The 1862 London International Exhibition

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The International Exhibition of 1862, successor to the 1851 Great Exhibition, was held at London 1 May to 1 November. Featuring over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries, it represented a wide range of industry, technology, and the arts and attracted about 6.1 million visitors.

Amongst the arms and ordnance exhibited were a number of long range rifles, which were described, briefly, by John Rigby for the Practical Mechanic’s Journal. The following is extracted from his report on Firearms.


by John Rigby, Esq., A.M., of Messrs. William and John Rigby, Dublin

The general adoption of the Enfield rifle in our army, and the importance which is given to accurate shooting at long ranges, have caused many experimentalists to attempt the further improvement of that model. There are several exhibitors of long-range rifles in the English department, all of which are designed on the principle of a reduced bore and a more elongated form of projectile. With the exception of the rifle which takes its name from the late General Jacob, all these are .451 bore, and throw a bullet of 530 grains.

Specimens of General Jacob’s military rifle are exhibited by Swinburn & Sons (2513), G.H. Daw (2527), and others. The bullet carries a persuasion shell, is about 0.5 inch in diameter, and 1.5 inches long. Its range and accuracy are considerable, but in both it has been surpassed by rifles of smaller calibre constructed on the system for which we are mainly indebted to the series of experiments carried out some years since at the instance and at the expense of the Government by Mr. Whitworth of Manchester. A very considerable sum of money was voted for these experiments, and the collection of rifles and rifled cannon exhibited by the Whitworth Rifle Company (2612) represents the conclusions arrived at. It is true that Mr. Whitworth has never made public the statistics of these experiments, or the manner in which he arrived at the particular proportions which he advocates, but it is equally true that the manufacturers of small-bore rifles have accepted them as a basis, and so acknowledged their merit.

Among the exhibitors in this section are the Whitworth Rifle Company (2612) the London Armoury Company (2561), C.W. Lancaster (2557), W. & J. Rigby (2585), R. Adams (2506), F.T. Baker (2510), R. Jackson (2550). In all these the bore is nearly the same, and the general principles of length of bullet, degree of spiral, &c., are very similar. The method of rifling, and the section of the bore constitute the chief difference. In Whitworth’s rifles the section is a hexagon with rounded angles, the grooves are of equal depth, and the spiral equable from breech to muzzle. The bullet is hexagonal, to fit the rifling, and is of lead slightly alloyed to render it harder. For military purposes, however, when quick loading is requisite, a leaden expanding bullet is used, but the patentee prefers the fitted bullet on the score of superior accuracy. The titles exhibited by the Whitworth Rifle Company are very well made and finished. The sights are extremely accurate, but appear rather delicate and liable to injury. We have before drawn attention to the superior quality of the barrels, which are drilled out of solid bars of mild steel. The hexagonal cartridges for these rifles exemplify the care and accuracy with which every part of the system is carried out. The powder in each cartridge is separately weighed, and both it and the bullet are guaranteed to a fraction of a grain.

C.W. Lancaster (2557) exhibits a small bore military rifle on his principle of an elliptic section. The bullet used is of soft lead and takes the rifling by expansion. A card attached gives the result of trials recently made at Woolwich, which prove the rifle to possess shooting qualities of the highest order.

W. & J. Rigby (2585) contribute a specimen of a military pattern gun rifled on their minimum principle. The grooving is very slight and shallow, but so formed as to present the greatest resistance to the bullet’s stripping, with the minimum amount of expansion. This form has also the merit of moulding the bullet to a form which presents inclined surfaces to the resistance of the air, and the rotation is consequently less retarded from that cause than in any other principle.

The London Armoury Company (2561) exhibit rifles on Kerr’s patent. The groove resembles Rigby’s, but instead of following an equal spiral, it starts straight or without spiral for a few inches near the breech; the spiral then commences and continues equable to the muzzle. The object proposed is to diminish fouling, but we cannot discover any reason why this plan should be effective for the purpose.

Adams’ (2506) small bore rifle has five grooves, and the same bore and spiral as Whitworth’s.

Baker’s (2510) has also five grooves, but so shaped as to blend gradually into the bore and present no edges.

Some idea may be formed of the power of an English small bore rifle of the present day, from the fact that with an elevation of less than three degrees it has a range of 1000 yards, and at that distance the mean deviation is under two feet.

Source: The Practical Mechanics’ Journal Scientific Record of the International Exhibition of 1862

The Official Catalogue from the International Exhibition of 1862 includes the following information on the exhibitors identified above:

Class 11. Military Engineering, Armour and Accoutrements, Ordnance and Small Arms
Sub-Class C – Arms, Ordnance, &c.

(2506) ADAMS, R. 76, King William-st. City. – Breech-loading guns. Rifles, and revolvers.

(2510) BAKER, F.T. 88, Fleet-st. – Sporting guns and rifle.

(2513) BIRMINGHAM MILITARY ARMS TRADE, Birmingham. – Military rifles, guns, and pistols, in the form of a Trophy.

(2527) DAW, G. H. 57, Threadneedle-st. – Breech-loading guns.

(2550) JACKSON, R. 30, Portman-pl. W. – Rifle, muzzle loader.

(2557) LANCASTER, C.W. 151, New Bond-st. W. – Breech-loading guns and rifles, military rifles (oval bore), &c.

(2561) LONDON ARMOURY Co. Bermondsey. – Machine-made Enfield rifles, revolving pistols, &c.

(2585) RIGBY, W. J. Dublin. – Rifles, guns, breech-loading stanchion gun, &c.

(2612) WHITWORTH RIFLE & ORDNANCE Co. Sackville-st, Manchester. – Rifled ordnance, gun carriages &c.