centers, 7 inners, one outer, and no misses.

This article first appeared in Outing, Vol. 38, p. 616 (Sept. 1901)
 

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