Half-Stock Plains Rifles in the American Civil War


Jun 1, 2021
Hi there!

Since you guys gave me some good insight on my last post, I want to ask another question straight away! Did people use half stock plains rifles during the American Civil War? I know that one unit was outfitted with them at the beginning of the war (the 66th Illinois Volunteers), but were there more units that used them? Did individual soldiers bring their own to the war effort and is there evidence of this?

I once again apologize for my less than stellar english and thank you guys for your awesome insights and help. :D




Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Mar 22, 2009
Collierville, TN
Hi and Welcome.

There was another thread about errors that people have seen at reenactments. I think someone mentioned seeing someone using a plains rifle and said it was obviously incorrect. I wasn't aware any were used except maybe civilians or some special scout.

I have a replica Hawken rifle that I have had a long time. I can't see one of these ever being on a battlefield.


Jun 27, 2021
The 1862 Federal Ordnance Report lists the purchase of 2,707 "Common sportsman's rifles," and of this number, only about a thousand went to the 66th Illinois (Birge's Sharpshooters), so I think you can draw your own conclusions.
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May 19, 2020
Soldiers carried issued muskets but militia carried whatever they had. I have seen accounts of using Brown Bess flintlock muskets and many mentions of "squirrel" rifles.

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Apr 8, 2018
Coffeeville, TX
There were some of the rifles used, like in Birge's Western Sharpshooters as mentioned, but they were almost always replaced very quickly. Birge's guys got M1860 Henrys, (a friend of mine actually owns one of those Henrys and its displayed in his museum), so it can't be said they were common or even really used at all.

Such rifles were expensive to the average person, and a rarity for all but people who used them for a living. In the South there was the cheaper "Southern Poor Boy" style of rifle, but even it was rare in comparison to the cheap and widely available shotgun which saw a LOT of use. The North had many fine rifle rifle makers, but they were expensive.

Sporting rifles, or rather "Half Stocked Plains Rifles" were mostly useless for military service. They used patched round ball ammunition which was painfully slow to load, and was usually in calibers not standard for military service, and in a lot of cases the ammunition wasn't even buyable in stores as each individual rifle usually had to have a specialized mold for that rifle's bullets, and soldier's time was better spent drilling and being ready than spending time making ammo one at a time for a day or two.

Don't worry about your English, most us in the South don't speak it too well either according to many.:D Hope I've been helpful.