Krag Rifle

The Krag-Jørgensen is a repeating bolt action rifle designed by the Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen in the late 19th century. It was adopted as a standard arm by Denmark, the United States of America and Norway.

A distinctive feature of the Krag-Jørgensen action was its magazine. While many other rifles of its era used an integral box magazine loaded by a charger or stripper clip, the magazine of the Krag-Jørgensen was integral with the receiver (the part of the rifle that houses the operating parts), featuring an opening on the right hand side with a hinged cover. Instead of a charger, single cartridges were inserted through the side opening, and were pushed up, around, and into the action by a spring follower.

The design presented both advantages and disadvantages compared with a top-loading "box" magazine. A similar claw type clip would be made for the Krag that allowed the magazine to be loaded all at once, also known as the Krag "Speedloader magazine". Normal loading was one cartridge at a time, and this could be done more easily with a Krag than a rifle with a "box" magazine. In fact, several cartridges can be dumped into the opened magazine of a Krag at once with no need for careful placement, and when shutting the magazine-door the cartridges are forced to line up correctly inside the magazine. The design was also easy to "top off", and unlike most top-loading magazines, the Krag-Jørgensen's magazine could be topped up without opening the rifle's bolt. The relative complexity of manufacturing this magazine has been suggested as a reason why many countries did not adopt the Krag-Jørgensen. For others, the magazine's features likely aided adoption.

The Krag was not used on a wide scale and doesn't show up in photos. BUT Sid Hatfield purchased 10,000 rounds of 30.40 Krag ammo for sale at his store in Matewan after the massacre, so some miners had them. At the time of the battle, they were just starting to show up on the civilian market. Odds are more likely that they were used by Chafin's militia more than the miner's themselves.

Pump Action Shot Guns

The action that replaced the lever action design is the pump action shotgun design. The first popular ones of this type were the Winchester M1893 and M1897 models, which were designed by John Browning! It must be noted that when Winchester originally asked Browning to design a repeating shotgun in the 1880s, he had argued that a pump-action mechanism shotgun would be the most appropriate design, but Winchester was a lever-action manufacturing company, so they persuaded him to design a lever-action shotgun. However, they did later manufacture his pump-action design as the Winchester model M1893, which was later improved to the model M1897. It must be noted that the M1897 shotgun gained so much popularity that it was used by US soldiers in World War I, where it was found very useful for trench fighting. Its quick shooting speed and the fact that the spread of buckshot could hit multiple enemies at once with minimal aiming, made it a very effective weapon for US soldiers to have. In fact, the German troops feared this weapon greatly and the German High Command even attempted to have it outlawed in combat, by citing Geneva convention laws (this coming from the same people that allowed the use of poison gas!). The pump-action shotgun design is still popular to this day.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm  Comments Off on Pump Action Shot Guns  
Tags: , , , ,

Colt Single Action Army

One of several revolvers found in use by the miners at Blair Mountain.

The Colt Single Action Army — also known as the Model P, Peacemaker, M1873, Single Action Army, SAA, and Colt 45 — is a single action revolver with a revolving cylinder holding six metallic cartridges. It was designed for the U.S. government service revolver trials of 1872 by Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and was adopted as the standard military service revolver until 1892.

The Colt Single Action Army revolver (along with the 1870 and 1875 Smith and Wesson Model 3 (“Schofield”) revolvers) replaced the Colt 1860 Army Percussion revolver. The Colt quickly gained favor over the S&W and remained the primary US military sidearm until 1892 when it was replaced by the .38 Long Colt caliber Colt Model 1892, a double action revolver with swing-out cylinder. By the end of 1874, serial no. 16,000 was reached; 12,500 Colt Single Action Army revolvers chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge had entered service and the remaining revolvers were sold in the civilian market.

The Colt Bisley was introduced in 1894 as a target pistol. The most common calibers were .32-20, .38-40, .45 Colt, .44-40, .41 Colt, and the British calibers .450 Eley and .455 Eley. The total number of 44,350 were manufactured. The production of the Bisley was terminated in 1912, but the serial No. 331916 was shipped after the First World War. Most Bisley Standard Model Revolvers which were shipped to a United States address were not used for target shooting but for self-defense because the grip and hammer were ideal for fast shooting.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm  Comments Off on Colt Single Action Army  
Tags: , , , ,

M1917 revolver

A common sidearm used by both the miners, US military, and police.

The M1917 Revolver (formally United States Revolver, Caliber .45, M1917) was a U.S. six-shot revolver of .45 ACP caliber. It was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1917 to supplement the standard M1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol during World War I. Afterwards, it was primarily used by secondary and non-deployed troops. There were two variations of the M1917, one from Colt and one from Smith&Wesson.

Colt had until recently produced a revolver for the U.S. Army called the M1909, a version of their heavy-frame, .45-caliber, New Service model in .45 Long Colt to supplement and replace a range of 1890s-era .38 caliber Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers that had demonstrated inadequate stopping power during the Philippine-American War. The Colt M1917 Revolver was essentially the same as the M1909 with a cylinder bored to take the .45 ACP cartridge and the half-moon clips to hold the rimless cartridges in position. Later production Colt M1917 revolvers had headspacing machined into the cylinder chambers, just as the Smith & Wesson M1917 revolvers had from the start. Newer Colt production could be fired without the half-moon clips, but the empty cartridge cases had to be ejected with a device such as a cleaning rod or pencil, as the cylinder extractor and ejector would pass over the rims of the rimless cartridges.

The Smith & Wesson Model 1917 was essentially an adaptation of that company’s Second Model .44 Hand Ejector, chambered instead for .45 ACP, employing a shortened cylinder allowing for use of half-moon clips, and a lanyard ring on the butt of the frame. Smith & Wesson had recently (c. 1915-16) produced the Hand Ejector, which uses their heavy .44 caliber frame, for the British Army in .455 Webley caliber due to shortages in British production facilities of standard-issue Webley Mk VI top-break revolvers.

The S&W M1917 is distinguishable from the Colt M1917 in that the S&W cylinder had a shoulder machined into it to permit rimless .45 ACP cartridges to headspace on the case mouth (as with automatic pistols). The S&W M1917 could thus be used without the half-moon clips, though the empty cases would have to be poked-out manually through the cylinder face, since the extractor star cannot engage the rimless cases.

After the First World War, M1917s became popular on the civilian and police market. Some were military surplus. Others were newly manufactured. Smith and Wesson kept their version in production, for civilian and police sales, until they replaced it with their Model 1950 Target.

Many civilian shooters disliked using half-moon clips. Loading and unloading the clips is tedious but obviates refilling the chamber with single rounds. Bent clips can cushion the firing pin strike and cause ignition problems.For these reasons, in 1920, the Peters ammunition company introduced the .45 Auto Rim. This rimmed version of the .45 ACP allowed both versions of the Model 1917 revolver to fire reliably without the clips.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm  Comments Off on M1917 revolver  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Trapdoor” Springfield

The Trapdoor Springfields were a common surplus weapon found on the civilian market at stores like Sears. Many lead tipped bullets have been found at Blair Mountain suggesting that these sorts of weapons saw usage in the ranks of the miners.

The Model 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfield was the first standard-issued breech-loading rifle adopted by the United States Army (although the Model 1866 trapdoor had seen limited issue to troops along the Bozeman Trail in 1867). The gun, in both full-length and carbine versions, was widely used in the Black Hills War and in subsequent battles against the American Indians.

The rifle was originally issued with a copper cartridge and used in the American West during the second half of the 19th century, but the soldiers soon discovered that the copper expanded excessively in the breech upon firing. This sometimes jammed the rifle by preventing extraction of the fired cartridge case. A jam required manual extraction with a knife blade or similar tool, and could render the carbine version of the weapon, which had no ramrod to remove stuck cases, useless in combat except as a club or bayonet.

After the annihilation of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s battalion at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876, investigations revealed that jamming of their carbines may have played a factor. The cartridge was subsequently redesigned with a brass case, since that material did not expand as much as copper. This proved to be a major improvement, and brass became the primary material used in United States military cartridges from then to the present.

The Model 1884 incorporated a significant number of improvements that had been made between 1878 and 1879. It also featured a serrated trigger that had been incorporated into the Springfield rifle design in 1883.
The most dramatic change to the rifle design, which is often considered to be the identifying feature of the model 1884, was a new rear sight which had been designed by Lieutenant Colonel R. A. Buffington of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department. This sight however was not perfected until 1885.

The principle feature of this new sight was a rack and pinion style windage adjustment. Unlike previous sights, the base was not used for any position other than point blank. The raised leaf had graduations from 200 to 1400 yards. A new barrel band was also designed to accommodate this new sight so that it could lay flat in the point black position.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm  Comments Off on “Trapdoor” Springfield  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

M1903 Springfield

The 1903 Springfield was the preferred weapon of the miners; however, it only saw limited usage by them. It was one of the many small arms used by the Logan defenders on a wide scale and to a limited extent, the guards at mines.

The M1903 Springfield, formally the United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903, is an American clip-loaded, 5-shot, bolt-action service rifle used primarily during the first half of the 20th century. It was officially adopted as a United States military bolt-action rifle on June 21, 1905, and saw service in World War I.

The basic time line is that work began on creating a rifle that could handle higher loads and adopted some of Mauser’s features, began around the turn of the 20th century by Springfield, with a prototype produced in 1900, and going into production in 1903, thus gaining its nomenclature. There was actually an interim rifle that almost entered production, the Model 1901. Springfield was sure enough that the Model 1901 would be accepted that they began making some parts, but it was not accepted and further changes were asked for. The design was further modified and accepted, type classified and entering production in 1903.

The War Department had exhaustively studied and dissected several examples of the Spanish Mauser Model 93 rifle captured during the Spanish-American War, and applied some features of the U.S. Krag rifle to a bolt and magazine system derived from the Mauser Model 93, to produce the new U.S. Springfield Rifle, the Model 1903. Despite Springfield Armory’s use of a two-piece firing pin and other slight design alterations, the 1903 was in fact a Mauser design, and after that company brought suit, the U.S. government was forced to pay royalties to Mauser Werke.

By the time of U.S. entry into World War I, 843,239 of these rifles had been produced at Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal. Pre-war production utilized questionable metallurgy. Some receivers were improperly subjected to excessive temperatures during the forging process. The carbon could be “burnt” out of the steel producing a brittle receiver. Despite documented evidence indicating some early rifles were improperly forged, actual cases of failure were very rare.

Towards the end of the war, Springfield turned out the Model 1903 Mark I. The Mark I has a cut on the left hand side of the receiver meant to act as an ejection port for the Pedersen device, a modified sear and cutoff to operate the Pedersen device; a specialized insert that replaced the bolt and allowed the user to fire .30 caliber pistol cartridges semi-automatically from a detachable magazine. The stock was also slightly cut down on the left side to clear the ejection port. In all other respects, the Mark I is identical to the 1903. Temperature control during forging was improved prior to Mark I production. The receiver alloy was toughened by addition of nickel after Mark I production.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm  Comments Off on M1903 Springfield  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Winchester rifles

In common usage, Winchester rifle usually means any of the lever-action rifles manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, though the company has also manufactured many rifles of other action types.

These firearms were inspired by the Henry Repeater Rifles used during the Civil War by certain Union regiments.

From 1883, John Moses Browning worked in partnership with Winchester, designing a series of rifles and shotguns, most notably the lever-action Winchester Model 1886, Model 1892, Model 1894, and Model 1895 rifles, along with the lever-action Model 1887/1901 shotgun, the pump-action Model 1890 rifle, and the pump-action Model 1893/1897 shotgun.

While all of these were in use at Blair Mountain, the M1894 and M1895 were the ones with widest use.

The Winchester Model 1894 was the first commercial repeating rifle built to be used with smokeless powder. The 1894 was originally chambered to fire 2 metallic black powder cartridges, the .32-40 Winchester and .38-55 Winchester. In 1895 Winchester went to a different steel composition for rifle manufacturing that could handle higher pressure rounds and offered the rifle in .25-35 Winchester and .30-30 Winchester. The .30-30 Winchester, or .30WCF (Winchester Centerfire), is the cartridge that has become synonymous with the Model 1894.

The Winchester 1894’s design allowed the cycling of longer cartridges than the Winchester 1892 carbines could permit. When the lever is pulled down, it brings the bottom of the receiver with it, opening up more space and allowing a longer cartridge to feed without making the receiver longer. The mechanism is complex but very reliable. Complete stripping of the action is a multi-stage task that must be accomplished in precise sequence. However it is rarely necessary to completely strip the action.

The Winchester Model 1895 has the distinction of being the first Winchester lever-action rifle to load from a box magazine instead of a tube under the barrel. This allowed the Model 1895 to be chambered for military cartridges with spitzer (pointed) projectiles, and the rifle was used by the armed forces of a number of nations including the United States, Great Britain, and Imperial Russia. Calibers included .30-40 Krag (.30 US or .30 Army), .303 British, .30-03 Springfield, .30-06 Springfield, 7.62mm Russian, and the mighty .405 Winchester. Teddy Roosevelt used a Model 1895 in .405 on African safari. In 1908 the 1895 Winchester became the first commercially produced sporting rifle chambered in .30-06 (then called “.30 Gov’t 06”).

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm  Comments Off on Winchester rifles  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Shot Guns

Many miners were armed with shot guns since they could be bought for decent prices. Remington sold them for around $10.00. Many of these could have been old heirlooms. Both hammerless and hammered shots were in use.

Hammered shot guns have two S-shaped pieces. To cock the shotgun, the user pulls back the hammers using the long spurs at the end of the hammer, until they lock when pulled back. Then the user applies a percussion cap to each of the brass nipples of the shotgun. When the user pulls a trigger, the hammer is released. Due to a spring attached to the hammer, the hammer strikes the percussion cap with considerable force, which detonates it and then discharges the firearm. This sort of design has existed since the earliest shotguns.

In the 1830s, the first hammerless shotgun was developed by a Prussian gunmaker named Dreyse.

The next advances were by English gunmakers in the late 1850s and early 1860s. In these versions, a long lever is placed in front of the triggers. This lever can be pushed out to cock the internal hammers and eject the old cartridges and then folded back into place. Many of the early hammerless shotguns used a plan like this.

During the period of 1875 to 1878, several London and Birmingham gunmakers attempted to make self-cocking guns, which would get cocked automatically upon opening the breech. The first successful hammerless action of this type was the Anson and Deeley action, which was invented in 1875. This basic design quickly became the dominant form of hammerless action and has remained almost unchanged to the present day. Since the original design had only 4 moving parts, it was cheaper and more reliable, which contributed to its popularity.

In America, the first hammerless design was by Daniel LeFever in 1878. Like the early European designs, his shotguns had a separate lever to manually cock the shotgun. In 1883, he improved his hammerless design so that the separate lever was no longer needed. Unlike the European designs which would cock the internal hammers upon opening the breech, his design would cock the internal hammers upon closing the breech. He also later patented an automatic ejector which would eject the old cartridges when the breech was opened.

Common on the civilian market in this era were so called “Zulu rifles.” Most of these weapons were former European military weapons, generally Snider-Enfield design, used in France and Belgium. Originally, many of these weapons were muzzle loaded percussion muskets; then converted to breech loader by adding a Snider hinged action; next, most were sold to Belgian surplus dealers who cut down the stocks and bored the barrels smooth or rebarreled with a shot gun barrel. Sold as cheap shot guns and called “Zulu” to invoke images of fierce warriors hunting in the wilds of South Africa. Sold all over the world by ALFA and in this country by Sears during the 1880s and into the new century.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm  Comments Off on Shot Guns  
Tags: , , ,

Vetterlis Rifle

The Vetterlis Rifle was a common surplus military rifle that showed up in the markets of the United States from the early 1900s to the 1950s.

The Vetterli rifles were a series of Swiss army service rifles in use from 1869 to circa 1890.

They combined the American M1866 Winchester rifle’s tubular magazine and a bolt system derived from the German Dreyse needle gun. They were also the first repeating rifle to feature a self-cocking action and a small caliber. Due to the Swiss Federal Council’s early 1866 decision to equip the army with a breechloading repeating rifle, the Vetterli rifles were at the time of their introduction the most advanced military rifles in Europe.

So how do these weapons show up in the United States? Thanks to the historical coincidence of the Swiss need for cash and the insatiable demand of an agrarian and frontier America for cheap guns. They were sold to large mail-order retail companies, who then in turn peddled them to American farmers as a cheap, reliable, well-made utility rifle. Sears bought guns by the ton, literally at scrap-metal prices, and sold them in staggering numbers at prices as low as $7.25.

Published in: on March 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm  Comments Off on Vetterlis Rifle  
Tags: , , , , ,

Miners Underground

A photo of miners from the early 20th century. Note the Carbide lamps in function.

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm  Comments Off on Miners Underground  
Tags: , , , , , , ,