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Argo44, bushveld, CJF, HomelessjOe, Imperdix, ivanhoe, John Roberts, keith, LeFusil, mc, montenegrin, pamtnman, Woodreaux
Total Likes: 28
Original Post (Thread Starter)
by Argo44
Argo44
Edit Note: The current New History of Reilly is on p.54 of this line; the list of extant guns, dated is on p.44 - (the history is regularly updated and moved to the last page of the line)

Gentlemen, I am new. I am a Vietnam Vet, 2 tours, Special Forces, MACV-SOG and have spent some 25 years of the last 40 serving abroad for our country. I'm a gun enthusiast but not an expert. I recently bought an English hand-made EM Reilly, 12 ga. SxS hammer-gun shotgun after thinking about purchasing an English double for 25 years. The reason?

I served at the American Embassy in India for three years in the late 1980's. My landlord was Indian Army Major General D.K. (Monty) Palit, former chief of operations of the India Army (during the Indo-China War), Sandhurst in the 1930's, WWII Indian Army veteran, and noted military author. He was from an upper-class Indian family which had adopted British customs when it came to gun-sport (late 1880's on). He had 5 doubles on his wall passed down by his father and grandfather, I believe they were: a 12ga Holland & Holland, a 12ga E.M. Reilly, a 16ga possibly Army-Navy, one I'm not sure of and a 20ga. William Evans.

I had a CJ-7 Jeep in New Delhi at that time; he had the hunting permits; and we went out often in the Falls of those three years, hunting ducks, dove and quail in the brilliant yellow mustard fields of Uttar Pradesh on the Gangetic plain. He used his H&H; I used my Remington 870 - a pump - something he informed me one didn't do in polite society (I countered that in Alabama we might have a dog - here he had 5 shikaris and a couple of servers cleaning the birds and making duck-curry sandwiches - different places, different solutions). But the idea that I needed a SxS became fixed - even more so when he gifted my wife the 20ga William Evans as we left country. Since then I've held dozens of English SxS's. Nothing felt right.

Gen. Palit's books and obituary:
https://www.amazon.com/D.-K.-Palit/e/B001IC8QPK
http://www.india-seminar.com/2008/586/586_in_memoriam.htm

Then at a gun show in November this Reilly hammer gun just stuck to my hand. It was 6 lbs 1oz, chambered for 2 1/2; 30" Damascus barrels; twin triggers; no ejectors; with that beautifully slim upper stock and receiver back that comes with hammer guns - It was similar to the General's E.M. Reilly as I remembered it; Perhaps I had imprinted on that gun? But whatever It felt like a rapier, while everything else now seemed like battle-axes. The seller had about 15 guns from very high-quality makers. He said I was the only person ever to show interest in the Reilly. He insisted on my shooting it..I did and couldn't part with it..It had some imperfections; it wasn't pristine, had been worked on; I paid too much but it was my gun,

The Serial number is 34723. On the rib is the name and address of the maker, E.M Reilly & Co., 16 New Oxford Street, London. I believe this shotgun was made in 1898 and it is perhaps one of the very last guns produced at the Reilly store at this location where they had worked for 51 years before they closed it (to be explained in subsequent posts).

I'm by no means an expert on English handmade doubles - there are contributors here who definitely are. However, After buying the Reilly I've done some research. I believe the Reilly numbering system (for long guns - hand guns had another entirely different system) from at least 1830 to 1905 was consistent, always numerically ascending (with a possible break of some 5000 SN's when the Store was transferred in 1847 per below) and that there are enough guns on the internet and enough known events associated with certain serial numbers to enable one to get a pretty good idea of when an individual Reilly was produced, possibly within a couple of years. And I've discovered some erroneous information which has been widely disseminated (Brown's Vol 3 being one of them).

I thought I'd share some of these findings with this extremely knowledgeable group and with the SxS shooting community at large with a request: that owners of Reilly's post their guns on this line, including serial numbers, Company name and address as imprinted on the guns and patent numbers if possible, and photo. With this information available in one spot surely the chronology of E.M. Reilly Serial Numbers can be refined.

I'll add three moe posts - 1) History of the firm (including various patent dates); 2) Important "date marker" serial numbersed guns; and 3) a list of 100 Reilly guns with serial numbers I've found on the internet in serial number order.

L-R: Author; Patel (who made the duck curry); General Palit, in New Delhi, November 1988:

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

28 years later....a Reilly SxS in memory of General Palit:'

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Liked Replies
by LeFusil
LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.
3 members like this
by keith
keith
Originally Posted by Argo44
There are no Reilly records.

And there are no Syracuse Lefever records either. The factory records were lost during or after the move to Ithaca N.Y., after the sale of the gun manufacturing business by the Durston family in 1915. Yes, the Lefever name was sold to Ithaca Gun Co. too.

However, as a long-time Lefever collector, I have no doubt that Dan Lefever actually built guns. Nobody doubts it. We know that he apprenticed under famed N.Y. gunsmith and gun maker William Billinghurst in Canandaigua, N.Y. beginning in 1848. We know that he went into business for himself in Auburn, N.Y. in 1853. We know that he later partnered with J.A. Ellis and built percussion guns in Canandaigua around 1862.

We also know that Dan later partnered with F.S. Dangerfield, L. Barber, and John Nichols. They built guns and employed people to help them build guns. They even printed catalogs of the guns they would build for their customers. We know there were at least a dozen different catalogs of guns built by Dan Lefever, or he and his partners. We even have a copy of the partnership agreement between Lefever and Nichols. We know about his departure after being forced out of his own company in 1901, and we know that he went on to build the Lefever crossbolt boxlock shotgun in Syracuse, Defiance, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Ohio until his death in 1906. Nobody has ever encountered any surviving records from those three short-lived gun companies either.

Although Lefever built over 60,000 guns in Syracuse, the Lefever Arms Co. never employed anywhere near 300 men. Total employment in 1890 was only 70 employees. Yet we know a lot of their names.

In the Robert Elliot books, we have photographs of the Lefever Arms Company, and photos of their employees. We have photos of them working at their machines, and can even read the names of employees on a time board. We have correspondence from Dan Lefever describing the rib matting machine he designed and built, and we have his description of the tragic fire that destroyed much of his building and equipment. We have surviving correspondence between the Company and customers, and we have surviving original blank and completed order forms for the guns. We know that Dan Lefever's sons were among his gunmaking employees, and we know that his son Frank went on to work to produce the Hollenbeck Drilling at the THREE BARREL GUN COMPANY of Wheeling, West Virginia. We also know that he later worked for Daisy Airgun Co., and designed the Daisy BB pumpgun.

Hard to believe that all this compelling evidence, and more, survived 120-130 years or more in places like Syracuse, Ithaca, Canandaigua, etc. But there is so little about E.M. Reilly being an actual gunmaker in such a refined, organized, and civilized place like London. .

So although there are no surviving factory records from the Lefever Arms Co. of Syracuse, N.Y., nobody doubts or questions whether they were actual gunmakers (and producers of bicycle chains). And although there has been a lot of misinformation printed about total production of Lefever shotguns assembled by Ithaca Gun Co., and the quantity of Syracuse Lefever guns built out of serial number sequence, even by the LACA, nobody ever even thought that Dan Lefever was nothing but a retailer who merely sold guns built by others. Nobody needs to rely upon conjecture or highlighting a few words in old advertisements to prove that Dan Lefever was a real Gunmaker.
3 members like this
by Geo. Newbern
Geo. Newbern
I don't know whether E.M. Reilly was a maker or a merchant. My first British double was a Reilly boxlock I acquired from for sale ad here back in the '90's. I inquired here at the time and the prevailing wisdom seemed to be that Reilly wasn't a maker. Our friend Gene has done a yeoman's task of investigation and has been kind enough to share his work with all of us. While I appreciate his work, I cannot yet agree with is conclusion which is counter to the historic opinion on Reilly. I think E.M. Reilly was for his time the epidemy of the tradition of the British gun trade as a multi-layered combination of outworker craftsmen and sales companies whose names appeared on the guns of the period. With, of course a few actual manufacturers whose names and bonafides have traditionally been accepted in the business...Geo
2 members like this
by lonesome roads
lonesome roads
Originally Posted by HomelessjOe
Originally Posted by LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.

The hOax lives on.

Nah. More like a Lost Cause. An insane attempt to re-write history.


______________________________________
What a waste. All that time spent. Could’ve been playing golf.
2 members like this
by Imperdix
Imperdix
Wincanton in Somerset.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
You're right Gil. This was mentioned once before when we discussed the pin-fire SN 10054 (see above p.53). I believe this is the oldest datable extant UK made pin-fire - late summer 1856.
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Re the comments in the article by Mark Crudgington: "Mark advised caution about dating guns with limited information, commenting; 'Modern , especially American ideas , of how the gun trade of the 18th and 19th C worked always appear to me to be based on a modern model that is irrelevant within an historical perspective."

Mark told me he knew of two Lang's which allegedly had original 1854 receipts but he has never actually documented this story - and he later said the earliest datable Lang SN is 1858. (Per Lang's own pamphlet he claimed he began to make center-break pin-fires in early 1854)
. . - In the Diggory article Mark expressed skepticism about my dating methods for Reilly SN'd guns.
. . - I have had conversations with him on several subjects from this time period and he is quite opinionated on lots of things; However, to my knowledge he has never actually read through the details of the methods I used to write the history, date Reilly guns, etc. He has been wrong on some of the topics we went over. (The British class system it seems still sits heavily on the Island from some of his comments - I discussed this with David Trevallion - this is a sociological observation, not a value judgement).
. . - Donald Dallas' view of this research is the opposite to that of Mark's - see p. 53
(This is not an attack on Mark, the son of a legendary researcher and gunsmith Ian Crudgington and a noted gunsmith in his own right and the holder of an alleged excellent collection. It's just that those credentials and his opinions may not be accurate for true history).

Diggory put a bid in on that gun maybe because of our discussion about it; but, possibly because of the Reilly History it went for as I recall £ 2,750. And yes I did take a dig at Diggory about that phrase (though of course it is sort of accurate). smile

edit: And I continue to believe until other evidence is posted - not just hear-say - that this rifle is the earliest extant UK made center-break pin-fire...based on the Reilly research above. (And that dating chart is NOT whimsey).
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Not slacking off. Here's part of the Reilly label Photo collection compiled over 5 years. The labels can definitely now be dated.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
1 member likes this
by Woodreaux
Woodreaux
For the Reilly enthusiasts, this article just came to my email from Gray's Sporting Journal. A short, enjoyable read from Terry Weiland.

Terry Weiland- Reilly Restoration
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Oh Mcnabs said that? Oh well it’s settled then. It looks like Reilly’s did, after all employ 300+ gunmakers (that nobody has ever met or known) and they made all sorts of breech loading shotguns off of about 10 to 15 different actions, patents, etc. What an extremely skilled work force to produce so many different firearms in their own factory.
I thought it was ridiculous and far fetched….but now, since Mcnabs says Reilly did in fact manufacture all of these guns bearing the Reilly name, even guns that are known to have ONLY been completely built by 1 particular factory, I suppose the whole thing is settled isn’t it.

Or not. Nice try Gene. Press on.
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Oh, there’s plenty more than just Me, Gene. Believe that.
1 member likes this
by mc
mc
Are there any records with the worshipful company of gunmakers on the apprenticeship at Reilly or steel or wood consumption with 300 employees it would seem there would be some paper trail.at least on times of trouble published layoffs?published rehire ?material shortages? Liquidation of assets ?equipment purchases?news paper engravings of the premises.i know most large company's were shameless self promoters good luck with you research.mc
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
The Ghost of Reilly and his imaginary 300 employees lives on.
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Nothing about Mr. Hambling building actual guns for Reilly though, right? So in reality, we have NO clue as to what Mr. Hambling did or didn’t do at this so called Reilly gun factory during the 1880’s to the 1890’s. He could’ve been doing repairs? Selling guns? A staff professional to help clients order guns in? Any number of jobs he could’ve done there.

A fuzzy picture. You got that right.
1 member likes this
by ellenbr
ellenbr
Many thanks Jani for looking @ this & your precise input.

Serbus Jani.


lep pozdrav,


Raimey
rse
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
Did you used to eat lead paint chips when you were a child ?
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Merci M. Woodreaux. The Reilly dates to late summer 1896. It was rebarrelled by Jeffery, interestingly in Damascus. It's been added to the list on p. 57. There are now 543 Reillys whose type and caliber are known and another 50 with photos published but whose SN was not, 1.5% of the total he made and a good sample. Very attractive and handy looking little gun.
1 member likes this
by Parabola
Parabola
Gene,

It bears 1904 to 1925 Birmingham proof marks and with that serial number is clearly a Riggs-Reilly.

As 13/1 it should measure .719” (+?). As the bores are now .728” it has clearly been honed since proof and is now marginal even though the wall thicknesses are good.

Either the case has been re-labelled or it is from an earlier Reilly gun?
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
And what exactly did Mr. Hambling do at Reilly? What kind of gun shop did Mr Hambling run in the midlands? Where was Mr. Hambling apprenticed? Who did Mr. Hambling train? Was he a specialist of some sort? Barrels? Finisher? Actioner? Stocker? Or was he a specialist in something like.. retail? Sales? Was he a trained gunmaker? Trained in what discipline? Lots of stuff unanswered. These are things you as the researcher need to spell out with facts, not conjecture.

You bring up one guy to prove your point, Gene. One guy, no matter what his skill set is, is not going to posses the skills to set up the all the machines and tooling to manufacture that many different designs of guns, pistols, rifles, swords, knives, cases, etc. It’s just impossible, Gene. It’s about the most impractical idea as well. Do you have any idea how large a factory like that would have to be to produce so much weaponry and house 300+ employees? Take a look at the size of W&C Scott, W&S, Midlands, BSA, etc. those were ginormous factories. Reilly would’ve had to have been as big or bigger. They absolutely were NOT that massive. See what we’re getting at here…..Reilly was not that big, Gene.
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
Originally Posted by LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.

The hOax lives on.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
===============================================================
How to conduct an intellectual inquiry - where I stand


I want to return to the above because the “debate” over Reilly has gone off track and I have personally taken a good bit of guff. Here is an analysis of the argumentation:

-- A group of gun connoisseurs has stated that “historically” Reilly was known only as a retailer. Anyone challenging this view must “prove” that Reilly was more than this and this proof must be definitive.
. . . . . . .This is quite simply anti-intellectual to its core. It is “I am right and you are wrong until you prove you are not wrong” dogma. There is not one truly intellectual investigation of anything that can start off with the conclusion as a given.

-- The second group began this line with a plain statement of facts: “J.C. Reilly, a jeweler by trade, began selling guns at his shop at High Holborn sometime between 1826 and 1828." This type of observation is similar to the start of any philosophical or intellectual endeavor, noticing a fact and wondering "why?" "how?" "what?" Then the investigation, based on the evidence, illuminated over the course of 5 years of research:
. . . – what type of guns he sold
. . . – how many he sold
. . . – what was his business model
. . . – what other lines of revenue did the company pursue, etc.
. . . – the fact that he made guns as well as sold retail, wholesale, including what types, etc.
. . . – It identified his market and his customers
. . . - It dated the serial numbered guns, and the labels….etc.

. . . - ALL the source materials were original from the 19th century - early 20th century.....none were from secondary sources or "oral legend."
. . . - The source materials and research were published on this line every step of the way.


. . . . . . . .This intellectual exercise, the research into Reilly, did exactly what such an investigation was supposed to do and it was conducted in exactly the way it should have been. It started with a simple goal - to date the Reilly guns. It then followed the evidence and clues which were uncovered. And the history was finally written by putting these together in the most logical way possible. It was refined as additional information was found and per appropriate comments from peer review.

I cannot accept the proposition that “historically” Reilly was only a “retailer,” when there is absolutely nothing "historical" about that assertion. Nor should gun scholars and students of guns.

To sum up: This history is the most complete one on Reilly that is available. It’s conclusions are based on the best possible original-source, historical evidence and analysis. There are places where some facts are still unclear and awaiting additional information. But, that is the fundamental truth about this research and it is the way any intellectual exercise should be conducted.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
As I'm compiling a bit more data, here is a reminder of what this sort of research can accomplish:
https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=596554&page=1

I'll repost the key part of the above which is apt:

Quote:
"I'd just like to add a plug for scholarship.

"It's so easy now to say about Reilly that this label was from this period; this gun is dated this year; etc. When I bought 34723 in Nov 2015 there was nothing on Reilly except bits and pieces of urban legend, often contradictory and often contentious. It took over 3,000 hours of research to rehabilitate Reilly and to recreate the history of the Company, date the guns and date the trade labels. It was fun; I enjoyed that sort of thing and was often in the middle of no-where with not a lot else to do.

"However, the fact that 26584 in North Hertfordshire found its case in Virginia is directly related to that Reilly research. Donald Dallas recognized this. Others should do likewise for their favorite guns which have no records."

And Merry Christmas to all...hoping you have a full double-stocking.
1 member likes this
by bonny
bonny
I don't have any real input on the subject of E.M. Reilly and co as gunmakers. I do have an interesting and useless little snippit of trivia for you though.

Reilly took over the premises of 2 rue scribe in Paris. The person who leased or rented the same address immediately previously to Reilly was an American man by the name of Adam Worth. Worth was a man of high intellect and intelligence, and he was also a master criminal wanted on both sides of the Atlantic.

This man Worth, was the person that Arthur Conan Doyle based "The Napoleon of crime" aka "Professor Moriarty" on in his Sherlock Holmes stories. It is believed Worth used the premises as a casino and front for his crimes.

Told you it was trivia, but there you go.
1 member likes this

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