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Did General Custer's men have repeating rifles at the Little Big Horn battle?


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Keith Patton
Answered 2021-01-13 20:05:43

No they did not. But the Indians had around 300 guns divided into 47 different types. Among them there were 116 repeating rifles. 108 Henry's and 8 Winchesters. The Winchester was just a rebranded Henry, the company changed names to Winchester Repeating Arms company. They only went on sale in 1873, three years before the battle so most were the older model Henry's. They both fired a pistol round, the .44-40. The 40 was forty grains of powder. The Cavalry used the .45-50 Springfield which was slower to fire, but was more powerful and more accurate.

The Springfield was good out to 600 yards or more, its sight was graduated out to 1200 yards, where the Henry was not as accurate and good out to around 200-250 yards.

The terrain allowed the Indians to creep up out of sight to within effective distance for their bows and arrows and shorter ranged repeaters and that made the difference. The indians were spread out and coming in form multiple directions while the troopers were concentrated in exposed groups on the prairie hills. Fire from the Indians at the scattered groups of 50 soldiers took its toll and the Indians were able when defensive fire slacked off to rush in and count coup with clubs and tomahawks. The close in rushes proved the weakness of the single shot carbines.

Archaeology studied and finds show that there were not many pistol cartridges found, indicating that if the troopers did get to use their pistols, they didn't have time to reload. Likely the Indians rushed in on the survivors and finished them off before they had time to draw their six guns before they were killed.

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Wiki User
Answered 2010-05-23 20:44:54

No. The Army issue was a breech loading single shot .45 caliber rifle. The spent cartridge had to be ejected manually. The Native Americans had stolen Winchester .30 caliber repeating rifles, although not that many of them. The slow reload time for the Army rifle and the overwhelming superiority of numbers of Native Americans are what determined the battle.

The native Americans had some Henry rifles,1866 Winchesters,and possibly 1873 Winchesters,44 caliber.The troopers were armed with .45-70 Springfield trapdoor rifles,infamous for when hot having the fired case swell up jamming the riles.

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