Over 2,000 hunters, armed with .40 to .50 caliber high-powered rifles, invaded the prairies around early Dodge City.
The 70 to 90 grams of powder they used made them capable of killing buffalo at 1000 yards.
Unlike the Native Americans, who didn't have or need all this firepower, the professional hunter killed tens of thousands of bison in a very short period of time.
They used large caliber, single-shot black powder cartridge firearms. Three types of rifles dominated their arsenal: the Springfield Rifle, Remington Rolling block and Sharps rifles. The Sharps was popular because of its long range accuracy.
Hunters also relied on Hepburn, Ballard, Browning, Maynard and Winchester rifles. Their weapons usually weighed 10 to 12 pounds and didn't have scopes. Some hunters used a prop, such as a forked stick from a tree, to steady the firearm while aiming at bison from a distance.
Using mere single shot rifles, bison were easy to kill in great numbers. When an animal fell to a gunshot, the other bison stood in place or gathered around its fallen herd mate, rather than running in terror. This made it very easy for the hunter to take out the entire herd.
The firing action was so rapid a hunter often used two rifles so he could switch them when they overheated.
Motivating this mass slaughter, hides sold for as much as $3.00 a piece in Dodge City in the 1870s. At the time a laborer was doing good to make $1 a day.
At the height of the great hunt, teams formed consisting of one or two professional hunters, skinners, gun cleaners, cartridge loaders, cooks, wranglers, blacksmiths, security guards, and teamsters with numerous horses and wagons.
The team even included members to recover lead bullets from the carcasses and recast them.
Of course, hunters had other equipment beside their firearms and ammunition. Binoculars were vital when scouting for herds of bison. Hunters kept powder in capped buffalo or cattle horns which they tied to their belts with a leather strap.
To keep their weapons in working order they used gun cleaning kits which included a cleaning solution with a wire-bristled copper cleaner.
After the animals were killed, skinners used steel bladed buffalo skinning knives with wood handles. Hides had to be dried by stretching them. This was accomplished by hammering wood stakes at the corners.
The hunting party also needed clothing, food and camping gear.
Dodge City made out well financially. With the railroad passing through, as this was the perfect spot to purchase all of this equipment and to ship hides back east.