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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.
  • 8 min read

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 to hit the 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. 

  • 3 min read
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.
I’m sorry to say that the tall tales and cinematic moments are largely just that. While I can’t say that the Wild West was the rootinest tootinest place for a duellist, I can share a couple other notable duels. 
  • 5 min read
The story of The Winchester 1873 rifle is not one of startling, ground sweeping change. Instead, it was a series of well-made decisions that boosted this rifle to great popularity, at a time when people in the Wild West were looking for a rifle just like it. 
We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
General Logan, 1868
  • 4 min read
The 1903 is a rifle. Chambered in .30-06 (‘thirty ought six’), it’s made of wood, metal, and a firm butt plate and weighs a bit over 8 ½ lbs. It’s a bolt action rifle that has been around since (you guessed it) 1903. Originally named the “United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903”, it’s now colloquially (and officially) named the “Springfield M1903.”
It wasn’t until the first day of 1776 that a sometimes-inventor named Charles Willson Peale would make the leap from ‘looking at something far away’ to ‘sending something that way.’ Working alongside David Rittenhouse, a prominent astronomer, Peale set out to point telescopes at less heavenly targets...
  • 4 min read
The first usable spider silk reticles were invented in either 1639, 1662, 1755, (a little before) 1785, or in 1802, each with their own unique spin. Considering that Rittenhouse and Peale’s 1776 “Riffle with a Tellescope to it” was the first recorded scoped rifle shot… and that this is a rifle scope blog... it’s reasonable that Rittenhouse would get credit for the first ‘practical’ application of a spider silk reticle.