ON HUNTING AND SNIPING
The Black Powder Cartridge News|Summer 2021
Long-range target shooting here in the U.S. has become increasingly popular, at least since the first International Match with the Irish team in 1874.
Miles Gilbert

The current “darling” centerfire cartridge (the 6.5 Creedmoor) is named for the famous venue constructed for that match on 70 acres at “Creed’s Farm,” subsequently called “Creed’s Moor” and now “Creedmoor” on Long Island, New York. Firing lines were established following the pattern at Wimbledon, which is now the well-known tennis court near London. It was 570 feet wide with 20 shooting pits, with ranges up to 1,000 yards. The shooters faced the north so that the sun would always be at their backs.

The Irish team used Rigby muzzleloading rifles while the Americans used Remington and Sharps breechloaders. As readers of this fine magazine know, the latter are still in use in our own black-powder cartridge matches. Also, they are in use by a few of us for hunting big game, because we enjoy hunting rather than sniping.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “snipe” as a verb in use since 1832, meaning “To shoot at exposed individuals (as of an enemy force) from a usually concealed point of vantage.” Popular western Author C. J. Box includes the concept in his current novel Long Range, in which an individual had been shot at a distance of 1,600 yards:

High-tech laser range finders…had changed everything. Knowing the exact distance of the target made ultra-long shots possible, because the shooter could adjust his aim to account for all the factors… there were now rifle scopes that were computers in and of themselves and they enabled the shooter to dispense with a subsequent laser range finder. Scopes were now range finders and ballistic calculators…any man could now be a sniper. (Box 2020:12)

“The shooter programs in what the spotter tells him. We’re talking wind speed-crosswinds, updrafts, downdrafts, settings and distance. Adjustments need to be made on the scope depending on the atmospheric pressure-how thick the air is….”

“How long does it usually take for a high-tech range finder to determine the distance and all the variables for the shot?”

“On average, fifteen seconds.” (op. cit: 130-131) “There’s something esoteric and darkly fascinating involved with it. Hitting a target so far away that it can’t even see you fills a man with a sense of lethality and power that’s hard to describe. And once you do the math and unleash that bullet, you actually have time to think about taking it back-but you can’t. It’s either on target or it isn’t. The target is dead before the sound of the shot even gets there.” (op. cit: 156)

I began hunting with black-powder firearms in 1980. That year, I harvested a little “fork-horn” whitetail up Wildcat Canyon, east of Laramie, Wyoming, at 60 yards with a Sharps “Business Rifle” in .45-70. That gun lettered to Brown & Manzanaris of El Moro, Colorado, and was obtained from long-time Sharps collector, Bruce Cady. Next was a 6x6 bull elk shot at a distance of 26 yards with a .72 caliber smoothbore percussion Dixie Gun Works Magnum Cape Gun that I had attached a top rib on to accommodate open sights. Later on, a cow elk was taken at 56 yards with a .54 custom percussion rifle built with an 1841 “Mississippi” rifle barrel. Then, another cow was shot at 90 yards with a Pedersoli Sharps .40-70 and a bull elk was taken at 35 yards with a .665 round ball from an antique percussion rifle made by Thomas Kennedy of Glasgow, Scotland. My last cow elk was shot at 30 yards with an antique .54 percussion rifle made by Charles Jones of London. There have also been numerous chukars, pheasants, and mallards taken with flint, percussion and black-powder cartridge shotguns; but our focus here is on stalking with a rifle.

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