Buffalo Guns and Skinners

Hide Hunters Explained

 

Leo J. Reminger Co-Authored  “Encyclopedia of Buffalo Hunters and Skinners” 

Buffalo Guns
By Leo J. Remiger

In an effort to throw more fuel on the fire concerning just what kind of gun comprised a “buffalo gun” during the great buffalo hunt, we thought we would go through our list of hunters and if they mentioned their armament, we would list it. What follows is a short list of 78 hunters and their “buffalo guns.”

1868
E.N. Andrews: Combination rifle/shotgunColt Army Mod 1860
Richard Bussell: Allen Conversion Springfield, Spencer carbines

1869
William Balfour: Balfours outfit consisted of Alijah and Falanda Ames, two McPherson brothers, and Thomas Hooker. Their “buffalo guns” consisted of one large-bore muzzleloader rifle, four army muskets, two Colt revolvers, and a double-barreled shotgun, a small squirrel rifle, and a new Spencer carbine. Balfour only had twenty cartridges for the carbine so he had never tested the Spencer for accuracy.

Dick Alley: Sharps Carbine1863 Sharps Carbine
Solomon Humbarger: Muzzleloading Rifle
Walter Earl: Repeating Rifle
Tripp’s Outfit: Needle guns & Repeaters

1870
Leonard, hunting partner of Lawson Cooke: “Leonard. As he had just arrived, having come on a hunting expedition like myself, we struck up a partnership, and concluded to hunt together. My tenderfoot friend had brought a small armory from the States with him. A Winchester rifle, a needle gun, a bowie-knife, three different-sized revolvers, and a big box of assorted cartridges, composed a portion of his warlike accouterments.”
Jeff Durfey: Springfield Army Rifle

1871
N. Bostwick: Common hunting rifle, revolver 
Isaac Huffman: Breech loading Ballard, Navy revolver
J. T. McKittrick: Breech loading Ballard, Navy revolver
T.H. Ferrell: Revolver
George Anderson: Spencer Rifle, revolver
Theodore Baughman: Muzzleloader
Bill McDowell: Muzzleloader
William “Bill” Tilghman: Springfield
Dunn Brothers – Charley and Bill: Springfield .50-70, Spencer

1872:Colt Navy 1851
Amos Allen: Sharps Sporting Rifle
B. Day: Sharps sporting rifle, .44 caliber
Edward Burton: Sharps sporting rifle, .44 caliber
Charles Clarkson: Sharps, “Big Fifty” .50-2 1/2, 16 lbs, Hartford, 30-inch octagon barrel, pewter tip forearm, DST, open sights, oil finished stock.

George and Matthew used Sharps rifles too – but that’s another story.
Emanual Dubbs: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 110 grains powder, 2 belts of cartridges-about 80 rounds
George Reighard: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 16 pound, 2 of them with telescopic sights

1873
T.C. Bowers: Sharps, .44 caliber, 16 1/2 poundsNRA Museum Dreyse M1860 Needle Fire Rifle1
Joe W. Hutt: Sharps, .50 caliber, 14 pounds

1874
Harry Armitage: Sharps .50 caliber – Adobe Walls fight
William Olds: Sharps .50 caliber – Adobe Walls fight
George W. “Hoodoo” Brown: Sharps, .50 caliber, 16 lbs, 32 inch barrel, 120 grains powder, 1 1/4 inch bullet, two belts of cartridges, 42 rounds to belt, bottle of water Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 14 lbs, 120 grains powder, 1 1/4 inch bullet, two belts of cartridges, 42 rounds to belt
Billy Dixon: Sharps “Big Fifty” Sharps “round barrel” .44 and a case of ammunition – Adobe Walls
Jesse Fleming: Sharps Sporting Rifle
Oscar Shepard: Sharps “Big Fifty” – battle of Adobe Walls
Henry Lease: Carefully examined his pistols and big “50” – Adobe Walls
John Thompson Jones: Sharps Military Rifle – .50-70
Zack Light: Sharps, .50 caliber
James Campbell: Sharps
James Chamberlain: Sharps, .44 caliber
Frank Collinson: Sharps, .44 caliber, 12 pound-Sharps, .45 caliber, 15 pound-Sharps Borchardt, .40 caliber -Colt SAA, .45 -Winchester, 44 WCF
Jerry Gardner: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 16 pound- Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 18 pound -3 Band Needle Gun, .50-70, 2 ea.

1876
Sam Baldwin: Sharps Rifle
P.C. Bicknell: Sharps Carbine, .50-70
P.C. Bicknell’s Partner: Maynard, .40-70, 340 grain “ring ball”
J. Tom Bird: Sharps .45 caliber, 16 lbs
Orlando “Brick” Bond: Sharps “Big Fifty”
James Cook – Market Hunter: Sharps Creedmoor, .40-90 caliber – Spencer Carbine -Henry -.45 Colt -S. Hawken Muzzleloader
Billy Martin – Market Hunter: Sharps .45 caliber
Charles Alexander – Market Hunter: Remington, .44 or .50 caliberHmaag-Henry Rifle
R.B. Crego: Sharps – Per Billy Fox
Henry Gilbert: Sharps – Per Billy Fox
P.A. Harris: Sharps, .44 caliber

1877
Gun Purchased from the Burdett Family in the 1930’s – I only presume this could be John Burdett’s gun: Sharps Model 1874 Sporting Rifle, 45-2 7/8, 30″ heavy octagon barrel, measures 1 3/16 at muzzle, straight stock, shotgun butt, double set triggers, weight 13 ¾ lbs., serial # 1595XX. Invoiced Jan. 4, 1877 to Sharps Dealer F.C. Zimmerman Front St. Dodge City, Kansas
H. B. Lovett: Remington No. 1 Sporting Rifle altered to lever actuation. This modification was probably rendered by Carlos Gove in 1874 or 1875. The rifle is fitted with an unmarked, heavy octagon barrel in 44-77 Remington Necked and is augmented with a single set trigger.
George Causey: Sharps, .44-90, ten-pound gun -Sharps, 45-long shell, 16 pounds
John Goff: Sharps, .44 caliber

1878
Tom Dorin: Sharps Rifle
Jim White: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 16 pound, 3 ea.
O.P. Hanna:Sharps, 16 pound
John William Poe: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 14 pound – Sharps, “Big Fifty,” 16 pound – Sharps, .45-2 7/8, 16 pound – per Miles Gilbert
John Cloud Jacobs: Sharps, “Big Fifty”

Hmaag-Winchester 1866 Musket
Winchester 1866 Musket

1881
Frank Van Alstein: Sharps, .40-2 5/8 BN – Winchester – Trade Guns
Robert Loren Chambers: Sharps, .40-2 5/8 BN – Winchester – .44 Colt – Trade Guns
Wesley Morris: Sharps, .40-2 5/8 BN – Winchester – Trade Guns
Dillon Brothers: Sharps Rifles

1882
Henry Bierman: Sharps, .45-90
Dave Hilger: Springfield – .50-70 – Springfield – .45-70 – 73 Winchester – Henry

No Specific Time Frame Identified:
George Bryan: Sharps Rifle
Lew Hopkins: Sharps, .50 caliber “Long Tom,” (?)
James Cator: Sharps, “Big Fifty,” .50 2 1/2, Hartford gun, 12 pound, part octagon/part round, 30-inch barrel, pewter tip forearm – Sharps Carbine, .50-70 – Sharps Military Rifle, .50-70 with altered front sight Spencer – .45 SAA
Jesse Hendricks: Sharps – heavy rifle – judging from the photos it was a .44-2 5/8 BN
James Guyer-Kill Wounded Buffalo: Winchester
Bates Wrenrick-Kill Wounded Buffalo: Winchester
Barney Collerarn: Sharps, .45-2 7/8, Walter Cooper Rebarrel, 16 pound, shotgun butt, DST, Cooper pewter tip forearm, 30-inch octagon barrel, Cooper rear sight – originally shipped as a medium-weight sporting rifle.
Pat Garrett: Winchester – SharpsHmaag-Henry Rifle
W.S. Glenn: Sharps
Posy Morris: Needlegun
William Robinson: Spencer
Charles Stowell: Maynard

While Sharps rifles dominate this particular list, we are quick to point out that this list comprises only 78 men who mentioned what type gun they happened to use in that particular year. For instance, William Tilghman is known to have used a .40 caliber Sharps which was later re-barreled to .50 caliber.
What we really wanted to point out is that the term “buffalo gun” is pretty ambiguous. Guns were tools, and then as now, you used the best you could afford or the best that was available. However, just between you and me, the Sharps – any heavy-barreled Sharps – will always conjure up images of a professional hunter making a “stand” on a herd of buffalo.

 

The Weight An Average Hunter Carried Afield
Hunting TripodBy Leo J. Remiger

In the Border and The Buffalo, Charlie Hart told John Cook:

“Now, John, there’s your chance. Try your hand on them now. You’ve got the wind in your favor; take a dog-trot toward camp and you can get to that big ravine just west of camp ahead of them.”

Cook wrote:

“I worked my way down off the table-land; and upon getting down to the plain I took a good sweeping trot, carrying my ’44’ in my right hand most of the time, but changing to the left hand occasionally, for a short time. Sure enough, I got to the ravine before they did. I dropped down to a sitting position, set up my rest-sticks, placed the muzzle end of the gun in the crotch, and was ready.”

This got me to thinking-what would the average buffalo hunter carry and what would that load weigh? As many different methods were used to approach buffalo as there were buffalo hunters. It was common to ride as close as possible by horse back, then approach on foot and eventually to crawl to shooting position. Some hunters could make a “stand” without moving from their original position, others were known to cover miles to get the daily quantity of buffalo.

Lets start with some hunters who mention what they carried afield:

George “Hoodoo” Brown
“Each one of those belts would hold forty-two cartridges. My gun weighed fourteen pounds; the gun and those two belts of cartridges made quite a load to carry around over those prairies….

Robert Loren Chambers

“I took my rifle [Sharps .40 2-5/8 BN] and a belt of cartridges, told the others the direction I was taking, and started out alone…
“I did not know, as I had just gone out with two belts of cartridges and shot until my supply was exhausted, or until I had finished the band of buffalo…
“Taking my knife from my belt and carrying it in my right hand, my gun in my left…

“That day, without getting up from the position in which I lay well concealed by a bunch of rocks, I killed an entire herd. In doing so, I used up two belts of cartridges and many times during the firing the gun became so hot that I could not hold it in my naked hands. I would lay it carefully in the snow until it cooled off, and then, wiping the barrel out hastily with a piece of flannel on a ramrod, I would reload and continue shooting…
“When all of that herd were down, I started out to count them (and incidentally to stretch my cramped muscles). Fifty-four ! All of the herd ! At one stand ! I was elated.
“Shaking the snow from my cartridge belt and revolver holster, and making sure that my rifle was in working order…
Tom Dorin
“With field glasses he would get the location and movement of the herd, and with gun and all the shells he could carry he would take his position and calmly await the oncoming herd…

 

Dunklee Stove Packed 1875
Dunklee Stove 1875

Unpacked Dunklee Stove
Emanual Dubbs

“Early in the morning after breakfast I would take my “Big Fifty” Sharps rifle (long shell) using 110 grains of powder, my buffalo horse, two belts of ammunition, about eighty rounds, and start ahead of one wagon and team which generally consisted of one wagon and team and four men. Riding up on the windward side of the herd out of sight of the buffalo, jump off the horse when it was no longer safe to ride any closer, drop the reins over the horses’ head, then walk as close as possible without frightening them, say three hundred or four hundred yards…
“Dubbs tightened the cinches on his saddle, pulled both six-shooters around so as to be handy to his hands, checked to be sure his belt was full of ammunition, and with his Sharps rifle across the cantle of his saddle and grasped in his right hand so he could shoot instantly…

George Reighard
George Reighard was a hunter who used two “Big Fifty” Sharp’s rifles equipped with telescopic sights.

“After I had killed about twenty-five my gun barrel became hot and began to expand. A bullet from an overheated gun does not go straight, it wobbles, so I put that gun aside and took the other. By the time that gun became hot the other had cooled, but then the powder smoke in front of me was so thick I could not see through it. There was not a breath of wind to carry it away,
and I had to crawl backward, dragging my two guns and work around to another position on the ridge…

Martin Hornecker

“The wind was coming from the north so they had not scented our camp. I went back, got my cartridge belt, rest stick and other supplies, then located a good place behind some bushes to shoot from. I set up my rest stick, a forked stick in which we used to rest the heavy gun while aiming for a shot, and waited for daylight. As soon as it was light enough for me to see the sights of my gun, I began shooting.
“I had just come in from the hunt and my six-shooter still hung at my side…

 

Robert Parrack

On the range, Parrack used a forty-five caliber Sharps, preferring it to the “Forty-fours” and “Big Fifties”. He often went afield with three hundred rounds of ammunition.

“During shooting, Parrack would use a forked stick about two feet long. It was placed on the ground with the fork turned upward. The rifle barrel was then rested in the forks to steady it….
“An alternate method was to obtain two sticks, two feet long and tie them together about five inches from one end. The longer ends were spread apart and placed in the ground and the rifle barrel was then rested in the shorter fork made by the two sticks. Since the ground was often dry and hard, a sharpened piece of steel was attached to the forked stick, the former being quite easily stuck into the earth…

Hunting Boots
Walter Frank Collinson
After a cattle drive, Collinson returned to Fort Worth, Texas in the fall of 1874. Here he purchased a bedroll, a twelve-pound, forty-four caliber Sharps rifle, shells, and a reloading outfit.  Collinson’s best stand was 121 buffalo with a few over 300 shots from a Sharps forty-five caliber, fifteen-pound gun.

What did a hunter actually carry when he was afield? Obviously, each hunter carried what he deemed appropriate for that particular outing, at a minimum I would think he would carry the following:
Rifle – Ammunition, whether cartridge belt(s) or simply a sack filled with loose cartridges – Knife – Canteen – Rest Stick – Wiping Stick
Binoculars – During other periods he may have carried: Additional Rifle – Telescope Mounted Rifle – Revolver(s)

Hunters Companion (ripping and skinning knives, steel, and scabbard)
There are so many variables involved, did he hunt alone, in pairs with another hunter, with an outfit behind him to supply extra ammunition if needed on a big stand, did he only hunt and not help skin downed animals, did he help skin downed animals, did he do his own skinning, did he employ skinners, did he only hunt afoot, did he only hunt a portion of the day – say early or late morning, did he hunt the entire day to get his quota of animals and on and on. The variables are almost endless-each hunter used techniques based on his success. But each hunter had to have a minimum of equipment to carry afield, he had to have at the very minimum a gun and ammunition.

Buffalo Guns Weight
Sharps Rifles 8-16 lbs.
Remington Rifles 8-12 lbs.
Ammunition Components Total Weight Per Cartridge
From 1877
Sharps Rifle Co. Catalog
.50-2 1/2 Sharps Straight Case – 228 grains
“Big Fifty” Bullets – 473 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 473 = 801 grains
Bullets – 425 grain Naked Naked 425 = 753 grains
Powder – 100 grains
.50-1 3/4 Sharps Straight Case – 205 grains
Bullets – 473 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 473 = 748 grains
Bullets – 425 grain Naked Naked 425 = 700 grains
Powder – 70 grains
.45-2 7/8 Sharps Straight Case – 222 grains 4
Bullets – 500 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 500 = 822 grains
Bullets – 550 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 550 = 882 grains
Powder-100-110 grains
.45-2 1/10 Sharps Straight Case – 192 grains
.45-75 Sharps Straight Bullets 420 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 420 = 682 grains
.45-70 Gov’t Bullets 400 grain Naked Naked 400 = 662 grains
Bullets 500 grain Naked Naked 500 = 762 grains
Powder – 70 grains
.44-2 5/8 BN Case – 220 grains
Bullets – 500 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 500 = 810 grains
Bullets – 520 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 520 = 845 grains
Powder – 90-105 grains
.44-2 1/4 BN Case – 198 grains
Bullets – 380 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 380 = 653 grains
Bullets – 405 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 405 = 678 grains
Powder – 75 grains
.40-2 5/8 BN Case 217 grains
.49-90 BN Bullets – 330 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 330 = 637 grains
Bullets – 370 grain Paper Patch Paper Patch 370 = 677 grains
Powder – 90 grains
Method of Carrying Ammunition
Canvas & Leather – 3 inch wide – 50 loops .60 lb.
Single Leather – 2 1/8 inch wide – 50 loops .60 lb.
Money Belt – 2 1/2 inch wide – 50 loops .75 lb.
Heavy Lined Belt – 3 1/2 inch wide – 42 loops 1.50 lb.
Heavy Harness Leather “Big Fifty” Belt – 38 loops 1.50 lb.
Single Bridle Leather with Suspender Support – Double Buckle/Tongue and 50 loops 1.75 lb.
“Fair Weather Christian” or “Thimble Belt” with 1874 Brass Buckle and 50 loops .75 lb.
Cartridge Sack – Grain Sack .25 lb.
Leather Bottom Nose Feed Bag 1.25 lb.
Saddle Bags – Civil War Era – Cavalry – Leather – Four Pocket Saddle Bag 2.25 lb.
Saddle Bags – 1874 Era (Cavalry or Western) Leather – Large Pockets 5.75 lb.
Knives & Hunters Companion
I. Wilson Sticking Knife .25 lb.
I. Wilson Ripping Knife .25 lb.
I. Wilson Skinning Knife .25 lb.
I. Wilson 12 inch Steel .70 lb.
Single Knife Scabbard .15 lb.
Hunters Companion with Harness Rivets .25 lb.
Hunters Companion with Belt, 2 Knives, and Steel 1.75 lb.
Canteen –
Bullseye Canteen without Water 1.00 lb.
Bullseye Canteen with Water 3.75 lb.
Wiping Stick
Wiping Stick without Brass Jag . 12 lb.
Rest Sticks
Rest Stick with Steel Yoke .25 lb.
Cross Stick with Leather Support .50 lb.
Binoculars
Paris – Merchant Marine Day & Night 1.50 lb.
Paris La Ville High Power Field Glasses 1.25 lb.
Paris Militaire Glasses .75 lb.
Paste Board Carrying Case & Sling Paris Merchant Marine .50 lb.
Paris Militaire Case & Sling .50 lb.
Telescopic Sight & Mounts
Malcolm Style Mounts 1.50 lb.
Revolvers
Colt 1860 Richards Mason Conversion .44 Colt 2.80 lb.
Colt 1872 Open Top .44 Colt 2.50 lb.
Colt 1873 SAA – Black Powder Frame .45 Colt 2.75 lb.
Smith & Wesson American .44 American 2.60 lb.
Smith & Wesson Schofield .45 S&W 2.60 lb.
Holsters
Civil War Flap Holster .50 lb.
Civil War – Cut Flap Holster .45 lb.
“Slim Jim” Holster .25 lb.
Double Loop – Cheap Holster .25 lb.
Double Loop – Lined Holster .50 lb.
Winter Gear
Horse Hair Mittens 1.00 lb.
Muskrat Hat .75 lb.
Buffalo Hide Coat 10.00 lb.

Now we have some information from which to evaluate what a hunter actually carried afield in order to make a “stand.” The above information is based on items in my collection, reproductions currently on the market, and in the case of ammunition, modern solid head brass. For the purposes of estimating these weights – I considered the weight of the modern brass to include the primer, card wads, grease cookies, or bullet lube of the old balloon head cases. The binoculars are pre-World War I glasses of the type similar to use during the Civil War.

So with this information, let’s take a look at some of these claims of various hunters.
George “Hoodoo” Brown: 14-pound Sharps 14.00 lbs. – 2 Belts – 42 rounds each – “Big Fifty” rounds 12.60 lbs. Total 26.60 lbs.

Robert Loren Chambers (estimated): 12-pound Sharps – .40-90 BN 12.00 lbs. – 2 Belts – 42 rounds each 9.50 lbs. – Knife and Scabbard (ripping knife and scabbard) .50 lbs. – Revolver and Holster (1873 SAA and CW Flap Holster Style) 3.25 lbs. – Wiping Stick .12 lbs. Sub Total 25.37 lbs.

Because he hunted in Montana in the winter – I included some winter gear: Horse Hide Mittens 1.00 lbs. – Muskrat Hat .75 lbs. – Buffalo Hide Coat 10.00 lbs. – Sub Total 11.75 lbs. – Total 37.12 lbs

Tom Dorin (estimated):
Unfortunately, James Guyer doesn’t mention how many buffalo Tom Dorin averaged in a stand, or the weight of his gun. So we will make some assumptions again – Dorin used a 14 lb. Sharps and shooting at 400 to 500 yards he averaged two to three shots per animal. He made a typical stand of 25 animals. He carried cross sticks, wiping stick, two belts of ammunition, canteen, and a pair of binoculars: 14 lb. Sharps – .45-2 7/8 14.00 lbs. – 2 Belts – 42 rounds each 11.25 lbs. – Wiping Stick .12 lbs. – Cross Sticks .50 lbs. – Bullseye Canteen – Full 3.75 lbs. – Binoculars 1.5 lbs. -Total 31.12 lbs

Emanual Dubbs (estimated):
Again assumptions have to be made such as the weight of the Sharps and the type of six-shooters he carried, in this case, we will presume he used a 12 lb. Sharps and carried 1860 Richards Mason Conversion revolvers, although he probably used 1860 percussion Army revolvers – hence the reason for two of them. 12 lb. Sharps – “Big Fifty” 12.00 lbs. – 2 Belts – 40 rounds each 9.70 lbs. – 2 1860 Richards Mason Conversions – and 2 “Slim Jim” Holsters 6.10 lbs. – Total 27.80 lbs 

George Reighard (estimated):
Assumptions again, but to make this interesting, let’s presume George Reighard used 12 lb. Sharps with telescopic sights, carried two belts of ammunition, a wiping stick, cross sticks, binoculars, ripping knife, revolver, and a full canteen.
2 ea. 12 lb. Sharps – “Big Fifty” with Telescopic Sights 27.00 lbs. – 2 Belts – 42 rounds each 12.60 lbs. – Wiping Stick .12 lbs. – Cross Sticks .50 lbs. – Binoculars with carrying case 2.00 lbs. – Ripping Knife with Scabbard .40 lbs. – Colt 1860 Richards Mason Conversion – with CW Flap Holster 3.20 lbs – Bullseye Canteen full of water 3.75 lbs
Total 49.57 lbs

Even though it is an imaginary load – what a load to carry when putting the “sneak” on a herd of buffalo! One more example to see where we’re going with this – Walter “Frank” Collinson. He killed 121 buffalo with 300 shots and carried a 15-pound Sharps.
Frank Collinson: 
15 lb. Sharps 15.00 lbs. – 300 .45-2 7/8 cartridges 37.80 lbs. – Sub Total 52.80 lbs.

Now if we add the minimum items like a wiping stick, cross sticks, a full canteen, something to carry the ammunition in we come to this total: Wiping Stick .12 lbs. – Cross Sticks .50 lbs. – Bullseye Canteen full of water 3.75 lbs. Nose Feed Bag with Leather Bottom 1.25 lbs. – Sub Total 5.62 lbs. – Total 58.42 lbs.

It really is amazing isn’t it ?