Westley Richards "Monkey tail" capping breechloading rifles and carbines


Published on

IWM Lecture by Robbie Betteridge on Westley Richards Monkey Tail rifles HBSA Feb 2010
This is a presentation delivered to a monthly meeting of the Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association (HBSA) in London, UK.

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Westley Richards "Monkey tail" capping breechloading rifles and carbines

  1. 1. HBSA Lecture Mon 15 March at IWM - Westley Richards Monkeytails<br />Robbie Betteridge gave a masterful account of the Westley Richards “Monkey-Tails” rifles, 1858 – 1882, and provided several excellent specimens to examine, as well as a large number of illustrations. It is evident that Robbie is the UK expert on these fascinating arms. As a Muzzleloader, he was uncertain of the depth of knowledge and expectations of the HBSA audience, so was prepared to talk on many aspects of the ‘tail. Apart from the ‘de rigeur’ sources, he was able to locate, with help from the locals (Prof. Ron Bester, Adrian Roads and Fernando Viana), written accounts in Africa, Australia and Portugal.<br />Capt. Majendie, in his 1870 address, said: “The ablest and most experienced military men said, and our military authorities laid it down as a fundamental axiom, that cartridges containing their own ignition were not admissible for military use, what they meant was :-<br />1st. That such cartridges were more liable than others to accidental explosion; and <br />2nd. That in the event of the explosion of one cartridge, the contents of the barrel were liable, to be all exploded en masse, and so to communicate from barrel to barrel.” <br />Whitworth, in Guns & Steel complained that, whilst he had complied in his trials with the two stipulations of bullet weight (530 grains) and charge (2.5 Drams), military opinion was totally against reducing the bore from 25 to 52. Thus the Capping-Breech Loader was an unwanted stop-gap that became not only the first significant breech loader in Service but also a guerrilla weapon ‘par excellence’.<br />Westley Richards referred Robbie to Wal Winfer as the only source of current intelligence on the firm’s activities in those times; however even Winfer had only been able to scratch the surface. Robbie wanted a record of production so he set about getting it by reverse engineering. He built a ‘Register’ of surviving ‘tails from the Catalogues of the main Auction Room, and owner’s reports garnered from people passing his table at the Bisley Fairs & MLAGB members. Through some 254 Weller & Dufty catalogues. He found that D.Nie was (usuallly) good at noting the relevant details for identification, Barrel length, Lock Date and Batch Number, along with a description. However there are many more guns and catalogues to find and Robbie would appreciate any help in this quest. Please contact him at either rac.b@virgin.net or 01483 202619. Very occasionally contemporary adverts come to light and copies are most eagerly sought. <br />Since few members of the audience were acquainted with the ‘tail, Robbie set about an overview, 20 years in 40 minutes. Even with a minimum of detail he could only cover a fraction of his knowledge, spanning : Relationship with Historical Events and the World into which it was born; Derivative influences, Moore & Brunel; Earlier Breech Loaders used by the Military; Patent 633 of 1858 and An explanation of what the ‘tail was and how it was made. He discussed survival rates into modern times, and that the ‘Survivors’ provide an explanation of the Serial/Batch Numbering System. The Division of Production into ‘Best Guns’ (numbered in the range of 8989 to 10573 and some of the personages buying them) and the remaining categories by gauge (40, 52,130,); Single & Double guns; 52 bore: 447, 449, 450, 4505, 451, plus 577, 10.5 & 12.5 mm; by groove, 480 or 483 etc.; by type - Match Rifle, Prize Rifle, Carbine, Sporting Gun/early Express, Military Rifled Muskets and Carbines; by contractor’s batches; and finally into the Westley Richards years and the later period when production was under the National Arms & Ammunition Co Ltd (1872 to 1882). He dealt with the Quality of shooting at NRA Wimbledon in the Duke of Cambridge Cup and the 1860 Prince Consort Cup; the carbines provided to: The Colonial Government of Victoria, The British Cavalry, (batch of 2000); the 19000 made under Licence by Enfield; the early years in S. Africa and the shoot of the Duke of Edinburgh (1860),; and the three Marks of the Central Fire Rifle and Carbine.<br />He didn’t have time to address guns issued to the Colonial Government of Natal, the Portuguese Government, Clavinas, Cacadores, & Pistols, the Cape Town Volunteer Artillery, the Cape Town Volunteer Cavalry, His Grace the Duke of Beaufort’s Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, Lt. Col Lloyd Lindsay’s Mounted Volunteers, Experimental Arms, Ammunition, Westley Richards & Kynoch and DIY, Tools, Accessories, Cases, Nipples, caps, and Sights, Monkey Tails made by manufacturers other than Westley Richards – Hollis, Murcott, Redman Reeves, Universal Arms, Williamson, and those made for resale by Reilly, Trulock & Harris, Burns and Bonehill, and finally Cavalry Arms Drill and Firing Exercises.<br />Please contact Robbie with any ‘sightings’ of Monkey-Tails you come across; even just quoting a catalogue number or batch/serial will let him check for new material. On the other hand he may have a provenance or be able to answer your questions, or even source/make parts.<br />