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"LBH rifles - single shot v repeaters" Topic


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567 hits since 21 Aug 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Korvessa22 Aug 2017 8:33 p.m. PST

This might be a dumb question, but when taking into consideration how long it takes to reload, was the Springfield really all that much slower in terms of rate of fire than a repeater?

It seems to me a Henry for example would take a long time to reload.

bsrlee23 Aug 2017 3:39 a.m. PST

If you calculate Rate of Fire over a whole day (or hour) then the single shot rifle is not at much if any disadvantage compared to the Henry, and has a longer effective range if you can use it.

However the Henry and its successors had the ability to fire a dozen or so aimed shots in a minute, so the 'down time' to reload the tube magazine was a lot less important once you had suppressed your target in a European style trained force you could also stagger firing so some troops always had loaded guns (see also Plevna, Russo-Turkish War).

At LBH the Cavalry had an almost homogenous armory while the Indians had a mix ranging from bows through various single shots to the Henry and its competitors, and the terrain did not allow for any of the Springfield Trapdoor's advantages to be used result, Indian victory. Of course it also didn't help that someone sent off all the Cavalry horses with the spare ammunition either (see also Anglo-Zulu War).

Stephen Miller23 Aug 2017 6:29 a.m. PST

Bsrlee, Agree with your comments about rate of fire. At to "someone sent off all the Cavalry horses with the spare ammunition", that's called "Horseholders to the rear" and was the standard command when troopers formed as dismounted skirmishers,-- the problem arose when several Sioux warriors were able to infiltrate behind Calhoun Hill and drive off many of the held-horses in Horseholders Ravine. The reason the extra 50 rounds were in the saddlebags--100 rounds of .45-.70 ammunition is pretty heavy to have to move around with (although not as heavy as having several arrows sticking out of you, I grant.)

rmaker23 Aug 2017 8:02 a.m. PST

As for Plevna, much of the damage was done by the Peabody-Martinis, not the Winchesters.

SeattleGamer23 Aug 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

Also note, different repeating rifles had different options.

The Henry Golden Boy had no "loading gate" and required reloading the tube under the barrel when empty (and that can take a little time).

The Winchester had a loading gate, so once empty, you could easily and quickly load a round and fire, load another round and fire. Got 10 seconds free? Quickly load 5 rounds, then start taking aim and firing again.

For an initial attack or defense, the amount of lead that can be spit downrange quickly by a repeater can blow a single-shot out of the water.

attilathepun4723 Aug 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

To expand a bit on SeattleGamer's comments, the side-loading gate on Winchesters actually permits reloading at any point in use. You do not have to empty the magazine, and you can reload while there is a cartridge in the chamber. This means that for slow and deliberate firing you can employ the weapon as if it were a single-shot, reserving the magazine capacity for when it is really needed.

Apparently the really huge problem (apart from a mass of furious Sioux and Cheyenne warriors) for Custer's men at the Little Big Horn lay less in the weapon than in a defective design for the Springfield cartridges. At that time they were made of coiled copper, which proved too soft. The Springfields' extractors frequently tore the heads off, leaving the body of the cartridge in the breech. This prevented reloading until the mangled cartridge was dug out with a knife tip (or some similar tool). The problem worsened as the weapon heated up from repeated firing. Therefore, more ammunition would not necessarily have helped much. Later the problem was solved by making cartridges from drawn brass.

I have also read that the Springfield carbine could chamber and fire the more powerful cartridges intended for the infantry rifle (perhaps just a matter of putting more powder in the same cartridge case), and that these had been supplied to the 7th Cavalry. I have only seen this statement from one source online, and I cannot vouch for its accuracy. If this is true, the more powerful load would have made the extraction problem even worse by heating the weapon up faster and expanding the cartridge case even tighter inside the chamber.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP23 Aug 2017 1:29 p.m. PST

As for Plevna, much of the damage was done by the Peabody-Martinis, not the Winchesters.

Ross is correct. But the Winchesters were reserved for close-range firing (at 200 yards) as the Peabody-Martini had a longer range (out to 2000 yards). For more information on the provision of the Peabody-Martini rifle (a US produced weapon, by the way) and its use at Plevna see:
link

I discovered this article while researching Captain Metcalfe after I doscovered his award of the Turkish Order of Osmanie while sorting through the Mississippi WW1 statement of service cards while working at the state archives.

Jim

Lee49423 Aug 2017 3:36 p.m. PST

ROF for s short period is much different than sustained rate. And there are other factors such as range, accuracy and stopping power that figure in any analysis of weapons. On the plains if you were engaging at a distance over several hundred yards the accuracy and stopping power of the Springfield gave you an advantage over the faster firing smaller caliber repeaters. At LBH the problem was that Custer got caught at short range where the ROF had a greater impact. I believe the 7th had been previously equipped with the Spencer. Interesting what if scenario if they still had them at LBH. Lee

rmaker23 Aug 2017 6:55 p.m. PST

Apparently the really huge problem (apart from a mass of furious Sioux and Cheyenne warriors) for Custer's men at the Little Big Horn lay less in the weapon than in a defective design for the Springfield cartridges. At that time they were made of coiled copper, which proved too soft. The Springfields' extractors frequently tore the heads off, leaving the body of the cartridge in the breech. This prevented reloading until the mangled cartridge was dug out with a knife tip (or some similar tool). The problem worsened as the weapon heated up from repeated firing. Therefore, more ammunition would not necessarily have helped much. Later the problem was solved by making cartridges from drawn brass.

Mythology, not fact. This "fact" comes from an article in the NRA magazine back in the 1920's, written by a man with a grudge against the Ordnance Department. Boxer cartridges had been tried by the US Army and rejected for exactly this reason (unlike the British Army, which continued to use them, much to the detriment of their forces).

The jamming of cartridges a LBH was supposedly proved by archaeology at the site (in the same time frame) by the discovery of numerous pocket knives with the blades snapped off. The analysis at the time was that the knives had been broken digging out jammed cartridges. It has since been shown that these knives, for which the Indians had no use, had actually been ritually "killed" to deprive their owners of weapons in the afterlife.

Early morning writer23 Aug 2017 10:29 p.m. PST

All of the above leaves aside that a) few, if any, of the Lakota and allied had any training in using repeaters and, b) few, if any, of the Lakota and allied had access to ammunition for reloading, especially for repeaters; and not just for repeaters but for all of their firearms – at least until the soldiers were down and not fighting. Then, assuming the soldiers hadn't expended the majority of their ammunition, they might have a weapon with a supply of cartridges. And the run off animals with ammo, who knows if the folks with those animals – assuming they were caught in a timely fashion, had any idea what was on board those animals. And, yes, of course, some of the Lakota, etc., would know – but many likely did not.

The real reason for loss would be numbers and probably, at some point, panic. It's possible Custer's five companies were outnumbered by as much as 8:1. And those bow and arrows could fire at a very fast rate – and then add in the prospect of surviving the battle to be captured and tortured. Yeah, panic.

Or, perhaps, a lot of suicides by the last bits of the soldiers? (Any research on that? I don't know but I'd expect it happened.)

Lee49423 Aug 2017 11:02 p.m. PST

Stunning how the myths persist.

coopman24 Aug 2017 3:24 a.m. PST

Save the last bullet for yourself…

attilathepun4724 Aug 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

According to Indian accounts of the battle, there were quite a few suicides by troopers, but the only way to come up with any statistics would be to exhume all the remains for detailed forensic analysis.

Korvessa24 Aug 2017 11:01 a.m. PST

I have heard Sitting Bull didn't think there weren't many suicides:

No Cowards on Either Side

"They kept in pretty good order. Some great chief must have commanded them all the while. They would fall back across a coulee and make a fresh stand beyond on higher ground. The map is pretty nearly right. It shows where the white men stopped and fought before they were all killed. I think that is right -- down there to the left, just above the Little Bighorn. There was one part driven out there, away from the rest, and there a great many men were killed. The places marked on the map are pretty nearly the places where all were killed."

"Did the whole command keep on fighting until the last?"

"Every man, so far as my people could see. There were no cowards on either side."

Stephen Miller25 Aug 2017 2:50 p.m. PST

The bones of the enlisted were much later all buried together in a common grave under the Battlefield Memorial. The bones had been exhumed and essentially just tossed into a big hole and dirt shoveled in, this after wolves/coyotes had dug the remains up and torn them appart; not quite the same as today's handling of remains. I would think about the only forensic analysis that would be possible would be to count the skulls (whatever number were found, that is)with bullet holes in the right temple areas.

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