Thomas Wilson his Patents, Arms and Ammunition

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Andrew Appleby of Cape Town, South Africa, is researching the little known Victorian Engineer, Thomas Wilson and his rifle systems in order to write a definitive book on this man and provide some insight into his weapons system work conducted during the 1860’s and later.

The book will cover certain key patent details including the development of his Capping–Breech-loading system for the conversion of Enfield muzzle loading rifles through to the development of a 0.50 calibre centre fire rifle and a further system identified as an integral forerunner in the design of machine guns and quick firing guns of today.

Detailed coverage of the numerous Army Trials and comparative information / statistics will be included, together with commentaries from users of the day to the inclusion of patent drawings, photographs, a data list of the few remaining specimens that have been found and auction prices of his rifles from around the world over for the last 14 years.

T. Wilson’s Capping Breech-Loading System
T. Wilson’s Capping Breech-Loading System

The main objective of this book is to collate and concentrate the known information on Thomas Wilson and his breech-loading systems developed during the 1860’s, a time when he and others were at the forefront of a transitional movement away from muzzle loading guns to full breech loading weapon systems.

Little is known about Thomas Wilson and even less on his weapon designs, as he and so many capable engineers of that time have been consigned to history and old bookshelves. Thankfully the internet and the digitising of thousands of books and newspapers has provided the author with a rich collection of snippets, allowing them to be brought together and placed with his patents to give the reader some insight into his designs and understanding of the Wilson rifle systems. Included also will be the various trials and results presented by the Ordnance Select Committees to parliament in the search of a suitable breech-loading rifle to meet the needs of a modernising British Army.

Information has been sourced from around the world from, Auction Houses, Dealer Catalogues, Other Authors, Collectable Shops, Libraries, Museums and from Private Collections in an attempt to develop a common record from the scattered and piece meal scraps of information.

The second objective is to try and strike a balance between the academic weight of the book and the lighter moments derived from third party comments, likes and dislikes, to the simplicity of a hunter’s daily diary in Africa recalling his use of his Wilson. Included will be magazine & the newspaper advertising of the day particularly those bringing new inventions and developments to their reader’s notice.

The Auction information will provide the reader with some idea of international prices from country to country with the inclusion where possible of photographs of the individual auction pieces and descriptive write ups.

T. Wilson & Co, Straight Pull, 50 Cal bolt action rifle
T. Wilson & Co, Straight Pull, 50 Cal bolt action rifle

To ensure as much information is collected, I am looking for any contributions particularly examples of:

  • Further information on Wilsons Carbines, Short Rifles, Long Rifles and Sporting Rifles.
  • Photographs of such guns.
  • Serial Numbers and prefix letters – found in front of the breech, also any cartouches to the woodwork etc.
  • Newspaper / Magazine Advertising, Advertorial and Broad sheet Advertising particularly that of Rabone of Birmingham who were one of many licensed manufacturers.

If you can help with anything, please contact Andrew Appleby

Andrew Appleby