column By: Steve Garbe | December, 17
We ran across an interesting notice in the January 9th edition of Shooting And Fishing magazine and thought to share it with our readers. After the excellent article by Leo Remiger on the muzzleloaders versus breechloaders match at Vernon, Vermont, in which was 1886 featured in BPCN No. 99 (Fall 2017), we have heard from several riflemen who have had their curiosity piqued by this type of competition.
Our present-day riflemen, for the most part, do not realize how seriously the old-timers took their shooting. Many engaged in “challenge matches” that were shot for significant amounts of money. The prestige that went with winning a challenge match – especially between gunsmiths – was considerable, and often this was the way an up-and-coming ‘smith gathered clientele.
We also wanted to provide a yardstick for measuring what the money wagered back then would be worth in 2017. Some research revealed, using the Historic Standard of Living value, that the calculated worth of one dollar in 1890 would be $27.20 in 2017. The definition of Historic Standard of Living according to the website www.measuringworth.com is “the purchasing power of an income or wealth in its relative ability to purchase a bundle of goods and services such as food, shelter, clothing, etc., that an average household would buy.” Multiply the amounts mentioned in the challenge from Mr. Warner to Mr. Perry and you will get some idea of what these gentlemen were willing to wager on their rifles and shooting skills.
Mr. Warner Challenges Mr. Perry
Williamsport, PA., Jan.1, 1890
Editor Shooting and Fishing;
Many of your readers will recollect a correspondence last summer between myself and Mr. Perry of Jamestown, N.Y., in relation to a proposed rifle match between us, and which did not come off at the time named, for reasons which I gave in your issue of Sept. 26.
But Mr. Perry, in his anxiety to obtain a little forfeit money to which he was not entitled, gave a different version of the affair, and in your issue of Oct. 10, was published his sworn statement that the match was broken off or abandoned by me without his knowledge or consent, and “against his wishes.” He further stated, that “Mr. Warner did not dare to shoot the match, and that was the reason he left for home.”
This imputation is rather hard to bear, considering the source from which it comes, and being under the sanctity of an oath,
I cannot remember a time when I was afraid to shoot a match against him, under fair conditions, and in view of his allegations, he cannot now complain if I challenge him to such a match, and therefore I do challenge him to shoot me a match for $600 a side, under the following conditions-
Distance, 200 yards. Five strings of 25 shots each for $100 per string, and $100 to depend on the aggregate measurement of the five strings-centre to centre, each shot. He to shoot a muzzle-loader of his own make, and I to shoot a breech-loader of my make. Guns to not exceed 12 lbs. in weight (as fired). No restrictions as to rests, sights, or flags. Shooting to be done on neutral ground, or such ground as Mr. Perry does not exclusively control.
I have deposited with Mr. John D. Kelley, a prominent and responsible citizen of Williamsport, the sum of $600, to be held subject of the order of a final stakeholder, upon whom Mr. Perry and myself shall agree.
The whole amount to be forfeited if (living) I fail to sign articles and meet him in accordance with the above conditions.
Whenever Mr. Perry deposits a like amount subject to like conditions, I shall regard it as an acceptance of this challenge, and proceed to make the necessary arrangements on my part for a meeting. – Horace Warner
Mr. Warner has deposited with me the $600 as above – John D. Kelley
Some simple math using the Historic Standard of Living formula shows us that Warner was proposing to shoot a match for a possible total of $16,320.00 in 2017 money. A tidy sum that sort of takes one’s breath away!
For those that don’t know, Warner and Perry were two of the preeminent gunsmiths of their time. Both specialized in super-accurate target rifles and loved serious competition. Of course, each had their following of loyal customers and this match was debated back and forth in the pages of Shooting And Fishing.
These gentlemen were only two of the notable shooters that shot high-stakes rifle matches. John D. Kelley, Dr. Pardee, Charles Rowland, Carlos Gove, A.O. Neidner and H.M. Pope were a few more riflemen that weren’t afraid to wager serious money on their shooting skills. It goes without saying that their enthusiasm for the sport probably was responsible for an incredible amount of research and development on the topic of truly accurate rifle shooting.