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Author Topic: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse  (Read 166 times)

Online LongWalker

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Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« on: December 26, 2022, 05:28:48 PM »
I'm going to use this thread to describe some experiments I want to do, and hopefully get some input on research design.  But first, some back story:

On the Americanlongrifles forum back in 2013, there was a lively discussion of rifle accuracy in the period (if you want to see the discussion, the thread was titled "Rifle Accuracy 1776".  All was well and good until Artificer posted a quote from Colonel Hanger.  Even today, Hanger has a pretty decent reputation as an observer, and his comments on the use of rifles in the American Revolutionary War (aka American War of Independence, or "AWI") form part of the backbone of scholarship of rifle use and accuracy during the war.  He was also one of the best riflemen in Britain, and after the war he was one of the biggest proponents of the Brits adopting rifle regiments. 

Stealing Artificer's quote or Hanger here:
“Colonel, now General Tarleton, and myself were standing a few yards out of a wood, observing the situation of a part of the enemy which we intended to attack. There was a rivulet in the enemy's front, and a mill on it, to which we stood directly with our horses fronting, observing their motions. IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE PLAIN FIELD BETWEEN US AND THE MILL, NOT SO MUCH AS A SINGLE BUSH ON IT.. Our orderly-bugle man stood behind us, about three yards, but with his horse's side to our horses' tails.

A rifleman passed over the mill-dam, evidently observing two officers, and laid himself down on his belly, for, in such positions they always lie, to take a good shot at a long distance. He took a deliberate and cool shot at my friend, at me, and the bugle-horn man.*

Now observe how well this fellow shot. It was in the month of August, and NOT A BREATH OF WIND WAS STIRRING. Colonel Tarleton's horse and mine, I am certain, were not anything like two feet apart, for we were in close consultation, how we should attack with our troops, which laid 300 yards in the wood, and could not be perceived by the enemy. A rifle-ball passed between him and me looking directly to the mill: I evidently observed the flash of the powder. I directly said to my friend, “I think we had better move or we shall have two or three of these gentlemen, amusing themselves at our expence.” The words were hardly out of my mouth, when the bugle-horn man said, “Sir, my horse is shot.” The horse staggered, fell down and died. He was shot directly behind the fore-leg, near to the heart, at least where the great blood-vessels lie, which lead to the heart. He took the saddle and bridle off, went into the wood, and got another horse. We had a number of spare horses led by negro lads.

Now, speaking of this rifleman's shooting, nothing could be better, BUT, FROM THE CLIMATE, HE HAD MUCH IN HIS FAVOUR. FIRST AT THAT TIME OF THE YEAR, THERE WAS NOT ONE BREATH OF A WIND, SECONDLY, THE ATMOSPHERE IS SO MUCH CLEARER THAN OURS, THAT HE CAN TAKE A MORE PERFECT AIM.

*I have passed several times over this ground, and ever observed it with the greatest attention, and I can positively assert that the distance he fired from, at us, was full four hundred yards.”

I kept Artifier's capitalizations there, because those are important points, but I also italicized the part that first caught my attention: that the range was "a full four hundred yards."  Some quick guesstimation had me thinking the rifleman had to have been holding over by at least 40'!  . . . And then I started obsessing about it. 

I borrowed an original Dickert, got it back in shooting condition, and did some tests, while trying to address some of the concerns expressed earlier in the thread.  I used two lots of powder (1992 Elephant and Goex from '86), lead of unknown purity, patching that "seemed right", and balls cast in an original scissors mould that was available in my garage.  I worked up the load the way I usually do, and then got to work. 

My "range" was a borrowed harvested-over soybean field, with nothing behind I could use for an aiming point--and I couldn't modify the sights.  Each shot was out of a clean cold barrel, partly to simulate the effect of the first shot from a clean bore, and partly to eliminate fouling as a confound.  I shot from a "supported offhand" position (I planted a fencepost and cut it off at a height to support my left hand) at 200 yards and a "modified prone" (laying on the side of a ditch) at 200/300/400 yards. 

My target was an IPSC silhouette (or rather, a carboard copy of the outline of a silhouette--I was cheap, and stack-cut them out of scrap cardboard using my bandsaw) topped with a rather-disliked white watchcap.  I counted any hit on the silhouette as a "hit".  Results:
Load #1 results:
200 yard supported offhand: 15 hits
200 yard prone: 16 hits
300 yard prone: 11 hits
400 yard prone: 3 hits

Load #2 results:
200 yard supported offhand: 16 hits
200 yard prone: 19 hits
300 yard prone: 9 hits
400 yard prone: 1 hits

I later played with the same rifle and loads shooting at a target posted on the side of a soon-to-be-torn-down barn, where I could clearly see the effects of the wind on POI. 

And that brings us to the present. . . .

Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2022, 05:47:24 PM »
In hindsight, I think the Dickert was an excellent choice.  I want to see what can be done with a comparable rifle in new condition--I'm probably going to go with a Kibler for this.  I have a feeling that given our winds in Nebraska, I'll do better with a .54 than a .50; the Kibler will conveniently let me fit a different barrel. 

I'm also going to use my GRRW Leman for comparison: it is currently percussion but I may fix that because I'm just not a caplock shooter by choice.  The Leman has better sights for long-range shooting, with a step-adjustable "Hawken" rear sight and a higher front sight. 

I'm also going to add another position, and use cross-sticks. . . just because I want to see what I can do with them long-range.  And this time, I'm going to use better powder than an old lot of Elephant and an unknown Goex (these were both powders I'd never shot in a rifle, I accumulated them during the decades when I stuck to using a Bess carbine for most of my shooting).

Something I overlooked in the first experiment was velocity of the projectile.  The bugle-man's horse was shot and quickly died: I overlooked what this indicated about the remaining velocity of the projectile.  To break (human) skin, the projectile needs to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 163 fps; to break (human) bone, about 213 fps.  (Yeah, I'm glad to have the info but I'm glad it wasn't my job to determine that!)  Best guess, the ball had maybe >200 fps remaining velocity. 

In some of Hanger's other writings he noted that most of the rifles he saw in the Colonies were <.50 caliber.  The Dickert I borrowed was about .49 caliber, so let's plug that data into a ballistics calculator . . . by the time a ball gets to 400 yards, there's not much difference in terminal velocity between a muzzle velocity of 1600 fps and 2000 fps (and both would break bone at 400 yards). 


Online rollingb

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2022, 08:24:07 PM »
Very interesting.  :hairy
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Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2023, 10:08:59 PM »
There are, of course, confounds with my (rather tentative) plan.  First up, twist rates. 

The Leman has a Douglass barrel, with a 1:66 twist rate.  Kibler uses Green Mountain barrels with a 1:70 twist.  The Dickert I used for the first round of shooting had roughly a 1:48 twist.  Most of the older rifles I've looked at had rates of twist less than 1:56. 

Slower twists tend to work better with heavier charges and higher velocities.  That shouldn't be too much of a problem for my purposes: I'm probably looking at muzzle velocities around 2,000 fps.  But I don't know what effect the twist rate will have on long-range accuracy.  Faster twists do tend to be a bit more sensitive to heavier charges. . . .  On the other hand, I've shot originals with twists around the classical 1:48 that did well at 2,000 fps.

Sights are another factor.  I grew up on the Plains, I don't like low sights that disappear on a hot day even before you shoot, or are so shiny the POI shifts 8" every time a cloud crosses the sky.  My GRRW Leman has a much front higher sight than was typical back in the day, and an adjustable rear sight.  The Kibler will get sights moved/modified/replaced to become something I can use. 

And then there is the White Lightnin' touch hole liner--finest invention of the 20th century!

 

Online Ohio Joe

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2023, 05:35:08 AM »
My Dickert Flintlocks carry .45 cal. x 1 in 60 twist / w .010 depth rifling Green Mnt Barrels w/ Large Siler Locks... One is a 13/16" x 42" Brl, while the other is 7/8" x42" Brl (which I've found to be the more accurate of the two...

I have shot both out to 200 yards (from the bench) when I was younger and had better eyesight, and all in all - I wasn't disappointed. My target was a simple 22" wide x 30" long cardboard (with a target overlay for a black aiming background to judge hold) for shots out to 200 yards... Of course, it was almost next to impossible to pickup a ball hole in the black with my spotting scope, and found that posting the target with the backside showing (to shoot at and guess my hold) was much better (with an orange square glued to it).

Anyway, I did get to the point where I could hit the hanging 16 inch 200 yard gong with some consistency, and there my "testing" (if one wants to call it that) ended... However, the practices learned from those days did helped me hit the "300" yard gong on a Chadron Fur Trade Days "woods walk" - though I'll admit it was most likely luck that carried that shot...

IMHO, it's always nice to try and duplicate historical shots / and or simply play around with the long range shots, simply to experience the doing of it...  :hairy
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Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2023, 01:41:12 PM »
My Dickert Flintlocks carry .45 cal. x 1 in 60 twist / w .010 depth rifling Green Mnt Barrels w/ Large Siler Locks... One is a 13/16" x 42" Brl, while the other is 7/8" x42" Brl (which I've found to be the more accurate of the two...
You bring up another variable I hadn't considered (and it may not matter for what I have in mind): barrel weight.  Your rifles both have what I think of as "light" barrels.  I don't know how much that will have an affect on things: would a heavier barrel actually shoot better in these conditions?  I wonder what the harmonics are like on the Kibler barrel. . . .

I see posts on other fora recommending getting Kibler's Colonial in .58 because the smaller bores are "too heavy", but the original Dickert I borrowed for my original tests (and then borrowed again later for some more tests, which, may I remind you, were Entirely Your Fault) had a heavier barrel profile than the Colonial, and was actually slightly under .50 caliber.  I'm hoping the balance point and handling on the Kibler is at least close to the Dickert. 

I'm getting tired of waiting to order the Kibler, getting the new-rifle-wants, but still saving funds.  Since except for being on-call,I'm off work today I'm getting some extra stuff listed on various fora to bump-up my savings--and clear some shelf space!  Been meaning to do this for, oh, a year or two. . . .  :laffing

Online Ohio Joe

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2023, 06:25:24 PM »
Quote
(and then borrowed again later for some more tests, which, may I remind you, were Entirely Your Fault)
   :bl th up that one's on me...  :shake

I wouldn't worry much about the harmonics of the barrel, as long as you have a good metal to wood fit, and your rifle is now broke in and shooting where you want it to. Slightly oblong barrel tenon "holes - east to west" for the pin(s) take care of that. :bl th up

Your biggest enemy will be shooting too fast if running low sights as heat mirage off the top three barrel flats will give you a false ("sight on target read"), and it doesn't take much for mirage to happen / especially on a warm to hot day... I would highly suggest wiping the bore between each shot to combat any mirage, and shoot slow and methodical, and read that wind, as well as hot - dry - and damp conditions...

Now you got me wanting to shoot out to 200 yards again!!! :laffing And that's a good thing!!!   :toast  :shake   







Chadron Fur Trade Days Rendezvous / "Ol' Candle Snuffer"
"Museum of the Fur Trade" Chadron, Nebraska

Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2023, 09:10:43 PM »
In between my first round of tests and deciding to start another, the Dickert sold.  I was a bit perturbed not to have heard it was for sale.  Turned out the buyer was a friend of mine.  I got the opportunity to re-do the original restoration, bush the touch hole, and properly re-convert the lock.  Currently that old rifle is off getting re-bored and the breech re-worked. 

I'd mentioned to him recently that I'm probably going to go with a Kibler for the next round of these tests, sounds like he may want to do one for himself.  he's going to wait to see how mine handles.  He just sent me an email offering his latest "new" acquisition.  Late flint period, unsigned, about .51-.52 caliber. . . the barrel measures about 45" long, 1 5/6" at the breech tapering to 1 3/16", then flaring to 1 1/4" at the muzzle.  He says it needs some minor repairs but will be his new cross-sticks rifle!   

I've been playing with some ideas for the carving on the Kibler--I've got a beginning plan and some sketches of the carving.  Still not sure about the sights. 

Online Ohio Joe

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2023, 07:37:23 AM »
What's this rifle weighing in at, LongWalker?

It sounds like a very interesting rifle which can have many uses put to the test!  :hairy
Chadron Fur Trade Days Rendezvous / "Ol' Candle Snuffer"
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Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2023, 10:00:19 PM »
I'm guessing 18#, but I haven't seen it yet.  I'm kinda waiting til Doc figures out a list of needed repairs, then maybe I can persuade him it would be easier to trade it to me, let me do the repairs, then get it back in a later trade.  Bore condition will be a big factor.

Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2023, 08:41:01 PM »
OOF!!   I got the list of repairs, I'm not sure it is salvageable as a shooter.  Toe is broken, needs wood spliced in (and a buttplate made and fitted).  The wrist is broken. . . triggers need re-built.  Lock--a "T. Ketland"--is missing the guts and the hammer.  Forend is split under the barrel, and broken right behind where the nosecap used to be.  Rear sight is missing.  He says there is enough rifling to figure out the old twist rate, but not enough to shoot.   

I think it might be easier to order a custom barrel and build a new rifle.  Bummer.

Online Winter Hawk

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2023, 10:31:30 PM »
Well, a new stock, new internals for the lock, getting the barrel bored out by Bobby Hoyt, a new rear sight and rebuilding the triggers....  If you get started now you should be shooting it by June!   :laffing

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Online Ohio Joe

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2023, 10:50:26 PM »
I'm guessing 18#, but I haven't seen it yet.  I'm kinda waiting til Doc figures out a list of needed repairs, then maybe I can persuade him it would be easier to trade it to me, let me do the repairs, then get it back in a later trade.  Bore condition will be a big factor.

That barrel length you mentioned almost made me think (Chunk Gun) and it would probably make a good one... My .40 caliber Chunk Gun only weighs in at 14 pounds, but it has become a small caliber bench rifle since we don't seem to have anyone interested in "Chunk Gun Shooting" in this area any longer... (Fact is, we're to damn old to get up and down anymore / anyway. :P)

Sadly, Buffalo X-Sticks has gone the same route as the Chunk Gunning... But I still get some range time off the bench with all of my X-Stick Rifles and the 'ol Chunk Gun... They're still fun to shoot.  :shake
Chadron Fur Trade Days Rendezvous / "Ol' Candle Snuffer"
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Online LongWalker

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Re: Colonel Hanger's bugleman's horse
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2023, 12:40:23 AM »
After breaking my neck a couple decades ago, prone is out for me.  Cross-sticks I can still do.  Plank shooting, maybe. 

I might wind up working on that rifle yet, if Doc comes to his senses about the price, or offers a reasonable bribe to get me to do the work.  Hoyt isn't taking on new work right now--sounds like he is booked solid--it might be quicker to build a rifling machine, or bore it out an line it.  The rest of it will just take about $150 in materials and a couple years' worth of spare time.  Put that way, it doesn't sound like a good idea!

Ya know, Joe, you could take up hide hunting with that .40.  Dried and stretched porcupine hides are going for about $50 each, and the hills south of Chadron are full of them.  Get 'em in the winter when the hair is good, guard hair sells for $50/ounce.    :luff: 

More seriously, it sounds like it would make a nice rifle for calling coyotes, and it would make a dandy rifle for jackrabbits if you can set up an ambush around a water hole at dusk.  Is it shootable offhand for you?