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Hex Bore

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

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 - 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.

To keep in touch with news updates follow Hex Bore - The Whitworth Research Project on Facebook. To discuss the Whitworth rifle's history and shooting today with others, then join the Whitworth Rifle enthusiasts group on Facebook. Of interest may also be the following Facebook group - Long Range Target Shooting with the Black Powder Rifle.


  • 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].
  • Measuring Precision - 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. This article explains how Figure of Merit was determined, and considers some oft misquoted data on the Whitworth rifle.

 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.

Pattern 1863 Enfield-Whitworth Short Rifle

Pattern 1863 Enfield-Whitworth Short Rifle of which something over 8,200 were manufactured during 1863 and 1864 for trials. The pictured rifle was manufactured in July 1864.

If you own such a rifle, or the 1862 Enfield-Whitworth, please get in touch. The underside of the barrel and back of breech plug have details including barrel supplier, date and serial number. Pictures would be much appreciated.

Pattern 1863 Enfield-Whitworth Short Rifle

Whitworth: Rifle No. B143

This rifle was sold by auction 7 May 2006, Hammer price: AU$14000
Auctioneer: Australian Antique Arms Auctions

Whitworth: Rifle No. B143

Dealers Catalogue Description (Lot 576a)
WHITWORTH PERCUSSION VOLUNTEER RIFLE: 461 Cal; 33" rnd barrel; exc bore with hexagonal rifling, strong blue finish & marked whitworth patent with British proofs & 52; knox form & lock display case hardening colour; bolted hammer safety; lock marked with plumbed coronet over w & whitworth; the 3 barrel bands show blue thinning to plum finish; coarse chequering to wrist & forend; v.g. wood with sharp profiles; patch box & steel butt plate showing signs of case hardening colour; r.rod marked f.preston manchester & numbered to the gun. This rifle is in magnificent cond & appears little used. #B143.

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

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..."

Read more: Rifled Small Arms

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

More Articles ...

  1. Guns and Steel