Wilkinson Target rifle.. ??

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Cannonman1

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I have come into the possession of an English percussion rifle that is listed as a Target rifle. It is marked Wilkinson, which I understand made rifles up to 1857. Its caliber appears to be .577 and i am including some images of it. OF interest is the fact that the barrel is damascus and there is a strange appendage near the muzzle akin to a bayonet lug but I don't think that is what it was used for..
Sling swivels are of the style found on older British muskets and the barrel is attached with wedges instead of barrel bands.
What is this and why .577 caliber for a target rifle and not .451 as in the whitworth ??
Any help in identifying this piece is appreciated.

Cannonman1Wilkinson rifle.jpg
 

dave_person

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Hi,
During the 1850s, British ordnance was experimenting with bullet and rifle combinations to improve on the speed of loading, accuracy, reliability,and production of military rifled muskets. During that quest they invited a number of British gun makers to submit designs. Those makers included Henry Wilkinson, Charles Lancaster, Westley Richards, James Purdey, and some others. At least some of offerings looked superficially like the standard issue Brunswick rifle with side bayonet mount, twist barrels, percussion side locks, full stock, etc. The calibers ranged from close to 0.70 but several were 0.577 and smaller. This is all before the Whitworth. They tried belted balls, oval bores, and hollow base bullets like the Minie. I believe your rifle is one of Wilkinson's offerings for that purpose or a production version stemming from his prototypes. Hopefully, Feltwad and David Minshall will chime in because they likely are better schooled in this than I am.

dave
 

Cannonman1

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Dave,
WoW !!! Thanks for all that information.. I would love to see the correspondence/test data etc for that period.. Will have to do some serious research. Thanks again for your input and for taking the time to reply.
Bill
 

Cannonman1

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Dave,
Did not show this in the images but this rifle has 2 rear sight installed.. I thought that very curious but considering it may have been a test piece, The 2 different styles of rear sight may have been part of that.. The rear one is marked in yards and goes up to 900 while the front one looks European.. As well as the muzzle piece with cross hairs in the insert. Any thoughts??

upload_2019-9-30_12-4-31.png

upload_2019-9-30_12-5-47.png
 

ResearchPress

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I don't think it's a target rifle, although with the out-of-period additional rear sight and added foresight, that's what someone appears to have used it for. The additional sights could have been added in 'modern times'? The foresight looks to have an Allen key fitting which I gather is a 20thC invention. The original rear sight is that closest to the breech and with elevation adjustment to 900 yards. I'd anticipate a blade foresight - but that may have been removed to fit the tunnel foresight. Is there anything on the rifle to date it? I'd wondered at first if it was aimed at the very early years of the Volunteer movement 1859-early 1860s, but would have anticipated Enfield type rifling, which it does not appear to have (at least from the pictures currently available).

If/when you have it in hand, can you post pictures of the proof marks and any other markings you may find?

David
 

Cannonman1

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Pouring over all the pics I have , it seems to be devoid of any cartouches, inspection stampings or other markings on wood or metal. The only markings I can see are - "Wilkinson London" on the top of the breech and "Wilkinson" on the lock plate.
 

hawkeye2

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The front sight looks like a current Lyman or Redfield fixed on a sleeve on the barrel secured with an allen screw. I wonder if it was cut to slide over the original front sight.
 

dave_person

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Hi David,
Thank you for responding. You are the guy with which Cannonman should be in touch.

dave
 

Cannonman1

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The front sight looks like a current Lyman or Redfield fixed on a sleeve on the barrel secured with an allen screw. I wonder if it was cut to slide over the original front sight.
Yes.. The front muzzle sleeve slides over the original front blade sight. Thats great news.
 

Zonie

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For what it's worth, recessed drive screws like a Allen screw weren't commercially available until around 1910-1911.
 

Cannonman1

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For what it's worth, recessed drive screws like a Allen screw weren't commercially available until around 1910-1911.
Absolutely.. The front sight is a new add on. It was, fortunately machined to allow the preservation of the original front sight. I am going to take the front sight collar off and restore this gal back to her original configuration.
 

Cannonman1

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Hi,
During the 1850s, British ordnance was experimenting with bullet and rifle combinations to improve on the speed of loading, accuracy, reliability,and production of military rifled muskets. During that quest they invited a number of British gun makers to submit designs. Those makers included Henry Wilkinson, Charles Lancaster, Westley Richards, James Purdey, and some others. At least some of offerings looked superficially like the standard issue Brunswick rifle with side bayonet mount, twist barrels, percussion side locks, full stock, etc. The calibers ranged from close to 0.70 but several were 0.577 and smaller. This is all before the Whitworth. They tried belted balls, oval bores, and hollow base bullets like the Minie. I believe your rifle is one of Wilkinson's offerings for that purpose or a production version stemming from his prototypes. Hopefully, Feltwad and David Minshall will chime in because they likely are better schooled in this than I am.

dave
I know the Baker and Brunswick were kind of "specialty" weapons and as the model 1851 and later 1853 Rifle Muskets took center stage, this example may be a experimental sidestep (as you suggest) to develop a weapon that shot the standard .577 round (and others) and was easier to load than the Baker or Brunswick. Not having inspection marks to my knowledge, kind of support that premise as well. Its basic construction has a very much Baker/Brunswick look. If it was a production gun, I would think it would have been emblazoned with government acceptance stampings.
 

ResearchPress

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There should be proof marks, likely if not seen in the vendors pictures they’re on the underside of the barrel.

David
 

Cannonman1

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Just got the rifle in.. Better condition than I expected.. Wood is highly figured and minty.. The bore has Metford rifling (7 groove) and is pretty close to 54 caliber. I have not had the chance to pull the barrel to look for markings but non visible on exposed wood or metal. Will post images of any inspector markings in a little bit. Its a very compact and well built rifle in all respects.
 

dave_person

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Hi,
Those are Birmingham proof marks post 1813. John Clive and John Clive and Son were active barrel makers in Birmingham from 1814-1869. The father, John, died in 1833 but his son kept up the business. That is a very nice twist barrel.

dave
 
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