The Gibbs-Metford Rifle

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The Rigby muzzle loading match rifle is famously known for being used by the Irish Team that competed at Creedmoor in 1874 against the USA. The rifle then used shallow rifling and a hardend lead bullet. Its time-line in this form is not always appreciated nor is the influence of the work of William Metford.

The 1865 Cambridge Cup match in Great Britain, which comprised two days shooting at 1,000 and 1,100 yards, fifteen shots at each range each day, was won by Sir Henry Halford using a Gibbs-Metford match rifle. The Times of 15 June 1865 had this to say of the rifle: “The weapon with which the prize was won, will, it is said, create some stir among those interested in small-bore and long-range shooting, being on entirely new principles.” Metford’s design utilised shallow rifling and a hardened expanding cylindrical bullet.

Rigby adopted the principles demonstrated by Metford which generated some ‘open letters’ in the press. Metford later wrote:

“It is my wish to say that I distinctly claim the discovery of the expanding hardened cylindrical bullet, and the application of it to the highest class of shooting; and I claim to have publicly proved the value of the discovery [Cambridge Cup match result above], at a time when nothing but either heavily rifled fitting or soft lead bullets were believed in. It is fair both to myself and to Mr. Rigby, who has renounced both his former rifles and adopted the hardened expanding system, with its accompanying shallow rifling, to say that on my pressing him he has in a public paper stated that the hardened expanding cylindrical bullet was my invention and discovery, and not his own.”