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Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Associated History

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The first long range tests were made at ranges of up to 1,500 yards on the Springfield Armory test range at Long Meadow, Massachusetts. These tests compared the long distance shooting and penetration performance of the .45 caliber trapdoor Springfield and the .45 caliber Martini-Henry rifles.

The Springfield rifle weighed about 9.6 pounds, had a rifle barrel 33 inches long with a bore diameter of .450-inch, three grooves and a right hand twist and groove depth of .005-inch. It fired the then standard Service round consisting of the 405-grain bullet in the rimmed straight case 2.1 inches long with 70 grains of black powder giving a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1,350 feet-per-second (fps). With the same weight of bullet and a charge of 85 grains of powder, the MV was 1,480 fps.

The British Army .450-577 Martini-Henry lever-operated, drop-block action was far stronger than the Allin trapdoor breech. The Martini-Henry weighed about 9½ pounds, had a barrel 33 inches long with a right-hand twist, seven groove bore. The bore diameter was .450, and the groove diameter was .463. The .450-577 Martini-Henry cartridge was a muscular creation. It was based upon a sharply necked-down and lengthened .577-inch Snider case, loaded with a 480-grain lead bullet of .445 diameter, backed by 85 grains of black powder for a muzzle velocity of 1,253 fps.

The following table gives the angles of elevation for these loads from the actual test firings at 1,000 and 1,500 yards. Accuracy firings of the rifles were made at 300, 500 and 1,000 yards.

SPRINGFIELD and MARTINI-HENRY
 
ANGLES OF ELEVATION
    1,000 yards 1,500 yards
.45-85-405 Springfield Long Range 2d 40' 53" 4d 35' 34"
.45-70-405 Springfield Service 3d 6' 37" 5d 20' 4"
.45-85-480 Martini-Henry 3d 18' 36" 5d 41' 24"
       
VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL SHOT DISPERSION AT 1,000 YARDS
  Mean
Horizontal
Mean
Vertical
Mean
Radius
Springfield 9.23" 16.8" 19.1"
Martini-Henry 10.9" 14.55" 18.2"

 

Though there is no direct relationship between mean radius and group size figures, a mean radius of 18 to 19 inches would probably translate into a group size of between 55 and 70 inches. Old Ordnance records show that when fired from a machine rest the .45 Springfield was expected to group all of its bullets inside a 4-inch circle at 100 yards, in a 11-inch bull's-eye at 300 yards, and inside a 27-inch circle at 500 yards.

At 1,000 and 1,500 yards, as expected, the mean vertical figures are considerably larger than the mean horizontal. (See the above table.) This is the result of variations in muzzle velocity, which gives this dispersion at long range, and also the effect of the high trajectory of these rifle bullets since the target is perpendicular to the ground, while the bullet is descending at an angle.