Shooting Buffalo Rifles of the Old West
At the 2004 SHOT Show, I
bumped into an old friend, Mike Venturino, whose contributions to Rifle and Handloader
magazines spanned more than two decades. Mike is also widely recognized for his
self-published books regarding nineteenth-century firearms. His latest is titled Shooting
Buffalo Rifles of the Old West, which is most certainly destined to become a classic. Even
Mike commented, When all the other books [his books] are gone, this one will still
be in print.
After reading it, I
certainly agree, as there is great technical information on shooting and reloading period
cartridges, and it contains many historical photographs. Furthermore there is hands-on
experience in the field and on the target range with both original and reproduction
rifles. It is clear this book was written from the heart!
Mike identifies period
buffalo cartridges, how they were referenced by hunters of yesteryear and todays
terminology. A variety of original rifles are discussed including the Trapdoor
Springfield, various Sharps such as the renowned Model 1874, Remington rolling blocks,
Ballards and the Winchester Model 1885. Modern reproductions of the above are also
There are several
chapters dedicated to reloading, which is crucial to get the most accuracy from a black
powder cartridge rifle, and there is sound advice for the beginner or advanced shooter.
Cast bullet designs, lubes, primers and the latest black powder and loading techniques are
described in detail. Even though Mike has obtained better general results with grease
groove bullets, as has this writer, for those interested in creating and loading paper
patched slugs, detailed information and experiments are outlined.
Specific loads are
presented for the most common buffalo cartridges starting with the .40-70 bottleneck on up
to the various .45s, such as the .45-70 (Government) and ending with the big .50-90
Sharps. Having used many similar loads that Mike outlines, I can state this book is full
of valuable information for shooters.
Furthermore there is a
chapter on reloading match grade ammunition. For those interested in BPCR Silhouette
competition, its mapped out how to get started and even suggests features on a rifle
that will be desirable for competition and the level of accuracy to be competitive. Keep
in mind that Mike is a shooter and even won the Montana State BPCR championship in the
year 2000, so the advice given is sound.
Another impressive aspect
of this book was the extensive historical research. There is a chapter on Billy Dixon, who
became famous because of his role, along with 27 other men and one woman, at Adobe Walls,
a town that supplied hunters and other frontier folks with rifles, powder,
lead, grain and other necessities. In the early morning hours of June 26, 1874, several
hundred (possibly as many as 700) Cheyenne, Kiowa and Comanche warriors attacked the small
Initially the hunters and
businessmen (which included the notorious Bat Masterson) fought back using revolvers
(probably Colt and Smith & Wesson) and Winchester lever-action rifles. Keep in mind
the fighting was at close range and the warriors were many. In the initial attack, three
Adobe Walls residents were killed, but after the Indians were driven back by the firepower
of the Winchester repeating rifles and revolvers, the buffalo rifles were then put into
play and no other settlers were killed.
The big rifles proved so
accurate and effective at long range that the Indians were kept at bay, or driven to such
distances that their weapons were useless against the folks of Adobe Walls. Two days after
the fight, a small band of horse-mounted warriors rode out on a small bluff. Several other
hunters urged Billy Dixon to try a shot with his Big .50 Sharps, which he did,
and one of the warriors fell from his horse! The distance was later surveyed at 1,538
Obviously the above is a
condensed version of the Billy Dixon story, but Shooting Buffalo Rifles of the
Old West gives considerably greater detail, along with many other fascinating stories from
our historically rich past. There is much insight on the archaeological digs conducted in
just the past decade or so on several
ancient battle sights in which buffalo rifles played an important role. The reading is
interesting enough that my boys, ages 8, 11 and 13, wouldnt let me stop even though
it was more than an hour past our bedtime.
I dont believe you
will be disappointed either. The price is $33 for softcover or $43 for hardback, plus $4
shipping, and can be ordered from MLV Enterprises, PO Box 914, Livingston MT 59047. Or you
can visit the web site at: www.ycsi.net/users/mlventurino/.