Last week, my article contained a little boo-boo. Well at least that’s what I’m calling it. Chet called me to say the George Block Conservation Scholarship applications are available by calling him at 724-986-5250.

Apparently, the number was off by one digit. Anyone nominating a young person in Washington or Greene County 18 or under can receive an application by calling Chet Krcil at the above number. Then get those applications back to me with a letter written by the youth saying why they feel they should be nominated and what they have done. Send those applications to the George Block Conservation Scholarship 60 Nannie Street, Washington Pa. 15301. Hopefully we can still award a deserving youth this year so if you know someone nominate them encourage them to enter.


In the late 1700s, the English army was taking a break in the wooded area of New York known as Saratoga. The English were notorious for taking breaks during wars and fighting in a gentlemanly fashion. This critical battle was no exception and when it was tea time they took a break. As he walked among his men, the general noticed his men were hiding behind rocks and trees. So, he asked his officer why these men were doing this? The officer told the general the men were afraid of being shot by a sniper up behind some rocks, so they were taking cover. The general laughed and said no sniper could shoot that far. That’s when the sniper shot the general.

This was the beginning of the turnaround of who was winning the war. It wasn’t the fault of the English marksman but was a sign of the changing battle technics. At that time, both sides were using muskets as the rifle had not come into being yet. Battles fought with muskets used a primitive method of charging across the field at each other and shooting in close quarters. The musket really didn’t have many advantages as it was terribly inaccurate. If you missed one target, you might hit the man next to him. There was no doubt there was much room for improvement in firearms.

The musket shot a roundball that was just a metal ball rammed into the muzzleloader with a rag and had powder in the barrel behind it to set off the charge. When one considers the problems with the muzzleloaders it was no wonder that someone discovered a way to build a self- contained cartridge. In the self- contained cartridge, the bullet, primer, powder, and brass casing would all be in one package. These first experimenters used the brass casing because it was flexible enough to go back to shape after being fired. The case springs out, expands and then goes back into shape after firing.

Among the experiments were projectiles called vulcanic that came between cartridges and muzzleloaders. The vulcanic was a conical projectile with a hollow base with propellant in it. The problem with the vulcanic was it couldn’t handle pressure and it was weak. I wouldn’t want to shoot at a grizzly bear with it.

Then along came people like Benjamin Tyler Henry and Dan Wesson who did much of the work on a true self-contained cartridge where everything was in one package. The earliest Henry was a 16 shot .44 caliber rimfire breech-loading lever action rifle. The rimfire had the priming mixture in the rim much like todays 22. The .22 rimfire is still used but now we use the center fire cartridge for most big game. Among cartridges still in use there is the 45-70 which goes way back as does the 45 Colt. The 45-70 led to the demise of many a buffalo and is still around. These early guns would shoot heavy bullets moving at slow velocity.

Today’s faster cartridges hit harder and have a flat trajectory, which makes hitting the target easier and for that I am thankful.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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