December 10, 2013
Pick Your Favorite Buffalo Rifle—for Deer
By Will Brantley
I must've watched Matthew Quigley exact hell from afar on Aussie bad guys 50 times as a kid. Sure, some of his exploits with that big Sharps rifle in .45-110 were exaggerated, but how could you see that movie and not want a gun like Quigley's for your own?
As a teenager, I lusted after some—any—type of Old West buffalo rifle, be it a Sharps, High Wall, or Remington Rolling block. Of course, any decent replica was way out of my price range. But a couple weeks ago, I got to finally live out that dream during a deer hunt in South Texas. The hunt, sponsored by Uberti, Hornady, Burris, and Realtree, was especially intended to highlight Uberti's line of Old West replica firearms.
When you hunt in South Texas, you expect to shoot a deer. Now to be clear, this was not a high-fence hunt. But Greg Baggett and his squadron of guides at Double B Outfitters have an impressive handle on the area's deer herd. There are a ton of nice bucks around, too. Everyone in our crew (10 hunters total) got a shot at a decent deer over the course of a three-day hunt.
We figured our odds would be good going in. Gun and ammo companies don't generally send writers to public land in Pennsylvania for field-testing. So the only real dilemma was: What kind of kick-ass Old West replica should I hunt with?
1874 Sharps Cavalry Carbine
1871 Rolling Block Carbine
Our options included a pair of 1874 Sharps—the "Cavalry Carbine" (carried by Blue Duck in Lonesome Dove), and the 34-inch-barrel "Down Under" model, which of course was made famous by Quigley. In addition, we had 1885 Browning High Wall replicas, both with straight stocks and pistol grips. And rumor had it a few Remington Rolling Block carbines were floating around as well, although I never got to shoot one. All the single-shot rifles were chambered in .45-70. There were also several 1873 Winchester replicas in .44 Magnum.*
1885 High Wall
After a day on the range shooting up free ammo, the choice for me, and pretty much everyone else in camp, was the 1885 High Wall. Why? Because they'd specially drilled and tapped several of them for scope mounts and topped them with 3x9 Burris scopes.
Somewhat shameful, I know, to put glass on such a great old gun. I texted Old Man Hurteau a photo (he's finally accepted the fact that texting, like smokeless powder, isn't a fad), and he had a conniption fit about it.
But the fact is, I can't see open sights all that well. And when the rubber meets the road and you want to kill a deer, a scope helps. Every single buck killed in camp, including the one I shot, was killed with this combination, although Everett Deger, Hornady's marketing manager, did kill a doe with an open-sighted Sharps carbine.
My buck was standing broadside at 100 yards when I shot him, but we had those guns dialed in out to 200. While it would've been decidedly cool to rattle up a buck and kill it at 30 steps with the 1873 Carbine, I knew most of the shots would be 100-plus yards. For that, I believe I picked the right gun.
The question is, if you were in the same situation, what would you have hunted with? Vote below.
*True, the 1873 is not exactly a buffalo gun, but it was offered on the hunt, so we'll throw it in here.