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Longest Sniper Hit?

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by elektratig, Apr 17, 2010.

  1. Dugger

    Dugger Banned

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    Tks very much for that info J.A.! I have been curious for some time about type of round that hit him. If it had been a specialized sniper bullet such as from a Whitworth then we could logically conclude it was a deliberate sniper shot. No bullet...ok. That leaves the event still murky and fuel for more never ending speculation...which actually makes things more fun! Tks again. I knew I would learn a lot when I joined this forum a few days ago. Do you happen to know how many officers over the years have been killed right after they told their men, "Relax, thay could not hit the side of a barn from that distance!" heh heh
     

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  3. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    There are many stories of amazing sniper hits, but at 550 yards, it is more a matter of luck than intention. To be sure, there were guys who could take a finely tuned musket and put a slug into a small bull at 200 yards (a distance at which I cannot discern a target from a background), but at 500 yards, the project get's iffy. Windage, spindrift, distance ... took a good shooter some luck in actually hitting what he was shooting at.

    Actually, the sharpshooter was looking to pick off cannoneers and their horses. To take out a top general at 550 yards I can only acknowledge luck.
     
  4. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    to put this in today's perspective, I have a friend (age 65) who competes in modern long range shooting. He shoots an M-14 (7.62nato or civilian .308 cartridge) at 1000 meters. the bullet drop at that distance is 43 FEET!... now that is dialed into his scope, but at half that distance and with an unscoped muzzle loader... even computing the ballistic arch would have been a herculean task.
    i suspect the modern .30 caliber boat tailed bullet shoots WAAAAY flatter than a conical ball and black powder.
     
  5. Baggage Handler #2

    Baggage Handler #2 2nd Lieutenant

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    very crudely, and with mixed units...

    gravity is going to pull a bullet down at about 32 ft /sec/sec as long as it's in the air.

    A round that averages mach 3 is going to hit 1000m in the neighborhood of 1 seconds, which is going to drop it about 32ft. If a .308 is just under mach 3 (or a shade under 3000 fps) at the muzzle and somewhere between mach 1.5 and 2 at 1000m (just a guess), the 43ft drop seems about right.

    Slow the speed down to mach 1 average - meaning a muzzle velocity of something substantially over 350m/s (1200fps -ish?), and it'll take over 3 seconds to reach out to 1000m. In three seconds it will drop right at 100 ft. If it averaged mach 1 for the trip. Slow it down some, and the drop increases non-linearly.

    Am not sure how a guy'd hold for 100ft drop without obscuring whatever he was looking at.
    It'd be like playing Angry Birds without ever seeing the right side of the screen.
     
  6. Dugger

    Dugger Banned

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    Obviously the only person using your data/formulas who would ever have been able to hit a dang thing would have been Einstein! I cant understand what yer saying...course I not real bright. Don't got a PHD in realtivity. Hah. Sorry, just a post in humor.
    I am at Mach -0...har
     
  7. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    Has anyone ever the measured muzzle velocity of the various ACW era firearms? Just how fast were those balls flying?
     
  8. Me-109 Jagdfleiger

    Me-109 Jagdfleiger Cadet

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    I did a few years ago with my Euroarms p53, IIRC it was arround 8-900fps that was 70grains volume of Pyrodex RS (FF equivalent) pushing a cast 505gr Minne ball
     
  9. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Three four years ago, prior to my accident, I was at an event where our rounds were measured. 950 f/p/s average for an M1841, M1861 & P53. IIRC we each shot a dozen rds. Fella shooting the M1861, an original parts custom, had the most consistant. Smoked me actually. He had a consistant 3" group at 100 meters, my own was about 1/3 greater than that.
     
  10. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    at 800 - 900 fps mv and a 550 yd shot... ya gotta hold on the moon to hit a man.... Sedgewick was the most unlucky man in the AoP that day... no way that shot was aimed!
     
  11. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    Of course it was an aimed shot. It was aimed at a group of men and horses standing together. (a general and his staff and their horses).
    Give me a 4 to 6 man with horses target and a couple rounds to range them in and I believe I could make that shot. I'll hit something.
     
  12. Jobe Holiday

    Jobe Holiday First Sergeant

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    I've been to Camp Perry and watched the U.S. military teams fire on the 1,000 yard range. You can hardly imagine what the target looks like through the sights. One of the members of the USAF team let me sight on one of the practice targets and let me tell you it looked like a fleck of dust on top of the post!

    With that having been said, I remember reading the results of a Civil War arms match at Camp Grayling, Michigan, some 25 or so years ago. One part of the match was a silhouette of a Cavalryman mounted on a horse. This was set up on the 1,000 range. The competitors, using Civil War arms in two man teams, got to fire at it for 5 minutes. The winners were a team of one lever action Henry Rifle in .44-40 paired with an M-1841 Mississippi Rifle with one of the Harper's Ferry ladder sight modifications. Again, this is from memory, the Henry hit the silhouette 9 times and the Mississippi hit it 5 times for a total of 14 hits in 5 minutes at 1,000 yards. In a later interview for the article they both said the ladders were at maximum elevation, and yes, they aimed way over top the target. But, it serves to show that during the ACW harassing fire at 1,000 yards was quite effective with both a muzzle loader and an early cartridge type rifle.

    Jobe
     
  13. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    Not to be contrary about it, but I really don't consider it an aimed shot when the target is a "group of men and horses standing together"
    Hitting 'something' is not the same as an aimed shot at an individual.
    given your parameters, I think I could also make that shot as well, but it would not be an aimed shot ao much as a 'hail mary" shot
     
  14. John Gross

    John Gross Private

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    And this is EXACTLY what needs to be made clear when one discusses the accuracy/ability of the Whitworth rifle.

    The .451 Whitworth had an extreme range, which DOES NOT mean an effective range (i.e. being able to hit exactly what you are aiming at) of about 2.2 miles. Compare this to a .58 caliber rifle-musket with an extreme range of 1.03 miles and one can see how the Whitworth was held in awe by the soldiers.

    With the Whitworth rifle, to hit a man sized target somewhere from head to toe at 800 yards, the range and the sights have to be accurately calculated to plus or minus 20 yards. If the distance is misjudged by those +/- 20 yards the bullet will either hit the ground before it reaches the man, or fly over his head and land behind him.

    Add to the mix a 10mph crosswind and the bullet will travel 8.3 feet left or right (depending which way the wind is blowing). Also add in the time of flight, which at 800 yards is 2.4181 seconds. How far can you walk in 2.4181 seconds? How about a man on a horse?

    Extend this range to one mile and our margin of error is now plus/minus six yards, and the wind drift (same 10mph crosswind) is 35.8 feet. And the time of flight at one mile is now 6.5 seconds.

    Sorry, there is no way a sharpshooter could hit a specific man at those ranges on THE BATTLEFIELD. At the target range, where the distance is known/pre-measured and all other factors are in your favor, yes, it is possible.

    Harassment fire of LARGE targets at these extreme ranges with the Whitworth? Yes, definitely. Being able to hit a specific man? No, except by pure luck.

    Keep in mind that nature and science apply to the 451 Whitworth as it does any other firearm. The 45-70 Springfield fires the same weight and length bullet at the same velocity, and thus has virtually the exact same ballistic curve as the Whitworth. Yet the 45-70 is considered a poor choice for hunting at anything over 200 yards, but somehow many people believe the 451 Whitworth can shoot a mans eye out at 1.000 yards with regularity.

    John Gross
     
  15. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    Very well said... I fumbled around with reloading data and ballistics tables all evening last night in an effort to convey that same message... and never did get something I was willing to post!
     
  16. John Gross

    John Gross Private

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    I didn't want to throw too many statistics in one post, so I left this out. But it is important to understand so here it is. If a Whitworth is sighted to hit point of aim at 800 yards, the mid range trajectory will be 24 feet. In other words, at the mid range point (approximately 400 yards) the bullet will be 24 feet above the ground (actually, 24 feet above the line of sight, but for practical purposes and to make it easy for all to understand, 24 feet above the ground will suffice).

    And, at one mile, the mid range trajectory (1/2 mile) will see the bullet 175 feet above the ground.

    John Gross
     
  17. J.A. Morrow

    J.A. Morrow Guest

    John,
    The slide bar attached to a (Whitworth)Davidson telescope is graduated in distance-elevations for long ranges.
    Sort of like a mortar sight(deflection scale).
    And any skilled shooter(sniper,etc.)knows that cross wind will affect shots.
    When Confederate sharpshooters on Fort Sumter,Charleston harbor,were shooting down Federals on
    Cummings Point(1300 yds.,N.end Morris Island)they tended to shoot on still days(no winds).
    Harassment fire is something else again.
    We could argue mathematical shooting equations all day and none of it will nullify the very numerous (primary source)accounts of hits inflicted at 800 ,1000,and greater ranges.
    That luck figures into any distance shot is not doubted.But to suggest that the distance hits are only a matter of luck is a rather wide paintbrush generalization.
    On another tack;when shooting in the N-SSA years ago-I well recall that U.S.military shooting teams(toting M-1 & M14's)were so badly bested by many muzzle loading NSSA guys-that they quit attending the shoots.
    Never underestimate a good shooter with a rifled bore-including one that is loaded from the front end...
     
  18. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Shots fired vs hits made, harrasment fire vs aimed shots... at 1300 plus yards. Combat conditions vs the range.

    You never answered why the Whitworth gets all the press when there were how many imported into the CS? Whitworth overrated? Frankly, the P56 deserves more praise. The P56 was every bit as accurate at realistic combat ranges, shorter, handier and lighter not to mention using the same ammo as the workhorse P53 of the CS Infantry. 1 Whitworth at the cost of about 100 P53 or P56's... worth it?

    IMO the Whitworth gets a lot of press that really belongs to the P56 & P53. The lions share of shooting and most importantly hits from Sharpshooter Cos & Btns on the sharp end were done w/ the P56 and plain old P53. And as there were about the same number of Kerr as Whitworth rifles in use by the CS, more credit belonging to another arm is given the Whitworth. I've never understood why so many have a need to justify the Whitworth as some super weapon. In the hands of an expert marksman it was a good tool; that's all.
     
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  19. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    It was the 19th century terror weapon.
     
  20. J.A. Morrow

    J.A. Morrow Guest

    Johann,
    I suppose that your question,as I understand it,is that the various Enfields inflicted MORE casualties(per round)than individually inflicted hits with Whitworths?
    Am I correct?
    Well,YES-that is certainly so.There were a helluva lot more of them employed...
    The Enfield,in my opinion,was the BEST general purpose rifled musket used in the war.
    In my book I covered this subject somewhat(shooting trials cited)-that the accuracy of Enfields was significantly greater than the Springfield.
    But,again,it's "apples & oranges".
    The Whitworth's accuracy,at long distance,was superior to ALL the rest,though fewer in number...
     
  21. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    As someone who is more an observer than an active participant, I will try to answer your question from my perspective. Understand, i am not a reenactor, nor a N-SSA shooter, tho that does sound fun... but am just an old plinker who has been around guns for 60 or so years. During that time, I have had the opportunity ot learn a little bit about them and how they behave. I have never shot or even held a Wentworth and have do dogs in the fight.

    Having said that, It seems to me that what most people are trying to say is that the Wentworth was a teriffic arm, but used only sparingly due to it's relative scaricity and the scaricty of the ammo it required. I have read that in the ANV only 2 per battalion were issued. There was a scope available for it, but it was not ROUTINELY issued. No one disputes the long range accuracy of the weapon, nor does anyone callinto question the skill and marksmanship of the confederate sharpshooter.

    As an aside, I would comment that when an arm is chambered for a specific special round, common with no other firearms of the day, then that special round had better be head and sholders better than any thing out there. If it is not, it will remain obscure if no other arms makers adopt it. To give it a modern explanation, for every .44 magnum ( which began life as a wildcat round developed by Elmer Keith) there are literally hundreds of .45 Glock type special rounds that did not catch on.. ( .45 Glock was/is a shortened .45ACP round built specifically for a pistol produced for it by Glock. It did not catch on, very few if any other manufacturers have produced pistols chambered for it, and it is pretty much a dead round today)

    What is being questioned is how much of the special ammo was imported by the CS government with the rifle,and how it behaved with run of the mill balls. Also, I think there is a question as to why they are overrepresented in reenactments and there seem to be so many of them sporting scopes, many more, as a precentage than the numbers used in the war would support.

    i did challenge the notion that an aimed shot was one that would hit any one of a group of individuals... the "I'll hit something concept" which I liken to firing blindly into a covey or rising quail. If that is the standard of marksmanship, then the weapon needs to be a shell, not a ball.
     

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