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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

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Hex Bore - The Whitworth Research Project

Hex Bore is a project by Research Press for the study of Whitworth rifles and artillery. News, updates, information and anecdotes will be found in the Hex Bore blog.

The Whitworth Research Project originated with De Witt Bailey and Bill Curtis. The study is being continued by David Minshall of Research Press who has been given access to the original project database and other files. This database now stands at over 700 rifles and is 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, and contact David at Research Press with details.

Joseph WhitworthJoseph Whitworth was born at Stockport on the 21st of December, 1803. He began his career as a toolmaker in Manchester in 1833, where he rented a room with steam power, and put up a sign ‘Joseph Whitworth, Tool Maker, from London,’ thus founding a workshop which soon became the model of a mechanical manufacturing establishment. He died in January, 1887, with a world-wide reputation as the most eminent producer and designer of precision machine tools.

Approached in 1854 by Lord Hardinge to investigate 'the mechanical principles applicable in the construction of an efficient weapon,' Whitworth was unwilling to commit to the design of a complete set of machinery for manufacturing rifle muskets, but did accede to the construction of the machinery for the rifle barrel only. Whitworth's experiments revolutionised rifle design. Looking back on his achievements, in 1859 Joseph Whitworth wrote: "1855 - In March the rifle gallery was completed. By the end of the year, the proper construction for the rifle musket was determined." That's a statement of a confident man!

Renowned for its accuracy, the Whitworth rifle was used in long range competition and set standards for others to aspire to. Although never adopted for British Service, a version of the Whitworth rifle famously saw limited use in the hands of Confederate Sharpshooters during the American Civil War. Whitworth was however after military contracts, preferably for cannon; his rifles served well to place a convenient form of advertising for his system before military men and riflemen of the Volunteer forces who were well connected in military circles.

Whitworth’s most important contribution to the gun-making business and more generally to the development of rifled small arms was that he reduced a great deal of confusion to order by systematic experiment, and created a foundation of proven facts from which he created a system which exhibited the great superiority of his work.

In addition to the following articles, see also the gunmakers pages for Joseph Whitworth, which include general and biographic information. See the Ordnance pages for additional information on Whitworth guns.

Reference

  • 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.
  • Guns and Steel - "It is probable that few are aware of the manner in which I approached the subject of rifling guns, or know that the Whitworth rifle was produced as the result of many months of experimental research in the rifle gallery, five hundred yards long, erected in my grounds at Manchester." [1873]
  • Contemporary leaflets concerning loading and cleaning the Whitworth rifle.
  • Rifled Small Arms - J. Whitworth letter appealing against arming troops with short-range rifles [1870].

 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.

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.'

Read more: Guns and Steel

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