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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Winchester 73 lever action repeating carbine

If for nothing else, I think having a Winchester '73 would provide historical satisfaction. Known as the "Rifle that Won the West," the '73 is the precursor to the '92 and '94.

It's sort of odd the US Army regarded repeat-action lever rifles as underpowered, so they armed troops in the Indian Wars with breechloaders. The Winchester 73 had an effective range of 450 yards! See, Guns at The Little Bighorn. General Custer and his men didn't use "The Rifle That Won The West" at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Instead, they used Model 1873 Springfield Trapdoor Carbines firing .45-55 rounds. Sitting Bull's warriors were armed with over 100 Henry repeating lever action rifles or Winchester Model 1866 rifles. Henrys were capable of firing 45 shots per minute, which enabled Indian Warriors to discharge enough rounds at Custer's troops from one hill that it was later named "Henry Hill" from the volume of casings found after the battle. Custer's trapdoor carbines were capable of only 16 shots per minute. He had less rifles, which took almost three times as long to fire as repeaters used against him and his men. It took the government until 1893 to adopt a repeating rifle, the .30-40 Krag. The Krag was the Army's first smokeless powder rifle. It was a slightly modified version of the Danish 1892 Krag-Jorgensen infantry rifle. See, The .30-40 Krag.
Krag-Jorgensen Model 1892, 5 round magazine bolt action rifle
(.30-40 Krag)

Some say the Krag worked perfectly, right up until it was actually used in combat during the Spanish-American War, where it was found that the .30-40 cartridge (US .30) was hopelessly outclassed by the 7x57mm Mauser cartridge used by Spanish elite soldiers in Cuba. See, Krag-Jorgensen Mod 1892. Others compare the .30-40 to the venerable British .303. See, The Reload Bench.​

I question the choice of a slower magazine rifle over the Winchester 73's successors, such as the Winchesters 92 and 94. Rate of fire had proven itself important during the Indian Wars, but the lever action rifle was still ignored. Maybe, conventional tactics of the day were better satisfied by Mausers and Krags?​
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Had to post this topic to get the forum into the New Year! I added information in the original post about the Army's first repeating rifle. It wasn't the Winchester 73, nor a lever action rifle! It was a five round bolt-actioned rifle.

The Raleigh Gun Show had many lever action rifles, including a couple of really nice Winchester 1873s, both chambered in .44-40, as per the original. One difference - the original 1873 was built for black powder, not smokeless. I've been told reproductions are built with adequate materials for smokeless powder, but make sure if considering one. One of the rifles had an asking price of $1,400! Ouch - and that was with a scratch! There was a nice 1866 Yellow Boy reproduction. It looked like an original, aged, but was made of contemporary materials and would fire smokeless powder. I liked its look, but somehow wasn't interested in an Italian reproduction of an American frontier rifle!

1866 Yellow Boy

I saw no 1892s. That is the model used in The Rifleman. Wouldn't it be cool to have a fast shooting lever-action rifle like Lucas McCain?
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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Not only did the Army have a goofy view of firepower, they were so cheap that soldiers seldom were allowed to practice.

Then, you have 1/4 of your firepower being used as a horse holder in a skirmish and that usually was a seasoned guy who could hold 4 horses while under fire.

I don't think Army doctrine caught up to firepower and the right combat distances until Viet Nam.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Custer said:
I don't think Army doctrine caught up to firepower and the right combat distances until Viet Nam.
That's probably true. Maybe, our military had a complex. It seems that until WWI, they longed to be compared to Europeans. When we saw how they blundered repeatedly, it seems we decided to quit copying them. Thus, before WWII, the US Army adopted the M-1 Garand, the first semi-automatic battle rifle adopted by a major military power.

The M-16 was a truly revolutionary rifle, declaring America's total independence from foreign influences. It was made of plastic and composites and fired a round much smaller and lighter than the AK-47, the FAL, or M-14. The M-16 was well-designed and had greater range than its communist counterpart.

Too bad for General Custer that the military waited until 1965 to adopt it! Still, I imagine if granted a mulligan, the General would have gladly swapped his Springfield Carbines for Winchester 73s. Maybe, the 73 was the AR-15 of its day?
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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Well, certainly the lever action rifles were incredible firepower for the era. The Henry had long been available.

I think Congress was cheap in those days and it was not going to "waste" money on ammo which included target practice.

Ironically, one Federal agency often issued repeaters to its Indian clients for "hunting" but the Department of War would not do the same for the military.

In hot action, the spent Springfield brass casing would often get stuck and Custer's men had to gouge them out with a knife. This is not going to help with firepower, either.

I think some of the anti firepower, pro marksmanship sentiment lingers on as the Army did change the M-16 from FA to select fire, 3 shot bursts as a reaction to the way the saw the M-16 used as "spray and pray" in Viet Nam.

Seems like they keep going back and forth on this issue.

I sure would vote for the Garand as superior to the German Mauser in modern battle. 8 semi auto round in clips have to give you a great edge over a bolt action no matter how skilled the rifleman was in manipulating the bolt and no matter how accurate the shots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Those were excellent, interesting points.

The lack of target practice likely resulted in Custer's men taking into battle firearms and ammo which were defective. Many Springfield carbines they used had been rejected by other units. Much of the ammo used in their carbines was .45-70 used for rifles, not the .45-55 intended for carbines. There were reports of jammed carbines and fused cartridge cases. Just an afternoon of target practice would probably have alerted Custer and his men that they weren't ready for battle. See, Guns at the Little Big Horn.

Even after the Battle, the Army continued with the rifle which failed Custer's men, despite complaints about its poor rate of fire. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie after the Little Bighorn battle requested Winchester repeaters for his 4th Cavalry, citing the poor rate of fire of the Springfield breechloader. Id. It must have been frustrating for American soldiers to face "savages" who often times had more advanced weapons (such as the Winchester 73), better tactics, and superior leadersip.
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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Well, other than Chief Joseph, I am not so sure they had superior leadership.

Indians pretty much fought as individuals rather than as a coordinated group with real generalship. Great raiders though.

IIRC, the US Army might have had a total of 30,000 men to operate.

Now, I will say the Army was loaded with drunken officers, many embittered about their high rank during the Civil War being lowered with almost no chance of promotion.
The troops consisted mainly of recent immigrants, many without English skills and a fair amount of criminals.

In many ways it was amazing they did as well as they did. I think Mckenzie eventually committed suicide.
 

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Used to have an original 73. Years back my dumb-ss self sold it for 500 dollars. I still cry over that one. Dumb..Dumb...Dumb!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Too bad, Matagorda,

At least you got to enjoy it before selling your '73.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Custer, I found this bio of Colonel McKenzie. Seems like a top notch leader:


Ranald McKenzie

Born in New Jersey to a military family, Mackenzie went to West Point and graduated in 1862. Serving in the Union army, Mackenzie was wounded six times (including the loss of two fingers on his right hand) and won eight promotions for bravery, ending the war as a general. Posted to Texas at the end of the war, Mackenzie soon commanded the Fourth Cavalry.

In the next ten years, Mackenzie lead the Fourth in numerous Indian engagements, fighting Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Cheyenne and Kickapoo. One Indian fight even took Mackenzie's troops into Mexico. In 1875, Mackenzie lead the Fourth Cavalry deep into the heart of Comanche country. In the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, the Fourth Cavalry captured some 1400 Indian horses and burned the villages. The burning of the villages and capturing of the horses effectively forced the Indians to return to the reservations most had left.

Mackenzie was commanding Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory when Quanah Parker surrendered his Kwadi Comanches. Mackenzie and Quanah had fought each other several times but each respected the other as a warrior. Mackenzie used his office at Fort Sill to assist the Indians when possible, giving them Army rations when the Indians had no food and escorting hunting parties on buffalo hunts to prevent harassment from settlers and troublemakers.

Mackenzie would revenge the Custer massacre by defeating the Sioux in the Dakota, and fight the Utes in Colorado.

Mackenzie was diagnosed as insane in 1884 and died in 1889 from what is now know as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, brought on by seven wounds and constant living on horseback in all kinds of weather under hostile conditions.
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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I seem to recall he might have been commandant of West Point.

Quanah Parker is quite a story, too. Especially about his captured white wife.

For some reason, his fame did not last as did the fame of Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy horse and other notheren plains tribes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Colonel Yorke was loosely
based on Ranald McKenzie


I believe I read somewhere that John Wayne's character in Rio Grande was patterned after McKenzie. Somehow, I don't think Wayne could do justice to a hero of McKenzie's magnitude. I'm surprised I never heard of him before.
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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He was fairly famous and you trip over him a lot when you read about the Old West.

I think he was considered erratic by many and crazy by some.

He gets listed with his name wrong as Ronald quite often.
 

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DADDY WARBUCKS
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By the way, I have an origninal Krag sitting in my gun room. It is not mine. I am holding it for a friend.

It was his grandfathers rifle who was in the military just after the turn of the century. He has a picture of him holding it while in uniform.

The rifle is in fantastic shape, almost pristine. I have no idea how it stayed so good and we have no idea how his grandfather was able to keep the rifle. Maybe we don't want to know..

I need to get a photo of this rifle scanned into my pc by my SIL so you can all see it.

It is amazing. Could have been in the Spanish American War....who knows.
 
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