Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A beautiful artifact, along with some introspection

The wife and I have been a bit busy. A 7000 mile trip East and back, visiting family and friends. A stop at Oklahoma, where we had the unfortunate experience of discovering how thin blood can be, along with some unpleasant work emptying out an old house we owned (sold now to a neighbor) of the last of our belongings we wished to keep and transport into storage here in Montana. The trip lead to a new acquisition, which we will come to, anon.

I wish my insight was equal to my willingness to be introspective, but alas, it is not. Somehow, in spite of the best of intentions, my character is faulty enough to alienate many of the people I would have chosen to remain friends with, had I the wit to behave in a more acceptable fashion, whatever that might be. (This is true of relatives, as well as acquaintances.)

A former friend in Baton Rouge, who I still think well of, once made the statement that a true friend was someone he would "take a bullet for". For those of you who are not members of the gun culture, or supporters of our Constitution, in which the Second Amendment reiterates the natural right of self-defense via firearm (and how a free country requires that the general populace be willing to train and equip - be "well-regulated" - in the use of arms if it wishes to remain free), my friend meant that quite literally. He would step between a bullet fired and someone he considered a friend.

That is a laudable stance to take, and shows how strongly he values true friendship, but it falls short for me. Yes, I would take a bullet for those I love well enough to call "friend" (to include many of my relatives), but for me, a true friend is someone who takes you as you are, warts and all. Since some of my warts seem to be as large as the Rock of Gibraltar, I can count the number of my true friends on the fingers (and thumb) of one hand. People who have seen me be foolish, or self-involved, or forgetful of the needs of those around me, or hurtful without intent, but hurtful nonetheless. For that (literal) handful of stalwarts, those saints willing to continue to value me in spite of my shortcomings, I say a heartfelt "thank you". Those few are indeed friends. My two uncles in Connecticut, who we visited this trip, are in that category. One is conservative, the other a loving and compassionate liberal who remains dear to my heart even though he consorts with those who have damaged, and who wish to further destroy, my very liberty (Democrats and other liberals).

For my wife's sister and brother-in-law who live a half-mile from the property we just sold, sayonara, baby. They are still upset because we will not join their brand of Fundamentalist, Holy Roller, lie on the floor and speak in tongues brand of Christianity. They were very helpful while we were there, but when we stopped by to pick up a few items we had left in storage at their farm, they insisted on also returning every single gift we had ever given them in the last ten or so years. I think it was meant to be a slap in the face. I won't miss them, but my wife is sad that her only sister could be so cold.

Now for the fun part, which I hope you will enjoy much more than my rambling introspection. I do not understand the operation of this blog site well enough to insert photos where I might like in the text, so what you saw at the start of all of this - a photo of a replica 1874 Sharps rifle - is what we will talk about next.

I'm certain the folks at the Shiloh Rifle Company of Big Timber, Montana get down on their knees and thank Tom Selleck and the producers of Quigley Down Under every night before they go to sleep. As so many of us have told them, seeing his rifle in that film has caused a longing that could only be requited by the purchase of one of their gorgeous rifles.

Now, the company was well known amongst shooters for the high quality of their rifles long before the movie, but it has generated such an interest and increase in customers that I know they will always be thankful for that exposure of their excellent craftsmanship.

I actually had no intention of buying one of their rifles at this time. My wife and I were returning to Montana when we stopped at a truck stop just west of Butte, MT for fuel. As the pump at the RV part of the station wouldn't take my credit card for some reason, I went inside to leave it while I fueled up. The gal at the counter insisted I needed to pick a particular value to spend, in spite of the fact that I wanted to fill up, and had no idea what that would cost. I wasn't willing to guess and have to leave with a tank less than full, so I left without buying any. About twenty miles further west, we saw signs for a station at Big Timber, MT. While I was pumping the tank on the UHaul truck full, I noticed a building across the street labeled "Shiloh Rifle Company".

Knowing this was the maker of the "Quigley Down Under" Sharps rifle, I just had to go look. My wife was excited to see it too, as she is a fan of the movie and Tom Selleck. Understand that I knew I was perfectly safe, as there is a twelve-month waiting period for the making of one of these rifles. No worries that I would spend $1800 up on a rifle. When we got inside, the various models were sitting on pegs on one wall, and we were told we could pick them up and handle them all we wanted. They were gorgeous. I especially liked the Quigley and the Long Range Express models. Absolutely gorgeous.

When I spoke to the wife/co-owner Lucinda, she told me about the waiting period for a custom rifle. When I spoke of liking the Long Range Express model, she pointed to a rack behind the counter, and said they had several Montana Roughrider models there, which were identical to the LRE, except that they had the cheek rests sanded off (for those wanting a more traditional look, or at least no cheek piece). Then she hooked me - these rifles were "pre-made" and for sale right now. Oh, no. I picked up two of them, and was instantly lost, as needful of one of those rifles as a junkie needing a fix.

The base price of the Roughrider was $1900. The cost for my rifle, with the extra custom additions, was just over $2900 (with an extra $175 to re-chamber from 45-70 to 45-110). It should be noted that $223 of that was for Federal Excise Tax. Yes, they tax the entire sale, custom extras and all. Eleven percent. It's a crime. If some portion of it is due to the Pittman-Robertson Act, I wouldn't mind so much. Restoration of wildlife habitat can be a good thing (if the eco-freak liberals don't go overboard with it), and the fact that the funds cannot be diverted the way Social Security funds have been is good, too. But I'm not certain that is where the money is actually going. Anyway, $3200 for a rifle was way, way more than I had any intention of spending, but as we had just sold the Oklahoma property (for a slight loss) and could easily afford it, my wife told me to go for it. She didn't have to say it twice, for sure and for certain.

Sorry I couldn't seem to get a better overall photo, but this is the Shiloh Montana Roughrider model, chambered in 45-110. It has a number of upgrades: semi-fancy wood (you should see what "fancy" entails!), "pack harden" finish (absolutely beautiful bone and charcoal case hardening), a lovely pewter fore-end tip/escutcheon, double set triggers, full-buckhorn rear sight, a case hardened shotgun style buttplate, and a 34" heavy full-octagon barrel.

The second shot shows the locking block lowered, the breech face exposed, and the chamber open. Next is the pewter fore-end tip, then the right side of the lock work, with the lever down and the triggers exposed, then a closer shot of the pack harden finish, followed by a still slightly out-of-focus overall shot to include that 34" barrel.

The barrel is the heavy full octagon, which I believe weighs 16 pounds all by itself. I don't know what the total weight is, but I do know I will be glad for it when I start touching off those 45-110's loaded with a 535 grain Lyman Postell alloy bullet at around 1400 fps. For those of you who are not shooters, the heavier the bullet (in any particular caliber), the heavier the recoil. A heavy firearm (due to the physics involved of mass vs momentum) will deliver less felt recoil than a lighter firearm. The forces actually remain the same, but when the same amount of energy has to move a greater mass, the mass moves less (a shorter distance). So the "shove" feels significantly less when the weapon is very heavy.

The pictures do not do this rifle justice. It is a work of art, with the wood-to-metal fit being excellent, the case hardening superbly beautiful, the lock work smooth and solid in operation, the set trigger so light I will either re-set it a bit heavier or simply not use it. I am hoping the brass and loading paraphernalia arrive tomorrow so that I can start loading some rounds to fire. (I will be using the afore-mentioned Lyman 535 grain Postell pushed by about 60 grains of a new black powder substitute called Blackhorn 209. It is sold by the Western Powder company (the Accurate Arms powder company) , and it is supposed to be clean burning, non-corrosive, and very accurate. I intend to load 100 rounds, to take with me on my trip to St. George, Utah, where my wife and I will be spending the winter months in our fifth-wheel.

We plan to visit Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Canyonlands, the Arches National Park outside of Moab, Mesa Verde in nearby Colorado, Canyon de Chelly (and other sites such as Kiet Siel near Kayenta) in Arizona, and whatever else we come across. We have been to Tuzigoot, Montezuma's Castle, and a bunch of other locations, but may hit some of them again. The Four Corners area is replete with amazing ruins, rock formations, and incredible landscapes. We are looking forward to it.

While we are in that area, I intend to find some place where we can shoot at 1000 yards, to try the Shiloh Sharps out, as well as my 7.62x51 with some 175 grain BTHP rounds that simulate the old M118 long range military cartridge. I read an article where some forensic scientists who thought the 45-70 couldn't reach out to 1500 yards tested it and some 45-110 rounds. Firing at a 35 degree, the 45-70 landed a heavy bullet (675 grains, heavier than most people normally shoot, but a duplicate of an historic long-range cartridge used back in the 1800's) 3600 yards away. [ Correction: This was a round fired from a 50-90, not a 45-70. Billy Dixon used a 50-90 Sharps, and that is what was being tested, along with a 45-110 they brought along as well. I am including a photo of a 45-110 round next to a 45-70 round for comparison.] The 45-110 was fired with a standard load in common use, and it landed over 3500 yards away. For you engineers out there, the 45-70 round reached an altitude of 4000 feet in its trajectory. We pilots should take note, as well. I hope the folks at ATF who acquired some aircraft are listening, too.


  1. Nope, I don't need to see it. Nope. Not at all. No siree. I have a rifle problem and I love beautiful rifles. That Shiloh Sharps is temptation I don't need.

  2. I have to make a correction on the Yuma Proving Grounds info: the weapon they fired to duplicate Billy Dixon's 1565 yard shot at Adobe Walls was a 50-90, as was his rifle. That's why the load was topped with a 675 grain bullet. You couldn't stuff that large a bullet into a 45-70 case. Sorry about that.

    The largest bullets I have read of being used in the 45-110 loading (my caliber) is 550 grains. My 100 rounds are loaded with 535 grain Lyman Postell cast bullets. Tomorrow I plan on going to the local (St George, Utah) office of BLM to find out where I might go to shoot at 1000 yards. (The local range only has a 200 yard rifle venue.) There is supposed to be an area called the "Arizona Strip" immediately north of the border with Arizona where shooting is commonly done in these parts. I'm anxious to send a few of those Lymans downrange. Don't know how well I will do with full buckhorn sights and my tired old eyes, but I'll give it a try.


Sorry, folks. I was completely ignorant about comment rules. Anyone can post, but I'd prefer a name, even if it is made up. Anonymous posts just seem cheap, if you know what I mean. Also, if you want to argue a point, that's fine. Cheap shots and name calling towards me or another person commenting (ad hominem) is rude and will get you banned. Other than that, I'd love to get some comments.