Let’s See Whitworths Shoot!

Last month we had a couple posts on the Sharpshooters of the Civil War, and on the Confederates’ unique Whitworth rifle.

Fred Ray, who’s written an excellent book on the Rebel Sharpshooters, sold us a copy of his book (highly recommended, and it’ll be in the next review roundup), and also linked us to a few videos of modern Whitworth shooters. Fred has forgotten more about this stuff than we’ve ever learned, so you can read what he writes with confidence.

Let’s take them in the inverse order from the way Fred posted them: hardest first. Here is a guy trying to hit a target at 1,300 yards with a Whitworth.

That kind of hit was credibly reported by both Rebel and Yankee observers of the Confederate marksmen. (The English Whitworth rifle was only used by the Confederates).

One of the real problems is seeing the target. While many of the wartime Whitworths were equipped with high-tech (for 1860!) Davidson telescopic sights… …this marksman is shooting over irons. One of the real problems at that range is seeing the target. Since more of you are familiar with more modern rifles, consider that the front sight post of an M16A1 rifle subtends just enough arc to match an E-type silhouette at 175 meters.

Another fact that should be evident is the sheer power of the Whitworth. Look at that thing kick! The recoil is visibly greater than that of an ordinary rifle-musket.

Reproduction Whitworths

The class of the repro field is the long-discontinued Parker-Hale, but they are few and far between. After Parker-Hale went the way of all flesh, there was a EurArms repro which used the Parker-Hale barrels with its own lock and stock. Here, Balázs Némeththe proprietor of CapAndBall.eu has gotten his hands on one of them, and not only fires it, but provides a good run down on its unique and remarkable technology.  “The Whitworth,” he notes, “pushed the limits of aimed fire out to 1½ miles.”

Pedersoli is making a new version of the Whitworth. It is available in Europe, but not exported to North America (yet, we hope). Here is his video rundown on the Pedersoli Whitworth. The Pedersoli has hexagonal rifling, but it’s cold hammer-forged. The rifle also has much simpler sights. He did not have a hex bullet mold, so used a .451″ cylindrical round, and still got quite good accuracy at 50 and 100 meters.

The finish on the Pedersoli rifle is, like many of their premium muzzle-loaders, very good.

His enthusiasm for these rifles, so far ahead of their peers that they seemed ahead of their time, is infectious.

Finally, here’s a special treat. It’s our friend from Cap and Ball again, but here he’s firing an original Civil War vintage American target rifle, of the sort that many sharpshooters mustered in with.

If you go to the Fred Ray post that we linked way, way up there, you’ll also see another one about the Civil War buck-and-ball cartridge — the only loading we’re aware of that has its own statue at Gettysburg. But that’s another story!

39 thoughts on “Let’s See Whitworths Shoot!

    1. Hognose Post author

      As the video of the guy shooting at 1300 yards shows, hitting a man is pretty tough, but hitting an elephant would be easy!

  1. Winston Smith

    We didn’t rebel. We didn’t invade. We seceded. There is a difference.

    And yes, I understand that a lifetime of media and publik skool brainwashing is powerful.

    1. Kirk

      Ah, yes, the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding, wasn’t it?

      What is priceless to observe is the same crap going on around us today, with nobody recognizing the parallels between the reactionary secessionists of the pre-Civil War era and the same sort of people we can observe nutting themselves up to do the same thing today.

      Maybe after this next iteration of massive public stupidity, the constant whining by southerners will cease, once they see what secession looks like from the other side. It was a stupid, childish answer then, and it is a stupid childish answer now. The world would be a far more fucked-up place if Secession had stood, and “The South” would have wound up as a pariah client state of some European power or set of powers, with a much more destructive war fought later in the century as they tried to violently expand slave-holding territory. In all likelihood, the Civil War saved “The South” from itself, and winding up like a continent-sized Haiti or Zimbabwe in North America. And, thats the one thing the fantasists never want to discuss, which is what the whole mess would have looked like by the time it all collapsed under the weight of all the inherent organic contradictions.

      Face it:The idiots that triggered the shooting war did all of you a favor, just like the Allies did for the sane Germans.

      Oh, and by the way? About a third of my ancestry qualifies me as a Confederate, another third as a damn Yankee, and the remainder weren’t even on this continent for that episode of epic stupidity.

      1. John M.

        It’s not clear to me that the Confederacy couldn’t have peacefully coexisted on this continent with the Union any less than Canada peacefully coexisted with the Union. The Rebels in the first Rebellion kept trying to pull Canada into the conflict, but Canadians persisted in their desire to remain loyal to their Sovereign. (Funny thing, that.) Of course, the USA and Canada had a few dustups over the years, but the War of 1812 is hardly centuries of armed conflict.

        Of course it’s possible that the South would’ve violently worked to expand slavery. It’s also possible that external economic forces (i.e. industrialization) would’ve forced the end of the slave economy sooner rather than later, and slavery would’ve wound up as a rump institution in the South, becoming de facto a rich man’s way of having domestics.

        Manifest Destiny certainly could’ve caused problems between the USA and the CSA, just as it did between Canada and the USA. But the Canada/USA disputes were resolved peacefully, and I don’t see why the USA’s/CSA’s couldn’t have been resolved mostly the same way.

        -John M.
        (About 1/4 Yankee and 3/4 Canadian, including one Canadian ancestor who paid the last full measure of devotion to the Union. Go figure.)

        1. Kirk

          I’ll just point out the whole history of Bloody Kansas and the internecine conflict in Missouri. If it wasn’t Sumter, the shooting would have started somewhere else.

          The fundamental problem behind the war was slavery, and the distortions that supporting slavery forced on the Confederate economy. The institution was never going to go away peacefully, not with so much wealth and capital tied up in exploiting human misery. Men like Wilberforce in the UK would have made investment in the Confederacy socially unacceptable, the other Europeans would have likely joined in, and things like the persecutions of the German settlers in Texas would have sealed the deal. End state? The Confederacy would have been forced to try to expand by force of arms, and we would still have had the Civil War, only ten-twenty years later, and with better weapons and a more professional Union Army.

          Knock-on effects? Posit the absence of the US as an effective player on the world scene… WWI would have looked a lot different, and one of the key Progressive idiots, Wilson, would likely not have been on the scene in the form he was. Good, bad, or indifferent, it would be a very different world, and probably nothing like what the irredentists imagine.

          1. John M.

            “The institution was never going to go away peacefully, not with so much wealth and capital tied up in exploiting human misery.”

            Seriously, not one other society on earth had to kill 600,000 men to end slavery. Not. One. You can’t tell me that a peaceful solution couldn’t have been found to this. The Progressives, then as now, were more interested in Who? Whom? than they were in figuring out how to solve the actual problem.

            And the more I study the matter, the more I come to the conclusion that the bad guys won WWI.

            -John M.

          2. Kirk

            John, I think you’re utterly wrong. The nature of slavery here in the US was far different than in other countries, and it was far more deeply embedded into the basic economic assumptions of the Confederacy than elsewhere. Brazil might be the nearest equivalent, and their version of slavery was much different than the practices in the Confederacy. If I recall correctly, for example, the Brazilian version of slavery forbade splitting families up, and the idea of “breeding plantations” for slaves was something they regarded with horror–Or, at least, the sources I recall had it thus. In other words, you really can’t quite make the equivalency you’re trying for stick.

            The other thing you’re ignoring are the examples like Haiti, where the slaves revolted and massacred the owner class entirely. If you think that wasn’t a potential “end state” for the South, you’re ignoring the paranoia and fear that the owner class there had for such a thing happening. The potential for a Haiti-style revolt and massacre is another thing that militates against the likelihood that they would have ever freed the slaves of their own accord, as well.

            I’ve been all over a good selection of the original source documents, including some personal family records. My opinion is that the depth of polarization and animosity that had built up over the years would have made a peaceful Secession process about as likely as a peaceful mass manumission of the slaves. It simply wasn’t going to happen, and, frankly, our Civil War was probably about the least destructive solution to the issue. Which isn’t to say it was either necessary, reasonable, or right–It just was. The South wanted a fight, and the North gave it to them. With the hotheads on both sides of the line, something rational and peaceful wasn’t going to happen, no matter what.

            And, whether we like it or not, the question of federalism vs. state’s rights here in the US is a settled thing, and it’s probably for the better that it settled out the way it did. Had we gone into the 20th Century as a less cohesive nation, odds are that we would have split along fracture lines and our influence on world affairs would have been effectively nil. Which, I would submit, would probably have been disastrous for the general course of human events.

            As to your last assertion… Seriously? The bad guys won? I’ll be sure to mention that opinion the next time I’m discussing the many and varied acts of evil perpetrated by the Wilhelmine Germans, not the least of which was the minor barbarities of their conduct towards non-combatants and their decision to initiate both unrestricted submarine and chemical warfare. The whole lot of them were idiots, but the assertion that the Germans weren’t the worst of the lot, when it comes to committing acts of evil? LOL… You’re a victim of the last century of dezinformatsiya, self-hatred, and left-wing propaganda.

            Here’s a little intellectual exercise for your self-hatred: What, do you suppose, anyone else would have done at the close of the mid-century conflicts, finding themselves possessed of a monopoly on nuclear weapons…? Care to do a little straight-line trend analysis, and consider what an unreconstructed German Reich, of whatever vintage, might have done with that? The Japanese? The French…? Perhaps, the Imperial Russians, or the Soviets?

            Next time you start thinking your country is one of the bad guys, I suggest you take a moment to pause and reflect, and consider what the hell the alternatives might have looked like. Same with the British Raj…

          3. John M.

            @Kirk–

            It’s impossible to know how slavery would’ve played out in the US without a Civil War. It looks to me like industrialization would’ve steadily eroded the economic advantage of slavery. In 1900 or so, Northern industrialists could’ve just bought most of the slaves and freed them, leaving behind a hard-core of slaveholders who refused to sell out. That seems to me more humane than the slaughter of 600,000 men, including one of my ancestors. But who knows?

            And as for WWI, I got my dose of disinformatsiya in public school like everyone else. But now I critique my country from a right-wing perspective, not the left-wing one I was taught then.

            And as for the Hun’s atrocities in WWI, our country committed plenty of atrocities over the years too, including pretty much wiping out the Indians and, more to the subject, firebombing the excrement out of Dresden and literally nuking two cities in Japan. Those events are now whitewashed as having been inconsistent with our national character, or as in the Dresden case, the broad had it coming.

            I don’t hate my country for this–I try not to hate my country at all, FWIW–pretty much every people has done something atrocious somewhere along the lines. The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must, as it ever was. If we still had an Imperial Germany around, maybe they could remind the preening moralists in the State Department of this truism once in a while.

            As it stands, the world is almost completely ruled by Progressivism, and I think that’s a shame.

            -John M.

          4. TRX

            > The institution was never
            > going to go away peacefully,

            Cyrus McCormick, Jerome Case, John Deere, and Eli Whitney had already undercut the economic value of slavery before 1860. “The institution” was on its last legs by the time the war started.

            Machinery was cheaper and more efficient than slaves, which is why the industrialized North had largely dispensed with with them by then. Plus the North had the Irish and other immigrants, who were cheaper than slaves, and often cheaper than machinery.

  2. Nynemillameetuh

    It looks like Dixie Gun Works offers the Pedersoli Whitworth for sale. If that’s a “pre-order” or an actual “buy it now” I cannot tell. Their webstore uses one of those archaic (in Internet years) online shopping templates.

  3. 6pounder

    Very nice video! These were indeed amazing rifles for their time and did some very good work in the hands of our boys. Today most people don’t realize just how far a good quality rifle will shoot accurately.
    Yes we seceded, peacefully. But nooooo, some people just wouldn’t have any of that!

    1. Aesop

      Zombie Brigadier P.G.T. Beauregard reminds you of the “peaceful” shelling of Fort Sumter, and awards you one Pinocchio.

  4. 6pounder

    I see there are still people who don’t know their history or their Constitutional guarantees and really have no clue as to why we were forced into a war. Pity really as it’s headed back in that direction very fast.

    1. Kirk

      The war was no more “forced” than it was gleefully entered into with malice aforethought by idiots on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The whole fantasy about that “forcing” thing ignores all of the historical record, which shows both sides of the question being a bunch of dumbasses.

      Slavery was indefensible, and a huge part of the reason the Confederate states were under-developed resource-extraction economies reliant on export of raw materials in the first place. Had they kept on thecpath they were on, even independently, odds are pretty good that they would have wound up looking more like the South American kleptocracies the Spanish left behind.

      It amuses the shit out of me to hear Confederate irredentists nattering on, fantasizing that their antecedants had nothing at all to do with the war starting, or that they would have ever been successful as an independent slave-holding nation. Facts are that all of tbe European investment money we got to build infrastructure like all the rail lines and industry that made America what it became by the end of the 19th Century? Virtually none of that would have gone to the Confederacy, and the same people who brought about the end of slavery in the UK would have been militating to ensure that happened. Lack of capital would have kept the Confederacy a poor backwater until they either tried to expand militarily to the south and west, and that would have meant war, no matter what. Probably a more destructive one, that might have left part of North America as a colony of some European nation. Flashpoints and justifications for that? Likely at least one would have been the persecution of the German colonies in Texas.

      It amuses me to be told that I’m historically ignorant, by the fantasists, who seem to think that the Confederacy would have been living in a vacuum.

      1. Scott

        Certitude regarding what would’ve happened if the south had successfully seceded, whether that be postulated as awesome, or awful, is equally amusing.

        Nearly as amusing as listening to some say that a state has a right to join the union, but not the right to secede–then they proceed to declare slavery as dreadful. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”

        All we can be certain of is that the centralized power of the federal government has grown, which has opened the opportunity for the progressives to advance their agendas. To the point now, when the progressives are temporarily out of power, their ostensible adversaries largely cheer “their guy’s” use of the ever growing centralized power of the state. This will end well, of course.

        1. John M.

          Perhaps it’s not just the Confederacy that was founded on a mass of “inherent organic contradictions.”

          -John M.

          1. Scott

            Exactly. That which cannot be sustained–will be sustained–right up until the can cannot be kicked one millimeter farther.

            As I understand it, black holes are pretty much set against anything trying to secede as well. Must be awesome, right?

      2. 6pounder

        Yes it was forced. Slavery was already on the way out. Our president and the top general of our armies had already freed theirs years before and moved on. The diehards would have eventually done the same and then the lingering animosity would not have manifested itself like it did.
        Fort Sumter, being part of South Carolina, was given three–yes three– deadlines to evacuate.
        The root cause goes back to the Merrill tariff act, the tariff of the abominations it was called. Oh so smart Yankees don’t seem to remember that little gem of a bill, which was passed, along with others, before the filibuster ever existed in congress. These are also people who championed child labor for so many years in order to enrich themselves. From the yankee perspective it goes back to the age old greed, or love of money, factor and their perceived need to tell other people how to live and what to do. It’s the old English attitude that came across the ocean to take up roost on our shores.
        You want to talk slavery? I sure can. Let’s talk about some of my Irish ancestors that were sold into slavery to pay for ship passage over here. Oh wait, they could have stayed home and starved to death during the Great Hunger instead. Many southern farmers sent food over to try to help. The northern government sent nothing, no profit in it.
        No right to secede you say? Perhaps then we should eliminate George Washingtons farewell speech as president from the history books. Oh yes, we definitely will have to burn all the books that reference the Kentucky Resolutions as well. Don’t stop there! A good and proper revisionist must keep burning. After all, doing right has no end!
        Whining? HAHAHAHA! That’s funny right there!

          1. Kirk

            And, yet, 6pounder, you engage in it most egregiously.

            I’ve been all over a significant swathe of original source documents, and it’s rather odd how little mention is made in them of things like “states rights” or tariffs as significant issues. Those things don’t start showing up until late into the post-Civil War era, when the kids and grandkids of slaveowners started trying to make believe that the whole issue wasn’t that Grammy and Grampa weren’t making a living off of treating other human beings like domestic animals, or that that was what the whole thing was over. There’s mention of those issues in contemporary sources, but the way they’re treated makes it obvious that they were secondary issues, and examples I’ve found of such things make it fairly obvious that people were casting about for secondary issues with which to bolster their primary arguments. The majority of the actual primary sources make it abundantly clear that the main issue was the potential abolition of slavery.

            Were your assertions to be correct, then the question of why the Confederacy didn’t immediately work to make points with nations like Great Britain and others by either beginning a program of manumission or actually doing so needs to be asked and answered. Despite the fact that public opinion in Great Britain would have been swayed greatly by such a thing, and gotten the UK more on the side of the Confederacy, no such attempt was ever even floated in the Confederate government. That particular dog’s lack of bark is something you might want to consider,the next time you try to assert that slavery wasn’t a major issue or the primary driving factor behind what happened. Had it simply been tariffs, the South could have easily gained a lot more international support by the simple expedient of just making promises to eventually end slavery–Which, signally, they did not. They couldn’t even bring themselves to lie about the issue, when it would have been strategically expedient to do so–That’s how firmly the issue of slavery was set into their minds and culture.

            Primary sources make it pretty clear that the reason behind Secession was the election of Abraham Lincoln, the perceived effects thereof, and that the Secession movement really got going before he ever even hit his Inauguration. What did that was the fear that he was going to force something like a gradual abolition onto the southern slave-holding states, and that they’d be beggared by the loss of capital represented by the forced manumission of the slaves. What’s really interesting, as well, is that Lincoln never really laid out a program, or said what he was going to do–It was enough to set off Secession that he made a commitment to address the issue head-on during his administration. The South didn’t even want to talk about the issues, let alone compromise on them.

            Nobody tried to compromise, nobody tried to even discuss it rationally, on either side–The arguments basically boiled down to “We won’t give up slavery…” and “Yes, you will…”.

            I’m not going to argue that either side was particularly noble, either–However, just like when you’re looking at who you want winning on the Eastern Front in WWII, the choices weren’t what I’d describe as ideal. In the final analysis, however, there was only one side herding people into industrial-scale death camps, or holding other human beings as domestic animals, making a living off of their forced labor.

            And, make no mistake about it–The institution of slavery was degrading and destructive on both sides of the coin. I’ve seen papers in the family archive where an immigrant Scot found himself the sole support and owner of about a dozen slaves, as part of an estate he fell heir to. He wanted to free them, en masse, but was unable to do so because a.) they’d have starved, unable to make a living, and b.) his neighbors would literally have had him killed for doing that, because it would have roiled up the rest of the local slave population. About the best thing that he could accomplish was selling them as a group to someone he had rather vague hopes would “take good care of them”. After he left the South, he never went back, not wanting a damn thing to do with that “peculiar institution”. He’d seen a good deal of how it all actually worked, and wanted nothing whatsoever to do with it, and his diary made for some interesting reading. He was still contemplating what he’d been involved with some thirty years later, and his inability to do what he’d seen as the “right thing” still bothered him on his deathbed.

            One should not rely on the words of those apologists trying to cover up for and justify the criminal activities of their ancestors, and should instead look at the things actually written by those ancestors, and people who observed them. There’s a sequence in one of the diaries I read where the author is talking about how she’d had her husband whip one of the field slaves nearly to death over the injury of a favorite dog, that had jumped up on the slave as he was carrying a boiling kettle of grease from the summer kitchen to where they were making soap. What’s chilling is the absolutely inhuman indifference she wrote with, describing what she’d had done, in order to “…make an example…” for the other house slaves to be more careful around her pets.

            You’re defending a time and place where people like Amon Goth were running the show, and who attempted to perpetuate their “system” forever, so stop trying to make believe you’re somehow fighting “historic revisionism”. What you’re really doing is defending the indefensible.

  5. Fred Ray

    Seeing the target, even at extended ranges, is MUCH easier through 20-year-old eyes. Dang I hate getting old!

    Some years ago I was consulting with the Discovery Channel for a program they were doing (The Plots to Kill Lincoln) and we staged a shoot at Blackwater with English shooter Michael Yardley. In spite of some mechanical problems I came away very impressed with the WWs accuracy, range and power. We had a telescope but after trying it Yardley preferred the iron sights.

  6. Brad

    Very much enjoyed that video of buck’n’ball load vs ball vs Minié ball. Interesting results.

    I have my own notions about the effectiveness of a sort of multi-ball load, the .410 shotgun firing 3-5 pellets of 000 buckshot. I haven’t yet found results of a test like that. A poor-man’s 100 yard Project Salvo.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I thought there were .410 buck loads, years ago, although to what purpose I can’t imagine. You certainly wouldn’t want to tackle big game with one.

      1. Brad

        There has been a resurgence of .410 buckshot loads because of the popularity of goofy .410 handguns and revolvers like the Taurus Judge.

        Apparently the only real difference between common shotgun gauges is the total weight of the shot, not the muzzle velocity. So the only practical difference of a smaller gauge shotgun is the number of pellets fired per trigger pull. A 2-3/4 inch 12 gauge shotshell will hold eight 000 size buckshot pellets and a 2-1/2 inch .410 shotshell will hold four 000 size buckshot pellets.

        The .410 interests me because I suspect dispersion of a 000 load might be acceptably small enough within 100 yards range because of the way the pellets stack in the small .410 shotgun shell. The .410 shotgun shell is also small enough to adapt more readily to a detachable magazine feed. ATI even imported (and may soon again) a .410 shotgun semi-automatic AR complete upper receiver assembly.

        1. soapweed

          Brad: “goofy 410 handguns and revolvers like the Taurus Judge”. You might be surprised that the Judge is used very effectively here within the pursuit of cow/calf
          operations about twice a week. So much so, that I wish I had one in EVERY truck and tractor cab here instead of having to remember to shuffle it around, and rue the times when I forget. But,….. lets just talk about living in the beehive and shooting at an established range on weekends, shall we? love all the perspective, Soapweed

        2. Andrew

          I got a 410 Cruiser on a whim and tried some of those 000 buckshot loads.
          As well as some of the “Judge” loads with discs and BB’s and whatnot.
          They’d be acceptable for “across the room” or “down the hall” but even out of an 18″ barrel they start to spread out real fast at 21 feet
          .

          1. Brad

            Which 000 loads? At what range? With how much dispersion? The Mossberg 410 cruiser is cylinder bore. The Mossberg HS410 has a spreader choke. In either of those I wouldn’t be very surprised at poor dispersion with any type of buckshot load.

      2. TRX

        I have some .410 buckshot shells around here somewhere, that are probably 30 years old.

        I think it’s something that comes and goes out of fashion.

        BTW, a Winchester 3″ Magnum “rifled slug” contains a thimble-shaped (hollow!) slug of about .40 caliber, weighing 90 grains on my scale. Presumably it obturates enough to seal; that particular shell contained a thick card wad and something that looked suspiciously like cornmeal between that and the powder wad. Probably some “high performance synthetic ballistic cushion” in ammo-speak… Winchester claimed something like 1800fps, but given you could crush the hollow bullet in your fingers, I’m not impressed.

  7. Pingback: WeaponsMan: Shooting The Whitworth | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  8. Light Dragoon

    I tried to post on the last article on the Whitworth, but that was when you were having “issues” with the site, oh well.

    Anyway, back when, my (former) Father-in-Law had a very nice Parker-Hale Whitworth repro, and we would shoot it at the 100-yard range. It was devilish accurate, what with those sights and all, and the hex bullet. However, we found that a good, heavy (500+ grain) bullet for a .45-70 would shoot just as well. The only real issue was that to get good accuracy, you had to use a HEAVY charge of powder, as in 150+ or so grains. (Been about 30 years, so my memory of the exact grains of lead and powder are, sadly, fuzzy). Needless to say, that baby kicked, to the point that my Mother-in-Law forbade him from shooting it too much, since he came back from the range with a good bruise to his shoulder. (And he knew how to shoot, too. That old girl just kicked with such a heavy charge). Oddly, she gave me no such proscription… ;^)

    Like I said, I was amazed with that rifle. It really would shoot like a cartridge rifle insofar as accuracy went. Not that I ever shot it that well, but it would do a couple-inch groups at 100 yards all day, as long as you used decent powder in it, used good lube on the bullets and swabbed it out after every shot.

    One of truly sad things is that, along with his other Parker-Hale Enfields, an original 1819 Hall, an 1816 Musket and a very nice repro Ferguson, it was looted from my ex’s house after we split up. Dang, I REALLY wish that I had kept those with me for “safety’s sake”. Alas, 20-20 hindsight!

  9. Silence DoGood

    It was a Whitworth rifle that Sgt. (Charles D.?) Grace of Company B, 4th Georgia Infantry used to unhorse Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania. The shot was at least 600 yards, probably more than 800 and possibly as much as 1200. It’s agreed that the shot struck Sedgwick in the cheek, and he actually was heard to say, “Why, they couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance…,” but the story that Grace’s bullet arrived before he finished his sentence is a later embellishment.

    Much of the Whitworth’s long range prowess stemmed from its 1:20 twist. The 1858 Enfields were only 1:48, and the more common 1853 models were slacker still, so the Whitworths were able to keep a bullet with a higher sectional density stable to a greater range. In comparative tests of the period, the Whitworths shot tighter groups at 1200 yards than the Enfields did at 800.

    Unfortunately for the Confederacy they also cost $96 a copy, 4-5 times as much as the run-of-the-mill Springfields and Enfields did. The Whitworths had a polygonal bore and were delivered with a hexagonal bullet mold (and a bore scraper), but the Rebs scarce could afford such a luxury of bespoke sniper’s bullets and mostly shot .451 Minié balls in them.

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