TRANSITIONAL RIFLES - OVERVIEW

On the 23rd August 1864 the following notice was placed in a selection of public journals:

'The Secretary of State is desirous of receiving communications from gunmakers and others on the subject of the best means of converting the Enfield Rifle into a breech loader under the following conditions:

1st  Cost not to exceed £1 per arm.

2nd  Shooting of the converted arm not to be inferior to that of an unaltered arm.

Descriptions of methods proposed, accompanied b specimen arms, should be sent to the director of Ordinance, War Office, Pall Mall, on or before September 20th.....' The notice goes on but I think the reader will get the gist.

There were 47 ideas submitted to the Board of Ordinance Committee by the submission date of 12th October 1864 and of those 9 were selected for trials:

Green

Shepard (versions 'a' and 'b')

Snider

Mont Storm

Wilson (photos)

Joslyn

Colonel Dixon, Superintendent of R.S.A.F

&

Westley Richards

Each of the inventors were given 6 Enfield rifles for conversion and they were required to supply 1,000 of ammunition with their submissions.....On the 8th October Colonel Dixon withdrew his submission as apparently it did not shoot well and was 'inferior to that of an unaltered arm'.

In the final round of rapid fire testing, with the final 5 systems - Snider, Green, Mont Storm, Wilson and Westley Richards made it through to final testing...Both Shepard versions were discounted as the ammunition kept breaking up upon loading (also the ignition system was considered unsafe) and Joslyn's system required special stocks which precluded them from the competition, presumably due to cost.

Upon final rapid fire testing the following times were recorded for the remaining systems in the competition based on 20 rounds:

Snider                        2 mins 30 seconds

Green                         3 mins 18 seconds

Mont Storm                4 mins 23 seconds

Wilson                        4 mins 34 seconds

Westley Richards       4 mins 44 seconds

Service Enfield          7 mins 20 seconds

In brief Snider's system was seen to be the most promising system with it's metallic cartridge, with Storm's system a close second with it's paper capping system...After some more testing Snider's system was eventually adopted and just from the figures given above there is a clear advantage over the standard service Enfield.

Reference:

.577 Snider-Enfield Rifles and Carbines by Ian Skinnerton pages 41 to page 65.

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Like many gun makers of the time Thomas Wilson was keen to cash in on what could have been a very lucrative market not only in the UK but also around Europe. This link leads to text and photos outlining a conversion done to a Pattern 60 rifle (presumably in 1861/2) and aimed at the continental market.

Two further examples of the rifles that ware potentially submitted, but not accepted by the Board of Ordinance, are a  converted Pattern 53 done by T.J. Mayalls (patented in 1865).. This link leads to more information on this interesting rifle and This Link leads to a conversion done by a gun smith and inventor called Bailey.