The Hero of Adobe Walls

The Hero of Adobe Walls
Billy Dixon’s controversial 1,538-yard shot fired in June of 1874 is legend among those who study the firearms of the Old West and aficionados of blackpowder metallic cartridge guns and cartridges.
On a hot day in June 1874 in the North Texas Panhandle (about 150 miles south of Dodge City, Kansas), Billy Dixon made a confirmed 0.8-mile-long shot on a raider two days after a skirmish that has since been known as the Second Battle of Adobe Walls. He used a single-shot Sharps Model 1874 rifle chambered for either the .50-70 or .50-90 blackpowder metallic cartridge (historians are unsure which). A few months later, Dixon was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service as an Army scout in the lesser-known Buffalo Wallow Fight, during which he, another Army scout, and four troopers were attacked and wounded by a band of Comanche and Kiowa warriors but held them at bay and survived the fight.

Dixon was born on September 25, 1850, in Ohio County of what is now West Virginia. After his parents died, he was sent to live with an uncle in Missouri. A year later Dixon heard the call of the West and ran away. He worked his way throughout the West as a teamster and buffalo hunter. From 1871 to 1874, he honed his shooting skills and became adept at using the single-shot Sharps rifle. He favored .44- and .50-caliber Sharps Model 1874 rifles, but he made the shot that made him famous with a borrowed rifle.

The Battle

On June 26, 1874, 28 buffalo hunters and settlers, including Billy Dixon, held off hundreds of Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche warriors. The hunters and settlers had congregated near a small settlement that had sprung up around James Hanrahan’s saloon, Myers & Leonard’s store, and Thomas O’Keefe’s blacksmith shop. Some adobe ruins were located nearby, so the settlement was known as Adobe Walls. The hunters and settlers held off an estimated 700 attackers throughout the day, and by about 4 p.m., the battle was essentially over. Three settlers had been killed.

The Shot

Two days after the battle, a party of 15 raiders rode out on a bluff about a mile away from the settlement. Some of the hunters saw them and urged Billy to try the .50-caliber Sharps rifle on the group. He did, and to everyone’s amazement, one of the Indians fell off his horse and his compadres dragged him to safety. The distance was later surveyed to be 1,538 yards (0.8 mile). Dixon dismissed it as a “scratch” shot.

Several hunters witnessed the shot, but others said it was impossible and did not happen. Dixon never made much of it and gave it less than a paragraph when dictating his life story to his wife in later years.

Was the disputed shot possible? In 1992 Mike Venturino (working as Shooting Times’s shooting editor) used a Sharps Model 1874 in .50-90 to recreate the shot and proved that the rifle would need to be elevated just 4.5 to 5 degrees.

As for Dixon, he became an Army scout in August 1874 (retiring in 1883); filed a claim for land near Adobe Walls; and made a living as a rancher, farmer, and storekeeper. After his children reached school age, he sold his Adobe Walls home and moved. However, his body was returned and buried at Adobe walls after he died of pneumonia in 1913.

Recommended for You

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts. Accessories

Shooting Times Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day...

Using Ramshot Enforcer and 230-grain bullets, .45 ACP muzzle velocities over 1,000 FPS at safe, standard-level pressures are possible. Reloading

45 ACP Fast Loads

Brad Miller, Ph.D. - January 02, 2018

Using Ramshot Enforcer and 230-grain bullets, .45 ACP muzzle velocities over 1,000 FPS at...

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 is back in production after being on ice for almost two decades. Handguns

Review: Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic Revolver

Joel J. Hutchcroft - March 08, 2019

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 is back in production after being on ice for almost two decades.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Considering how popular the .270 Winchester has become, it's a great mystery why more .270 caliber (6.8mm) rifle cartridges  have not been introduced. Ammo

5 Great .270 Rifle Cartridges

Layne Simpson - May 28, 2019

Considering how popular the .270 Winchester has become, it's a great mystery why more .270...

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable, ergonomic, accurate, and priced right. Handguns

Stoeger STR-9 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 17, 2019

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable,...

See More Stories

More Rifles

Referred to as “the most innovative bolt-action rifle of the 20th century” and as a “technological wonder,” the Blaser R8 straight-pull rifle is fast, safe, and versatile. Rifles

Blaser R8 Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - September 30, 2019

Referred to as “the most innovative bolt-action rifle of the 20th century” and as a...

Daniel Defense has blazed a new trail with its first-ever bolt-action rifle, the Daniel Defense Delta 5. Rifles

Daniel Defense Delta 5 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 31, 2019

Daniel Defense has blazed a new trail with its first-ever bolt-action rifle, the Daniel...

In all the world, there is no rifle more fun to carry and shoot than a vintage American single shot, such as the Winchester Low Wall. Rifles

Colonel Whelen and the Winchester Low Wall Rifle

Terry Wieland - November 27, 2019

In all the world, there is no rifle more fun to carry and shoot than a vintage American single...

See More Rifles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.