Seven practice rounds per year!


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El Tejon
April 27, 2005, 01:06 PM
Relaxing at Alcazar del Tejon last night by reading the recent edition of the Indiana Shooting Sports News. In this issue there was an article dicussing the Distinguished Marksman Badge which referenced the "fact" that General Custer's troopers were only allowed seven rounds of ammunition for training.

The article gave no citation. Anyone else seen reference to this contention?

TIA.

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enfield303
April 27, 2005, 01:21 PM
Seventh Cav, seven rounds..... They used a Springfield Carbine in .45-70, right? Maybe that was all they WANTED to shoot. :D

Langenator
April 27, 2005, 02:49 PM
Well, all the rounds they fired at the Indians weren't practice...those were 'operations' and come from a totally different budget.

Gordon Fink
April 27, 2005, 04:02 PM
Military authorities long worried about common soldiers wasting ammunition.

~G. Fink

Gunpacker
April 27, 2005, 04:06 PM
Well, if that is true, I bet Custer's last words were, "I should have let them practice more."

steveno
April 27, 2005, 07:07 PM
I doubt the amount of practice ammo had much affect on the out come at the Little Big Horn

Daniel964
April 27, 2005, 07:26 PM
"I should have let them practice more."

Oh my gosh. That is so funny. LOL

scout26
April 27, 2005, 07:51 PM
I thought Custer's last words were:

"Holy Cr@p !!!! Where did all those Indians come from ???" :what: :what: :what:

FRIENDLY
April 27, 2005, 08:06 PM
There was another problem Custer had and it was the early 45/70 cartridges had a jamming and tearing tendency so that the trooper had to cut or gouge the case out of the breech in the middle of the battle.distinctly worrying I would think

Waitone
April 27, 2005, 09:30 PM
IIRC Custer's real problems were based in the Native Americans possessing genuine Winchesters whilst his troops had singleshot carbines. The world's best calvary was not too bad an infantry unit either.

Vern Humphrey
April 27, 2005, 09:54 PM
[quote]IIRC Custer's real problems were based in the Native Americans possessing genuine Winchesters whilst his troops had singleshot carbines. The world's best calvary was not too bad an infantry unit either.[\quote]

If you look at the terrain, a well-handled unit of sharpshooters armed with .45-70 single shots should have been able to hold the indians out of carbine range.

We know that at Reno's ridge, the indians were unable to close, and at one point a group of them some 600 yards away were driven off by a single sergeant armed with a Sharps rifle.

Poor marksmanship did play a role in the defeat.

Roadkill
April 27, 2005, 11:16 PM
The thought of all men of that era being natural shots having grown up with a gun is incorrect, most were first generation immigrants who had never handled a firearm until they joined the Army. Few systems are more inefficient than a peacetime army, have lots of manpower, lots of time, no money. They would spend five hours a day standing inspection and polishing saddles and harness but would not have target practice. Every cartridge was counted daily. The brass inconsistency and chamber variations also caused problems. They were shooting black powder, result was that the bore and chamber fouled quickly which increased recoil and caused extraction problems. The experienced troopers retained a metal cleaning rod to knock the brass out of the chamber.

rk

Bart Noir
April 28, 2005, 03:35 PM
The experienced troopers retained a metal cleaning rod to knock the brass out of the chamber.
That worked for Infantry, since the cleaning rod had a nice home in the fore-stock. But the Cav carbines don't have a place for a solid cleaning rod. Did anybody make nicely threaded screw-together cleaning rods back then?

There was another problem Custer had and it was the early 45/70 cartridges had a jamming and tearing tendency so that the trooper had to cut or gouge the case out of the breech in the middle of the battle.

And if they had done serious practice, a whole regiment skirmishing and firing 40 or 50 shots in 30 minutes (each, I mean), they would have found out a lot more about the jamming in a hot, dirty gun. Just maybe the Colonels would have screamed enough that the troops would have had more modern drawn-brass cartridges in time for Custer's fight.

Bart Noir

Texian Pistolero
April 28, 2005, 03:53 PM
Political embarrassment from the Custer fiasco sparked major reforms in the U.S. Army. Prior to that time, there were no basic training schools. All training was OJT at the unit. This gradually got better.

It is important to remember how "poor" the U.S. was back then. Untill after WWII, the U.S. Army in peacetime always sucked "hind teat".
Even in 19th Century Europe, I doubt if very many peacetime armies got much range time back in those days.

Also, it was very rare for soldiers to actually have any Indians to chase. Most of the time, there were just seeing their dust in the distance. The Little Big Horn was a BIG exception. Custer's last thought was probably, "Why is that dust I'm chasing coming BACK AT me?"

Actually, things don't change much. I was the Army in the late '70's. At the unit, live fire was only annual qualification on M-16, I forget how few rounds that was. We did go bang-bang in the woods with a lot of blanks.

Let me correct the above statement. I now recall at least one platoon or individual moveout live fire drill a year in some place like Graf.

But in the 70's the army was still in the toilet (to the public) after Vietnam. Most first term soldiers dis not reenlist. Since we moved into the '80's and 90's, and the AVERAGE soldier became much more professional and prone to reup, it makes a lot of sense to spend the bucks to make the soldier uber professional in every skill.

Vern Humphrey
April 28, 2005, 04:00 PM
That worked for Infantry, since the cleaning rod had a nice home in the fore-stock. But the Cav carbines don't have a place for a solid cleaning rod. Did anybody make nicely threaded screw-together cleaning rods back then?

Correct -- Captain French, commanding M Company, carried an Infantry "Long Tom" in caliber .50-70. He tells of passing it down the firing line repeatedly to knock out stuck cases. (M Company, along with A and G, were under Reno, and made the ride back across the river to Reno's Ridge.)

Not until 1879 were carbines with butt traps and jointed rods issued.

By then, of course, the problem was solved -- it was an issue of metalurgy. Early cases were copper. Switching to brass was the answer.

And if they had done serious practice, a whole regiment skirmishing and firing 40 or 50 shots in 30 minutes (each, I mean), they would have found out a lot more about the jamming in a hot, dirty gun. Just maybe the Colonels would have screamed enough that the troops would have had more modern drawn-brass cartridges in time for Custer's fight.

The kind of intensive tactical training we have in the modern Army is a very new thing. Even in the 1960s, we didn't have much in the way of realistic live-fire training.

But you are right -- life fire tactical training would have uncovered a lot of problems, including the inadequate sights on the carbine, the jamming problem, fire control issues and so on.

AZ Jeff
April 28, 2005, 07:04 PM
Back about 15 years ago, the Custer battlefield had a major grassfire, the largest of it's magnitude since the battle in 1876. The Natl Park Service worked with some universities to do a detailed archeological sweep of the battlefield, now that the surface was free of the relatively tall prairie grasses.

They found NUMEROUS bullets and cartridge cases, both from the soldiers and from the Indians. In fact the were able to track individual weapons from the firing pin strikes on the cartridges in some cases.

The conclusion of their forensic archeology was the Custer's men were:
1. shocked by the change in strategy by the Indians, who, in times past, ran when confronted by cavalry forces
2. relatively undisciplined in the control under fire. Once the skirmish line yielded under pressure from the Indians, it completely collapsed quickly. The first companies of soldiers to collapse under the attack (on the eastern flank) then ran towards the middle companies, who in turn, upon collapse, ran to where Custer and the command company were on the western flank.

Also, the grass must have been tall enough for the Indians to close the distance fairly well, to where their relatively poorer marksmanship (and guerilla tactics) made them the equals of the soldiers.

Footnote: during the archeology work, they discovered the remains of at least one soldier down one of the coulees that had apparently been missed by the burial detail that arrived after the battle. He had lain in that position, undiscovered, since the battle.

Vern Humphrey
April 28, 2005, 07:29 PM
The evidence uncovered by this incident sheds a lot of light on the battle (although don't rely on the History Channel's version -- they like to hoke things up.)

There had actually been a major battle earlier, the Battle of the Rosebud on the 17th of June, where Crook's Column had been fought to a standstill. This was fought a week earlier than Custer's fight, and within a day's ride of the Little Bighorn battlefield. However, neither Custer nor his commander, Terry, knew about it.

Custer's main failure was in synchronizing his attack -- with 12 companies, he never managed to get more than three of them into action at any one time.
Once in action, however, Custer handled his forces fairly well, dropping off a company at a time to hold the Indians until the main body could reach a defensive position -- but none of the companies dropped off lasted long enough to do any good.

The discovered body was identified -- I forget the name, but he was an Irish immigrant, from Reno's force, as I recall.

AZ Jeff
April 28, 2005, 07:39 PM
Vern, my recollections weren't from the History Channel, but from a book published by (I think), the University of Nebraska press.

In the book, the evidence suggested that, once the eastern companies began to crumble under a serious prolonged attack by the Indians, they fell back to the center companies, who then also rapidly crumbled.

And you are 100% correct that Custer's biggest mistake was not coordinating his multiple companies correctly.

In any case, the evidence that the Trapdoor Springfield in it's carbine guise (shooting the copper cased ammo) played any part in the 7th's demise is limited at best.

As noted, markmanship practice at the time, was limited, at best, so I am sure that it did not help matters at all. The real culprit was communication and coordination (or lack thereof.)

Vern Humphrey
April 28, 2005, 07:50 PM
Vern, my recollections weren't from the History Channel, but from a book published by (I think), the University of Nebraska press.

I didn't mean to suggest you did -- but for the general readership, the History Channel's series on science and history leaves a LOT to be desired.

In the book, the evidence suggested that, once the eastern companies began to crumble under a serious prolonged attack by the Indians, they fell back to the center companies, who then also rapidly crumbled.

That's been a given for more than a hundred years -- you can get a copy of the Little Bighorn Battlefield from the USGS, which has a topo map and the survey map of the grave sites made within a few years of the battle. The formations of the companies are easily seen on the map (the men were buried where they fell) and it is as close to a bird's eye view of any battle up to the Battle of 76 Easting in the Gulf War.

And you are 100% correct that Custer's biggest mistake was not coordinating his multiple companies correctly.

In any case, the evidence that the Trapdoor Springfield in it's carbine guise (shooting the copper cased ammo) played any part in the 7th's demise is limited at best..

Yes -- some cases with knife marks were found, but not as many as one might expect.

On the other hand, the US Park Service was surprised to find so few .45 Colt cartridge cases -- until someone pointed out that pistols were used for close range fighting, and a soldier who fired his last shot was unlikely to remain unmolested while he reloaded!

So the issue of the cases jamming in the chamber remains difficult to assess -- one or two men in a critical position might well have died whle attempting to clear jams, just as presumably a lot of men died trying to reload their Colts, and that contributed to the death of their companies.

As noted, markmanship practice at the time, was limited, at best, so I am sure that it did not help matters at all. The real culprit was communication and coordination (or lack thereof.)

Yes -- from failure to communicate between Crook's and Terry's commands to failure of Custer to produce and explain a coordinated plan for his attack, to poor handling of troops (especially by Reno), the whole fight was a comedy of errors at the command level.

No_Brakes23
April 28, 2005, 08:55 PM
One report I raid stated that many of them didn't even fire a shot. Haven't read it in years though.

Vern Humphrey
April 28, 2005, 09:09 PM
One report I raid stated that many of them didn't even fire a shot. Haven't read it in years though.

It is not uncommon for some men in combat not to fire (although not nearly so common as SLA Marshall would have us believe.) The evidence, however, for a significant percentage of the 7th Cavalry not firing is lacking -- both in the testimony of participants (Indians and soldiers) and the cartridge cases found after the prairie fire.

At the same time, the general circumstances in which men don't fire -- "Couldn't see a target" -- were lacking at the Little Bighorn. Much of the figjhting was at very close range, sometimes hand-to-hand. Almost anybody will fire under those circumstances. In fact, the British Army some 38 years later still declared that bayonet attacks were to be made with unloaded weapons -- for fear of fratricides due to wild shooting in a melee.

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