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Straight Shooters Cast Bullets
Rifle Magazine
July - August 2004
Volume 36, Number 4
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 214
On the cover...
The Remington Model 504 topped off with a Kahles 2-7x36 in Warne rings and bases is shown with the now-discontinued Remington Model 541-T with a Burris scope. Rifle photos by Stan Trzoneic. Eastern fox squirrel photo by Ron Spomer.
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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 today’s 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 reviewed.

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, it’s 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 settlement.

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 yards!

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, wouldn’t let me stop even though it was more than an hour past our bedtime.

I don’t 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:

Idaho’s Greatest Mule Deer

If you are fascinated with big mule deer, as I am, a new book by Ryan Hatfield titled Idaho’s Greatest Mule Deer is a must. Hatfield, an Idaho native, has spent many years compiling stories and photographs of countless deer, “the best of the best” if you will.

Hatfield sorts B&C record scoring bucks by county, which shows areas that have historically produced the largest bucks, but mule deer hunting has changed due to management practices. As a result the most promising areas are not as productive as they once were. Tragically, the huge bucks that were commonly encountered just a couple of decades ago are truly scarce creatures today, thanks largely to management practices and an excess number of predators.

The book contains several hundred photographs, mostly taken during the 1940s through the 1970s, of amazing deer and is accompanied with B&C scores and short stories of the hunts. The photos are entirely black and white and are not always professionally taken, but they are generally fascinating, as they show life as it was during this golden era of hunting in Idaho’s remote corners and has a flavor of the West that is difficult to capture. Furthermore, if you enjoy older rifles, there is a variety of vintage arms appearing that include a number of Winchester lever-action Models 1894, 1895, Savage 99, Krags, 1903 Springfields, etc.

Interestingly, most of the residents during this era hunted for meat and sport and many of the trophy antlers were never mounted. I have known ranchers with bucks measuring over 40 inches wide that were nailed inside their barns, and they gave little thought of it! Before you think I am exaggerating, keep in mind that Idaho’s widest buck (at least that has been scored) measures over 45 inches and displays incredible mass!

At any rate, Idaho’s Greatest Mule Deer is well written, contains over 400 pages and is hard-bound. Priced at $29.99 plus $4.50 S&H, it is a worthy copy to add to any sportsman’s library. To order a copy contact Idaho’s Greatest Big Game, PO Box 2, Council ID 83612; or you can send an e-mail to:

If either of the above books interest you enough to purchase one, consider ordering two and donate the extra one to your local public or school library. Tragically, in many instances, this is the only way our youth will be introduced to the great shooting and hunting sports that we enjoy!

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