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Joseph Whitworth, Manchester, England

Joseph WhitworthApproached in 1854 by Lord Hardinge to investigate 'the mechanical principles applicable in the construction of an efficient weapon,' Whitworth's experiments revolutionised rifle design.

Through their ongoing Whitworth Research Project, Bill Curtis and De Witt Bailey established a database of 700 known Whitworth rifles. This database is now being managed by Research Press.  If you have access to ANY original hex bore Whitworth from the period 1857-1865 please note its serial number and letter for recording. Please contact David Minshall at Research Press with details.

These pages are dedicated to the late Bill Curtis (1931-2021)

See the Ordnance pages for further information on Whitworth guns.

Whitworth Rifles

Ammunition & Accessories

  • Whitworth Hexagonal Bullet Mould - Whitworth produced moulds for bullets in hexagonal or cylindrical form. His moulds were serially numbered but these numbers are not related to the rifle’s serial numbers.
  • Whitworth: Bullets - A selection of bullets and packaging

The Whitworth Rifle: A Brief Introduction

During the 1850s and 1860s the British service rifle calibre was .577, both for the muzzle-loading Enfield rifle and its breech-loading successor the Snider (a conversion of the Enfield). Early manufacture of the Enfield relied on much hand labour and consequently lead to problems of inconsistent performance, non-interchangeability of parts and slow supply. Joseph Whitworth was approached to provide assistance with regards to the design of appropriate machinery for its manufacture.

Read more: The Whitworth Rifle: A Brief Introduction

Whitworth Rifle Warnings

This information is the result of Bill Curtis and De Witt Bailey research concerning original Whitworth rifles. Warning! - The Whitworth Research Project has identified problems with several rifles that have appeared on the open market from time to time. See notes below regarding the following original Whitworth rifles; numbers 449, B376, B678, C575.

Read more: Whitworth Rifle Warnings

The Whitworth Rifle

The Whitworth Rifle has now afforded such ample proof of its superiority to the Enfield arm that the single adverse considerations of its cost cannot be allowed to operate much longer against its introduction. Perhaps the most remarkable testimony which has been borne to the merits of this rifle is that of General Hay, the director of musketry instruction at Hythe. After admitting the superiority of the Whitworth to the Enfield in point of accuracy, General Hay said there was a peculiarity about the Whitworth small bore rifles which no other similar arms had yet produced - they not only gave greater accuracy of firing, but treble power of penetration.

Read more: The Whitworth Rifle

Loading & Cleaning The Whitworth Patent Military Rifle

The cylindrical form of projectile is the best for general use. It is 530 grains in weight and is wrapped with paper. In loading, the projectile should be pressed gently home, and should not be so forced down as to crush the lubricating wad or the grains of powder. Projectiles cast from the mould are not to be relied upon for accurate shooting, unless they are passed through a die-press.

Read more: Loading & Cleaning The Whitworth Patent Military Rifle

Guns and Steel

'Miscellaneous Papers on Mechanical Subjects | Guns and Steel' by Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart., was published in London by Longmans, Green Reader, & Dyer in 1873. The text reproduced here is from Chapter II and concerns Whitworth's involvement in rifle design. The remainder of the work concerns artillery and Whitworth's 'fluid-compressed steel.'

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Rifled Small Arms

A letter to The Times by Joseph Whitworth; "Sir, Permit me to make an appeal through your columns against the arming of our troops and Volunteers with short-range rifles, whether of the Snider-Enfield or any other pattern. Other nations are rapidly abandoning their use, and are arming their troops with long-range rifles. The supply of the more powerful weapon to our own troops has already been too long delayed..."

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Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart.

This memoir and portrait appeared in 'The National Portrait Gallery', published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, c1878. Four series of portraits, bound in 2 volumes, were published. Each series has twenty full-page colour plates of portraits taken from photgraphs. Each portrait has the prinited signature of the subject. The accompanying texts (referred to as Memoirs) are written in the third person by an unnamed writer, and are on prominent British men from the 1800s. Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart. is featured in the Fourth Series.

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The Mechanical Genius and Works of the late Sir Joseph Whitworth

Mr. John Fernie, C.E., member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, etc., of England, delivered a most entertaining and instructive address upon "The Mechanical Genius and Works of the late Sir Joseph Whitworth." Full of years, of honors, of wealth, which he gained by the most unremitting toil and industry, there passed a way to the majority, on the 22nd of January last, one of the greatest of modern engineers.

Read more: The Mechanical Genius and Works of the late Sir Joseph Whitworth

Interment of Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart.

On Wednesday afternoon in boisterous and miserably wet weather the interment of the remains of Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart., took place at Darley Dale Churchyard – so rich in old associations and historic interest. Sir Joseph’s name was familiar as a household word almost all over the civilised world, but at Darley had a homely sound, and was associated with progress and a peaceful and kindly interest in the welfare of the place and the residents.

Read more: Interment of Sir Joseph Whitworth, Bart.