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These pages are dedicated to the memory of
William (Bill) Scott Curtis
(1931-2021)

Research Press manages two facebook groups that may be of interest to readers

Whitworth Rifle enthusiasts

Long Range Target Shooting with the
Black Powder Rifle

Research Press

Hex Bore blog

Hex Bore is a project by Research Press for the study of Whitworth rifles and artillery.

This blog includes project news, updates, information and anecdotes. (Chronological contents list)

 

Whitworth Database Updates - 2024

Whitworth Database Management Updates - 2024

  • Whitworth sporting rifle no. 482 has been documented. Sadly the barrel is missing. Remaining parts include the stock, lock, breech plug and some fittings. Trigger guard is missing and the hammer may be a later replacement. Although this is an incomplete rifle, it is new to the database records. 10 January 2024
  • Previously recorded in 2011, Whitworth military target rifle no. 976 has resurfaced. Records now updated and include a set of photographs. Likely intended as a prize / presentation rifle c1860, the stock carries a vacant oval plaque. 13 January 2024

The Guns of the Ironclad "Riachuelo"

18 inch plateThe Hex Bore project has a good archive / library of Whitworth research material, but now and again something new surfaces. 

'The Guns of the Ironclad "Riachuelo" and Their Alteration to the Armstrong System' is a treatise by Duarte Huet Bacellar Pinto Guedes, First Lieutenant of the Brazilian Navy.

In 1881 the contract for building the Brazilian battleship had been awarded to the London firm of Messrs. Samuda Bros. The Riachuelo was to be equipped with four 20 ton 9-inch turret guns and six 70-pounders, of 5.5 inch bore.

Both Armstrong and Whitworth tendered for the 20 ton guns. The Brazilian Government had previously invested in Whitworth guns for several of their ships, and an order was placed with Sir Joseph Whitworth and Co. Limited. One of these Whitworth guns was subjected to trial on the sands at Southport (NW England) in August 1883. Results included penetration of an 18 inch wrought iron plate.

Read more: The Guns of the Ironclad "Riachuelo"

Whitworth Database Updates - 2023

Whitworth Database Management Updates - 2023

  • Always pleasing to add a Whitworth rifle to the database. . . even more so when it is of the pattern used by Confederate Sharpshooters during the American Civil War. This rifle (no. C345) has two barrel bands, a full length stock and is marked 2nd QUALITY on the trigger guard, as is typical of the pattern. Whilst it has the original mounts for a Davidson telescopic sight, the sight itself is missing. 25 January 2023
  • Heard a couple of days ago from an Australian auction house of a Whitworth rifle they are preparing to catalogue for auction. It’s a match rifle dating from 1865 and been tucked away in a private collection for 40 years. Previously unrecorded in the Whitworth Research Project database - nice to add a second new rifle to the records in a week. 7 February 2023
  • Updated records of a B2** Whitworth military target rifle from late 1860 / early 1861. The rifle was previously documented, but 40 years ago. Nice when a rifle surfaces again and details can be updated and supplemented with photographs. This rifle remains in a private collection. 13 May 2023
  • The finely engraved semi-military rifle C778 was sold by Rock Island Auction Co. Price realised, $10,575. There seems to have been a batch of these engraved rifles with spur trigger guard made around this time (c1862). 20 May 2023.
  • Some Whitworth rifles are well travelled! One with serail number in the 'B700s' series 'surfaced' in South Africa in recent years and was sold in the UK. After a short stay in Ireland, it was sold again by a UK dealer. The current owner, who recently made contact, is in the USA. 1 June 2023

    Read more: Whitworth Database Updates - 2023

The Whitworth is not a 'Minute of Angle' Rifle

Anyone reading 19thC texts about the Whitworth rifle will, sooner or later, come across the term 'Figure of Merit' (FoM). This was a comparative process used to evaluate the precision of arms. Today FoM is sometimes misunderstood and mistaken for group size - where it is actually the mean radial distance of shots from the centre of the group. Whilst the Whitworth rifle was capable of remarkable accuracy for its time, misinterpretation of the 19thC FoM can lead to some wildly ambitious expectations of groups. The following article explains how Figure of Merit was determined, and considers some oft misquoted data on the Whitworth rifle: Measuring Precision.

A Semi-military Whitworth Rifle (C778)

The finely engraved semi-military rifle C778 was sold by Rock Island Auction Co., 20 May 2023. There was a batch of these engraved rifles with spur trigger guard made around this time (c1862). This particular rifle was formerly in the George W. Wray Jr. collection, Atlanta History Center. It was subsequently sold by Poulin Auction Co, Fairfield, ME, USA, in October 2019.

Regarding the video below, and the presenters comment about the barrel being "absent of proof marks" - please note 'absent of visible proof marks' would be appropriate. Previous documentation of this rifle notes that proof marks and bore gauge are stamped on the underside of the barrel.

‘Report on European Ordnance and Manufactures' (1882)

Appendix 19 of the Report of the U.S. Department of Ordnance, 1882, is a ‘Report on European Ordnance and Manufactures.’ It extends over 50 pages of text plus 30 single page plates. English and French ordnance of the period and various systems of construction are covered. Included is a short section on Whitworth’s Guns, with breech loading gun details and including Whitworth’s own remarks on early trials and gun construction.

European Ordnance

Miscellaneous Papers (1858)

Today, the digitisation of books and archive holdings is welcomed by researchers, allowing access to material that may be hard to find or even otherwise unobtainable. However, it’s always nice to acquire a new book - ‘Miscellaneous Papers on Mechanical Subjects’ by Joseph Whitworth (London. 1858).

 

A Whitworth Prize Rifle of 1860

Whitworth military target rifle

Wigan Volunteer Rifles were formed in January 1860, and were the 21st Corps of Lancashire Rifle Volunteers. Their first rifle contest commenced on Thursday 29 November 1860 at Wigan practice ground, with a moderate attendance of spectators. 

Henry Woods MP presented the above Whitworth military target rifle (serial number B40) as a prize. The rifle is cased with accessories, including mould, wad punch, powder flask, percussion caps, oil bottle, nipple key and cleaning jags.

It was to be shot for at 200 and 300 yards, each competitor firing five shots at each distance. The entrance fee was 2s. 6d., two-thirds of the whole amount received going to form a second prize. Shooting was likely with the .577 P.1853 Enfield Rifle Musket and from the standing position - Volunteer rifles had to accept the Government cartridge and percussion caps.

Whitworth lock detail

Thirty nine volunteers entered the list and the following are the top scores:

  200 yards 300 yards Total
Private R. Waddington 9 4 13
Lieutenant Marshall 7 5 12
Sergeant Swift 6 6 12
Private R. Lea 7 5 12
Private M'Cann 6 6 12
Private Whaley 8 4 12

Private Robert Waddington made the highest score of 13 and was declared the winner. For the second prize there were five ties. Despite failing light, and at the competitors request, the tie shoot proceeded, which resulted in the second prize being awarded to Private M'Cann.

Prize rifle

Images courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company

Whitworth Database Updates - 2022

Whitworth Database Management Updates - 2022

  • That's the new year off to a good start with two previously unrecorded Whitworth rifles added to the database; a 'B' series military target rifle and an 'F' series full match rifle. 7 January 2022
  • With further information what was initially thought an 'F' series match rifle, appears to have been an early Whitworth sporting rifle c1859/60, with half stock, and spur trigger guard. It appears to have been re-barreled c1864/65 - it may also have been at this time that a tang sight mounting was added. 16 January 2022
  • Rifles appear at auction, then often are lost track of. Nice to receive an update on the whereabouts of a 'D' series Whitworth previously noted in 2004, 2008 and 2021. 5 February 2022
  • Good to catch up with a couple of Whitworth rifles; a 'B' series military match rifle and an 'E' series full match rifle. Previously recorded in the Whitworth database in 1994; details reviewed and updated. 12 February 2022
  • Whitworth rifle serial no. 670 of 1860 now documented. Previously the only information to hand was a reference to it from 1963, but no details or pictures. Now fully documented. 27 February 2022

    Read more: Whitworth Database Updates - 2022

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