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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Has any one here read of the U.S. Cavalry back in the 1870s having a shooting qualification for hand gun ? Things like distance and group size . If any have information to share , that would be something I'd practice on . Thanks ----(of the SAA of course )
 

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The way I understand it budgets were so tight in those days that any kind of firearms practice was extremely limited.
 

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Not really.

Marksmanship concentrated on the long gun, and didn't spend much time on it, either, because ammunition allocation was so sparse.

Think of it more like today's 'Familiarization', with much more limited ammunition - and that not on a yearly basis at all.

Hell, back then, Congress even forgot to pay the troopers, so what ammunition there was, was kept for operational use and not frivolously discharged.

Soldiers didn't buy their own, either - their pay was too low for that.

What 'marksmanship' there was would happen after the Indian Wars came to a close in the latter 1880s, and with it came the medals.
 

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There was a book “Small Arms Firing Regulations” written in 1884 which included information for Calvarymen on shooting their Colt Revolver.
As mentioned above it was most likely a “how to” and “what to expect” from the revolver to make up for the shortcomings of not having a routine of live fire training.

Align sites, squeeze trigger was probably all they needed to know.
Shooting a man-sized target and hitting him anywhere, within the range you can hit him with a thrown football is far from today’s shooting and accuracy expectations.
 

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Military Marksmanship Training

Army marksmanship training in the modern sense really didn't start until after the 1876 summer campaign and the defeat of the 7th Cavalry on the Little Big Horn River.

Colonel Miles, commanding the follow on infantry force that finally forced the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes back to the reservations or to flee to Canada, read the tea leaves following that fracas properly. As a senior officer and later General of the Army, he instituted a marksmanship program that proved very successful. One can argue that the current Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) as well as the annual National Match rifle and pistol compitions are children of his foresight.

The current Distinguished Rifleman, Distinguished Pistol Shot and the Expert in Competition military badges were created when he designed the program and are still issued today and are much sought after by the top marksmen in the military. Each service has its own variation of the awards. By the way, the CMP also issues these awards to the top civilian marksmen in the National Match courses of fire at the state, regional and national levels. The civilian awards are similar to the military awards and are actually issued under congressional authority through the US Army.

If you are interested, here is a link to the CMP: Home - Civilian Marksmanship Program

Marksmanship training in the military has evolved fairly well from those days long ago on the frontier with largely untrained troops. Still, at the unit level at least, many of you here would cringe at how poorly many troops still shoot a handgun today.

Here is a photo of an exceptional army marksman of the period in question who benefited from General Miles training. Note his Distinguished Badge and EIBs, commonly called "Leg Medals." The decorations are above and obsolete the marksmanship medals or ribbons earned in basic training or at unit level qualifications. The Distinguished badges can only be earned after winning several "Leg Medals" and they are thus an acumulative award.

Dist-Mksm-SGT Coons.jpg
 

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I researched this a bit a while back when I was digging into the Battle of Little Big Horn. One theme I saw recurring in readings was the near lack of training, and some quotes to the effect that army leadership supported the lack of marksmanship training, as odd as that may sound now.

I was just scanning some of my books to see what references I could dig up. I recall somewhere I saw a good read on this very topic. If I can find those bits, I will post it and the books. Here are some links I had bookmarked in my Little Bighorn folder:


Have a look at this: https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-little-bighorn-were-the-weapons-the-deciding-factor.htm
"Marksmanship training in the frontier Army prior to the 1880s was almost nil. An Army officer recalled the 1870s with nostalgia. ‘Those were the good old days,’ he said. ‘Target practice was practically unknown.’ A penurious government allowed only about 20 rounds per year for training—a situation altered only because of the Custer disaster."

Army deficiencies prior to the Battle of Little Big Horn:
https://www.hoover.org/research/lessons-indian-wars
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Most officers, Custer included, picnicked and hunted significantly more than they trained. In the Battle of Rosebud in 1876, General Crook’s troops fired 250 rounds per Indian casualty, an appallingly low level of marksmanship. One observer of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry, quoted in Nathaniel Philbrick’s Last Stand, before Little Big Horn reported that “sending raw recruits and untrained horses to fight mounted Indians is simply sending soldiers to be slaughtered without the power of defending themselves.” "

There was a Q&A bit in True West magazine a while back that said the same - the Custer defeat spurred on more marksmanship training for soldiers.

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Now, compare that to the early Texas Rangers. I am re-reading Empire of the Summer Moon (a great book by S.C Gwynne) that discusses the Comanche empire, and has a good chunk of the reading on the rise of the Texas Rangers and the evolution of cavalry tactics. It is assumed the early Colt Patterson carrying Rangers under Jack Hays practiced mounted shooting, given their success, particularly at the Battle of Walker's Creek. However, there isn't a whole lot of recorded history on their day to day camp life, and/or training.

Now, when famous Ranger John Salmon "Rip" Ford shows up, it is noted that he armed his Rangers with two revolvers and a rifle - and they "drilled them on marksmanship and tactics... doing things the old Ranger way, the unpleasant, hard and uncomfortable way. (page 167)"

A bit of a digression on topic - but a great book, and it does contrast the success of the small contingents of Texas Rangers, versus a lot of the early deficiencies of the big army in Indian engagements.


 
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