Milton Farrow
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Farrow Firing

Milton Farrow was the best rifle shot in America during the last quarter of the 19th. Century, and also the winner of innumerable matches abroad. Most of his shooting was done with Ballard rifles, which he also promoted during his career. His book, "How I Became a Crack Shot" (see photo of title page), is most intriguing! It led to a bit of research with some interesting results which I would like to share with you. Farrow is shown in his book holding a Ballard rifle (see photo). He was the sales rep. for Ballard (Marlin) at the time. The rifle sports only the tang vernier peep sight, which means that it was used for 200 yard offhand shooting and that it is, therefore, .38 caliber (probably .38 Ballard or 38-55) which is the caliber he recommends for this range and also because the recoil is moderate which minimizes flinching. If it were meant for 1000 yard shooting, it would also have had the rear butt sight and would have been a .45-70 which carries better at long range.

The name "Farrow butt-plate" was attached to a Schuetzen-type butt plate which Farrow describes as being necessary to guarantee exact same placement of the butt, from shot to shot, against the shoulder. He explains the need for this: the recoil torque couple remains the same, therefore the barrel rises the same amount as the bullet traverses its length. Interestingly, the Farrow butt plate is made of blued steel, whereas Marlin, Ballard, Winchester, etc. made theirs of brass, nickel plated. To my knowledge, no writer mentions the fact that such a heavy butt plate balances the heavy barrel, especially helpful in offhand shooting.

Around 1890, Farrow decided to manufacture a superior target rifle, built to his own ideas. He alludes to the fact that a rifle built to his specifications, in collaboration with a designer only identified as "Brown", to be manufactured in New York City, is to be put on the market "next season" (c.1893). Phil Sharpe in his book, "The Rifle in America", gives the following information on this rifle. (I attach an image of the rifle, taken from his book).


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from "Rifle in America" by Phil Sharpe

It is claimed that one of the finest target rifles ever manufactured was made by the Farrow Arms Co. They listed the Farrow Off-hand Target Rifles Numbers 1 and 2. Today this is a rare specimen and where found is highly valued by collectors. All who have examined these arms claim them to be as fine examples of craftsmanship as can be located in any American rifle manufactured.

This author can recall seeing but one of these guns while on a visit with his good friend, Major Ned H. Roberts, of Roberts rifle fame. This had a half-octagon barrel, although a full-octagon was manufactured, as well as a few round barrel jobs. Butt plate was of blued steel on the standard rifles but the one we examined was of the typical Swiss or Schuetzen type. Stock was of Circassian walnut with a matching walnut forearm beautifully checked with the finest of workmanship in the checkering.

The No. 2 was supposed to have been a slightly lower price gun identical in every detail but with the exception of stock and lower grade of sight equipment. Stock on the No.2 was plain American walnut without checkering.

According to L. D. Satterlee, this Farrow rifle was manufactured in a wide variety of calibers covering everything that was standard around the 1890 era, including Sharps and Ballard numbers. The frame was finished either blued or nickel-plated and typical pistol grips with a finger lever similar to that used in modern repeating rifles was standard.

The hammer had a very widely curved spur, short hammer fall, and was probably one of our first "speed-action" rifles. The frame or receiver was extremely short, with the stock above the grip inletted into the metal itself, to form a secure lock. A peep sight was located on the upper receiver tang and a neatly curved cheek piece was hollowed out to fit the face. Weight ran from 8 to l0 pounds and barrel lengths were from 28 to 36 inches long.

Farrow's Shooting/Reloading Kit

The following material was submitted by a member of the Antique Reloading Tool Collector's Association

Farrow's Personal Reloading Kit
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This old cased shooting set came from the family of a jeweler friend of Milton Farrow. The boxed set is said to have belonged to Milton Farrow, self proclaimed "Crack Shot" and, in reality, excellent marksman and maker of a fine quality target rifle bearing his name. The Farrow rifle associated with this box is faintly marked #1 and is thought to have been one used by Farrow himself. The box contains a three cavity paper patch Farrow mold, re/decapper, breech seater, wad seater, wad punch, and miscellaneous components including primers, bullets and cases. Antique target shooting kits are always interesting, and to find one with this type of historical association is a treat, indeed. The top of the case shows a faint rectanglar area of discoloration; that likely had some sort of identification tag would sure be interesting to know what that might have said.

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