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Not as well kNowN as the more capable .45-70, the .50 Gov’t NoNeltheless served throuGhout the early post-civil war wild west. Mike “Duke” Venturino Photos: Yvonne Venturino f all the black powder, single shot, rifle cartridges i’ve worked with since 1981, the most historical is the .50 government, aka .50-70, aka 50-1-3/4". it was the primary reason why a few dozen us soldiers defeated a horde of sioux warriors at what became known as “The Wagon Box Fight” in northern Wyoming in August 1867. When a couple dozen whites were besieged by combined Comanche, kiowa and Cheyenne, at Adobe Walls in north Texas in June 1874, the .50-70 was one of the most fired cartridges from their sharps “buffalo rifles.” O It was also the caliber of the Remington No. 1, “rolling block” rifle Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer personally carried when he led the famous 7th US Cavalry to disaster at the Little Bighorn Battle in southern Montana in June 1876. In fact it is doubtful if any substantial altercation between the US Army and Plains Indian tribes in the postCivil War era did not include .50-70 caliber rifles or carbines on one side or the other or both. All that said it is likely more .50-70 rounds were fired for hunting purposes than in combat. All of the companies making big-bore, single-shot rifles until about 1880 relied on .50-70 as one of their primary chamberings. Remington’s No. 1 “rolling block’s” introductory caliber was .50-70 and, in the legendary Sharps rifles, .50-70 was the second biggest selling chambering until 1876. Both models of rifle were prominent in the great slaughter of American bison herds during that time frame. Tens of thousands of Sharps Models 1859, 1863 and 1865 military percussion rifles and carbines were altered to .50-70 circa 1867/1868. Many of those along with ammunition were then handed out to various reservation Indians for hunting purposes. Perhaps not surprisingly, modern archaeology proved about three dozen of those “hunting” .50-70 Sharps were turned on 7th Cavalrymen at the Little Bighorn. At first glance a .50-70 cartridge will not impress anyone. It is stubby and doesn’t look overly powerful when compared to other black powder cartridges that appeared in the decade or so after it. In fact it isn’t overly powerful by the standards of those rounds. Military loadings were rated as driving 450-grain bullets about 1,250 fps from the long barrels of various models of “trapdoor” Springfields. Those were three: Models 1866, 1868 To one degree or the other US Models 1866, 1868 and 1870 “trapdoor” .50-70s used parts left over from Civil War musket production. Note the lockplate on Duke’s Model 1868 is dated 1863. 52 During 1867/1868 the Sharps Company converted tens of thousands of percussion Sharps carbines and rifles to .50-70 caliber. This is a converted carbine. This is a Remington rolling block No. 1 .50-70 designated Model 1871 by the US Government and used briefly by the army. W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • O C T O B E R 2 0 1 2

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