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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 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 - 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
  • 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
  • Good to be able to update the Whitworth database with two early (1858 dated) rifles. One previously recorded in 2004, and another new to the records. That's the 3rd 'new' Whitworth to be documented this year. 18 June 2023

‘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

Whitworth Database Updates - 2021

Whitworth Database Management Updates - 2021

  • Two previously undocumented Confederate Whitworth rifles surfaced in 2020 and were documented - each was complete with scope mounts but missing the telescope. I wonder what else is tucked away in family homes and passed down as heirlooms. . . March 2021
  • Pleased to receive pictures of a Whitworth sporting rifle c1859 from a private collection in New Zealand. Noted in 1963 it reappeared in 2005 in the US, then in NZ on 2010, and again in 2021. Documentation details updated. 3 May 2021
  • Updated database records for Whitworth military match rifle B94. The cased rifle, with accessories, was presented to a Volunteer Officer attending a course at Hythe School of Musketry in December 1860. 8 May 2021
  • Last recorded in 1978, details of Whitworth military match rifle 841 now updated. 17 May 2021
  • Whitworth rifle D552 records updated. This was fitted with a Metford Patent barrel by George Gibbs of Bristol in the late 1860s. 29 May 2021

    Read more: Whitworth Database Updates - 2021

Birth of a Big Gun (1908)

Astonishing footage from 1908 at the factory of Armstrong Whitworth & Co.

"A new weapon is launched in the pre-WWI naval arms race. This striking film illustrates the processes in the casting and manufacture of a 12-inch, 50-calibre naval gun - the kind of gun that would be used on battleships between 1914 and 1918. It was filmed in early 1908 at the factory of Armstrong Whitworth & Co., based in Newcastle-on-Tyne. The scale of the operation from 85,000 kilos of molten steel to the massive form of the finished gun is nicely filmed to showcase its impressiveness."


Whitworth Rifle Accuracy

Whilst the Whitworth was undoubtedly an accurate rifle for its time, setting standards for other gunmakers to aspire to, contemporary reports can be misunderstood. The system used to measure precision of rifled arms was the "Figure of Merit" (FoM). It is a measure of mean radial distance of shots from the centre of a group. Today, contemporary results of FoM are from time to time reported as group size, presenting misleading information and unreliable reports of accuracy. The actual size of the original group cannot be determined from the Figure of Merit, however for a 20 shot group multiplying the Figure of Merit by about three and half will give an indication of the likely overall size of the group.

So in trials in 1857 the Whitworth was recorded with a FoM of .37 feet (or 4.44 inch) at 500 yards - based on the above this would be a group size in the order of 15.5 inch (roughly 3 minutes of angle). At 1100 yards the FoM of 2.41 feet was recorded - so a group size in the order of 8.5 feet.

See the following article and videos to which it links: Measuring Accuracy