source (information and picture): http://members.tripod.com/~ProlificPains/wpns.htmWith the development of more modern weapons came the advent of the sharpshooter or sniper. Now armed with a rifle which could fire a round accurately up to 1,800 yards long range riflemen became a real threat. Benchrest rifles, the sniper rifle of the Civil War, were so named because they were so heavy that they were easiest to fire with the barrel resting on a bench or other support. Prior to the war, these specialty muzzle-loaded rifles had been owned primarily by target shooters and sport hunters. With an average length of about 50 inches, a benchrest rifle weighed up to 40 pounds, making it an impractical choice for standard infantry duty. The very tight fit of the bullet and the bore needed for range and accuracy made the weapon very slow to load and put the user at a disadvantage on the battlefield.
In 1848 Morgan James of Utica, N.Y. invented the long-tube telescopic sight that would be used by Civil War marksmen just 13 years later. Priced at about $20, these telescopes were no more than four power. But in the hands of a skilled soldier with a sharp wit and keen eye, these devices offered sufficient magnification for aiming a rifle with deadly, long-distance accuracy.
The long-tube sight mounted on a heavy benchrest rifle gave the marksman who was selected to carry it prestige among his fellow soldiers. The sharpshooter thus armed was considered an independent character, used only for special service, with the privilege of going to any part of the line where in his own judgement he could do the most good. The weapon indicated that the man carrying it was among the most trusted soldiers and best shots.
Some of the prewar American-made benchrest rifles found their way into the Confederate army, however the preferred weapon of the Southern sharpshooter was the Whitworth rifle imported from England. Shortly after the Civil War, the army replaced these ponderous weapons and their long telescopic sights with more modern, faster-firing rifles, and the benchrest was no longer used by the military.
Does anyone have more information on other pre-1914 (scoped) sniper rifles, their use etc. or pictures of such rifles?
Thanks in advance!