Who was Turner anyway?

Who was Turner anyway?

Click on this image to find out who Turner was.

Field Musicians Wanted!

A Turner Bugler, 2004

Click on this image to learn about opportunities as a bugler, fifer or drummer with the Turner Brigade.

How to Choose a Rifle


November-December 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Sunday, November 9, 1862.

How to Choose a Rifle.

[From the Atlantic Monthly, for November.]

The first piece of advice I would offer to a novice in search of a gun is, “Don’t be in a hurry.”

The demand is such that a buyer is constantly urged to close a bargain by the assurance that it may be his last chance to secure such a weapon as the one he is examining—and great numbers of mere toys have thus been forced upon purchasers, who, if they ever practice enough to acquire a taste for shooting, will send them to the auction-room, and make another effort to procure a gun suited to their wants. Several new patterns of guns have been produced within the last year, some of which are very attractive in their appearance, and to an inexperienced person seem to possess sufficient power for any service them may ever be called on to perform. They are well finished, compact, light and pretty. A Government Inspector, indeed, would be apt to make discoveries of “malleable iron,” which would cause their instant rejection, but which in reality constitutes no ground of objection to guns whose parts are not required to be interchangeable. They might be described as “well adapted for ladies’ use, or for boys learning to shoot;” but it gave me a sickening sense of the inexperience of many a noble hearted youth who may have entered the service from the purest motives of patriotism, when a dealer, who was exhibiting one of these parlor weapons, with a caliber no larger than a good sized pea, informed me that he had sold a great many to young officers, being so light that they could be carried slung on the back almost as easily as a pistol. It is with no such kid glove tools as these that so many of our officers have been picked off by Southern sharpshooters. At a long range they are useless; at close quarters, which is the only situation when an officer actually needs firearms, a revolver is far preferable. I know of no rifle so well adapted to an officer’s use as Colt’s carbine—of eighteen or twenty-one inch barrel, and not less than forty-four one-hundredths of an inch caliber. It may be depended upon for six hundred yards, the short barrel renders its manipulation easy in a close fight, and the value of the repeating principle at such a time can be estimated only by that of life.


If the gun is wanted for military service nothing better than the Enfield can be procured; but if the purchaser proposed to study the niceties of the practice, and to enter into it with a keen zest, he will need a very different style of gun. A caliber large enough for a round ball of fifty to the pound, or an elongated shot of about half an ounce, is sufficient for six hundred yards; and a gun of that caliber, with a thirty-inch barrel, and a weight of about ten pounds, is better suited to the general wants of purchasers than any other size. In this part of the country it is by no means easy to find a place where shooting can be safely practiced even at so long a range as five hundred yards—which is sixty yards more than a quarter of a mile. It is always necessary to have an attendant at the target to point out the shots, and even then the shooter needs a telescope to distinguish them. For ordinary purposes, therefore, the caliber I have indicated is all sufficient; but if a gun is wanted to for shooting up to one thousand yards, the shot would be a full ounce weight. These are points which each man must determine for himself, and, having done so, let him go to any gun-maker of established reputation, and, before giving his order, let him study and compare the different forms of stocks, till he finds what is required for his peculiar physical conformation—and giving directions accordingly, he will probably secure a weapon whose merits he will not appreciate till he has attained a degree of skill which is the results of long continued practice.


But never buy a gun, and least of all a rifle, without trying it; and do not be satisfied with a trial in a shop or shooting gallery, but take it into the field; and if you distrust yourself, get some one in whom you have confidence to try it for you. Choose a perfectly calm day. Have a rest prepared upon which not only the gun may be laid, but a support may also be had for the elbows, the shooter being seated. By this means, and with the aid of globe and peek sights, (which should always be used in trying a gun,) it may as certainly be held in the same position at every shot as if it were clamped in a machine. For your target take a sheet of cartridge paper and draw on it a circle of a foot, and, inside of that, another of four inches in diameter. Paint the space between the rings black, and you will then have a black ring four inches wide surrounding a white four inch bull’s eye, more distinctly seen than if it were black. Place the target so that when shooting you may have the sun on your back. On a very bright day, brown paper is better for a target than white. Begin shooting at one hundred yards and fire ten shots, with an exact aim at the bull’s eye, wiping out the gun after each shot. Do not look to see where you hit, till you have fire your string of ten shots, for, if you do, you will be tempted to alter your aim and make allowance for the variation, whereas your object is not to hit the bull’s eye, but to prove the shooting of the gun; and if you find, when you get through, that all the shots are close together, you may be sure the gun shoots well, though they may be at considerable distance from the bull’s eye. That would only prove that the line of sight was not coincident with the line of fire, which can be easily rectified by moving the forward sight to the right or left, according as the variation was on one side or the other. Having fired your string of ten shots, taking a pair of dividers, with a radius equal to half the distance between the two hits most distant from each other, describe a circle cutting through the center of each of those hits. From the center of this circle measured the distance to each of these hits, add these distances together and divide the sum by ten, and you have the average variation, which ought not to be over two inches at the utmost, and if the gun is what it ought to be, and fired by a good marksman, would probably be much less. This is a sufficient test of the precision for that distance, and the same method may be adopted for longer ranges.