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Historical Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Military History

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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 - 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


Replacing Whitworth Barrels in the 19thC

The Whitworth rifle with its hexagonal bore set new standards in accuracy and in the early 1860s was used by keen long range riflemen in target shooting competition. By the late 1860s it was however being supplanted by other gunmakers using shallow groove rifling and hardened cylindrical bullets - notably Metford and Rigby. It is not uncommon to find Whitworth stock/lock fitted with such barrels as 19thC riflemen ‘upgraded’ their rifles, and over the years the original Whitworth barrel becomes separated.

I was recently contacted by the owner of one such Whitworth barrel enquiring if the Whitworth database held any further records. Luckily the owner of the original stock/lock, fitted with a Metford barrel, had provided information 10 years previously. Cross reference of serial numbers matched. Happily, and after gaining permission, the owners of the respective parts are now in touch with each other and can exchange information.


Whitworth Rearsights

A few pictures of original Whitworth rearsights illustrating that there was no single pattern; there are also further variants. All those shown are from full stocked Whitworth military style rifles. Whitworth rifles display in their construction many minor variations and finishing differences.

Whitworth rearsights


Army (Whitworth Guns)

Recent addition to the Whitworth library: ARMY (WHITWORTH GUNS). Correspondence respecting the Trial of the Whitworth Guns, between the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Whitworth Company, with the Report of the Ordnance Select Committee. 1867.

Army (Whitworth Guns)