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PostPosted: Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:15 pm 
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Now, when solders made the transition from their target rifles to the Berdan contract Sharps, was there a practice of transitioning the tube scopes to the new rifle?

Second question, is the Pedersoli, Berdan Contract Rifle the closest to true as you can get right now?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:03 pm 
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Jboring and fellow Sharpshooters;

Hiram Berdan's original specifications for men to join the USSS, was for each man to bring his own personal target or hunting rifle into service with him. Michigan's Company 'C' and one of the New Hampshire company's entered service with a number of 12-18 pound rifles (with a smattering of other 1st USSS individuals also bringing theirs in). However, the War Dept. discovered Berdan had made a number of promises that they had not been appraised of, or approved; particularly Berdan's suggestion each man would be paid a $60 bonus for their personal weapon. This pretty much 'dried up' other men bringing in their personal arms.

The skirmish at Lewinville in Sept. 1861 also contributed to the need to rethink Berdan's initial plan. The USSS contingent had to mold their own bullets-as there was no consistent bore size/caliber among the various rifles. Also, because each rifle was hand made, if they got out of order, it was impossible for the regimental armorer to repair them. Finally, the target style rifles took longer to load than the infantry weapons; which is fine if your tackling rebs beyond 300 yards--but any closer and things got dicey.

While a few of the personal rifles brought into service were mounted with telescopes, many were fitted with globe front sights and an elevating pan/peep sight at the wrist.

To my knowledge, none of the Berdan Contract New Model 1859 Sharps rifles were ever outfitted with a telescope while in service. This is not to say that one or more were outfitted with one following the War or up to the present time (though I can't see buggering up a $14,000 collectors item). Both regiments each retained 10 target rifles or 'heavies'; some outfitted with telescopes for 'special service/duty/sharpshooting' from 1862 to muster out. The Sharps were a compromise to the War Department's insistence that Berdan's command operate as Light Infantry; performing duties associated with this service-ie, skimishing, scouting, etc. (I detail this more in the article on Special Service in the Historical Tactics section that Dave posted elsewhere in this forum).

The Sharps was found to be the best rifle designed for the service; accurate, short, lightweight, easy to care for, and a breechloader-which enabled skirmishers to fire from any position, and reload while manuvering (ever try that with a muzzle-loader?).

Berdan contacted Richard Lawrence to add the 800 yard ladder sight and set triggers to the order, thus fulfilling his specification that his sharpshooters to hit marks up to 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile away from a rest. A few individual sharphooters were able to hit targets at even further distances.

We don't have a lot of information on individual USSS who fired both Sharps and telescope rifles--I would suggest reading the Diary of Wyman S. White. Wyman as a good source of a sharpshooter who used both types of rifles during the Overland Campaign (1864).

I have no doubt, that men assigned to 'special service' had the same abilities as you and our modern snipers--you use the rifle your assigned; be it a M-4 carbine or Barrett .50 cal. I believe it is the man behind that rifle that is the most critical and dangerous part of the equation.

Hope this helps.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:12 pm 
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Yup...it was what I needed to answer my questions. But doesn't help me make up my mind!!
:-(

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:50 pm 
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Jboring and Fellow Sharpshooters.

I can read that you are intrigued about acquiring a heavy target rifle for your sharpshooter impression. I believe that like the original men, you will have to find a gunsmith who uses the traditional tools and craftsmanship to create your personal target rifle. However, you may be fortunate to go to the Mansfield Ohio or other Collectors shows and find an original target rifle of the period for sale; even if you have the barrel..that is a good start. Depending on the condition and how you want to outfit it, this is where the cash register starts jingling: set triggers, mechanical ball starter, telescope (handmade..avoid modern brass junk and mounts), telescoping pan and mounts for the scope, the list goes on.

My friend Dan purchased an original target rifle made in the 1850's that had a telescope created for it. The two of us used the weapon as a showpiece to educate spectators at Gettysburg in October at Pitzer's Wood and Devils Den. The sucker weighs 38 pounds, and left my arm limp after carrying only 30 yards from the car to the 'Sharpshooter Home' at the rear of DD.

While you are debating about the target rifle, I've included a link to an article I contributed to the Forum a couple years ago on the different reproduction Sharps available. My comments about the Armi Sport aren't real positive, but based on experiences from 10 years ago. Other comrades on this site have found them to be suitable for their needs, and then some.

Hope this helps

Bill SKillman
Randolph Mes-USSS
http://www.berdansharpshooters.com/Ever ... Sharps.pdf


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:45 pm 
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I have seen an A.F. Spencer (Christian Spencer's brother) heavy target rifle, in excellent shape. But...the scope...mounts....ect wil be a curious problem. I'm pursuing a possible source. I am also looking into having one built, much like those that came before me did. I'll have it made for a lefty...I'm right handed but left eye dominant....a freak really.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:56 pm 
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Back to the sharps though. I just finished reading your article on the different reproduction rifles. Great article btw. Nothing is more frustrating than teething problems with your new toy. I dealt with them when I had my 1928 Tommy Gun blank adapted for use in WWII events. JUST when I got things worked out...I move on to another toy. I don't want to have to go through anything like that again. Either way...it appears as though I'm into it for 2-3k for a rifle. Jesus CW is expensive. What is the market like on used Shiloh Sharps? Being fairly unfamiliar with the CW Reenacting market...I'm soaking up alot of information trying to get my feet under me and find a place to start....I think I've started getting there. Now to talk my best friend into comming with me...lol...come to the dark side!!!

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 1:12 pm 
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I would also suggest checking out the thread Bill started entitled Your experience with Armi Sport Sharps (also in this section). It has some updated information from myself and others related to current manufacturer Armis.

Welcome to the wonderful world of stickershock! I'm just getting into WWII, and feel exactly the same way! :o

Calum
www.keystoneregiment.com

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http://www.facebook.com/reserve.companyf

1st USSS, Co H
http://nyberdans.wix.com/nyberdans


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:30 pm 
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Post Deleted by author...

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Last edited by Jboring on Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:08 pm 
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Here's a differnt take on this. Was there any practice recorded of "tang sights" being mounted on the Berdan Sharps?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:06 am 
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Jboring and Fellow Sharpshooters,

Good question about original Sharps being fitted with other types of sights. Unfortunately, 148 years have passed since the original Berdan Contract Sharps were issued; lots of time for gremlins to alter the originals (or for that matter, converting single trigger Infantry Models into the more valuable Berdans by adding set triggers).

While I've never seen a US issue arm being modified to incorporate any other sights, I did read a couple post-War accounts (circa 1890) where the author said a NCO had modified the sights on his Springfield to hit a long distance rebel. However, I tend discount these accounts due to the length of time elapsed and tendency of PW accounts to contain distortions of record. I also believe that the practice was actively discouraged by the Ordnance Dept; and once at the front there was no opportunity to locate a machine shop or tools (even if the soldier had the talent) to modify a rifle. Besides, considering the headaches the Sharpshooters went through before finally being issued the: 'best arm for our branch of the service'; by all accounts they were totally and completely satisfied with the Sharps.

Certainly, the personal target or hunting rifles were mounted with sights that the shooter could afford and prefer. This is where you would find the telescopic or globe sights in common use. Interestingly, during my research of the Michigan shooting trials of 1861; the Capt. of Co. 'B' (2nd USSS) complained that many men he tested were unable to pass the qualifications 'due to the regulation sights'--suggesting he had used a US military rifle instead of the globe/peep sight combination popular with many target shooters of the day. He wrote the Adjt. Gen of Michigan, when he returned and used his own rifle these same men easily 'made the string'.

In your pursuit of a Shiloh; I would suggest checking or posting on the North-South Skirmish Association website. Shiloh's come up for sale, but you have to be fast on the draw to snatch one up--they are highly prized among the breechloading competitors. I haven't talked to the Big Timber people in about 3 years, but they were still making new NM1863 percussion Sharps; (these usually take a back seat to the more popular cartridge arms). Unfortunately, a set trigger is a special 'add on' feature; as is the patchbox (that used to be standard)-ka-ching, ka-ching. Fortunately, the NM1863 Shiloh shares the same configuration of a Berdan Contract if you remove the lever catch (remove the trigger plate, unscrew the lever catch spring and remove catch).

Hope this helps.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS


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