History

Yes - believe it or not, there was a time when two competitors would do their best to shoot each other as quickly as possible to win a medal. Let’s find out more.
  • 5 min read
The story starts with Howard Grubb, a son born into an already-prominent telescope family. Under the name of the Grubb Telescope Company, Howard went on to build refractor telescopes for a number of observatories across Europe, powered by his family’s electrically driven clock drives. In 1900, Howard premiered his latest invention - a reflective sight for small arms.

Every so often, I’ll come across an old article that seems far too interesting to just leave behind. I’ve gathered up a few segments here that never made it into an article, though they may at some point in the future.

I hope you enjoy this rather unusual collection of stories, mostly from the 1800s.

  • 6 min read
Long before the optical, magnetic, or radar chronographs, these early mechanical designs achieved surprising accuracy using complex math and simple physics.

Once upon a time, a peculiar gun worked its way westward on a journey of exploration and discovery. It didn’t kill a single person, but still proved its worth in safeguarding and hunting for its owners. 

But enough euphemism and allusion - The owners were Lewis and Clark, and the rifle was a Girandoni Air Rifle. 

  • 5 min read

Our story picks up in 1874 with the Silvers Company of England, and ends around 1930 with a name I’m sure many of you are familiar with: Pachmayr. A bit of a spoiler alert: These bruised-shoulder shooters solved the serious concerns of considerable kick, even way back then. 

As the Wild West slowly changed into the Midwest and Southwest of the nation, the vaudeville scene was alight with gunslingers claiming to be the best. To wow the audiences and earn some notoriety, these trigger-tapping top gunners fired relentlessly at tiny targets tumbling through the air. Though it’s unlikely that we’ll see many shows like Buffalo Bill’s in the modern age, it’s fun to look back and marvel at just how much ammo they were willing to expend in the name of fame.

Imagine, if you will, two miles of sandy beach. At one end is you, with a selection of rifles featuring prototype cartridges and heavyweight bullets. At the far end is your target, up to 3200 yards away. The target is made of wood, layered in one-inch thick sections. The goal is to test bullet penetration at great distance, which now means you have tohitthe darn thing. Repeatedly. Without a scope. This was the job for Mr. R. T. Hare of Springfield Armory.

At a time when rifling and breech-loading was just being implemented in military weapons, the old habits of promiscuous fire still reigned supreme. Though most troops would still fire in wild volleys, hoping to hit someone on the other side, a few troops on both sides of battle would aim their shots with more distinction. With greater reach and precision, it was possible to pick a target and take that sole target out. Most of the time, that target would be an officer if at all possible.
Peale proved precision optics were possible, but painful. Chapman and James championed cold-drawn chassis. Malcolm made masterful glass coatings and commercially successful scopes. Warner and Swasey’s scopes went to war, but wrestled with mechanical issues. Winchester’s scopes went to war too, but better because of better blocks. Bausch & Lomb made good glass for a while, then great glass with Zeiss’ knowledge. Stevens stuck with domestic glass and bought Winchester tooling, but was bought by Savage and then Lyman. Fecker, friend to Warner and Swasey and Bausch and Lomb, fielded fine optics, and rings with clicks. Lyman found Fecker’s opticians to be useful hires, while Unertl left Fecker on his own. 

Today's main story takes a brief look into just one side of international arms dealing during the Civil War. The American Civil War lasted 4 years and 27 days, stretching from 1861 to 1865. With the South being more devoted to agriculture than the manufacture of arms, how did they manage to stay so well armed during the war? The answer, as you might have guessed, lay in the trade of cotton overseas. 

As ubiquitous and varied as rifle scopes are today, there was a time when a “Riffle with a Tellescope to it” was quite a sight indeed. Don’t worry folks, we’ve got more puns in store for you. We’ll take a look into the very early history of rifle scopes.

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