Another Kablooey

About 200 miles northeast of me they hold an annual event called the Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match—Quigley for short. It’s designed for single-shot rifles with cast bullets on steel targets from 350 to 805 yards. The idea came from the movie “Quigley Down Under” starring Tom Selleck and some beautiful Sharps rifle reproductions. This year’s match was held a couple of weeks ago, and there was a significant event that occurred.

Mrs. Sharon Matney, of Bozeman, Mont., had her original cast-frame Ballard rifle with a relined barrel chambered in .40-65 let go on her very first shot. Her left hand was severely injured, and with the good fortune of having a couple of M.D.s on the firing line at the time of the incident, she was able to receive some great first aid before being flown to Salt Lake City for reconstructive surgery on her hand. Thankfully, the prognosis is good that she will regain most of the use of her hand. Mrs. Matney also received several lesser wounds to her chest and face.

There are some pictures of the rifle on the American Single Shot Rifle Association forum. Clearly, it was a catastrophic failure. As is usual in something like this there is considerable speculation as to what really happened. I won’t go into such speculation, but I will caution that any original firearm from the 19th century should be suspect against firing.

That is especially true in the case of those guns with cast iron frames. It simply isn’t worth the risk. Metallurgy and manufacturing technology was far cruder then than now. Most vintage guns have not received the kind of care and maintenance they should have. Point is: Everyone—including old guns—deserves a retirement. I love the old guns as much as anyone, and there are a few that I will shoot sparingly with carefully assembled mild loads. But for any kind of serious shooting—matches and reenactments, for example—I shoot a reproduction of the original. Not only does it show respect for the older guns, if I do something stupid or clumsy—not unheard of—the original is spared the indignity.

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