Charles William Lancaster (1820–1878) was a British gunmaker and improver of rifles and cannon. Lancaster was the eldest son of Charles Lancaster, gunmaker, Portman Square, London, on 24 June 1820. On leaving school he entered his father's factory, where he practically learnt the business of a gunmaker and soon became a clever designer of models, a thoroughly skilled workman, and a mechanician of high order. The study of rifled projectiles and the construction of rifles was his chief pleasure, and he soon attained the highest skill as a rifle shot.
In 1846, Lancaster constructed a model rifle with which he experimented at Woolrich, with success at distances of 1,000 and 1,200 yards (920 and 1,100 m). The the Duke of Wellington then ordered some similar rifles for the Rifle Brigade at the Cape of good Hope. The years 1844 and 1845 were devoted to solving the problem of rifled cannon. In July 1846, he submitted to the Board of Ordnance a plan for firing from rifled cannon smooth-sided conical projectiles; the required rotary motion coming from a sabot fitted to the base of the projectile, the base having a V cross-piece cast in it. Further experiments, however, did not encourage him to go on with this scheme.
In 1850, he conceived the idea of the oval bore as the proper form for all rifled arms and cannon; with which his name is associated. In order to publicize his invention, he constructed full-size working models of the 68-pounder, the largest gun then in the service, for the Great Exhibition of 1851. At the request of the government, these models were not exhibited, but a 68-pounder oval-bore gun, made and rifled at Birmingham, with accurately turned shells, was sent to Shoeburyness for trial. The shooting of this gun directed attention to the oval-bore system, and in the succeeding experiments made at Woolwich, Lancaster assisted the War Department and for some time superintended the production of the guns in theRoyal Arsenal. In 1852, he experimented upon the .577 pattern Enfield rifled musket and sent to the school of musketry at Hythe some specimens of carbines bored on his peculiar system. The device was considered satisfactory. In January 1855, the Lancaster carbine was adopted as the arm for the Royal Engineers and was used by members of the corps until it was superseded by the Martini-Henry Rifle in 1869. During the Crimean Campaigne, oval-bored rifle cannon were used and did good service and were, it is said, the first rifled guns used in active service by the army and navy. Shortly after the war, heavier guns were required for armour-piercing, and the experiments carried out at Shoeburyness, in which Lancaster assisted, led to a complete revolution in rifled artillery. For the oval-bore system of rifling, he received substantial rewards from the government. His transactions with the War Office, however, led to disputes, and he scheduled his claims in a pamphlet but was unsuccessful in obtaining the recognition of his services to which he considered himself entitled. Between 1850 and 1872, he took out upwards of twenty patents, chiefly in connection with firearms but including a joint patent with John Hughesfor iron plating ships in 1860. His last invention was a gas-check, applicable to large rifled projectiles.
He traveled much in Russia, where the Czar had a special gold medal of large size struck in his honour. He was elected an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 6 April 1852 and wrote a paper "On the Erosion of the Bore in Heavy Guns". While making arrangements for retiring from business, he was seized with paralysis and died at 151 New Bond Street, London, on 24 April 1878. He married in 1868 Ellen, daughter of George Edward and Ann Thorne, by whom he had two daughters.
oldguns.ca, virtual museum.
Undoubtedly, the Calisher & Terry is one of the more interesting and enigmatic of the Civil War-era breechloaders. Given the sobriquet “door-bolt gun” because of its unique, early bolt-action mechanism, during its brief life span (which probably extended no longer than 10 years between 1860 and 1870), in both rifle and carbine form, it saw use not only in its native Britain but throughout the world.
The “Terry,” as it is most commonly called, was certainly not the first bolt-action longarm, nor was it necessarily the best—though it was not all that bad. Despite a probable run of no more than 20,000 guns, and approved by the British War Office for use by cavalry, it was first issued to the 18th Hussars, but is best known for its use by the Colonial governments in Australia and New Zealand - particularly by the NZ Colonial Defence Force (NZ Forest Rangers) from July 1863 - A number were used during the American Civil War, particularly by the Confederates, but they were never a standard issue for any unit.
It was also popular in New Zealand, where it was employed against the Maoris, as well as in South Africa, with the Cape Mounted Rifles, Australia and America, with numbers being sold to both United States and Southern forces in unknown quantities.
Most famously, the Calisher & Terry was the chosen carbine of famed Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. A Terry was also found by Union forces in the baggage of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Like the carbine featured here, both were marked with the name of the retailer, Thomas Blissett of Liverpool.
Designed by William Terry, who patented his invention in 1856, the gun was an interesting capping breechloader, the action of which involved a turning bolt or “plunger.” The action was assisted in sealing escaping gases by way of a swinging gate that had to be pivoted out and up before the bolt could be withdrawn.
At the heart of the system was a proprietary cartridge that consisted of a .539" (and earlier .568") conical bullet wrapped in a nitrated paper envelope which, at its base, had an attached, greased felt wad. The charge was 55 grs. of blackpowder.
After the load had been inserted in the chamber and the bolt closed, the carbine was capped and fired, the wad providing an excellent seal. Firing a subsequent round pushed the first wad ahead of the bullet, cleaning the bore. The cartridge, while ingenious, was not as unique as a similar-style cartridge used in the superior "Westley Richards Monkey Tail Breechloader"
For the most part, Calisher & Terrys were well regarded by those who used them, though there were complaints of gas leakage after the head of the “plunger” became eroded from repeated usage.
Rifles and carbines were manufactured by William Terry and his partner, Bertram Calisher, in Birmingham, England, under the name Breech Loading Armoury Co. (Limited). With the exception of the less than 1,000 carbines built for the British military, whose locks featured a crowned “VR” (“Victoria Regina”) and date, the remainder of the firm’s output was for commercial sale. As such, they will either be marked with caliber (“30 BORE”) and simple Calisher & Terry designations, or might also have the added name of a retailer. Specimens with floral and scroll engraving also exist.
The carbine shown here is a typical civilian arm, retailed by Thomas Blissett and checkered at the wrist and fore-end—an embellishment not seen on all Terrys.
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W.J. Jeffery & Co was founded by William Jackman Jeffery (1857–1909), who started his career in the gun trade in 1885 working in the front shop of Cogswell & Harrison. In 1887 Philip Webley appointed Jeffery manager of Webley and son's London showroom. Webley later abandoned their London operation and in 1890 Jeffery formed a partnership with a man by the name of Davies and Jeffery & Davies. This partnership was short lived and in 1891 the firm was renamed W.J. Jeffery & Co, still operating out of the Queen Victoria Street store. In addition to building new firearms, W.J. Jeffery & Co was a trader in second hand firearms, by 1892 offering over 1000 for sale. In 1898 the firm opened a shop at 13 King Street St. James and by 1900 the company was a full-scale gunmaker with a workshop at 1 Rose and Crown Yard, near to the King Street shop.
Martini-Francotte rifle is system of the English weapon Martini-Henry, improved by Auguste Francotte, manufacturer of weapons in Liege.
This rifle Martini system is itself an improvement of the weapon of Peabody, it was adopted, initially by the English government for its army, then by Turkey and Romania; it is known under the name of Martini-Henry rifle.
Martini is the inventor of the meeting of the mobile mechanism of cylinder head, of extraction and percussion, these mechanisms functioning together by means of the same lever. All the various bodies of which this mechanism is composed are assembled separately on and between the walls of the box of cylinder head, joining together the gun and the stick.
Henry is the inventor of the stripe, and it is for that that its name was joined to that of Martini, to name the weapon joining together the two inventions. The only serious disadvantage of this excellent rifle is the difficulty, not to say impossibility, for the gunner, to dismount the mechanism, either to clean it and lubricate it, or for any other fortuitous.
The improvement due to the invention of Auguste Francotte counters this serious defect completely. It consists of what the whole mechanism of the mobile carcass, the turntable and the extractor is adjusted on a mounting being embedded in the box and maintained in place by only one pin. By withdrawing this pin or pins, one removes box the whole mechanism of only one part, which makes it possible to clean the gun without deteriorating the mechanism.
oldguns.ca, virtual museum collection.
From the E. Lind collection.
Nearly every source describes this original Westley Richards patent, hinged tipping block, single-shot design as an "Improved Martini". This terminology is so ubiquitous that even prominent merchants of fine vintage arms use it unthinkingly. The esteemed Walter Winfer, acknowledged as the guru of British single shot lore, uses it freely. But Winfer at least makes it clear that the moniker is technically incorrect. The Martini design was a hammerless modification of the original Peabody action design. However, the Westley Richards design is similar only in the respect of a hinged breech block that tips down for loading. None of the rest of the internals share any commonality. Whereas the Peabody has an external hammer and the Martini a striker, the Westley Richards has an internal hammer with an integral firing pin. More to the point, the Westley Richards design predates the Martini, so it's clearly not an improvement on that design. In fact, the Westley Richards design was a competitor with the Martini for British military contracts. After losing out to the Martini for the British Army, the Westley Richards design was marketed heavily to the pioneers and settlers of the Dutch Boer colony of South Africa in both musket and sporting rifle forms.
The design (including the Model 1871 and its variants) was extremely popular in the Cape colony and was followed by improvements and variations for several years, competing well against Westley Richards' own Deeley-Edge patent falling block design and remaining in production until the expiration of the Gibbs Farquharson patent rights around the turn of the century and its release to the trade prompted the firm to develop the similarly styled Model 1897 Westley Richards New Model Underlever Rifle, which was the ultimate evolution of the Deeley-Edge action. There is much confusion regarding the various models, in part because Westley Richards continually advanced the design and also made individual rifles to order. The Model 1869 is distinguished from the later larger framed Model 1871 most easily by examining the length of the lever in relation to the trigger guard; in the Model 1869, the lever does not extend much rearward past the small trigger guard, whereas on the Model 1871, it comes well past the long trigger guard.
This is a beautiful example, wonderfully engraved in true Wesley Richards fashion. The wood is in excellent condition as is the rest of the rifle, the blueing shows very well and remains bright on most of the rifle, with the receiver showing most of the wear. Originally chambered in No. 2 Musket, it was sleeved with a Parker Hale insert many years ago. It is now chambered in 25-20. The bore is bright and shiny with excellent rifling.
For additional information, please contact Mr. Lind at email@example.com.
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