North-South Skirmish Association Revolver Match

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posted on April 17, 2024

The North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) is a competitive shooting organization dedicated to the active use of Civil War-period arms, ranging from muskets to carbines to revolvers, even to full-scale artillery. "American Rifleman Television" had an opportunity to get a closer look at the group's revolver matches at its Fall National Skirmish, one of two annual Nationals competitions held at Fort Shenandoah, Va. Watch our feature segment above to see what the matches are like and what guns they use.

"When I first started, musket, of course, was the core firearm that the association started with back in the 1950s, followed by carbine later on," said Bruce Miller, public information officer, North-South Skirmish Association. "Then when we got into the early '70s and so forth, revolver shooting became popular, and they decided to add the revolver team match into it. So the three primary matches for the association for many, many years was musket, carbine and revolver."

Men on the competition line, aiming revolvers at hanging targets on a green ground.

Though an underappreciated arm, percussion revolvers of all types were used during the Civil War, primarily by cavalry units but also by men on the ground, particularly officers. The matches fired at the N-SSA Nationals pay homage to the use of revolvers during the war and involve targets placed on frames at 25 yards.

"If you're into revolvers, you're going to shoot a four-event match. Each one of the relays is only going to be 90 seconds," Miller said. "If you're a reasonably good team, it's 30 to 40 seconds before you empty all six of those cylinders. And the matches we shoot are really unique because we're shooting firearms that are well over 150 years old. And some guys shoot some original guns, certainly in the beginning of the N-SSA, that's all they had. But then some of the replicas that have come to us are really, really good reproductions."

A percussion revolver laying on its side on a table after a competition shoot.

An incredible array of revolvers were used during the Civil War, but when it comes to competition shooting, results matter. Given this, many N-SSA competitors have settled on one of a few revolver designs in particular.

"You generally use a six-shot revolver, although we have a wide range of revolvers that are approved. Some of the small .31 calibers are only five shot, but you rarely see those," said Chris DeFrancisci, national revolver range officer, North-South Skirmish Association. "Most people shoot a Remington, a Colt, or a Rogers and Spencer, you know, with six shots."

Man holding a Remington Model 1858 revolver.

Many of the revolvers are tuned up to provide the best possible performance while still remaining in "as-issued" condition, and competitors develop loads that perform best in their particular competition gun, much like modern competition shoots.

"The revolver match generally consists of Pigeons on a backer, three pigeons per competitor. So there's going to be 12 since there's four competitors," DeFrancisci said. "Then we shoot breakable targets at 25 yards. And these would be like, 4" white tiles. They would be a 3" pot. And then we shoot a very large 6"x6" tile as well. It's the shortest time overall that wins the match. And these are generally 90-second matches, and we do this four times."

Man aiming a percussion revolver downrange during the N-SSA revolver match.

While the revolver match is popular, it's just one of a multi-faceted competition atmosphere enjoyed by thousands of skirmishers every year.

"The uniqueness about this is we shoot breakable targets, you know, not just punch holes in paper. And the excitement of shooting on a team, with your comrades and your pards, and against a common goal on a smoky Sunday morning out here," said Phil Spaugy, past commander, North-South Skirmish Association. "I mean, where can you come and start, on a weekend, if you want to do it, start shooting a revolver and end up shooting a full-scale artillery piece on a team like that. I don't think there's any other place."

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.

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