What was the most accurate rifle in use prior to 1900?

For hunting etc. what was the most accurate rifle produced prior to 1900?

The long range (800/900/1000 yards) shooting matches at the end of the era were being held at Creedmoor Rifle Range, Long Island, New York, USA and for the Queen’s Prize at Wimbledon Common, England.

The rifles used were made by Joseph Whitworth, Birmingham Small-Arms Company, muzzle loaders and percussion rifles made by John Rigby & Co, Dublin & London, Remington and Sons rolling blocks, and the Sharps rifle by the Sharps Rifle Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

Winchester, started with the 1866 but especially the 1894/.30-30


Sharps is single shot, Spencer and Henry were the first repeaters, Win is identified with the first center fire cartridges.

The 94/30-30 sold millions of copies for hunting.

The problem with the OP’s question is there were a lot of very accurate guns produced prior to 1900. Even if we limit the time period from, say, 1865-1900 (roughly coinciding with the widespread development of cartridge-firing arms) there’s still a huge disconnect - a Magazine Lee-Enfield (1889) is a totally different kettle of fish to a Model 1873 Springfield “Trapdoor” rifle, for example.

From a military perspective, the most accurate service rifles in 1900 were probably the Mauser Model 98 and the (Swedish) Model 1896, and that was as much to do with the cartridge they fired as the guns themselves.

There were a number of extremely accurate hunting and target guns made in the period, too - by pretty much every gun manufacturer in existence at the time - and picking a “most accurate” from them would be about as Herculean a task as picking the “most accurate” modern rifle. There’s basically a point where they’re all equally accurate in the sense they’ll (in the hands of a trained marksman) consistently put rounds in nearly exactly the same place on the target.

They’re not match-grade accurate, though. Fine for hunting (there’s a reason they’re one of the most common hunting rifles in the world), but I don’t think they’re really what the OP is asking about when he’s looking for “Most accurate”.

You’re going back in time to try & shoot Hitler again, aren’t you?

You ought to know better.

It never works.

Remember the* last time*?
There were so many alternate versions of yourself trying for that rooftop shot that you were falling off the building!

Pretty much every modern bolt-action sniper/hunting rifle is based on the Mauser 98 action, which just slips in before 1900. The last decade of the 19th century was pretty much the time when modern rifles were invented, and one of the biggest helpers to accuracy invented during the time was fast, small, pointy bullets instead of big slow rounded ones. The refinement of manufacturing techniques didn’t hurt any either.

But as Martini said, pretty much any turn-of-the-century military rifle’s accuracy was better than that of the man shooting it, and those were cranked out on the cheap for obvious reasons. Civilian hunting rifles were just as robust as the military guns, but hand-fitted and much more finely finished. A civilian Mauser from 1900 was just as accurate as any hunting rifle made today, except for the very small improvement of modern faster-moving bullets that are less affected by wind, but that’s on the order of half an inch of spread at a hundred yards, which is too small to notice unless it’s clamped in a vise and cannot move.