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Login Name Post: Snipers in the Revolutionary War        (Topic#305450)
Loyalist Dave 
Cannon
Posts: 6029
Loyalist Dave
12-01-17 09:03 AM - Post#1654567    

    In response to tenngun

  • Quote:
Practice makes perfect, but powder and lead were expensive. I don’t know if the old boys went out and spent an afternoon once a week or once a month throwing a couple of dozen shots down range.



Correct practice makes perfect. Poor Richard left out an important element in the quote.

I can't say if the old boys practiced a whole lot..., I think they had to. I know that even when hunting when it comes time to head for home, I don't leave the rifle loaded until the next hunt unless that's the next day, often not even then (my 21st century job sometimes cuts into the next day's plans for hunting). I shoot into an old tree stump near where I park. In the Spring, I dig out the spent ball. It gets recast. I should think they did the same thing when shooting at marks

I remember reading about a flintlock shooting contest once..., the winner's trophy was the target, which was a fancy custom painted thing. The second place shot got 2/3 of the spent ball melted down into a fresh ingot, and 3rd place got the remaining lead in a smaller ingot.



LD



 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-14-17 03:44 AM - Post#1656760    

    In response to Loyalist Dave

zimmerstutzen’s very informative post, linked below, got me to thinking more about period long range “sniper” shooting in the AWI. A good note to take from this post is the larger .58 and .62 caliber rifles were much more sure to hit the targets at 300 yards and beyond because the larger balls held their velocity so much better than AWI period American Long Rifles of more common bore sizes of .52 caliber and smaller calibers.
http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/fusionbb/showpost.php?post...

That got me to thinking about the British P 1800 British Baker Flintlock Rifle of “Carbine Bore” that fired a .62 caliber ball. That rifle is a slightly later contemporary of the American Long Rifle, but based a good deal from “Lessons Learned” by the British in the AWI, when they faced American Long Rifles.

The Baker Rifle was based in part on the AWI German Mercenaries’ Jaeger Rifles and thanks to forum Member Wes/tex’s recent post, we now know with their Jaeger Rifles, they used “counter sniping” to pretty much shut down the American Riflemen at the Siege of Yorktown. No doubt part of that due to the generally larger caliber and thus better long range characteristics of those rifles for a SNIPER rifle, even though the Jaeger Rifle barrels were generally shorter to much shorter than American Rifles in the AWI. Also as a military rifle designed for Sharpshooting or Sniping, the Baker’s rifling of One Turn in 120 inches was designed for optimum accuracy and efficiency with the military size ball, issued patch material available and the 3 ½ Drams/96 grain powder charge. Though I do not know for certain, I strongly suspect that powder charge was seen as the best “general” charge for accuracy with that rifling, ball and available patch material; though perhaps or probably not the best powder charge for each individual rifle’s accuracy.

The American Rifle of the AWI period was developed as a Hunting Rifle and not as a Sniping Rifle. Though the longer barrel gave a longer sight radius and thus a bit more accuracy, the main reason for the longer barrel was to reduce the size of the ball and powder and still have a ball with the accuracy and power to kill good sized game animals at a distance. They mistakenly believed the powder burned throughout the length of the barrel (and this Myth continues to this day) because they did not understand the longer barrel increased the velocity of the ball, even as all the powder that was going to burn in the barrel actually burnt up very close to the breech of the barrel. (The British Royal Society actually proved all the powder burnt up very near the breech in tests conducted about 1751, but did not seem to have become general knowledge for some time after that.)

Though we cannot know for sure, it is very likely if not probable the American Hunters used what we nowadays call “Maximum Point Blank Range” (MPBR) when shooting their Long Rifles for taking mid to large size game animals like deer. MPBR is the maximum distance that the ball drops no further than about 4 inches, which is half the size of the vital area of a deer. That way, the hunter aimed directly for the center of the vital area no matter how close or how far away to the maximum distance and the hunter was thus sure the ball would rise or fall no more than the vital area of the game. With a Long Rifle in the calibers and barrel lengths common in the AWI period, this meant the Hunter could aim center of the target up to maybe 110 to 120 yards and the ball would hit in the vital area of game. At 200 yards and in Combat/War Time, a rifle set up to shoot that way could be aimed at the Hat on an enemy’s head and the ball would drop, but still normally/often hit in the torso of an enemy soldier. So this made 200 yard shooting about maximum distance for ensuring shots would hit an enemy soldier. But what about longer distances for sniping?

At 300 yards, American Long Rifles with calibers of .50 caliber and smaller would see the Patched Round Ball drop between 20 and 22 feet from the point of aim. These rifles were rarely fitted with any kind of adjustable sights that would allow the American Hunter/Shooter to aim at the target and make up for that drop of the bullet. If there weren’t tall trees or some kind building or hill or mountain behind the enemy soldier, there would not have been an aiming point to make up for the drop of the ball at that range and thus make hitting something improbable at best.

The Baker Rifle actually went back to an older Two Leaf Rear Sight that was found on some Jaeger Rifles much earlier in the 18th century. The Short Leaf on the rear sight was used to zero the Rifle at 100 yards and the Tall Leaf was used to zero the Rifle for 200 yards. This and the larger .62 caliber ball was a HUGE improvement for long range accuracy for sniping over the common American Long Rifle of the AWI. Original texts about the Baker talk about 300 yard shooting, or what we would call “sniping,” was well within the range of their better shooters. The following video shows how this was done and it seems that once again aiming at the Hat on an enemy soldier’s head would normally keep the ball inside the enemy’s torso.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEd7UI0HXNc

In my opinion, the British did a much better job of “Lessons Learned” from the AWI on using Rifles for Sniping than what the U.S. did. Our Model 1803 rifle was smaller caliber and did not have an adjustable sight, so it was not as good of a sniping rifle as the Pattern 1800 Baker Rifle.

Gus


 
Rich Pierce 
70 Cal.
Posts: 4074
12-14-17 12:13 PM - Post#1656824    

    In response to Artificer

I have never tried shooting a muzzleloader beyond 200 yards. I am thinking it would be necessary to “walk the shots up”, having a spotter that could call how low the last shot was. That would depend on a clear foreground and no heat or chaos of battle.

With drop exceeding 10 feet, range estimation would be the biggest challenge without a spotter. Being off by 50 yards could mean a low or high miss.


I’m guessing the larger calibers also lessened wind drift.

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 6514
tenngun
12-14-17 01:52 PM - Post#1656831    

    In response to Rich Pierce

We have to think about the size of the target. A man is smaller then a the front sight. So not only would you have to guesstimate how high 22 feet above the target but the width of a human seen at that range.

 
Wes/Tex 
Cannon
Posts: 7700
Wes/Tex
12-14-17 02:47 PM - Post#1656843    

    In response to Artificer

I'd say your assumptions are basically correct. There are existing examples of the Baker rifle with a fixed, non-adjustable rear sight which I've never seen an explanation for...there's always one of those!

Basically, shooting a muzzle loading rifle at long range with standard sights requires two basic things. The first is a developed skill for range estimation. The second is practice, practice and more practice. When you are finished...practice some more. I've always thought of muzzle loading hunting with most traditional rifles to be almost identical, in skill and performance, to shooting or hunting with a .44 or .45 handgun, a popular sport in Texas and the southwest. They both yield about the same results with similar range limitations. No, not everyone agrees, but I've found it so in my own experience. Conversely, I think of long range shooting as handled similarly.

With shooting 200 to 300 yards with a large bore handgun requires what they call 'hold over' using the sights. Simply, it's a matter of keeping the front sight at a 6 o'clock or center hold on the target but elevating the front sight up till the notch on the rear sight is level with the front sight base. A taller, straighter backed front sight and base helps give you more finagle room. This sort of thing.

http://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/S...

Long range shooters can scribe lines on the back after shooting at various ranges to get hits. Without some sort of starting point you just have to keep elevating more front sight and barrel top and walk the rounds in. Assuming the front sight post shown here to be elevated with lines scribed for let's say 100, 200 and 300...going down with it set up at 300 yards here. This is just so you can get a better idea of what I'm describing. Some times it requires a bit of barrel end showing up as well if you're shooting way on out there. Amazingly, a trained shooter can lay them in there at a remarkable rate.

If you intend to try this set up, I'd encourage you to get a set of higher front and rear sights to start for a high front sight with low rear one makes your rifle shoot low. Then it's a matter of measuring your own stride and guess distances to objects and refining that skill. Then go to the range and see what happens. Larger balls carry better and are less affected by wind drift...the rest is just shooting and adjusting till you learn how to lob them in at long range. It's not difficult but takes patience! Oh, it helps if you are shooting on a target on some sort of slope, it helps you see the hits better to tell how high or low you are. Otherwise, you're just having to do like Jerry Clower's coon hunting story..."just shoot up here amongst us".



 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-14-17 04:34 PM - Post#1656871    

    In response to Rich Pierce

  • Rich Pierce Said:
I have never tried shooting a muzzleloader beyond 200 yards. I am thinking it would be necessary to “walk the shots up”, having a spotter that could call how low the last shot was. That would depend on a clear foreground and no heat or chaos of battle.



This is part of the reason why I included the youtube video on shooting the Baker at 300 yards. The author of that video was not able to see where even the balls falling short hit, until he watched them on replay. I am not sure if a second person acting as a "spotter" could see the impacts of balls falling short without some kind of period telescope, unless the ground was dry and caused a small cloud of dust to rise when hit?

I actually have some experience seeing rounds impacting short of a 300 yard target and with only eyeglass corrected vision, though it was with unmentionable rifles. It was fired by a SSgt I worked with and it was during a ten round string of rapid fire. He forgot to put the additional dope or elevation correcton on his rifle from the 200 yard line. The rounds kicked up dirt in front of and onto the target so the impacts were visible, though I’m not sure I would have been able to accurately report where they hit had the grass on the range not been so freshly “manicured cut” by a lawn mower. I cannot imagine I would have seen where they hit in the period, though, unless there was a freshly plowed field an enemy was on. I think the impacts would have been hidden by the uncut grass and other fauna.

  • Rich Pierce Said:
With drop exceeding 10 feet, range estimation would be the biggest challenge without a spotter. Being off by 50 yards could mean a low or high miss.



Exactly and even 25 yards off from accurate range estimation at or near 300 yards could easily cause a miss with a .52 or smaller size ball.

  • Rich Pierce Said:
I’m guessing the larger calibers also lessened wind drift.



Indeed, and the wind could easily cause more misses at 300 yards than even less than perfect range estimation with period American Long Rifle common caliber balls.

Gus


 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-14-17 04:40 PM - Post#1656874    

    In response to Wes/Tex

Thank you again for the information on the German Jaeger Riflemen at Yorktown.

I understand what you mean by long range pistol shooting because in the mid 1960's onward, I read most every gun mag and followed Elmer Keith's exploits of that kind of shooting.

In the video I linked above, it showed the author doing the kind of "hold over" you are talking about, beginning at 1:59 and well illustrated using graphics. When the author did that at 300 yards with the Taller 200 yard Sight Leaf up, he shot completely over the target at 300 yards.

Gus

 
Wes/Tex 
Cannon
Posts: 7700
Wes/Tex
12-14-17 05:25 PM - Post#1656885    

    In response to Artificer

Had seen that video a couple years ago and forgot he illustrated sight picture set up...glad it's there for reference. It would be interesting to have him try the 'supine position' shot like Plunkett actually used and illustrated in one of the pics on the video. Everyone says it was at 300 yards, though at the time the only comment was that it was at "a range that seemed extraordinary to the men". Some confusion comes from the fact he ran forward about 100 yards before laying down to fire. Now no one's sure if 300 was over all of from where he fired. Even if it were the shorter distance, knocking down Gen. Colbert and then his aid-de-camp .

However it was done and at whatever actual range, it turned the Battle at Cacabelos during Moore's retreat to Corunna in 1809.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-14-17 11:42 PM - Post#1656961    

    In response to Wes/Tex

I was glad to see the different kinds of sight settings and how he "held off" to try to get the ball impacts in the target, because it does so well illustrate what we talk about, but some others may not follow.

You are right, it would have been interesting had he fired some rounds or at least one group from the supine position.

Speaking of the supine position, that leads me to another story.

One year for the annual Rifle Requalification at Quantico, Marksmanship Training Unit decided to take one day off and requalify everyone in the RTE Shop and the Teams and MTU Staff with the rifle instead of sending people out a few at a time for a whole week's detail. We got a couple of sighters at each yard line and then fired for record, so it was not a easy thing to do. The few people who did not qualify then had to go on a full week's detail.

My best friend in life was joking with our Shop Chief that he and I should bring Muzzle Loading Rifles to shoot. Our Shop Chief got a devilish gleam in his eyes and said, "Yes, bring them in because we have a new Lt. that need's "breaking in."

So Mike had his UnCivil War period Amoskeag Rifle and I had my M1856 .41 caliber Swiss Federal Rifle. We went up with those rifles to the Lt. early on the morning we were to fire and asked where we could draw powder and lead to shoot the qualification? He got more than a little flustered and in an excited voice said, "You can't shoot those here!" Mike replied, "But Sir, we were issued these rifles when we joined (the Marine Corps) and we already have good dope on them.... The Lt. wasn't sure about that but said, "Well, we don't have any ammo for those things." Mike replied, "Well, we figured that might happen, Sir, so we brought our own to qualify with." Now the Lt. was getting a little desperate and said, "Well, how are you going to shoot at the 500 yard line with those things?!" I stepped up and showed him the rear sight on my Swiss Federal Rifle and how it was marked to 1,000 yards and told him Mike's rear sight went to 1,200 yards, so that would not be a problem. Then the Lt. said, "Well, how are you going to shoot rapid fire?" I replied, "Sir, I will stand and fire while my partner is kneeling to reload in front of me. After I fire, I will move ahead of him to kneel and reload why he stands and fires. We will continue that until we have fired all 10 rounds each." Now the poor Lt. was really desperate, but finally there was a light of an idea in his eyes. He looked at the pretty fair drop on my Swiss Federal Rifle Stock and said, "OK, just HOW are you going to shoot that prone?!!" I smiled and said, "No, problem, Sir." Then I got down into a Supine position. At that the Lt. said, "AH HAH! That is not a legal position!" At that a Sergeant from the International Team came up and said, "Sir, begging your pardon, but that is a legal position for International Shooting, so there is no reason he can't use it here. The poor Lt. ran out of reasons to object and he was almost talking to himself when our Shop Chief drove up in his personal vehicle with our modern weapons and we put the original rifles in his car and took the modern weapons out to fire.

Of course the story got all around MTU for those who had not actually seen it going on and everyone had a good laugh and that included the new Lt. He later told us that if he ever again was a Range Officer for a Requalification Detail, he doubted anything could go "so wrong" for him as on that day. Our Shop Chief told him we just wanted to prepare him for anything in the future.

Shucks, I was beginning to hope we actually might be able to shoot those original Muzzle Loading Rifles that day for Requalification.....

Gus

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-15-17 12:44 AM - Post#1656965    

    In response to tenngun

  • tenngun Said:
We have to think about the size of the target. A man is smaller then a the front sight. So not only would you have to guesstimate how high 22 feet above the target but the width of a human seen at that range.



I don't know if they did it this way, but this is a way they could have done it. Back in the early 1960's as a Boy Scout, we were taught to estimate the height of trees by standing a person in front of it and backing off a good ways. Of course we had to know how tall the person was and then we took a stick in our hand and used it with our thumb to show the height of the person. Then we used that height on the stick and looked up the tree and remembered how many times the height of the person it was to the top of the tree. IOW if the person was 5 feet tall and if the height of the tree was 10 times the "stick marking," then the tree was 50 feet tall.

During the AWI, they could have done the same thing with a British Soldier's height and used the stick to show three or four times his height to aim high, IF there was a tree or building or hill behind him.

Gus


 
Loyalist Dave 
Cannon
Posts: 6029
Loyalist Dave
12-15-17 09:13 AM - Post#1657018    

    In response to Artificer

  • Quote:
the Baker’s rifling of One Turn in 120 inches was designed for optimum accuracy and efficiency with the military size ball, issued patch material available and the 3 ½ Drams/96 grain powder charge.



It wasn't the optimal, however. The optimal was probably more like 1:110 or a little faster.

The very slow twist was based simply on their idea that the ball had to turn 1/4 of a turn to overcome the inertia of the ball and spin it axially to give it long range accuracy... and the barrel length decided upon was 30"..., hence the twist rate defaulted 1/4 turn in 30" = 1:120 twist rate. At least that's how I understood it from what's written in Barber's book.

They also qualified on a 6 foot tall target that was 24" wide. A hit anywhere on that target counted. Now I wonder if one was to use the front sight not parallel with the top of there rear sight, but the top of the front sight at the bottom of the notch, and then aimed at the top edge of the target (or the top of the standing man) if that wouldn't give you enough elevation to drop the ball into the target's "shin area" ?

Their objective was to take the man "out of action" and a hit in the shin with a .600 ball would pretty much put and end to the targeted enemy's usefulness for the rest of the day, at least.

LD

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-15-17 10:31 AM - Post#1657045    

    In response to Loyalist Dave

Great explanation of how they arrived at the 1:120 twist.

However, I am not sure I follow what you mean in the part below?

  • Loyalist Dave Said:
Now I wonder if one was to use the front sight not parallel with the top of there rear sight, but the top of the front sight at the bottom of the notch, and then aimed at the top edge of the target (or the top of the standing man) if that wouldn't give you enough elevation to drop the ball into the target's "shin area" ?



When you go from the top of the front sight being parallel to the top of the rear sight to the top of the front sight is down in the bottom of the notch, this will cause the ball to strike lower than it would have when the top of the front sight is parallel to the top of the rear sight.

Using the front sight in this way with the Tall 200 yard Leaf and aiming higher on the target will cause the ball to drop about the same as if you aimed with the front sight parallel to the top of the rear sight and aimed "center mass."

So perhaps I am missing something?

  • Loyalist Dave Said:
Their objective was to take the man "out of action" and a hit in the shin with a .600 ball would pretty much put and end to the targeted enemy's usefulness for the rest of the day, at least.

LD



Yes, indeed, if they hit an enemy soldier in the arm or leg with a .60 caliber ball, it would at least have taken him out of action on that day and for some time to come - if his own Doctors or infection didn't kill him.

Gus


 
Loyalist Dave 
Cannon
Posts: 6029
Loyalist Dave
12-15-17 10:47 AM - Post#1657047    

    In response to Artificer

Naw I stated it in reverse...


Sorry, you align the bottom of front sight post with the top of the rear sight. You form the sight picture a little off to one side of the target, then, and with a tiny amount to adjust the hold onto the target, and fire. They did use a rest at 300 yards for some of their qualification firing.

LD

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 6145
12-15-17 11:29 AM - Post#1657072    

    In response to Loyalist Dave

OK, Dave, I thought that was what you really meant. Yes, that would give you more elevation.

BTW, moving the sights or aligning them in a different way can be very confusing at times, even to those who do it for a living.

Gus





 
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