The Henry Rifle

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Alexander Henry’s Patent for barrels is number 2802, dated 15 November 1860. In brief the patent abridgment reads: “The rifled bore is of polygonal cross-section, and is provided, in addition, with curved, square, or angular spiral projections or grooves, so as to increase the bearing points of the projectile.”

The Ironmonger and Metal Trades Advertiser, a monthly trade circular published in London, included a favourable report on Alexander Henry’s rifle in 1861, suggesting it surpassed the “famous Whitworth in precision.” The article, which refers to Henry having “hit upon an entirely new principle in rifling fire-arms” was reprinted by Scientific American and is reprinted below.

Source: Scientific American, 19 October 1861

Introduction > Mr. Henry’s Invention

We take the following account of this famous weapon from The Ironmonger:–

At the close of last year we heard that some extraordinary practice had been made with a new rifle, patented by Mr. Alexander Henry, the well known gunmaker of Edinburgh, but as we could not obtain any information respecting the peculiar construction of the weapon, we concluded that its wonderful accuracy at long ranges was mainly owing to good workmanship. We imagined that the skillful gunsmith had turned out a very fine poly-grooved rifle, the novelty of which merely consisted in the number and form of the grooves. We never suspected that he had hit upon an entirely new principle in rifling fire-arms, and had produced a weapon far surpassing the famous Whitworth in precision. Had he been a military man, an engineer, or anything but a professed maker of guns, we should probably have given him credit for some originality.

At the meeting of the National Rifle Association on Wimbledon Common, in July last, the Henry Rifle was first brought before the notice of our English marksmen, who were amazed at its performances. Sixteen important prizes and most of the pools were won with the new arm. Major Moir used it in the contest for the Prince Consorts Prize of £100, which he eventually carried off. Seven shots were fired at each of the ranges, 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, and the winner made twenty-one points. On the last day of the meeting an interesting match came off between Oxford, with the Whitworth, and Cambridge, with the Henry. Each University was represented by two of her best shots. The contest was got up for the purpose of testing both men and rifles. The Cambridge men were undoubtedly the finest marksmen, but their extraordinary score, which, if we remember right, doubled that of their competitors, is partly to be accounted for by the superiority of the Henry Rifle. Mr. Peterkin, with thirty shots, ten at each range, 800, 900, and 1,000 yards, obtained thirty-one points, the highest score ever made on Wimbledon Common at these great distances. Some wonderful shooting was made at the pool targets with the new weapon. Sergeant Dillon got eleven consecutive two-inch bulls eyes at 100 yards. Lord Elcho with seven shots at 200 yards, made six consecutive four and a half-inch bulls eyes and one center.

At the recent meeting of Scottish marksmen at Montrose, the Henry has again made itself heard. With it Mr. Edward Ross won Scotland’s Cup, and the first long-range prize or Strangers Cup. Major Moir succeeded in carrying off the third prize with the very weapon which had proved such a trusty friend at Wimbledon.

In one of the early trials of the rifle Mr. Henry himself fired six shots with it at the extraordinary range of 1,100 yards, and hit the target with every ball, except the first, making three centers and two outers. At the mile range he afterward hit the target, which was six feet high by ten wide, three times out of seven shots. Several military men witnessed this wonderful shooting. In a quiet trial of skill between the famous marksman, Mr. Edward Ross, and his father, the old deer-stalker, near Aberdeen, the precision of the new weapon at long distances was strikingly shown. The ranges were 800, 900, and 1,000 yards, and each competitor fired ten shots from a Henry at each range. The father made with his thirty shots, thirty-four points the son no fewer than forty-three points, only missing the target once. Capt. Moir, on the 28d of April, fired twenty-one shots with this arm at 1,000 yards, and got seven centers, twelve outers, and two misses, counting twenty-six points. These examples of practice made with the Henry will suffice to account for the popularity of the arm. Though its history only begins in 1860, it is now the favourite weapon of many of our most skillful marksmen, and it is generally selected for the first prize by County Rifle Associations.