The Whitworth is not a ‘Minute of Angle’ Rifle

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Anyone reading 19thC texts about the Whitworth rifle will, sooner or later, come across the term ‘Figure of Merit’ (FoM). This was a comparative process used to evaluate the precision of arms. Today FoM is sometimes misunderstood and mistaken for group size – where it is actually the mean radial distance of shots from the centre of the group. Whilst the Whitworth rifle was capable of remarkable accuracy for its time, misinterpretation of the 19thC FoM can lead to some wildly ambitious expectations of groups. The following article explains how Figure of Merit was determined, and considers some oft misquoted data on the Whitworth rifle: Measuring Precision.