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Best Civil War Sniper Rifle

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by OldBrainsHalleck, Mar 10, 2017.

  1. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    I have long wondered which sniper rifle was the best of the entire Civil War arsenal. I have heard that the Sharps rifle was the best rifle used by Union sharpshooters, and the Whitworth rifle was the weapon of choice for Confederate sharpshooters. Can someone help me out please?
     

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  3. Jobe Holiday

    Jobe Holiday First Sergeant

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    The Berdan Sharps Rifle was nothing more than a standard M-1859 Sharps Rifle with a set trigger. The Whitworth excelled over all other Rifles for long range accuracy with the heavy mechanically fitted projectile. The second best would be the heavy barreled and scoped slug guns made famous by the Winslow Homer plate in the Nov. 15, 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly. They were designed as 40 Rod Rifles, with their range being somewhat limited compared to the Whitworth because their projectiles were usually a bit lighter in weight. Although in actual use their effective range far exceeded 40 rods.
    J.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2017
  4. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    @Jobe Holiday is spot on. The Whitworth was by far the best sniper rifle and in the hands of a good shooter was deadly at a far longer range than anything else available.
     
  5. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    The Whitworth was a rifled musket, correct? Cuz, I have read that while muskets took a while to reload, they had more force behind their shots.
     
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  6. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Sergeant

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    The only issue about the Whitworth was getting your hands one. That's why the CSA only gave them to their best sharpshooters, which weren't in shortage due to the supply of expert hunters. The ammunition, a hexagonal bullet, was also very expensive to come by. How the Whitworths came to the CS was via blockade runners.

    As of performance, it out classed every single other rifle n the field in terms of accuracy. I believe Major General Sedgewick was actually killed by one of these.
     
  7. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    Sounds like a really effective firearm.
     
  8. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Sergeant

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    Yes, but the round was smaller than that of the Enfields.
     
  9. redbob

    redbob 1st Lieutenant

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    The Whitworth was a .451 diameter while the Enfield was a .577.
     
  10. redbob

    redbob 1st Lieutenant

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    The Whitworths were not only rifled, but they had a hexgonal bore and they used a powder charge heavier than most rifles of the time, people who have fired them say that the kick is about equivalent to a 12 gauge shotgun.
     
  11. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    Ok thanks for the info.
     
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  12. redbob

    redbob 1st Lieutenant

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    For about $1000.00 you got a Whitworth, it's tool's ,bullet mold and 1000 rounds of ammunition. Also available and used in the Western Theater was the Kerr Rifle (or poor man's Whitworth) which used a Whitworth barrel and Enfield parts.
     
  13. redbob

    redbob 1st Lieutenant

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    The British Army wouldn't accept the Whitworth for use because they considered it's bore diameter to be too small.
     
  14. Story

    Story Sergeant

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    Which is funny, because a decade later the .577/.450 was their standard round.
     
  15. Story

    Story Sergeant

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  16. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Whitworth, Sharps, Spencer,Henry, Kerr or whatever is only part of the equation. They all were effective tools in different circumstances. The other part of the equation was the person, mindset and skill of the shooter. It is one thing to fire at someone who is firing at you, but squeezing the trigger on a nonthreatening individual is an other story. I know war is h--l.
     
  17. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    Many Confederate sharpshooters actually preferred the two-band Enfield since they were shorter, lighter and better allowed for quick movement on the skirmish line. Keep in mind that most ACW sharpshooter units were essentially used as light infantry when actually fighting as a unit. Of course the Whitworth was known as the best for long range shooting, but only an extremely limited number were obtained by the South.
     
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  18. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    I'm going to put some pictures up of various arms that were used for dedicated Sharpshooting by the men we would call professional skirmishers. There were very few, if any snipers as we consider them today. The best way to equate them to modern warfare would probably be the way the Soviets deployed sharpshooters during WW2.
     
  19. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    The classic M1859 Sharps rifle as used to good effect throughout the war by a variety of different units.
    aan-726_1.jpg
     
  20. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    The P56 Enfield was the preferred arm of CS Cav & sharpshooters the the P53 also saw heavy use in that role.

    p56_01stor.jpg 417151_10150589791892920_2025342845_n.jpg
     
  21. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Civilian arms also saw heavy use especially among specialist sharpshooting units. Weapons such as made by Billinghurst were prized.

    1025-1.jpg
     

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