The N-SSA skirmisher folks who practice their shooting all the time, and fine tune their weapons can generally tweak a ragged one hole group at 50 yards, and proportionally at greater ranges. The guns, properly set up, are excellent in accuracy.
Kind of curious what 'properly set up' means... From the distance of the UK, the N-SSA seem to permit glass bedding, changes to the issue military sights, faster rifling twists that original arms had... To my interpretation properly set up is a rifle conforming to original 19thC specification. Don't get me wrong, the N-SSA seem to have hit upon a highly successful and engaging programme of shooting.The N-SSA skirmisher ...... The guns, properly set up, are excellent in accuracy.
The idea for this thread came from earlier discussions on Accuracy, Range and Effectiveness of WBTS Infantry Arms and some recent information on the use of M1842 Percussion Smoothbore Muskets that were still in use by some Federal Regiments as late as 1863 in both the Eastern and Western Theatres of the War.
Earlier discussions have often centered on even though Rifle Muskets were available at the outbreak of the War and could effectively hit Man Size Targets at 300 yards, at least in Battle Line Formations at that range by most troops, many Commanders stuck to having their men fire at 100 yards or even closer for much of the War. I wonder if perhaps we have been a little too disdainful by blaming Commanders and not thinking about what other conditions may have been involved?
By the opening of the WBTS, most Commanders from Generals down to Captains commanding Infantry Companies and who had actual Combat Experience, had gained that experience with their Soldiers having been armed with either M1842 Percussion Smoothbore Muskets (Maximum effective range 60 to 100 yards at most) or much less often M1841 Rifles (Maximum effective range perhaps 200 yards). Even though these Arms were more reliable with the Percussion Cap System, the effective range of these Arms 82 years after the AWI, was no further than Muskets and Rifles of the Revolutionary War.
However, there were a VERY small number of Commanders who had some Combat Experience with their Soldiers armed with M 1855 Rifle Musket.
“The advent of rifled firearms [M1855 Rifle Muskets] prompted an interest in marksmanship training, something that had rarely been accomplished previously. Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, commander of the 1856 expedition against the Sioux, ordered daily target practice to ensure his soldiers would be familiar with their new weapons. Sergeant Bandel of the 6th Infantry, part of Harney’s command for the campaign, recalled using “seventy-five cartridges in one day alone” soon after he received his rifled musket. In March 1856, the 10th Infantry also instituted marksmanship practice. Targets ranged from two hundred to seven hundred yards. According to the regimental history, “All shots were recorded and the men classified according to ability.” The 3d Artillery regimental history noted that “the superiority of the rifle was at once strikingly manifest.” In 1858 the Army codified these efforts by introducing a new target practice manual. Nevertheless, by the time the Civil War erupted, marksmanship training was still in its infancy, and in the rush to raise mass armies at the outbreak of the war, such training often fell by the wayside.
By December 1860, the Army’s authorized strength totaled about 18,000 officers and men, but only 16,367 were on the rolls. Of these, 1,108 were commissioned officers, four were general officers (one major general who served as the commanding general and three brigadier generals), and the rest were either line officers assigned to the regiments or staff officers serving in the War Department. There were 361 staff officers assigned to the nine bureaus and departments, all of which were headed by colonels, although several held staff brevets of brigadier general. The bureau chiefs were men of long service, averaging sixty-four years of age, with six over seventy. The 743 line officers served in the regiments: 351 in the infantry, 210 in the artillery, and 182 in the mounted units. As with the bureau chiefs in the War Department, the nineteen regimental colonels were mostly old men set in their ways. They ranged in age from forty-two to eighty, the average being sixty-three.
With ten infantry and five mounted regiments of ten companies each (the 8th Infantry had only nine) and four artillery regiments of twelve companies each, there were a total of 197 line, or combat, companies in the United States Army on the eve of the Civil War. Of these, only eighteen, all artillery, were stationed east of the Mississippi River.
The Army of 1860, although woefully undermanned, was a much more effective force than the one that had marched into Mexico just fifteen years earlier. It had better weapons and a more professional officer corps. But like the Army of 1845, it would soon face a conflict for which it was unprepared. After the Mexican War, during a decade and a half of conducting small, independent operations on the frontier, junior officers had gained considerable experience in leading men in combat, but virtually none of the Army’s senior leadership had ever fought a major battle. Men who had commanded companies of one hundred or fewer soldiers soon found themselves leading brigades, divisions, and corps. Even more so than in the Mexican War, the Army was about to undergo a stunning transformation as the nation rushed pell-mell toward mobilizing what would eventually become a million-man force of citizen soldiers who would fight to preserve the Union.”
The above information from “The Regular Army Before the Civil War 1845 ”“ 1860” by Clayton R. Newell, Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D.C., 2014
“The Model 1855 was the best arm available at the beginning of the conflict as it took some time for the Model 1861s to be manufactured and actually reach the field. However, less than 80,000 Model 1855s had been manufactured by the start of the war. Some of them were destroyed when the Confederates captured the Harper's Ferry Arsenal in April 1861, and several thousand more were in Southern hands. Approximately 10,000 rifles had also been shipped to California, and therefore were useless for the Union war effort.”
From “Arms and Equipment of the Civil War" by Jack Coggins, Published 2004
OK, so the Pre War and Early War Federal Regular Army Infantry Regiments were armed with the M1855 Rifle Musket. Some had both training in marksmanship and had fought with these Rifled Arms, though some may not have had even much marksmanship training. With most Rifled Muskets issued to Regular Army Regiments or stored in Arsenals throughout the United States at the outbreak of the WBTS, how were the exceedingly larger number of Militia Units armed?
As noted in another thread, there had been a total of about 250,000 M1842 Smoothbore Percussion Muskets made between 1844 and 1855. (That is a LOT of those muskets even by today’s standards.) Since the Regular Army had been upgraded to the M1855 Rifled Arms, that meant the majority of these arms were in the hands of State Arsenals and their Militia Units. Though some had been or were being rifled at either Government Armories or by Civilian Contractors, most of the arms remained Smooth Bore. So even if some Militia Units would have taken time for Long Range Shooting Experience, most Militia did not have Rifled Arms to practice shooting with beyond 100 yards.
So no wonder early War battles were often fought with “Napoleonic Tactics” of Battle Lines facing each other at 100 yards or less, because many of the Units did not even have Rifled Arms. If the troops did not have rifled arms, their Commanders could not be blamed for sticking with “older tactics” that were designed for the Smooth Bore Arms their troops used.
I maintain that for the rank and file, smoothbore muskets loaded with buck and ball loads would have been the most effective arms for general issue.
A “ few “ may have received some type of long range marksmanship training at area targets, or individual targets out to 300 or so yards before the war, but I’ll bet it was more than likely a one time deal. The Army simply didn’t have the money to buy ammo to be used for practice.I may agree, but only because the troops were not trained in longer range accuracy with Rifle Muskets as much as they could and should have been, considering how U.S. Troops HAD been effectively trained out to 700 yards before the War.
Dateline: May 9, 1864
""They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."
Some of the last words boasted by Federal Major General John Sedgwick, before being flattened by an Enfield Rifle Musket fired from at least 800 yards to as far as over 900 yards, depending on the period accounts at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House .
A “ few “ may have received some type of long range marksmanship training at area targets, or individual targets out to 300 or so yards before the war, but I’ll bet it was more than likely a one time deal. The Army simply didn’t have the money to buy ammo to be used for practice.
The contemporary accounts I have read usually described the firing of anywhere from one to perhaps 10 shots max, and that was it.
Lots of mention of going into battle with weapons the men had never fired.
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