....January 2008 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Brimstone Pistolero's "Thunder Valley, Crisis at Chimney Rock"by Professor Fuller Bullspit

What is it about black powder that is so special? It could be the historical connection with shooters of the past. I know that when I shoot cap and ball guns I gain a new insight and respect for men who fought wars with black powder and cap and ball guns. It could be the sheer kinesthetic sensory appeal. There is no denying that the thump of black powder, along with the smoke, flames and boom are a different experience than shooting smokeless powders. All of these things are part of the experience, but in my opinion, it is the people who shoot black powder that make the experience so special. I was reminded of this at the Brimstone Pistoleros Thunder Valley shoot on December 2, 2007.

Thunder Valley was held at the Lion's Pride range, home of the RR Bar regulators. This is the third year in a row that our match was held there, and I have to say, the RR Bar range just keeps getting better. In addition to the building fronts along the bay firing line, the RR Bar range now includes a town front that is parallel and across from the main firing bays. This town front provides a shaded boardwalk, several seats and tables, and best of all, well appointed restroom facilities. 

Consulting shooter's books from various End of Trails from the late 1980's and early 1990's provided inspiration for this match. The Thunder Valley stages included several bonus-scored targets such as shooting at playing cards and throwing knives. There were also stages that required non-shooting activities on the clock such pouring and drinking cups of whiskey along with roping a bad guy. In addition, moving and shooting as described in an EOT shooter's book, was included in a stage that had cowboys shooting bad guys in an alley as they walked between them. These types of stages proved to be a lot of fun and hopefully are worth the increased stage times and increased set-up times. 

As mentioned before, it really is the people, more than the stages that make for a memorable shoot. We were fortunate to have a bunch of great people at the match in December. Among them, Jailhouse Jim, who wrote so many interesting chapters about the Dammit gang's ride on Chimney Rock on the Wire. Of course, everyone knows Howdy Doody always has a bag of fun in his gun cart. Both he and Jailhouse Jim shot the match twice, each signing up for two different categories because the both wanted to shoot the Real Cowboy Category that was added after they had sent in their applications. In fact, the Real Cowboy category, where the shooter uses only one handgun and loads the extra 5 on the clock, drew a lot of interest. Roan Henry showed that reloading a pistol doesn't slow him down much and Ella Watson also shot in the Real Cowboy category and looked good doing so! Desert Dawg, Territorial Governor for the host RR Bar Regulators was there despite being a bit under the weather. The famous, and infamous Cliffhanger shot the match, did a lot of the work setting up targets and providing a special running target that will return in the next match! Red Sun, who runs a great black powder match down in Pala came all the way up to Apple Valley to join in the fun.  Dusty and Nellie Bell Pathfinder, a couple of Cajon Cowboys came out and Nellie Bell shot the Monte Walsh category with her new .45-70. Way to make smoke! 

There were a bunch of other shooters there who all contributed to the great atmosphere at the match. Notable among these was Dutch, of the Happy Trails Children's Foundation, who was back shooting his first match in a while and he did great! The Brimstone Pistoleros really appreciated having Dutch there as the proceeds from the match were donated to the Happy Trails Children's Foundation. After the match, Territorial Governor Rowdy Yates announced that about $1000.00 had been raised, including extra donations from some of the shooters including Hoss Hall, who has also been instrumental in the development of the fine RR Bar Regulator range. 

The Brimstone Pistoleros provides a venue for shooting black powder, with great people, and trying out some new, or old ideas for stages. If you like any of these ideas you ought to check out our next shoot. There is talk of a two gun match, one long gun and one short gun. Or we might try a bunch of side match types of stages. You just never can tell what will be happening at the Brimstone Pistoleros until Cliff Hanger posts the stages up online; or you come out to shoot with us. Hope to see you there!

(Jailhouse Jim's Story can be read in the November Gazette)

"Thunder Valley"raises $1000.00 for Happy Trails Children's Foundation.
Read the Presentation Letter.
"Thunder Valley" 2007 Photosby James Henderson
Spencer repeating rifle  from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Spencer repeating rifle was a manually operated lever-action, repeating rifle fed from a tube magazine with cartridges. It was adopted by the Union Army, especially by the cavalry, during the American Civil War, but did not replace the standard issue muzzle-loading rifled muskets in use at the time. The Spencer carbine was a shorter and lighter version.


The design was completed by Christopher Spencer in 1860, and was for a magazine-fed, lever-operated rifle chambered for the .5656 rimfire cartridge. Unlike later cartridge designations, the first number referred to the diameter of the case at the head, while the second number referred to the diameter at the mouth; the actual bullet diameter was .52 inches. Cartridges were loaded with 45 grains (2.9 g) of black powder.

To use the Spencer, a lever had to be worked to extract the used shell and feed a new cartridge from the tube. Like the Dreyse breech-loader, the hammer then had to be manually cocked in a separate action. The weapon used rimfire cartridges stored in a seven-round tube magazine, enabling the rounds to be fired one after another. When empty, the tube could be rapidly loaded either by dropping in fresh cartridges or from a device called the Blakeslee Cartridge Box, which contained up to ten tubes with seven cartridges each, which could be emptied in the magazine tube in the buttstock.

There were also .5652, .5650, and even a few .5646 versions of the cartridge created, which were necked down versions of the original .5656. Cartridge length was limited by the action size to about 1.75 inches, and the later calibers used a smaller diameter, lighter bullet and larger powder charge to increase the power and range over the original .5656 cartridge, which, while about as powerful as the .58 caliber rifled musket of the time, was underpowered by the standards of other early cartridges such as the .5070 and .45-70.


At first, conservatism from the Department of War delayed its introduction to service. However, Christopher Spencer was eventually able to gain an audience with President Abraham Lincoln, who subsequently invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of the weapon. Lincoln was impressed with the weapon, and ordered that it be adopted for production.

The Spencer repeating rifle was first adopted by the United States Navy, and subsequently adopted by the United States Army and used during the American Civil War. The South occasionally captured some of these weapons and ammunition, but, as they were unable to manufacture the cartridges because of shortages of copper, their ability to take advantage of the weapons was limited. Notable early instances of use included the Battle of Hoover's Gap (where Col. John T. Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" effectively demonstrated the firepower of repeaters), and the Gettysburg Campaign, where two regiments of the Michigan Brigade (under Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer) carried them at the Battle of Hanover and at East Cavalry Field. As the war progressed, Spencers were carried by a number of Union cavalry and mounted infantry regiments and provided the Union army with additional firepower versus their Confederate counterparts.

The Spencer showed itself to be very reliable under combat conditions, with a sustainable rate-of-fire in excess of 20 rounds per minute. Compared to standard muzzle-loaders, with a rate of fire of 2-3 rounds per minute, this represented a significant tactical advantage. However, effective tactics had yet to be developed to take advantage of the higher rate of fire. Similarly, the supply chain was not equipped to carry the extra ammunition. Detractors would also complain that the smoke and haze produced was such that it was hard to see the enemy.

In the late 1860s, the Spencer company was sold to the Fogerty Rifle Company and ultimately to Winchester. With almost 200,000 rifles and carbines made, it marked the first adoption of a removable magazine-fed infantry rifle by any country. Many Spencer carbines were later sold as surplus to France where they were used in the war against Germany in 1870.

Despite the fact that the Spencer company went out of business in 1869, ammunition was sold in the United States up to about the 1920s. Later, many rifles and carbines were converted to centerfire, which could fire cartridges made from the centerfire .5070 brass. Production ammunition can still be obtained on the specialty market. Manufacturer Ten-X Ammunition regularly stocks centerfire .5650 Spencer in a smokeless round, a black powder substitute round and a blank cartridge for reenactments.

There are a couple of reproductions on the market now. So if this you're interested in this type of rifle you should be able to find what you want.

Spencer Rifle Manual of Arms

Although no official Manual of Arms was ever issued for the Spencer Rifle, an unofficial one was distributed in 1864. It was written by Captain G.M. Barber of the 1st Battalion, Ohio Volunteer Sharpshooters, and distributed privately.

The original Manual of Arms had a Kelly green cover, with lettering and border lines in gold. When closed, it measured 3" x 4 7/8".

Click here to view the online version of the Spencer Rifle Manual of Arms!

All articles submitted to the "Brimstone Gazette" are the property of the author, used with their expressed permission. 
The Brimstone Pistoleros are not responsible for any accidents which may occur from use of  loading data, firearms information, or recommendations published on the Brimstone Pistoleros web site.