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12. Circa 1876 – Nov 1881 and possibly until Jul 1885; - Standard label
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.;
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 315, Oxford Street, London;
. . . . . . . . .502, New Oxford Street
. . . . . . . . .2 rue Scribe, Paris
Features: No scollops at corners. No outlining. Simpler advertising at the bottom.

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13. Circa 1876 – 1877; - Outlier label - 2 examples
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.;
Descriptiom: Gun & Rifle Manufacturers
. . . . . . . . . . . . Wholesale & Retail
Address: 502, New Oxford Street, London
. . . . . . . . .2, rue Scribe, Paris
Features: No scollops at corners. 1867 Paris medals. “By Special Appointment to his Majesty the King of Portugal.”

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14. Circa 1878 – 1882; - Outlier label?
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.;
Descriptiom: Gun & Rifle Manufacturers
Address: 315, Oxford Street, London
Features: Scollops at corners. Decorative capitals. One example.

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15. Circa 1878 – 1882; - Outlier label?
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.;
Descriptiom: Gun & Rifle Manufacturers
Address: 502, New Oxford Street, London
Features: No Scollops at corners. Decorative capitals. One example used on a muzzle loader that was altered to an U-L breech loader about 1880.

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16. circa Nov 1881- circa Aug 1885? - standard Label
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 16, New Oxford St. &
. . . . . . . . .277, Oxford St &
. . . . . . . . .2, rue Scribe, Paris
Features: Post Nov 1881 change in Oxford St numbering. Pre-closure of 2 rue Scribe in Aug 1885. 1868 Paris medals; Standard scroll work from Aug 1860

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17. circa 1882- circa Aug 1885?
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 277, New Oxford St. &
. . . . . . . . .16 Oxford St &
. . . . . . . . .2 rue Scribe, Paris
Features: No examples currently exist. It’s possible (though unlikely) that 277 (315) Oxford St. used “315” up until 2 rue Scribe closed.
|. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
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|. . . . . . . . . . . . .277, Oxford Street . . . . . . . . . .|
|. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .London . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
|. . Principle establishment: 16, New Oxford Street .|
|. . . . . . . . . . . .2, rue Scribe, Paris. . . . . . . . . . .|
|. . . . . . . . SEARCHING FOR AN EXAMPLE . . . . . . . |
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18. circa 1884- circa 1885? - Outlier label? 2 examples
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun & Rifle Manufacturers
. . . . . . . . . . . .Wholesale & Retail
Address: 16, New Oxford St., London;
. . . . . . . . .2, rue Scribe Paris
Features: Outlier label, 2 examples: 3 kings, Portugal, Netherlands, Spain.

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19. circa 1885- circa 1886? - 6 examples
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 16, New Oxford St. &
. . . . . . . . .277 Oxford St &
. . . . . . . . .29 rue du Faubourg, Saint Honore, Paris
Features: Post Nov 1881 change in Oxford St numbering. No rue Scribe (post Aug 1885). 1868 Paris medal; Medal for 1884 London Exposition; Different advertising scroll work, similar to post 1885 main-line Reilly label change. There is one extant label with scolloped corners. Whether the shop at rue du Faubourg actually existed is still in dispute:

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20. Circa Aug 1885 – May 1897 - Standard label
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 16, New Oxford Street, London: &
. . . . . . . . .277 Oxford Street
Feature: 1867 Paris medals reappear; 1884 London Exposition; no rue Scribe; New advertising scroll work on bottom of the label.

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21. Circa Aug 1885 – May 1897 - Standard Label

Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 277 Oxford Street; also
. . . . . . . . .16, New Oxford Street
Features: No rue Scribe (post Aug 1885); Oxford St. numbers changed (post Nov 1881); Change in advertising inscription at bottom of the label.

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22. Circa May 1897 – Mar 1903
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 277, Oxford St., London
Features: Four medals (1871-Vienna; 1876-Philadelphia; 1878-Paris; 1884-London)

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Last edited by Argo44; 11/19/23 12:26 PM.

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23. Circa Mar 1903 – Jun 1912
Name: E.M. Reilly & Co.,
Description: Gun Manufacturers
Address: 277/295, Oxford St., London
Features: Four medals (1871-Vienna; 1876-Philadelphia; 1878-Paris; 1884/5-London Int Inventions. Label repurposed by strikeouts. New labels unknown.

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24. Circa 1912 – Aug 1922
Name: Charles Riggs
Description: “Gun and Rife Makers”
. . . . . . . . . . . .”Sports Equipment”
Address: 107, Bishop’s Gate, London
Features: -- Before the August 1922 purchase of the E.M. Reilly & Co. name

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Easy reference chart:

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Last edited by Argo44; 11/19/23 12:26 PM.

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Presentation cases:

Circa 1861; E.M. Reilly & Co.; Gun Manufacturers; 502 New Oxford Street

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1862: Presentation case for 12532, the Gold washed muzzle loader displayed at the 1862 London Exposition and bought by the Prince of Wales. Reilly & Co., 502 New Oxford Street.

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1871: Post Feb 1868: E.M. Reilly & Co., 502 New Oxford and 2 rue Scribe Paris. Gun Manufacturers.

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1880: Case made for the shotgun/rifle combination for King of Spain in 1880; E.M. Reilly &Co. 502 New Oxford Street: & rue Scribe Paris: Description: Gun and Rifle Manufacturers:

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1890: Format for seven extant cases, all in blue velvet, all with gold lettering on the blue velvet or on leather, all with Gun & Rifle Makers:

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Last edited by Argo44; 11/22/23 10:08 PM.

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Gene Herbert Williams


Prologue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

I. Holborn Bars : 1814 -1835. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
. . .1. Beginnings
. . .2. 1828: First Guns Made at 12 Middle Row, Holborn (Holborn Bars), London
. . .3. Reilly Business Model
. . .4. 1831: Reilly "Gun Maker"

II. 316 High Holborn: 1835 – 1847. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
. . .5. August 1835: Move to 316 High Holborn-Street
. . .6. 1837: End of Serial Numbered Pistols
. . .7. August 1840: Company Name Changes to "Reilly; Gun Maker”
. . .8. 1840's: Air-guns

III. 502 New Oxford Street: 1847 - 1857. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
. . .9. March 1847: Move to 502 New Oxford-Street
. . .10. April-November 1847: Change in Trade Label
. . .11. 1847: Change in the Main-Line Numbering Chronology - 3350 Jumps to 8350
. . .12. 1846-1857: J.C. Reilly 7000 Series Numbering Chronology
. . .13. 1840-1856: Outlier J.C. Serial Numbered Guns
. . .14. Hypothetical J.C. "5500" Serial Number Series Early/mid 1840's
. . .15. December 1847 - 1856: New Label for 502 New Oxford-Street
. . .16. Reilly in the early 1850's: Company Organization
. . .17. 1851 - late 1880's: Reilly 300 Yard Outdoor Shooting Range
. . .18. 1851: Crystal Palace Exposition – the Lefaucheaux Revelation
. . .19. Reilly in the early 1850's: Custom Made Guns and Munitions
. . .20. 1855: Reilly Numbering Bore Sizes Before the 1855 Proof Law
. . .21. 1855: Paris Exposition Universelle
. . .22. September 1857: J.C. Reilly Retires; January 1864 He Passed Away

IV: Break Action Guns in UK: 1854 – 1860. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
. . .23. 1852-1856: Break Action, Pin-Fire Guns in UK., PART 1, Hodges & Lang
. . .24. 1852-1856: Break Action, Pin-Fire Guns in UK., PART 2, Reilly & Blanch
. . .25. 1856: Reilly Begins Building Break Action Pin-Fire Guns
. . .26. Mid-1856: Trade/Case Label Changes
. . .27. 1856-1858: Reilly Extant Break Action Pin-Fire Guns
. . .28. 1858-1860: Reilly Develops and Trials Break Action Pin-Fire Guns
. . .29. Observation re "Retailer" vs "Gunmaker" from an Analysis of Extant 1856-58 Reilly Pin-fires

V: Reilly Supports Rifle Innovation: 1854 – 1860. . . . . . . . . . . . .49
. . .30. 1853-1860: Reilly Building Innovative Military Grade Muzzle Loading Rifles
. . . . . . . .1. 1853 Enfield- Rifle-Musket
. . . . . . . .2. General Jacob’s Rifle
. . . . . . . .3. English Schuetzen Percussion Target Rifle
. . .31. 1855-1860: Other Breech-loader Rifles and New Innovations by Reilly
. . . . . . . .1. Terry Patent breech loaders
. . . . . . . .2. Prince Patent Breech Loader
. . . . . . . .3. Westley-Richards “Monkey Tail” Breech Loader. – a Non-event

VI: Reilly 1858 – 1862. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56
. . .32. August 1858: Opening of 315 Oxford-Street - New Label
. . .33. The Shooting Gallery at 315 Oxford Street
. . .34. August 1858 - April 1861: Four Changes in the Company Name
. . . . . . . .1. “Reilly & Co., Gun Makers” - August 1858 - March 1859
. . . . . . . .2. “E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Makers” - March 1859 – August 1860
. . . . . . . . . . . -- NEW LABEL: 502 New Oxford St
. . . . . . . . . . . -- NEW LABEL: 315 Oxford Street
. . . . . . . .3. “E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Manufacturer” (singular) - August 1860 – April 1861
. . . . . . . .4. “E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Manufacturers" (plural)” - April 1861
. . . . . . . . . . . -- NEW LABEL
.. . . . . . . . . . .-- PRESENTATION LABEL
. . .35. 1859–1900: Reilly Selling to Yeomanry Militia & Gun Clubs at Wholesale Prices
. . .36. 1860-1861: Reilly’s In-House Guns; Using Others’ Patents; Royalty Payments; Making Guns Under License

VII. Characteristics of Reilly guns and products. . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
. . .37. Comments on Reilly Stocks
. . . . . . . .1. French Walnut Stocks:
. . . . . . . .2. In-House Stock Maker
. . . . . . . .3. Straight English stocks for Shotguns Except Big-bore Fowlers
. . . . . . . .4. Pistol Grip for Rifles
. . .38. 1828-1900: Reilly Engraving
. . . . . . . .1. 1820’s-1830’s: Simple “Vine and Scroll”
. . . . . . . .2. 1840’s-1850’s: “Large Scroll” or “English Scroll”
. . . . . . . .3. 1850’s-1860’s: More complex “English Scroll”
. . . . . . . .4. 1860’s” Increasingly Delicate and Intricate “Rose and Scroll”
. . . . . . . .5. 1870’s-1890’s: Tight “Rose and Scroll”
. . . . . . . .6. Wildlife Scenes
. . .39. 1828-1900; Reilly Barrels
. . . . . . . .1. London proofed
. . . . . . . .2. Bored and Finished by Reilly, 1836-47
. . . . . . . .3. Barrel Lengths
. . . . . . . .4. Damascus Patterns
. . . . . . . .5. Barrel Blanks
. . . . . . . .6. Initials on Barrels, 1870’s
. . . . . . . .7. Steel Barrels, 1882
. . .40. Non-Serial Numbered Reilly’s; Reilly Engraving and Marketing Others' Guns
. . .41. Reilly and Pistols
. . .42. Reilly Cartridges and Ammunition
. . .43. Early 1860’s: Reilly and Cutlery, Swords, Bayonets
. . .44. Reilly Accessories

VIII. 1860 – 1867 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
. . .45. 1850’s-1895: Reilly Staff; Quality Young Employees
. . .46. 1861: Reilly Manufacturing and Sales
. . .47. 1862: Reilly and the 1862 London Exposition
. . .48. 1863: Attempts to Curry Favor with the British Royal Family
. . .57. 1863-1865: Reilly’s Sporting Gun Business
. . .58. 1863-1873: Pin-Fire vs Center Fire
. . .59. 1866: Reilly and Purdey Kerfuffle

IX: Reilly, Arsenal and the British Army. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
. . .49. 1863-1872: Attempts to Win a Military Contract; Reilly Builds Military Rifles
. . .50. 1863-1868: Reilly and the Green Brothers Patent Breech Loader - Sole Manufacturer
. . .51. 1866-1890’s: Reilly Builds (Civilian) Snider-Enfields
. . .52. 1868-1870: Reilly-Comblain Breech Loaders (No Reilly SN) - Sole Manufacturer
. . .53. 1871-1890: Reilly Builds Sporting Martini-Henry Rifles (NSN)
. . .54. 1872-1912: Reilly Sells Other Military Rifles; Swinburn, Gibbs, Soper, Lee-Speed
. . .55. 1869: Explosive Bullets:
. . .56. 1856-1871: An End to Reilly's Arsenal Contract Dreams

X. Reilly - 1868 – 1880; Paris and Attempts to Expand . . . . . . . . . .109
. . .60. 1867-1870, Paris-1: Reilly Takes on Paris, Again; Gun-Maker for Napoleon III
. . .61. February 1868-1870, Paris-2: Reilly Opens 2 rue Scribe, Paris as “E.M. Reilly & Cie”
. . .62. 1868-1897 – Paris-3: New Label
. . .63. 1870 - Paris-4: Fall of Napoleon III; Reilly Prosecuted; Pro-French proclivities
. . .64. 1869-1876: Reilly and the American Market
. . .65. 1868-1876: New Labels and Descriptions
. . .66. 1875-1880: Choke Boring and New Proof Marks
. . .67. 1875-1880: Reilly Paying Royalties for Patent Uses
. . .68. 1878-1880: Paris Exposition; Situation of the Company

XI: Reilly – 1880’s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127
. . .69. Early 1880's: Reilly Expansion; 1881 Census; 1000 guns a year
. . .70. 1880: Reilly and the Anson & Deeley Boxlock
. . .71. 1882: Selling Off The Rack
. . .72. Nov 1881: Oxford Street Re-numbered; Change in Labels
. . .73. 1881: Spanish and Dutch Royal Connection
. . .74. 1878-81: Two outlier Trade Labels
. . .75. 1869-1890: Reilly and Pigeon Guns
. . .76. 1882: Reilly and Steel Barrels
. . .77. 1853-1882: Reilly Endorsed by Prominent Explorers and Hunters
. . .78. 1882-1885: International Expositions
. . .79. 1884-1885: Reilly Outlier Label
. . .80. July 1885: Closure of the Paris Branch
. . .81. 1885-1886: Satellite Paris Address at 29 rue du Faubourg, Saint-Honoré
. . .82. July 1885: Change in Reilly Labels
. . .83. Reilly in the Late 1880's

XII. Death of EM Reilly; Decline and Fall 1890-1918. . . . . . . . . . .156
. . .84. 1890: Death of E.M. Reilly and Aftermath
. . .85. Characterizing the Reilly's
. . .86. Mid-1890's: Reilly’s Decline
. . .87. May 1897: Closure of 16, New Oxford Street
. . .88. 1890-1897: Label and Presentation Case Changes
. . .89. 1899: Death of Mary Ann Reilly; Bert Takes Over
. . .90. 1903-1904: Move to 295 Oxford-Street; Trade Label Update
. . .91. 1904-1912: Reilly Reduced to Finishing Guns Bought in the White?
. . .92. June 1912: Bankruptcy
. . .93. 1912-1918: 13 High Street, Marylebone

XIII. Charles Riggs Era; 1922 – 1950. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173
. . .94. August 1922-circa 1950: Charles Riggs Era

Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
. . .95. Conclusion

Addendum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
. . .a. Serial Number Dating Chart
. . .b. Explanation of Methodolgy:
. . . . . .1) Process
. . . . . .2) Chronological Date Markers
. . . . . .3) SN Guns Associated with Date Markers
. . . . . .4) Sanity Check guns
. . . . . .5) UK Gun Patent Use Numbers Found on Reilly’s
. . .C. Dating Reference Chart for Reilly Trade Labels


. . . . .PROLOGUE

Explanation for the research:

Reilly was a 19th century London gun-maker. He made guns for 90 years from 1828 to 1912 when the firm went bankrupt. All Reilly records were lost in the second decade of the 20th century.

By the mid-late 20th century, a half-century after Reilly's bankruptcy, a generation of gun writers had decided that Reilly was a “gun-retailer” and as such was a minor figure on the London gun scene. Gun anthologies by prominent writers in the 1970's-90's mentioned cursory histories of Reilly but without dating his guns or illuminating his manufacturing and sales operations. There appeared to be no way to validate any of the claims/observations about Reilly or little interest in doing so and the inertia of gun scholarship predominated; Gun writers and advertisers simply repeated ad infinitum the mantra that Reilly was a retailer.

In November 2015 the author bought his first Reilly, a 12 bore SxS shotgun and began to research the company using the resources of the internet. It rapidly became apparent that the histories of and commentary about Reilly were confusing and contradictory. A second look at the company was clearly needed.

The data for this Reilly history began to be compiled at that time:
-- Every extant Reilly gun found on the internet was cataloged, a list that now comprises over 620 serial numbered extant guns and hundreds of non-serial numbered, engraved and marketed long guns and pistols. Serial numbers, addresses on the ribs, patent numbers, chamber and barrel borings, stocks, proof marks, etc. were noted.
-- Every periodical advertisement for Reilly or articles mentioning Reilly in the 19th century UK press was read and archived. There were thousands.
-- Address changes or renumberings, changes in proof-markings, patent filings or expirations, patent use numbers, dates for the introduction of new cartridges, etc. were noted as serial number “date markers.”

Over 100 different topics were researched including early 19th century barrel boring techniques, engraving, gun making machinery and techniques at the time, street address systems in London, whether or not any UK gun maker used chronological patent use numbers, census data, research into Reilly employees, the beginnings of the UK center-break gun industry in the 1850’s, pigeon shooting rules and regulations, guns exhibited at worlds’ fairs, guns purchased by royals, origin of UK pin-fires, location of private shooting grounds, manufacture in London of boxlocks, etc.

A Reilly gun serial number dating graph/chart was created from this data. It’s validity was verified by numerous “sanity checks” taken from existing Reilly long-guns. This chart allowed for the dating of the case/trade labels. With the dating of the guns and trade labels came an understanding of what types of guns Reilly made and sold over the course of 90 years and the technologies available for use when the guns were numbered - a melding of extant guns with 1800's newspaper advertisements.

The history was finally written down in September 2018. It was posted on the below site for peer review and the research was continuously updated and debated as new guns and articles came to light.

The study was published in (edited) two parts in summer 2019 in Diggory Hadoke's on-line magazine "Vintage Gun Journal." It has since been added-to extensively - almost daily - and is now, without the constraints of trying to condense it onto one (internet) page, much more detailed and substantive.

The history includes analyses and some logical suppositions and conclusions. These are, however, supported by articles and advertisements and the history is solidly sourced. It corrects or updates dozens of writings on the company most of them erroneous, including Nigel Brown's Vol III, Boothroyd, and just about every article written about Reilly in the last 40 years. Footnotes are provided for each paragraph, indeed each sentence. Challenges to this research should be as well documented, not just based on "urban legend."

Attached is also the latest SN date chart which should get a Reilly owner close to the date the gun was manufactured (see the methodology and caveats in the chart footnotes) and an easy to use dating chart for the trade labels.

Clarifying comments:

. .-- The origin of the "Reilly was a retailer only" myth possibly came out of 1922:
. . . . . – Charles Riggs bought the Reilly name and put 25,000 guns on the market in 30 years, none made by him, with "E.M. Reilly & Co., London" on the ribs from 1922 to 1950.
. . . . . - A generation of gun makers grew up with this in their minds, without a reference to what Reilly was before, because by 1900, 22 years and a world war before Riggs - indeed almost 50 years before noted gun writers David Baker, Ian Crudgington, Geoffrey Boothroyd, Nigel Brown, etc., even began to work on guns as teen-aged apprentices - Reilly - the classic Reilly - was essentially toast.
. . . . . - Finally, in readng the technical expertise exhibited in E.M. Reilly’s 1847 pamphlet on air-guns or his knowledgeable comments on center-break pin-fires published in the 26 December 1857 edition of “The Field,” one understands that these men, the Reilly’s, could not have been just “retailers.”

. .-- The history occasionally goes into some depth on the status of the UK gun making industry to illustrate important points about the Reilly firm, in particular the period 1851-1859 and the origins of the UK center-break breech-loader. This may seem pedantic and at time repetitive but is important to understanding the place Reilly occupies in the UK gun-making fraternity and to refute ingrained misconceptions about Reilly. This history also addresses certain unclear points as an academic “pro-con” “debate” of sorts pending additional research.


The Reilly firm of gun makers in London has long been viewed as enigmatic. Confusion exists on the location of the company, its products, and even whether it actually made guns or was just a retailer. Reilly's records were lost after bankruptcy (1912) and the final shutting down of the firm (1918). This new history should resolve these mysteries and re-establish Reilly as at one time perhaps one of if not the largest of gun makers in London during the mid-1800's.

. . . . .I. HOLBORN BARS: 1814 -1835

*1 Beginnings

Joseph Charles Reilly was born in Ireland in 1786. He hailed from a well-to-do family and his family aspired for him to become a lawyer. In the mid-1800's he went to London to study - Irish Catholics could not study law in Ireland at the time. However, he had an independent streak. Instead of law school, he struck out on his own into various technical fields. (He was obviously supported by his family money in all this - he was never a "destitute student.")

He married in 1812. *1a In 1814 he opened a jewelry shop, later described as also dealing in silver-plate, *1b at 12 Middle Row, Holborn, *1c located hard by Gray’s Inn of the "Inns of the Court." He registered a silver mark "JCR" in July 1818. *1d His clientele included country gentlemen and barristers.

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Note: to register a silver/gold mark required a considerable apprenticeship and noted expertise. John Campbell in his article in "Double Gun Journal," summer 2015, wrote that Reilly was also a member of the clock-makers' guild, something again requiring quite an apprenticeship. He allegedly retained his membership in this guild until the late 1820's.

In 1817 his son Edward Michael was born, the third of four children.*1e He prospered, buying a country estate in Bedfordshire in 1824.

Jewelry shops in London at the time often dealt in guns, engraving and re-selling them, perhaps because of the influence of the artistic professionalism of Joseph Manton's guns at the time. *1f Some such shops called themselves "Whitesmiths." *1g

Note: Among the extant JC Reilly "jewelry" from this time period are miniature working model cannons with Damascus barrels. *1h Yet, he did indeed deal in jewelry: a list of stolen goods from the Reilly shop in January 1831 included, rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. - normal stuff for the métier. *1i

*2 1828: First Guns Made at 12 Middle Row, Holborn (Holborn Bars), London

Reilly’s first noted registration for a hunting license is in 1823.*2a This was no small thing. “Gentlemen” were expected to be involved with guns and to fund a license. No gunmaker in London was regarded as a "gentlemen," yet those who aspired to be, followed suit. Lang, for instance, highlighted his having held such a license for 30 years (from 1827) in a pamphlet he wrote in January 1857 promoting center-break guns.*2b Reilly's license may have predated Lang's by 4 years.

Reilly was not mentioned in an 1825 book which listed London gunmakers (Instructions to a Young Sportsman, Fourth Edition by Ltc P. Hawker). However, shortly thereafter he made a decision to get into the gun making business. Sometime around summer 1828 he numbered his first Reilly built gun which presumably was "01." The serial numbered guns included pistols, rifles and shotguns.

The address on his guns during this period was "Holborn Bars." 12 Middle Row was at "Holborn Bars." "Bars" shows the area was one of the old tax stations for entering London.

The date for the beginning of gun making by Reilly is supported by London newspaper advertisements:
-- Ads from summer 1828 and summer 1829 make it clear he was making guns for clients - and urging customers not to spend money for a "name.”*2c
-- An advertisement for hunting dogs from 22 August 1829, “Morning Chronicle” specifically identified Reilly as a “gun maker.”*2d
-- By 1830 he was advertising “very superior guns of his own make,” which he maintained were as good as guns twice as expensive, without actually using the word “gun maker.”*2e
-- The January 1831 report on the burglary at Reilly’s jewelry shop states he was a “gun maker” as well as silversmith.*2f
-- Reilly's first advertisements for guns using the word "gunmaker" are in spring 1831.*2g

Note: Reilly appears to have been amongst the first London gun makers to begin to advertise in the mass popular press, possibly preceded only by Lang. Few gun ads from rival makers can be found in 1820’s-early 1830’s newspapers.

Following are the earliest known Reilly serial numbered guns:

-- SN 88 - a pair of .50 cal. percussion dueling pistols with J.C. Reilly, Holborn Bars, London engraved on the hexagonal Damascus barrels; These are the oldest extant Reillys owned by a UK gentleman with records of purchase dated to the late 1820's; they are dated circa early 1829 on this study's dating chart. *2g

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-- SN 162 - 1829 the earliest extant Reilly-made long gun; It is a single barrel 6 bore muzzle loader wild-fowler, J.C. Reilly, Holborn Bars, London engraved on the barrel, also made circa 1829. *2h

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-- SN 176 - 1829 - also a pair of .50 cal. percussion pistols, almost identical to SN 88 above with J.C. Reilly, Holborn Bars, London; These are the third oldest existing serial numbered J.C. Reilly guns and are also dated late 1829. *2i

-- SN 254 - 1830 - Several early 21st century articles including an article by Terry Weiland mention a J.C. Reilly percussion pistol SN 254 as the (then) lowest known Reilly SN. It would date to 1829 per this chart. However, no photos or additional information can be found about this "phantom" legendary pistol. (The "press" unfortunately tends to copy and repeat with no verification of the initial veracity.)

*3 Reilly Business Model:

JC Reilly early on adopted a business model which did not change during the life of the firm: i.e. provide a quality hand-made product for a moderate price, deliver it rapidly, and "make what would sell." *3a

Reilly was never an innovator - he was a businessman first and a technician/engineer second. But, with this model, and especially with the rise of EM, with his family connections to the gun trade, his ability to recognize a winning or commercially interesting invention or patent, and his flexibility enabling him to produce new products and abandon old ways, Reilly undercut more expensive and better known makers and made his profit on volume.

Reilly dealt in used guns taken on trade and sold guns under license.*3b However, he only serial numbered guns he built and he numbered his guns consecutively for 90 years with certain exceptions during the move to New Oxford-Street in 1847. Reilly had extensive finishing facilities in his large London buildings and no doubt stockpiled locks (and later after 1855 actions) and barrel blanks from outworkers to allow him to meet orders three times as quickly as his competitors.
. . .-- Example: Ads from the 1850’s in spring of each year consistently stated that Reilly had 100 guns in various stages of manufacture which were available for custom fitting and engraving; these guns were not previously ordered but were “speculation guns” stockpiled for expected customers based on anticipated demand. These ads state outright that this had been the company business practice for "more than 20 years." *3c
. . .-- Caveat: Around 1881 Reilly most likely changed some of the parameters of the company' business model; He probably begun using actions (A&D boxlocks for starters) from Birmingham bought "in the white" and finished in London.

*4 1831: Reilly "Gun Maker"

The first Reilly gun probably was serial numbered in 1828 while Reilly still presented himself primarily as a jeweler. However, it soon became clear that, though jewelry continued to be marketed, Reilly was now committed to making guns. From 1831 on Reilly identified himself solely as "Gun-Maker" in his ads. This fact was widely reported in the British press at the time, an 1835 book on guns and shooting being an example.*4d.

His gun advertisements in 1831 targeted “gentlemen going abroad” and offered special rates to “country dealers” ordering his guns.*4e There are indications that during the early 1830's he was making guns "in the white" for the London trades as well. A Reilly hammer found on an 1835 James Beattie gun, and the similarity of that gun to known Reilly long guns, leads to this possible conclusion.*4f For an entrepreneur who had began making guns only a few years earlier, this is an impressive expansion of his manufacturing capability and his marketing/retailing.

Note: Reilly continued to deal in jewelry for awhile. In London directories he is mentioned as a jeweler up to 1835.*4g He apparently continued to make “jewelry” of a type afterwards which included miniature cannons and guns; J.C. Reilly exhibited small brass mortar models at an exhibition in 1845.*4h

Note: 70 years later as Reilly fortunes began to wane, J.C. Reilly's grandson advertised the firm as "established 1835." This history knows more than the grandson did.*4i

. . . . .II. 316 HIGH HOLBORN: 1835 – 1847

*5 August 1835: Move to 316 High Holborn-Street:

In August 1835 JC Reilly with 17 year old EM as an apprentice moved to 316 High Holborn Street.*5a

The building no longer exists but from the size of the current building, and a map of the plot as it existed in the 19th century, it was probably quite substantial.*5b The average house in the area from lithograph prints at the time indicate it was probably a four or five story walk-up. (There is a good chance that a photo exists of the building per below located after extensive map study and analysis.)*5c

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J.C. owned several houses and may have lived at a different address than 316 High Holborn per his wil.l*5d He may have resided on occasion in other apartments. The 1841 census, however, recorded the entire family including E.M. as present at 316 High Holborn.*5e.

The first serial numbered extant gun with the High Holborn address is SN 1024, an 8.5mm pocket pistol, Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London on the gun.*5f

Advertisements from the 1840’s show the shop had a small shooting gallery where air guns and hand guns could be tested.*5g

*6 1837: End of Serial Numbered Pistols:

By circa 1837 pistols were no longer numbered in the Reilly chronological numbering system although in the 1839 edition of "Pigot’s London Directory" J.C. Reilly is still listed as “Gun and Pistol Maker.”*6a His serial numbered guns seemed to be limited to bespoke long-guns made to order.

The last serial numbered pistol so far found is SN 1292, a 120 bore (.32 Cal.), pocket pistol with a steel barrel.*6b (This style of Reilly pocket pistol is almost ubiquitous - dozens are extant ranging from the most ornate cased in mahogany and silver encrusted to the mundane. It was obviously a best seller. However, none after SN 1292 are serial numbered).*6c.

J.C. Reilly also continued to "make" big-bore percussion pistols at 316 High Holborn, at least one of them remarkably similar to SN 88 and SN 174.*6d However, none of these later productions have serial numbers.*6e

*7 August 1840: Company Name Changes to "Reilly":

In August 1840 the firm's name in advertisements changed from J.C. Reilly to just "Reilly," which may mark the advent of 23 year old EM as a full partner in the company.*7a EM is listed in the 1841 census as living with J.C. and his occupation, like that of J.C. was "Gun maker."*7b

The names on the gun ribs after 1840 continued to be "J.C. Reilly" or "Joseph Charles Reilly."*7c

Case/Trade labels were styled like an embossed business card with "Joseph Charles Reilly"; Gun Maker: *7d

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Several guns from this period survive including the following:
. . . . .SN 1174 - c1836: 8 bore. Fowling piece; Percussion single shot*7e
. . . . .SN 1869 - c1840: 10 bore Shotgun; SxS; hammer gun, muzzle loader*7f

*8 1840's: Air-guns:

JC Reilly during this period also became known for his air cane guns. Air guns had been around for years. Lewis & Clark carried one on their expedition across America.*8a Manton made one in the 1820's. However, around 1840 they became extremely popular and just about every gun-maker advertised them. Young EM was billed as the expert and was so mentioned in advertisements for the next 8 years, identified as "Reilly Junr."*8b

In 1847 EM wrote a widely disseminated pamphlet on air guns. It is mostly an advertising brochure highlighting the company's ability to produce all sorts of air-guns and parts - but also going into air pressures they achieved in the air chambers and other technical aspects of the guns. It is cited to this day. The pamphlet title page noted the author was "Reilly junr," used the (new as of March, 1847) 502 New Oxford Street address and included the phrase "Removed from Holborn" (key identifiers for the April-November 1847 time period). *8c

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The earliest Reilly trade-case label known (for 316 High Holborn Street) came out of an air-gun case, not surprising since it was undoubtedly not carried out into muddy fields.

It appears that Reilly did not serial number air guns even though the company manufactured and made the guns (similar to post 1837 hand-guns). This said there is one air-gun with a serial number 7801 with J.C. Reilly’s name on it. This appears to be a legitimate JC “7000” series number (used from 1846 to 1857).*8d

A collage of extant Reilly air guns dating from the 1830’s to the 1880’s is pictured below:*8e.

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Reilly became so associated with air-guns that his name was mentioned in various fiction "who-done-its,*8f, *8g and may have been a prototype for the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Empty House" by Arthur Conan Doyle.*8h

Interesting fact: Apparently by 1843 E.M. Reilly (Reilly, Jnr) had joined the Freemasons. An advertisement in “The Freemason” from 1843 identified him as “Brother Reilly Junr.”*8i He was also a practicing Catholic who contributed substantially to the local Catholic church.*8j There is a contradiction in this; Catholics were automatically excommunicated for being associated with Freemasons. How EM reconciled this is unknown. Reilly's Catholic faith and his Irish origin was to play against the family over the years.

. . . . .III. 502 NEW OXFORD STREET: 1847 - 1857

*9 March 1847: Move to 502 New Oxford-Street

In late March 1847 Reilly moved from High Holborn to 502 New Oxford Street, a large edifice also called the "Elizabethan buildings" on a new extension of Oxford Street.*9a

The building was not more than a few hundred yards from his two previous workshops at 12 Middle Row and 316 High Holborn; Reilly was attached to this neighborhood apparently.
. . . . .Attached an 1890 plat map on New Oxford Street with location of 502.*9a(1)
. . . . .Attached a sketch of 502 New Oxford Street from the subsequent Reilly trade label.*9c(1)
. . . . .Attached photo of current New Oxford Street with outline of the former 502.*9c(2)

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With this move, Reilly demonstrated another trait of his business acumen, i.e. "location." The new road provided access to the center of London from the wealthy West End suburbs. He always chose prestigious, high-traffic locations for his stores.

-- Comment: the story of the extension of Oxford Street has also to do with slum clearing. This area was a notorious pit of crime, rabbit warren streets and poverty known as "the Rookery" in the Charles Dickens era and road building apparently was a way for the governmentto solve the public problem. "The building of New Oxford Street together with the later reconstruction of Shaftsbury Avenue through other notorious parts of St. Giles began the reclamation of this long infamous area for respectability," *9b

The building was quite large, 5 stores and at least an estimated 8,000 square feet of space for retail, manufacturing, and for a homestead on the top floor. For a gun-maker in London, this was an enormous space - guns in London were being made in shops at the time the size of a kitchen.

The nature of the London gun business needs some explanation:

. . . . .-- It was always concentrated into small, sometimes tiny, workshops and buildings. Purpose built “factories” as one would normally recognize such as some of the large firms in Birmingham, did not exist in London until Holland&Holland built their factory in the 1890’s. At this time, the late 1840’s, Reilly operated his “factory” out of 502 (later renumbered "16") New Oxford Street, and 11 years later from a second factory at 315 (later 277) Oxford Street).

. . . . .-- As an example of the type of workshop common in London, Purdey operated for 60 years from a building at 314 ½ Oxford Street (actually 314 & 315), where he had his showroom, fitting rooms, administrative offices and his workshops.*9d
. . . . . . . . .- Attached London 1890 map plat of Oxford Street.*9d(1)
. . . . . . . . .- London Postal Directory of 1882 with old and new numbering.*9d(2)
. . . . . . . . .- 1885 photo or Oxford Street with both 277 and Purdey's 314 1/2 in the background. Building height is considerably higher than today. EM Reilly's son fell from the top floor of 277 in 1895, a distance of 50'.*9d(3)
. . . . . . . . .- Google earth photo of Purdey's 314 1/2 Oxford Street today.*9d(4)

. . . . .-- A second example is 22 Cockspur Street where Lang had his workshop from 1852-1872. This was where the first UK pin-fire center-break gun was made. Lang previously had a 21 yard shooting gallery as well as access to two billiard tables until his move to Cocksure Street.*9e
. . . . .Attached map plate of 22 Cockspur Street with shooting gallery.*9e(1)
. . . . .Attached photo of 22 Cockspur Street.*9e(2)

. . . . .—Finally, It was quite common for gunmakers to live on the premises of their gun shops. Reilly certainly did this from at least 1835 to 1903 per the annual UK census. As a further example attached is a bankruptcy announcement for Joseph Manton from 1826 showing that his house was on Hanover Square, adjoining at the back to several workshops which gave onto 315 Oxford Street.*9f

*10 April-November 1847: Change in Trade Label

From April 1847 to November 1847 the trade label kept the form of the old High Holborn case label format but with the 502 New Oxford Street, London address and a note that the firm had "Removed from Holborn." *10a. Two versions exist:

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Note: Reilly used the phrase "Removed from Holborn" in advertisements after the move from April 1847 to November 1847. By December 1847 it had disappeared from his ads.*10b, *10c

*11 1847: Change in the Main-Line Numbering Chronology - 3350 Jumps to 8350

At the time of the move the main serial number chronology for Reilly long-guns was jumped up 5000 numbers from about SN 3350 to begin anew at around 8350 (called for simplicity the "8350" series). The name on serial numbered guns after the move ultimately became simply "Reilly" with exceptions.

. . .-- SN 3329 - SN'd in 1847 is the last extant gun made at High Holborn. It is a 10 gauge SxS percussion rifle with Joseph Charles Reilly, 316 High Holburn, London on the rib. *11a

. . .-- SN 8378 - May 1847 is the first extant main-line SN'd gun from the new building, a SxS 12 bore muzzle-loading shotgun. It has "J.C. Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London" on the rib. The original label in the old High Holborn case label format has the 502 New Oxford Street, London address and notes the firm had "Removed from Holborn." *11b

. . .-- SN 8463 - Dec 1847 is the first extant SN'd gun in the new series with only "Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London." The gun is a .390 cal SxS muzzle loader rifle, also with "Removed from Holborn" on the label.*11c

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*12 1846-1857: J.C. Reilly 7000 Series Numbering Chronology

Preceding this move to New Oxford Street, around early 1846, perhaps anticipating the (planned) change in the main serial number chronology, J.C. Reilly appears to have kept a series of numbers for himself, called for simplicity the J.C. "7000" series. He numbered about 1200 guns over the next 11 years in this series beginning around SN 7000 and ending around 8200 when he retired in 1857.

JC Reilly sometimes (but not always) put his full name or initials on the ribs of these serial numbers but with the 502 New Oxford Street address; yet the trade/case labels with "Reilly" as the firm's name and the advertisements/publicity remained the same for the "8350 main-line series and the J.C. "7000" series.

. . .-- SN 7021 - 1846, is the first extant SN'd gun in the JC "7000" series, a 20 bore single barrel boy’s percussion shotgun. It has " Reilly, London" on the barrel and was probably numbered in early 1846.*12a

. . .-- SN 7023 - 1846, is the second extant SN'd gun in the JC "7000" series, an 11 bore SxS percussion shotgun. It has "J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London" on the rib and was probably numbered in early 1846.*12b

. . .-- SN 7201 - Sep 1847, a .577 percussion single barrel rifle, was the first in the J.C. 7000 series with the new "Joseph Charles Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London" address on the barrel, probably numbered around September 1847. It has the old style "J.C. Reilly" trade label with the new 502 New Oxford Street address and also with "Removed from Holborn." *12c

. . .-- SN 8186 - Aug 1857 is the last extant gun in the 7000 series (no doubt made in late summer 1857). It's an elegant .650 mimi ball single barrel muzzle-loader rifle engraved Reilly, New Oxford Street, London, with "Vini, Vidi, Vici" on the barrel (see below). *12d

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*13 Outlier J.C. serial numbered guns, 1840-1856

There are existing outlier SN'd guns associated with JC which originally did not fit any sort of pattern given the disconnect between type of guns, the SN's and the addresses on their ribs. However, analysis indicates all 5 actually are part of known Reilly serial number progressions:

. . .-- SN 4573 - c1840-41, a 7 gauge, smoothbore, short single barrel, dangerous game gun with "J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London" on the barrel. The gun appears to be from the 1841-42 timeframe. It may well be part of an as yet not fully understood "5000" series discussed below. *13a

. . .-- SN 2008 - c1840, a 14 bore SxS muzzle-loader shotgun with "Joseph Charles Reilly, New Oxford Street, London" on the rib and per below bore size stamped on the barrel. The address would date it between April 1847 to circa September 1857 when J.C. retired; The gun, however, looks to be late 1840's. There is a chance that this gun was actually numbered in 1840 as part of the main-line numbering series and the barrel was re-engraved when it was brought in for maintenance after 1847.*13b

. . .-- SN 3007 - c1845, Reilly U-L pin-fire SxS Shotgun: E.M. Reilly & Co., 315 Oxford Street, London on the rib. Birmingham proofs on the barrel. It is possible this was an original percussion gun from 1845 updated to pin-fire by Reilly sometime after 315 Oxford Street opened in August 1858. (There is another Reilly percussion gun SN 10354 from 1857 which was converted to an U-L center-break gun in 1878 per documentation). It has been re classified as an 1845 gun. *13c

. . .-- SN 3402 - c1847 E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford St., London & rue Scribe, Paris. .58 cal. SxS rifle; 4 grove twist. Hammer gun, muzzle loader. (E.M. Reilly label on the original case). The address is post Feb 1868. But this gun per serial number should have been numbered originally in 1847 as part of the "3350" series. It may have been serviced and re-engraved post 1868, or a new barrel fitted. "Scroll guard pistol grips" were phased out on Reilly rifles in the 1850's. The gun now is redated to 1847. *13d

. . .-- SN 3514 - 1848? or 1856?, a 13 bore SxS percussion shotgun with "Reilly, New Oxford Street, London" on the rib. It was apparently made in 1856 per the trade label in the case. However, it looks older than that and may well date to 1848, the label having been changed when the gun was serviced. This would indicate that EM Reilly continued to number some guns in the 3350 series even after the 1847 changeover.*13c

*14 Hypothetical J.C. "5500" Serial Number series early/mid 1840's:

There are four (possibly five) extant Serial Numbered SxS percussion guns ranging from 5512 to 5991 from apparently the early to mid-1840's which are very similar; It may be that J.C. Reilly had a 5500 serial number series of some sort. If so this would increase the number of guns made from 1840-48 by some 500. if this series were connected to 4573 it would add a good 1,500 guns to the total Reilly made during this period.

It may be that J.C. and E.M. split their gun numbering series around 1840 when E.M. apparently became a full partner (and when the firm began using just "Reilly" in its advertisements) well before the move to Oxford Street, E.M. keeping the main-line series and jumping it to 8350 in 1847 and J.C. numbering guns with the 4500-6000 series and jumping those numbers to the 7000 series in 1846; More guns are needed to establish this point. (There is an upper date limit marker for this "series" - 5991 - which is post March 1847 from the address on the rib. However, there is no lower date marker for the series other than the 316 High Holborn address on the ribs - which could extend back to August 1835.)

. . . -- SN 4573 - c1841, a 7 gauge, smoothbore, short single barrel, dangerous game gun with "J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London" on the barrel. The gun appears to be from the 1840-1844 timeframe.*13a

. . . -- SN 55121843-47?, a 16 bore SxS muzzle loader shotgun, which has “J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London now 502 New Oxford Street” on the rib, the only gun found so far with both addresses and it would appear numbered around the time of the move. However, the two addresses are printed a slightly different font indicating 5512 may have been brought in for maintenance after the March 1847 move and re-engraved at that time; *14a

. . .-- SN 55801843-47?, a 12 bore SxS muzzle loader shotgun, which has “J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, London” on the rib, (engraving and format very similar to 5512 above); *14b

. . .-- SN xxxx1843-47?, The engraving on 5512 and 5580 match remarkably to a 12 bore SxS percussion gun advertised by Christies with “J.C. Reilly, 316 High Holborn, Londonn” on the rib; The SN was unpublished, however, it could be part of this possible “5500 series.” *14c

. . .-- SN yyyy1843-47?, The engraving on 5512 and 5580 also match quite well a 16 bore Reilly SxS percussion shotgun with “Reilly, 316, High Holborn, London” on the rib.*14d

. . .-- SN 57591845-47?, a 10 bore SxS percussion shotgun, serial numbered “5759” on the barrels; no SN on the tang. No address on the flat filed rib; "Reilly" on the action. The seller speculated that the barrels had been rebored from a 12 bore rifle; The barrel is substantial and is stamped "12." The rib possibly was re-laid at that time and the scroll guard trigger/pistol grip tang replaced.*14e

. . .-- SN 59911847-48?, a 17 bore SxS percussion rifle, serial numbered “5991” on the barrels. “991” is found on forend stock, hammers and ramrod. “Reilly, New Oxford Street, London” is engraved on the rib; “Reilly, London” on the side plates. The case has a post December 1847 Reilly label pasted over a Lang label from 7 Haymarket Street, from circa 1845-1848. If this serial number is part of the hypothetical “5500” JC series, then it may indicate that the series was continued for some reason into the late 1840’s and used along-side the new “7000” series. *14f

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*14-A Evolution of Reilly Serial Numbers:

Following is the possible evolution of Reilly's serial number series for clarity using the date-marker extant guns:
. . . . . 1st. . . . . . Move to. . . EM full. . . Move to. . . . . . . . JC
. . . . . SN. . . . . .316 Oxford. .partner. .502 New Oxford. . .retires. . . . . . Bankruptcy

. . . . 1828. . . . . . . . 35. . . . . 40. . . . . . . 47. . . . . . . . . . 57. . . . . . . . . -> 1912
Main: 88->->->->->->1024 ->->->->->->->3326/8378->->->->->->->->->->->35678
5500: JC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5512->->->->5991
7000: JC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7021->->->->->->->8186

*15 December 1847 - 1856: New Label for 502 New Oxford-Street

Soon after the move, possibly around December 1847, the trade label changed to "Reilly, Gun Maker." It was rectangular shaped with scalloped corners and featured a sketch of 502 New Oxford Street. *15a

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-- E.M. Reilly may have designed this new label. He was 30 years old at this time and he consistently demonstrated a better marketing touch, a more modern approach, more imagination and more organization than his father. The new label had new fonts and was much more dynamic than the bland, formal business card style of his father.

-- The "Gun Maker" font on the new label looks to have been deliberately carried over from the old 316 High Holborn label. It is in a sort of old English or Germanic style. This particular font continued to be used in various forms until the company declared bankruptcy in 1912.

-- The bottom line of the new label advertises “Large assortment always ready for India and emigrants to All Parts of the Universe.” E.M. truly had grand ambitions.

*16 Reilly in the early 1850's: Company organization

Some business anthologies and gun history sites from this period claim that J.C. Reilly made guns, E.M. Reilly air guns, and that the company had split into two entities.*16a,*16b But, both worked from the same building used the same case labels, and advertisements, etc. This distinction has been made too much of. They essentially operated as one company. 1850's Reilly advertisements confirm this conclusion.*16c. This said, it appears that E.M. was increasingly the dominate force in the company.

The 1851 census recorded Joseph Charles Reilly as living with a servant at 502 New Oxford Street. The rest of the family is not mentioned and may have gone on with their lives. Martha, J.C.’s wife had left him and was very much alive though he claimed he was a widower.*16d

There is no way to determine the size of the Reilly workforce in 1850. The 1851 census did not ask the number of men an employer engaged. However, there may be data for this enquiry somewhere. London: A Social History commented that London’s industries were small; “Out of 24,323 employers only 80 employed over 100.” “Small workshops predominated.”*16e This data had to come from someplace and it apparently was sourced to that 1851 census though no such information was included in the questions asked.

*17 1851 - late 1880's: Reilly 300 yard outdoor Shooting Range:

Advertisements from 1851 papers show that Reilly had a 300 yard shooting range near his London establishment.*17a Reputable London gun makers seemed to have had their own ranges.

Reilly's range was located off Wood Lane, Shepard's Bush. It was still in use in the 1880's.*17b Wood Lane was near the center of London but remained a rural area until the 1890’s when it became the site of a world’s fair.*17c A number of London gunmakers had ranges in the area; there was a pigeon shooting competition field, and a Militia range.*17d.

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*18 1851: Crystal Palace Exposition – the Lefaucheaux revelation

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Reilly exhibited at the 1851 Crystal Palace International Exposition*18a as Edward M. Reilly.*18b. This is one more indication of the increasing prominence of E.M. in company affairs. The exhibit included air guns, pistols, shotguns and rifles as well as examples of engraving and chasing, which may indicate the company had its own in-house engravers.*18b

There were two extremely influential guns shown at the exposition. Colt showed his heavy revolver which became a sensation. However, Reilly and the UK long-gun world was much taken by the Casimir Lefaucheaux’s center-break gun, marketed in France since 1836.*18c Reilly, Lang and Blanch ultimately became the major advocates for the Lefaucheaux break-action type guns in England, something that would cause a profound technological revolution and a great deal of dispute and public wrangling.

Comment: One cannot overstate the impact on UK gun making that the colt revolver had and in particular, the fact that it was made mostly by machinery. Colt was asked to speak to the British Society of Civil Engineers in fall 1851, the first American to do so, where he discussed his methods. Numerous publications commented later on his London factory and the fact that the workers finishing machine-made parts were not skilled and this in turn provoked dozens of trips by UK delegations to visit US factories. This ultimately led to Enfield establishing an “American system factory” circa 1860. The system did not arrive in Birmingham until the 1870’s. This is mentioned here because it is possible that Reilly tried elements of “The American System” later on in serial production of Prince and Green Brothers breech loaders).*18d

*19 Reilly in the early 1850's: Custom Guns and Munitions

Reilly was making custom explosive bullets for famous hunter/explorer Sir Samuel Baker as early as 1853, when Baker wrote his book The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon. Baker in 1874 edited the book adding, “For many years I have been supplied with first rate No 10 rifles by Messrs. Reilly & Co, of Oxford Street, London, which have never become in the slightest degree deranged during the rough work of wild hunting.” *19a Sir Samuel continued to use Reilly rifles for the next 30 years.*19b

By 1856 Reilly was also marketing Col. Jacob’s SxS rifle, a muzzle loading gun designed by Jacob for use on the hot Sindhi plains. It was a short barreled gun but allegedly could reach out 1,200 yards and had a sword bayonet fitted to it. Jacob’s rifle also used an exploding bullet made by Reilly among others.*19c

Years later in 1869 E.M. Reilly patented an exploding bullet, an idea possibly originating from his experience in working on the Baker and Jacob’s rifle cartridges.*19d

*20 1855: Reilly Numbering Bore Sizes before the 1855 Proof Law

In 1855 the British government required that bore sizes be stamped on barrels. Reilly, however, along with Greener and Manton, appears to have been amongst the very few gun makers stamping bore sizes for years before the formal requirement. There are several extant Reilly's with bore size stamps dating back to the early 1840’s.*20a

*21 1855: Paris Exposition Universelle

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Reilly exhibited at the 1855 Paris Universelle Exposition,*21a where he received much acclaim, "all guns were sold," and "many orders were booked." The exhibit was again in the name of E.M Reilly *21b; however, advertisements make it very clear that though EM won the medals, the firm was still "Reilly, Gun Maker."*21c

In some ways the 1855 Exposition was nearly as important for the UK gun-making fraternity as the 1851 Crystal Palace exposition. Lang won a gold medal (for excellence of construction) for his center-break pin-fire, an “improved” version of the Lefaucheaux gun.*21d Lang’s gun used a single bite lump while Lefaucheaux’s guns clearly used a double bite design although Lang reinforced other aspects of the gun.

Lang’s success apparently convinced both Reilly and Blanch, close collaborators, to research, construct and market the guns during the next year with dramatic results.

*22 September 1857: J.C. Reilly Retires; January 1864 he passed away:

In September 1857 J.C. Reilly retired*22a to his country estates at Bourn End, Cranfield, Bedfordshire,*22b where he died a wealthy man in January 1864.*22c E.M. was one of the executors of his will.*22d His last guns in the "7000" series were engraved with Julius Caesar's words "Vini, Vidi, Vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"),*22e possibly his swan song story. "Formerly Gun-Maker, London" was placed on his tombstone at his request.*22f

J.C.'s retirement appeared to have been quite abrupt. At the time the debate over center-break breech-loaders, a French invention, divided families and flame wars raged in the British press. One wondered if J.C., the traditionalist, broke with his son E.M, a very early proponent of the Lefaucheux break-action gun, over this issue - much like what happened between the Greener's father/son a few years later. However, based on 1855 advertisements in "The Field "broke" is not the correct word - rather a more accurate description of JC's retirement should be something like, "JC surrendered the field to his son."*22g


*23 1852-56: Break Action, Pin-Fire Guns in UK., PART 1, Hodges & Lang

This is not a detailed recounting of how Lefaucheaux’s break-action pin-fire breech-loader conquered the UK and changed gun history. However, the facts must be reviewed in brief so that Reilly’s part in it can be understood.

Castor Lefaucheaux took out a patent for a break action gun in France in 1836. Several of these guns made their way to the UK over the years but were generally ignored or regarded as curiosities. However, at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exposition, Lefaucheaux showed a single barrel pin-fire center-break gun.*23a It created a lot of interest.

Lefaucheaux did not take out a patent on the design in UK so it was free for the taking. The gun was ridiculed by many of the UK gun establishment, in particular William Greener (senior), who called it a “French crutch gun.”

However, a young 18 year old apprentice gunsmith named Edward Charles Hodges*23b especially took notice. Following the closing of the fair, he embarked on a project to build a copy of the gun, which after some time was completed, probably one speculates in late 1852.

It Is not known how he did this; did he buy a Lefaucheux (unlikely) or did he handle the gun and carefully take measurements and sketches? He could not have made the barrels himself so did he buy the barrels and lumps from Liège? There is no information on when Hodges completed his trial gun; neither he nor his sons ever commented.

Over the following few months he worked to convince Joseph Lang to buy his gun and to make and sell versions of it. (Note: Hodges later made a good living making center-break pin-fire actions for all the major gun manufactures in London, This leads inevitably to speculation that he concentrated on perfecting the action and stock and indeed may have used barrels/lumps purchased in Liège, a simple and cheap way to forward the design).

Joseph Lang had started out as a silversmith and like Reilly later morphed into a gunsmith. In the 1820’s he was essentially selling guns Joseph Manton sent to him on consignment. When Manton went bankrupt in 1826, Lang bought his left-over stock, barrel borers etc. For the next 25 years he made guns at 7 Haymarket Street, London.*23c By 1826 he had created a 28 yard shooting gallery in a neighboring building, which became well known, and even advertised access to two billiards tables for his customers.*23d

In 1852 he moved his shop to 22 Cockspur Street; the shooting gallery closed. The company remained there until 1874.*23e Joseph Lang died in 1869 and his firm was subsequently run by his son.

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Probably in 1853 after his move Lang finally succumbed to Hodges’ entreaties, bought Hodges' gun, and began working on the center-break concept.

By early 1854 he had a working gun ready for sale which followed pretty much the design of Lefaucheaux’s original gun although beefing up parts of it. He also tried to make it look as much like a percussion gun as possible, with wooden fore-end, etc., no doubt thinking that familiarity in looks would help its acceptance. His gun, however, though originally following the Lefaucheaux concept of using two bites on the lumps, ultimately wound up using only one.

Note: The original Lang guns apparently did not have forcing cones in front of the breech following Lefaucheaux's example; British gunmakers soon changed this.*23f

In this respect per comments in the UK press there was the distinct possibility that Lang was using Liège made barrels with lumps, which were later modified by English gunsmiths and that this continued into 1856-59. This is circumstantial evidence that Hodges had followed the same route.

In a pamphlet published in January 1857 to hawk the pin-fire, Lang wrote that he had been shooting break action pin-fires for three years.*23g

This would seem to indicate that he began shooting his own breech-loading guns (or at least breech-loading guns in general) in early 1854, which is as good a guess for the date of his first pin-fire gun as any. (The earliest extant datable Lang pin-fire is from 1858. One well-known British gunsmith has stated that he believes he may be able to locate two Lang pin-fire center-break guns with bills of sale dated to 1854. However, no documentation has been forthcoming.)

Lang continued privately to refine his gun and in summer 1855 he showed it at the Paris Exposition Universelle and won a gold medal for “excellence of construction.”*23h

Interestingly, from 1854-1858 no Lang commercial advertisements for the pin-fire can be found. The gun early on was hardly mentioned in the UK sporting press and indeed as late as November, 1856 editors of "The Field" appear to have been confused about the details of the gun or its variants.*23i. Whether Lang sold even one of his guns before the Paris Fair is an open question.

In late 1855 or early 1856 John Henry Walsh (aka "Stonehenge") (shortly thereafter to become editor of "The Field") published a review of Lang's gun in his book Manuel of British Rural Sports. This was first real acknowledgement and public awareness of the new gun.

Gradually, as the concept became accepted over the next three years beginning in late 1856-early 1857, a storm of controversy, a print “flame war,” erupted in the British press with a very conservative group of gun owners adamantly maintaining that the “crutch gun” could not stand up to strong charges of British powder with a few equally strong willed upper-class users touting its convenience, safety and general viability.*23j

Note: Lang comes across as insufferably arrogant in his letters to the press; witness his 1) 1858 advertisements labeling others' center-break guns as "rubbish"*23k; and, his 2) border-line insulting exchange in June 1859 with the editor of "The Field" over whether he was going to submit guns for the July 1859 "The Field" breech-loaders vs muzzle loaders trial. "I told you that nothing should induce me to have my name mixed up in such a farce."*23l

*24 1852-56: Break Action, Pin-Fire Guns in UK., PART 2, Reilly & Blanch

Shortly after the end of the 1855 Paris Universelle, William Blanch, who had been gradually asserting more authority in the Blanch and Sons company from his father John, sent an employee to Paris to buy a pin-fire. The receipt for his purchase, a Beringer around-trigger-guard-lever, break-action pin-fire gun, exists and is dated December 1855.*24a

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The Blanch’s and Reilly’s appear to have been friends and collaborators for many years. It seems that Blanch and Reilly both then began to develop their own break-action guns, reverse engineering the Beringer Lefaucheaux.

The difficulties they faced are enumerated in William Blanch’s obituary.*24b Quote: “But he had also the even more arduous task of teaching his men to make the new gun. The barrel men had to be instructed how to make the lump instead of a screw breech-plug. The percussioner had to be broken into the task of making actions on Lefaucheaux’s system. Everything was new and the only moral support in the task arose from the fact that Joseph Lang had some time previously entered the same field of research….”

E.M. Reilly, writing in December 1857, 40 years before the Blanch obituary*24d, noted that his firm had been examining the Lefaucheaux concept for 10 or 15 years.*24c Given Reilly’s propensity for gambling on technology and his connections to France, almost surely he considered building one and some lines he wrote much later in 1885 seem to indicate he experimented with the gun after the Crystal Palace fair. Certainly E.M. was not overly concerned with the difficulties of building such a gun or the cost of the machinery, the sole sticking point again being "instructing the workers." He definitely was building breech-loading pin-fire guns in early/mid-1856.

The three London gunmakers, Lang, Blanch and Reilly are universally credited as the London manufacturers who opened the doors to the center-break-action concept in the UK. (The whole concept was still new in UK; as late as December 1856 “The Field” still seemed confused about the various types of center-break pin-fires.*24e

And this brings the story to summer of 1856 which sparked a sporting gun revolution in UK and the world.

Note: the pin-fire was not the only center-break gun inspired by LeFaucheaux. Lancaster built his own break-action center-fire “base-fire” gun which might have conquered the market had he not tried to control the sale of ammunition for the gun.*24f

*25 1856: Reilly Begins Building Break Action Pin-Fire Guns

E.M. Reilly claimed he worked on the concept shortly after the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition but abandoned it as commercially unviable - whether this is true or not is not verifiable.

It is possible that Reilly constructed a pin-fire rifle in 1855. Blanch seemed to believe that Reilly was working on a pin-fire gun when he bought his Beringer in Paris. There is a 12 bore pin-fire rifle shell stamped "Reilly, London" and dated 1855.*25b It certainly was made under contract and imported from France. The cartridge's existence shows only that Reilly might have been selling pin-fire shells in 1855. It does, however, highlight Reilly's involvement in center-break guns at the time, surely a very small niche business then but one for which a sharp visionary businessman like E.M. could see a future.

Reilly certainly began building commercially marketed center-break guns as early as 1856 after the Paris Universelle. The first datable advertisement for a Reilly center-break gun is from "The Law Journal"," 16 August 1856, with follow-on ads in the fall of 1856. *25a From this it appears that Reilly was the very first London gunmaker to advertise center-break pin-fire shotguns for sale.

The earliest existing Reilly pin-fire, perhaps the earliest extant UK made pin-fire period, is SN 10054, a 12 bore rifle dating to late summer 1856.*25c

A long letter from E.M. Reilly was published in the 26 December 1857 edition of "The Field" addressing the center-break pin-fire gun controversy.*25d E.M. stated that until about summer 1857 most of his pin-fire breech-loaders were sold as "novelties."*25e It wasn't until then that the whole break-action concept began to be taken seriously in UK.

E.M. by that time had taken a major technological business risk. Per an advertisement from June 1857 he had 100 center-break breech-loaders in various states of build and ready to be customized.*2f He gambled on the market by devoting fully 33% of his production capacity to making breech-loaders. This was some two years before Purdey made his first. Boss didn’t make a center-break gun until 1858. Harris Holland made his first ever six center-break guns in 1857, etc.

Reilly for years had connections to Paris and Liège. There is some evidence that all early pin-fire makers in the UK, Hodges, Lang, Blanch and Reilly, may have been at some point dealing with Liège for actions, barrels, etc. There is one Reilly pin-fire from early 1860's with faint Liège proof marks on it overlain by London proof marks.*25g

*26 Mid-1856: Trade/Case Label Changes

Reilly case labels changed after the 1855 Paris Universelle.*26a
. .-- The new label illustrated the 1851 and 1855 world's fair medals*26b
. .-- It highlighted "Fusils à bascule," French for center-break guns (made on the "Lefaucheux principle").
. .-- The new label also advertised “Improved Breech Loaders” referring to guns such as the Prince Patent bolt action and the Terry Patent breech loaders which he marketed and promoted.*26c
. .-- The bottom line in the label has been changed to read "emigrants to "All Parts of the Globe", slightly scaling back his shipping capabilities from “the Universe” as used on the 1847-1855 labels.

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When exactly this label was adopted is not certain. The first dated newspaper ad found with the phrase "Fusils à bascule" appeared in "The Law Journal"," 16 Aug 1856.*26d There are other 1856 Reilly advertisements for "Fusils à bascule" or "Fusils bascule" in certain books and tour guides but the exact dates these were published are not clear.*26e

There is a good chance, however, that Reilly had begun making the new labels before summer 1856 and probably months before the building of Reilly pin-fire 10054. *26f

*27 1856-1858: Reilly Extant Break Action Pin-Fire Guns

Following are the earliest extant Reilly center-break pin-fire guns dating from late summer 1856 to spring 1858.

(Note: London guns were typically serial numbered when ordered; Reilly delivered his guns within 3 weeks of an order as opposed to 9 months-2 years for others, thus the Reilly "spec" guns - built without a specific custom order - may have been serial numbered when bought and then delivered pretty close to the order date):

. . .-- SN 10054 - summer 1856: The oldest Reilly center-break gun so far found. It is a "Lefaucheux/Lang" type long forward-underlever, single-bite type pin-fire 15 bore SxS rifle engraved "Reilly, 502 New Oxford-Street, London" on the rib. It is in a period case, with the post 1855 Paris Universelle label with "Fusils à bascule" on it. It would date per the chart to late summer 1856, about the time the first Reilly ad for "Fusils à bascule" appeared in the London Press (mentioned above).*27a

. . .-- SN 10128 - December 1856: The second oldest existing Reilly pin-fire. It is a 16 bore SxS Shotgun, a Lang/Lefaucheux long underlever, single bite, pin-fire with "Reilly, 502 New Oxford-Street, London" on the rib.*27b

. . .-- SN 10355 - summer 1857: 12 bore SxS shotgun, pin-fire hammer gun (address unknown) with leather case and original labels and implements. No additional details are available from at the time a rather obscure US auction house.*27c

. . .-- SN 10655 - March 1858: The fourth oldest extant Reilly break-action SxS gun found to date: It is a "Lefaucheux/Lang" type short forward-underlever, single-bite type pin-fire 12 bore SxS shotgun with "E.M. Reilly, 502 New Oxford-Street, London" on the rib, probably numbered around the time of the below mentioned "The Field" trial spring 1858.*27d (Note the E.M. Reilly name but without the “& Co.” on the rib; there is one Reilly advertisement in a late 1857 newspaper using “E.M. Reilly” rather than. just “Reilly.”)*27e

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*28 1858-1860: Reilly Develops and Trials Break Action Pin-Fire Guns

E.M. Reilly participated in the April 1858 trial pitting muzzle-loaders against breech-loaders run by "The Field."*28a His breech-loader handed a W.W. Greener muzzle-loader an historic defeat in this trial; Greener later tried to denigrate breech-loaders in his 1858 book, and was called out in the most definitive fashion by "The Field."*28b

By spring 1858 Reilly was heavily invested in building SxS pinfire rifles, not a new concept for him; the oldest extant Reilly is a 15 bore rifle, but certainly with an added emphasis.*28c

In fall 1858 Reilly, along with Lang and Blanch, the original proponents of break-action guns in UK, was reported to be "overdone with orders for his breech-loaders" per "The Field"*28d. The article specifically praised Reilly’s 16 bore pin-fire used in the competition.*28e "The Field" commented in the same article that at this time ¾ of the orders for new guns in London were for breech loaders.*28f

Reilly provided 4 guns for the follow-on muzzle-loader/break-action breech-loader trial run by the "The Field" in July 1859. All were allegedly built on the "lever under fore-arm" English standard single-bite "Lefaucheux/Lang" principle per a sketch in "The Field."*28g

At this time Reilly also was making guns with the under-lever located under the trigger guard Beringer-style per a late 1859 book sketch;*28i Whether one of these guns participated in the trials is unknown. (The gun pictured in the book sketch could well be a center-break Beriinger-style pin-fire SxS shotgun sold at a recent auction – serial number unknown).*28j

Comment: Several of the most prestigious London gunmakers then involved in making breech-loader pinfires did not enter the 1859 trials. This was commented on by "The Field."*28h[/b]. These gunmakers would have been competing against "the country makers" - the "hoi paloi" - and had everything to lose - their reputation - and nothing to gain.

*29 Observation re "retailer" vs "gunmaker" from an analysis of extant 1856-58 Reilly pin-fires:
-- SN 10054 (Late summer 1856),
-- SN 10128 (December 1856),
-- SN 10355 (mid 1857), and
-- SN 10655 (March 1858):

. . .-- 10054 & 10128 late summer and December 1856: In fall 1856, there were virtually no outworkers in London who could have made 10054 or 10128. Both guns are early Lang/Lefaucheux forward under-lever pin-fire SxS's.
. . . . . .- Lang was making pin-fire Lefaucheux style breech loaders but not for the trade (perhaps he had made and sold some 10 pin fire guns over two years by this time and that is probably a high estimate; per his serial numbering system, Lang was making about 75 guns total a year from 1830-1860...perhaps by 1855 100 a year). Per Lang's own pamphlet he began to "shoot" such guns in January 1854 (perhaps trying out his own early models or a Lefaucheaux gun - the phrase is not clear). What is clear is that he did not advertise center-break pin-fires at all. Yet Lang won a publicized gold medal at the 1855 Paris Universelle for his breech loader - his work on the concept was not a secret, just ignored by the gun-world.
. . . . . .- E.C. Hodges, the original designer of Lang's break-action gun, had completed his apprenticeship in 1852 and by the late 1850's was making center-break actions for a dozen different makers including prestige names labeled with his stamp on the water table - not found on Reilly's.*29a
. . . . . .- Blanch claimed he made his first pin-fire breech-loader in 1856, this after traveling to Paris to buy a center-break, under-lever around trigger-guard, Berringer style pin-fire in late 1855 after the Paris Universelle and reverse engineering it. Yet, the first known Blanch advertisement in the UK press for a center-break pin-fire was in 1858).*29b Blanch was not making guns for the trade.
. . . . . .- Reilly, thus was on his own when he obviously embarked on a similar path to that of Blanch in 1855 or early 1856 to manufacture and sell the French invention.

. . .-- 10355 mid-1857: Similar conclusions (without additional details on the gun). Note: By mid 1857 there were likely less than 100 British built pin-fires being shot in the UK. Reilly, however, per the 26 June 1857 edition of "The Field" above, was building 100 pin-fire "spec" (speculation- i.e. "awaiting a buyer") guns (a long-time Reilly practice). This gun 10355 was probably one of them.

. . .-- 10655, March 1858: This is a Lefaucheux-style 12 bore SxS shotgun pin-fire breech-loader: At the time it was numbered, March 1858, believe there were still very few gun-making firms or gun parts makers in general in all of UK that could have made it or portions of it – barrels & actions, and it's twins submitted by Reilly for the April 1858 "The Field" breech-loader vs muzzle-loader trials.
. . . . . .- Although London gun-makers by 1858 were getting involved in experimenting with the concepts and had begun in some case building a few guns (indicating an infrastructure in London was being created), again, the two firms, who could possibly have made 10655 in spring 1858 were Lang and Blanch. However, Lang and Blanch had orders aplenty themselves.
. . . . . .- As for Birmingham, one Birmingham gunsmith "Elliott" submitted two "patent" pin-fire break-actions for the July 1859 trials.*29c. Their recoil per "The Field" was so severe that they were virtually un-shootable. Yet the first main-stream Birmingham-made center-break gun or the manufacture of center-break actions was still several years in the future. Samuel Breedon c1861 may have been one of the very first makers in Birmingham of breech-loader actions.*29d

. . .-- Thus, the most logical conclusion is that the extant Reilly pin-fires from this era 10054, 10128, 10355, and 10655 were indeed made by Reilly lock, stock and barrel; no one else could have done it for him. It well may be that 10054 is the earliest UK made pin-fire center-break gun in existence.

(These conclusions are per historical data currently available on the early origins of UK center-break pin-fires. For the record Haris Holland made his first breech loader in 1857 although he advertised them in Sep 1856; Boss in 1858; Purdey in late 1858 or early 1859. The role that Liège barrel and action makers played in this story of the origin of the UK center-break gun is not clear; however, very prominent gun sport writers have suspicions that it was much more important than most would admit.)

Last edited by Argo44; 11/30/23 08:36 PM.

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*30 1853-1860: Reilly building innovative Military Grade Muzzle Loading Rifles:

Reilly always built rifles.*30a Throughout the late 1840’s and 1850’s he offered well-built muzzle loading rifles to officers and immigrants going out to the colonies, quite often in .577 caliber, so they could use military grade ball. In 1853 Arsenal adopted the .577 caliber Enfield rifle-musket, perhaps the finest percussion rifle of its day (although deficiencies appeared during the Crimean War). Reilly of course built Enfields and Enfield variants since Arsenal did not seem interested in protecting the industrial specifications (as they later did).

But over the next few years from 1853 to 1860 Reilly also was involved in making and developing other muzzle loading ideas from rifling to bullets. Some worked out. Others didn’t. But, Reilly was present during this period on the cutting manufacturing edge for anything that might sell. Out of this original manufacturing/marketing interest came an apparent Reilly obsession – i.e. win an Arsenal contract for a military rifle and make a fortune and E.M., the technology gambler, accepted the task and the risk (discussed later).

Following are a few of the percussion rifles Reilly made during this decade:

. . . . .1853 Enfield- Rifle-Musket. (Disclaimer: this is not meant to be an authoritative exploration of the 1853 Enfield…rather it is a simplified look at the history of Reilly making Enfields.)

. . . . . . . . . .- Reilly in the late 1850’s, early 1860’s built dozens and dozens of military style Enfields and sporterized Enfield rifles, both single and double-barreled, although the advertising for both was somewhat vague.*30b

. . . . . . . . . .- By 1859 he was advertising and marketing 2 and 3 band military style Enfields for the Volunteer services corps. Some had serial numbers if he built them; some were advertised for “wholesale” with his name on the gun but no serial number, obviously obtained elsewhere. And, the Enfield was a huge money-maker during the American War Between the States.*30c For the record (and a “date marker” serial number), Reilly-made Enfield SN 11716 was given as a prize at a Christmas 1860 competition. The date is confirmed by the below serial number dating chart.*30d

. . . . . . . . . .- In the early 1860’s he began using the .451 cartridge for some of his Enfield rifles.*30e Whitworth had patented the .451 hexagonal bullet in 1856; Westley-Richards used Whitworth rifling/barrels (and his own ideas-who came first is still a dispute) on his 1858 breech loading “monkey tail” carbine (see below). The bullet/rifling was superior in every way to the .577 with a flatter trajectory and higher muzzle velocity. Whitworth sniper guns in .451 in the hands of the Confederates killed several Union generals. In early 1861 Reilly started advertising Enfields, especially sniper guns, with this cartridge and chambered a lot of guns for it.*30f There are four extant Reilly .451 Enfields, the earliest two from 1861, the most iconic being SN 12073.*30g

. . . . . . . . . .-One of Reilly’s 1853 Enfields SN 12,002 (1861) was later converted into the first Green Brothers breech-loader by Reilly in 1964 as a proof-of-principle experiment (Chapter XX below) and others later were converted to Snider breech loaders after 1866.

. . . . . . . . . .- His sporting versions of the Enfield are quite elegant.*30h He advertised his sporting Enfields as having been so designed that the gun would fit into a normal case (something a 2 or 3 band Enfield with the long long forearm could not do.)*30h1

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. . . . .General Jacob’s Rifle: As discussed before In 1854 Col. John Jacob, famous throughout the Punjab and Sindh area after the 3rd Sikh war and still regarded as a saint in Jacobobad, Pakistan, designed a gun for use on the hot Sindhi plains and had it built in London by Daw (Swinburne was his preferred manufacturer) It was a rifled SxS muzzle loader, which allegedly could reach out 1,200 yards, and had a sword bayonet fitted to it. The rifle could use an exploding bullet.*30i Reilly had a license to produce it, its ammunition and its bayonet.*30j

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. . . . .English Schuetzen Percussion Target Rifle by E.M. Reilly: And for the fun of it there is at least one Reilly Schuetzen muzzle-loading target rifle, no serial number, probably marketed before 2 rue Scribe, Paris opened. It has only "E.M. Reilly" and not the "& Co., so likely 1858-59. E.M. Reilly loved "novelties." He always had interesting and unusual guns in his display rooms; perhaps this was part of his marketing strategy; people would say, "Let's drop in and see what's going on at Reilly's today."
. . . . . . . . . .50 caliber, 33.25" barrel, no S/N. Damascus barrel with Schuetzen-style stock finely checkered at forend and wrist. Blade front sight with iron ramrod pipes with entry pipe leading to reinforced forend. Classic schuetzen type trigger guard with set trigger. Forend tapped for palm rest. Top of barrel marked "E. M. REILLY, 502 NEW OXFORD ST. & 315 OXFORD ST., LONDON." lock plate marked "REILLY/LONDON" and engraved with classic broad scrolls.*30k

*31 1855-1860: Other breech-loader rifles and new innovations made by Reilly:

1858 Travel Guide:
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Breech loading military rifles had gradually impinged on the muzzle loading conservative establishment. In 1848 the Prussian military adopted the Dryese needle gun breech loader. The rest of Europe continued with muzzle-loaders. In 1853 the UK dropped the storied “Brown Bess” and adopted the Enfield 1853 “rifle-musket.” Yet time was moving on and innovations could not be denied.

E.M. Reilly in the 1850’s was far more modern than his father J.C. and as pointed out above had gradually taken over the business. He kept abreast of changes. He was not wedded to one design and was much more flexible than other hide-bound London traditional makers, witness his early involvement per above in the pin-fire center-break breech-loader.

In addition to the pin-fire, however, Reilly also got involved in making and selling a number of other breech loading rifles, a fact displayed prominently on his new 1856 label.*31a Like Westley-Richards, Prince and others he apparently got £ signs in his eyes re the possibility of getting a piece of the Empire’s military contracts. In particular he advertised and manufactured two of the three most important UK breech-loading rifles of the era, Prince (1855) and Terry (1856) (see below).*31b

Paradoxically he did not advertise or apparently sell the third, the Westley Richards “Monkey-Tail” carbine/rifle (1858) (Details below); nor it seems did he make variations of the Dreyse needle gun which were being marketed by gun makers such as Haris Holland. The fact that Reilly did not publicize these guns in his ads (even while implying he had them for sale) adds some weight to the supposition that he might have had a financial stake in Prince and possibly Terry (see below):

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. . . . .*31A -- Terry Patent breech loaders:

Per above Reilly by 1856 was marketing all kinds of new breech loaders and by 1858 Reilly was advertising Terry Patent SxS breech loaders. William Terry was a Birmingham gun maker who was granted a patent for a breech-loading rifle in April 1856;*31Aa The carbine was issued to the 18th Hussars and other British cavalry regiments in 1859, was used by Australia and New Zealand militia and by the Confederates in the War Between the States. Reilly made them under license.

A Reilly-made Terry Patent SxS rifle was used by the Anglican Bishop of Sarawak in 1862 sailing with the small three ship “navy” of Sarawak led by the son of Rajah Brooks during a confrontation with pirate ships off Mukdah. The Bishop said his gun had performed admirably and thanked the maker.*31Ab (The British press severely criticized the Bishop for participating in the battle without understanding the merciless nature of marauding slavers).*31Ac

How many Terry Patent breech-loaders Reilly built is unknown. One gun still exists, SN 13132 (late 1863). It's a SxS 40 bore ( .500 caliber) "William Terry's Patent" SxS carbine. The gun has Birmingham proof marks, highly unusual for a Reilly (discussed further in the chapter on barrels). Terry had his workshop/factory in Birmingham and perhaps he proofed the barrels while Reilly made the stock and assembled the gun.*31Ad

. . . . .*31B -- Prince Patent Breech Loader:

EM Reilly promoted the Prince patent breech loader in the late 1850's. This was probably the finest existing breech-loading rifle of its time. It outshot the newly adopted Enfield in 1855 and was consistently raved about by every civilian gun expert who tried it. However, it was never adopted by the Military.

In March 1858, shortly before “The Field” first trial for muzzle loader vs breech-loaders, 12 prominent London gun-makers signed an open letter in “The Field” urging Arsenal to reopen the army rifle competition in favor of the Prince.*31Ba Amongst the signers were Dean, Blanch, Wilkinson, Henry Tatham, John Blissett and a couple of others. All pledged that they had no financial stake in Prince and had signed the petition for the good of the country. (This group of London gun-makers always seemed associated in some way with Reilly, Prince and Green in that time period.)

Notably, Reilly and the Green brothers did not sign the letter; Green was in partnership with Prince and Reilly may well have had a financial stake in their firm, thus could not. However, in view of Reilly’s subsequent heavy commitment to making Prince breech-loaders and given E.M.’s shrewd business sense, it is entirely possible that Reilly provoked the whole exercise as a business ploy.

Reilly subsequently was one of several London gun-makers licensed to make the rifle (the others from the list of signers, coincidentally). In fact, it appears that during summer/fall 1858 Reilly took another technological market-place gamble by devoting significant resources to build a quantity of Prince breech loaders, perhaps as many as 100 out of some 200 Reilly guns made during that period.

There are five existing Reilly-made Prince rifles, three from summer/fall 1858 (the only extant Reilly's from that 3 month period) serial numbered close enough together to speculate that Reilly might have tried some method of mass production to produce them all at once: Note the August 1858 change to "Reilly & Co" on SN 10811 the first known gun with the new Oxford Street address (see below)
. . . . .-- SN 10738summer 1858; Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London; .350 cal, single-barrel, breech loader. (10438 on hammer along with “Reilly).*31Bb
. . . . .-- SN 10872late summer 1858: Reilly, New Oxford Street, London. .577 bore, single barrel breech-loader hammer gun.*31Bc
. . . . .-- SN 10811early fall 1858: Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London. .25 bore (sic) (probably .577), single barrel breech-loader hammer gun. 30.5” brls.*31Bd
. . . . .-- SN 11118 (SN not clear) – summer 1859; Reilly & Co., London. .577 bore, single -barrel, breech loader.*31Bf
. . . . .-- SN 11645late summer 1860: Reilly, 502, New Oxford Street, London. 100 bore; Rifle, single barrel, breech loader.*31Be

. . . . .*31C -- Westley-Richards “Monkey Tail” Breech Loader. – a non-event:

On 25 March 1858, Westley-Richards patented his “Monkey-Tail” breech loader. Richards had a relationship with Whitworth who patented a .451 round in 1856. Whitworth used a hexagonal bore; Richards an Octagonal bore. There were other difference in rifling. The concept dominated UK accuracy contests for years. W-R earned some contracts from Arsenal for cavalry carbines and orders of upwards of 80,000 by various armies over the years but never the coveted general contract for the army.

Reilly advertising in the 1860’s emphasized his commitment to selling all sorts of innovative breech loading rifles. However, he never advertised a Westley-Richards or a Whitworth (though he did use .451 high-velocity idea in early 1860’s Enfield rifles per above). The first Reilly advertisement specifically for a Westley-Richards, whether a gun sold in ready state or made under license, did not appear until 1871.*31Ca

. . . . . VI: REILLY - FLYING HIGH: 1858 – 1862 .

*32 August 1858: Opening of 315 Oxford-Street - New Label

In early August 1858 with new partners (unknown) Reilly took over/bought out the shop and shooting galleries of William Squires, then a London gun maker located at 315A Oxford Street.*32a This branch was probably opened because of the surging demand for break-action breech-loaders.*32b The branch early on was also referred to as "Reilly's Armoury House" or "The Manufactory." Records indicate that Reilly owned the property in "freehold."

Reilly was three doors down from Purdey located at "314 1/2".**32c Oxford Street numbering at the time is extremely confusing. There were 9 x 315's in the census of 1871 and 1881 and in the pre-1882 postal directories. It appears the entire block was numbered "315" with variations; Oxford Street was later renumbered in November 1881.

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From this time forward guns with only "Oxford Street, London" on their ribs would have been built at 315 Oxford Street. Guns built at 502 New Oxford Street without a street number would have simply "New Oxford Street."

. . .-- *10811 - The first existing gun with only "Oxford Street" is a Prince patent breech loader SN 10811 (summer 1858)*32d

Reilly created a separate rectangular trade label with unscolloped corners for this new workshop, again using "Fusils à bascule" with the name “Reilly’s Armoury House.” It advertised the shooting gallery.*32e

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*33 The Shooting Gallery at 315 Oxford Street:

In 1855 Squires advertised in “The Field" that he ran a 42 yard Shotgun/rifle range and 40 foot pistol gallery on the premises of 315A Oxford Street.*32a Reilly kept these galleries open, the longer one advertised as a 50 yard shooting gallery.*33a,*33b A 50 yard shooting gallery in central London is extremely unusual. While many gun manufacturers had a small space for shooting hand-guns, perhaps only two had a space where shotguns and rifles could be shot, Lang and Squires/Reilly. Lang had a well-known shooting gallery described numerous times; but it was only about 21 yards long.*33c It apparently closed in 1852 when Lang moved to Cockspur street.

Thus, Reilly's shooting gallery likely was unique. Per newspaper ads and per mentions in articles in "The Field," the 50 yard shooting gallery was "on the premises" of Reilly's 315 manufactory.*33d It had to be above ground for light and ventilation. It may have occupied property running from Oxford Street through an apparent large open space/courtyard behind the building to Princess street near Hanover Square. The last ad for the range so far found is in 1867.*33e In the 1870's the center of this block became a skating rink and then Salvation Army Regents Hall from 1882 on.

*34 August 1858 - April 1861: Four Changes in the Company Name

This post will mostly be of interest to those trying to date guns and labels. The dates of the name changes, descriptions are a best guess; multiple advertisements in newspapers and magazines can be found with differing descriptions/names running at the same time.

For 10 years after the 1847 move to 502 New Oxford Street, the company was known in advertisements as “REILLY, GUN MAKER" (sometimes one word GUNMAKER").. "Reilly" was the name used on the gun barrels, ribs and actions.*34[/b] There were exceptions for J.C.'s 7000 series which at times were engraved with his full name on the ribs. Then with J.C’s 1857 retirement, E.M began a series of radical moves which included name changes.

. . . . .*34AREILLY & CO., GUN MAKERS” - August 1858 - March 1859

. . . . . . . . . .-- When Reilly opened 315 Oxford Street in early August 1858 with “new partners,” the company’s name appears to have changed from "Reilly, Gun Maker" (singular) to "Reilly & Co., Gun Makers"(plural). This was for a short while from circa August 1858-March 1859 per a few advertisements & references in books. (Many advertisements until January 1859 and even beyond that date continued to use only the "Reilly, Gun Maker" name.)

. . . . . . . . . .-- Newspaper ads only began mentioning this name from January 1859 but it may have been registered in some way in trade directories.*34Aa “Reilly & Co.” is referred to occasionally in books and newspaper articles.*34Ab No trade labels exist with this name. A few advertisements using "Reilly & Co." can be found as late as September 1859.

. . . . . . . . . .-- 315 Oxford Street at the same time used all sorts of names in advertisements: "Reilly Armoury House," "Reilly’s Armoury House"; " Reillys, the Armoury House"; "Reilly’s London Armoury House." However, these were never "official" company names.*34Ac
. . . . . . . . . .-- Two extant Reillys, both Prince Patent rifles numbered in fall 1858, have "Reilly & Co.” on the barrel.
. . . . . . . . . .-- Note: November & December1858 there were a few outlier Ads for "REILLY, MANUFACTURER.” These appeared in three newspapers. This apparently had no effect on the name of the company but was a harbinger of things to come.*34Ad

. . . . .*34BE.M. REILLY & CO., GUN MAKERS” - February 1859 – August 1860:

. . . . . . . . . .-- By February 1859 the company's name used in newspaper and magazine ads changed definitively to "E.M. Reilly & Co.", a name which continued in use for the next 100 years.*34Ba

. . . . . . . . . .-- His labels for both branches changed at this time to reflect the new name, "E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Makers" (plural):

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .- NEW LABEL: 502 New Oxford St continued to use the standard scalloped corner rectangular label illustrated by the sketch of the building and the 1851 & 1855 World’s Fair medals;*34Bb

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .- NEW LABEL: 315 Oxford Street continued to have a different rectangular label still without scallops but now also with the “E.M Reilly & Co.” name and the 1851 and 1855 medals.*34Bc

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. . . . . . . . . .-- 315 Oxford Street continued to use all sorts of names in advertisements per above, none of them official.*34Bd

. . . . . . . . . .-- The first extant serial numbered gun with "E.M. Reilly & Co." on the barrel is a 3 band Enfield SN 11227 per the dating chart numbered in autumn 1859.

. . . . .*34CE.M. REILLY & CO., GUN MANUFACTURER” (singular) - August 1860 – April 1861:
. . . . . . . . . .-- In August 1860 Reilly began using "Gun Manufacturer" (singular) rather than "Gun Makers" in his advertisements. The Trade Labels did not appear to change.*34Ca. Some long-term advertisements continued to refer to E.M. Reilly & Co., Gun Makers during this period as did the trade labels.

. . . . .*34DE.M. REILLY & CO., GUN MANUFACTURERS" (plural)” - April 1861:

. . . . . . . . . .-- In circa April 1861 the company's description on labels and in advertisements changed from "Gun Makers" to "Gun Manufacturers"(plural).*34Da From this point on the company was known definitively as "E.M. REILLY & CO., GUN MANUFACTURERS," a name and description which continued in use for the next 40 years.

. . . . . . . . . .-- NEW LABEL: At that time the sketch of 502 New Oxford Street was dropped from his case labels. The separate label for 315 Oxford Street also was dropped. The new label had 502 as the featured address. A label mentioning 315 during the time frame 1861-1868 has not been found.*34Db)

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(After 1868 Reilly labels mention 315 as a "branch establishment" in scroll work on the label.) The basic format for the new label remained fundamentally consistent for the next 30+ years with variations (additions of medals, branch addresses in scroll work, occasionally mention of royalty, etc.) There were a few outlier labels. The advertising scroll work at the bottom of the label changed slightly after 1885. (See the separate chart dating Reilly labels).

. . . . . . . . . .-- PRESENTATION LABEL: Reilly Presentation cases also at this time changed to adopt both the new name and sometimes the "Gun Manufacturers" description; two examples exist, each slightly different.*34Dc

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*35 1859 – 1900: Reilly Selling to Yoemanry Militia & Gun Clubs at Wholesale Prices

Beginning in 1859, Reilly began advertising rifles sold wholesale to equip "Yoemanry" militia.*35a He continued to advertise such guns up to at least the 1890's.*35b Most of these guns were not made by him, especially after the early 1860's, and thus not serial numbered. (The Yoemanry Militia, a sort of UK "National Guard," was still in existence in WWI and units were deployed to France). He also advertised discounts for bulk purchases by shooting clubs.*35c Reilly continued to hawk sales of guns wholesale in his advertisements and occasionally on outlier labels for the next 40 years.*35d

*36 1860-61: Reilly Making Guns, All Parts, Using Others’ Patents, and Making Guns Under License:

During this time frame Reilly in advertisements claimed to be making every piece of every gun he serial numbered in his two workshops on Oxford Street and invited customers to "view the progress of their order."*36a This would make Reilly one of the very few "vertical" gun companies in London. (Adams and Colt are the only other two that this writer knows of and Adams had major connections to Liège). The London (and Birmingham) gun trade at the time relied for the most part on out-sourced parts and materials, which were assembled and finished in-house.

Note. Haris Holland posted a similar advertisement in "The Field" in 1858.*36b It's entirely possible that Reilly was allowing customers to view only the "assembled/finished" parts of small arms manufacturing; this said, Reilly's manufacturing spaces with his two buildings dwarfed that of Haris Holland at the time.

In an article about Reilly leading up to the 1862 London World’s Fair, Reilly clearly explained his manufacturing and business philosophy: He was not wedded to any particular design; And he made others’ patents that he deemed commercially viable. This was the company business model for 30 years but it was spelled out quite definitively.*36c

How the patent license fees were paid, how much a patent license fee cost for individual patents, and how they were numbered remains a mystery of the London gun trade. One of the possible reasons for building another maker’s patented gun under license might have been a question of time. Reilly worked faster than other London gunmakers. If a client wanted a Dougall lockfast or a Brazier action on his gun, Reilly would make it or buy it and install it from the maker (but it would cost extra).*36d

Last edited by Argo44; 11/22/23 10:00 PM.

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*37 Comments on Reilly Stocks

Reilly from very early on reportedly used French walnut. During the 1830’s and 40’s his highly figured stocks differed from the standard English walnut offered by other makers and may be something of a marker.*37a

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. . . . .Note: This commentary on stocks is meant to be confined to Reilly. However, as background, per UK newspaper records, English walnut production was falling considerably short throughout the 1830’s and by 1840 Arsenal was importing Continental walnut stock blanks.

. . . . .-- There was debate about this in Parliament in 1843.*37b There certainly are numerous records for the importation of French and Continental walnut stock blanks in massive quantities into UK during the 1850’s. It is impossible to determine from raw shipping records who got what without shop accounts.*37c

. . . . .-- The lack of home grown walnut, however, elicited a great deal of concern in the English gun-making fraternity from 1840 on; numerous commentaries were written in journals and alternative woods to walnut searched for.*37d John Rigby in his introduction to the summary of guns shown at the 1862 London International Exposition had this to say:
. . . . . . . . ."Walnut, which is now almost universally used for gun stocks, is a scarce timber in England, and for years we have been obliged to seek our supplies abroad. Italy has exported the greater portion of the wood used in our Government arms for some time, and large numbers of French and other Continental gun stocks are also sent into this country." *37d(1)

Reilly likely had his own in-house stock makers. A good stock-maker at the time could produce up to 9 (military - not custom) stocks a week (according to an 1856 article comparing the just opened Enfield machine stock maker to handicraft stock makers).*37e. With his established connections to France, Reilly may have had his own methods of choosing and importing quality French walnut stock blanks.

Reilly almost always throughout the history of the firm used a straight English stock for SxS shotguns.*37f The exception to this are big-bore fowlers; A goodly percentage of Reilly shotguns 10 bore or larger had some type of pistol grip although this was not ubiquitous and was quite personal.*37g

He almost always used a pistol grip stock for rifles,*37h and if not, early on a trigger-guard extension which aped a pistol grip (a "scroll guard").*37i

A number of Reilly post 1870 rifles were later converted to shotguns. If a Reilly 12 gauge and smaller "shotgun" has a pistol grip stock, it almost certainly was repurposed from a rifle. The markers for such a conversion are the pistol grip, barrel length less that 30” and weight.*37j

(After Riggs bought the name in 1922 most “Riggs-Reilly” guns, both shotguns and rifles, used "Prince of Wales" half-pistol grip stocks.)*37k

*38 1820-1900: Reilly Engraving

Reilly engraving evolved over the years and understanding its evolution may be helpful in dating guns. (Disclaimer: this is a cursory analysis of the engraving found on extant Reilly long-guns):

-- In the 1820’s-1830’s Reilly engraving was mostly simple “vine and scroll” patterns used by many gun makers at the time.*38a

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-- By the early 1840’s and continuing into the 1950’s the motifs had advanced to a “large scroll” or “English scroll” design.*38b.

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There may be more complex engraving during this time period on guns which no longer exist. For instance the company showed examples of embossing and chasing at the 1851 Crystal Palace world’s fair.*38c

Throughout the 1850’s and much of the 1860’s, the engraving continued to echo the above “simple vine and scroll” and “English Scroll” work although becoming more complex. Reilly built guns for Rajah’s and royalty during this period which were obviously higher grades but his bread and butter clientele were the mid-level army officers and lower-level country gentlemen. He did not choose to compete head-to-head for the high-end market with extremely ornate engravings, at least from the extent guns available today.*38d

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-- Beginning in the mid-1860’s he began to used increasingly intricate and delicate “rose and scroll” patterns. He abandoned depictions of wildlife.*38e

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-- And by the 1880’s and 1890’s his tight “rose and scroll” engravings were tasteful and pleasing and pretty ubiquitous although he also advertised plain-Jane “keepers guns." *38f

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There are guns with wildlife scenes engraved on them, mostly from the muzzle-loading period. Some of this engraving is quite realistic. however, many of the depictions of birds and animals on Reilly engravings are cartoonish.*38g Some experienced London gunsmiths (David Trevallion among them) have said that many of the engravers in London at the time had never seen a wild deer, partridge or duck in their lives and drew from impressions or from others’ sketches. Whatever, it appears Reilly did not specialize in fine depictures of wild-life. This was left to other, higher-end makers.

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Most London gun-makers during the 1860’s used outworker trade engravers. However, because Reilly was engraving about everything he sold at the time, retailed pistols, retailed long-guns, bayonets, knives, etc. - it is probable that he had an in-house engraving capability. This would have enabled him to meet orders twice as fast as other gun-makers and perhaps reduce costs.

*39 1828-1900; Reilly Barrels These are observations on Reilly Barrels obtained from looking primarily at photos of some 700 guns. For more complete understanding of Reilly's barrels, Dr. Drew Hause has an excellent publication on Damascus; William Greener's 1847 book is still as good as anything from that era.

. . . . .London proofed: From the beginning of the firm in 1828 until bankruptcy in 1912 nearly all serial numbered Reilly’s, i.e. guns built by Reilly, with original barrels were proofed in London.*39a There are a very few exceptions out of some 600 existing guns. This said, there are some difficulties in definitively proving this conclusion:
. . . . . . . . . .-- Research is severely hampered by the fact that auction houses and even individual owners rarely include proof marks (or patent use marks) in their advertisements.
. . . . . . . . . .-- In addition from the 1870’s-on numerous surviving Reilly’s have been reproofed over and over again or rebarreled making identification of original poofs sometimes difficult.*39b
However, for now for 98% of extant Reilly guns the truism holds – if it were serial numbered by Reilly, it was proofed in London.

. . . . .Bored and finished by Reilly, 1836-47: As early as 1837 Reilly advertised that he was boring/finishing his own barrels. For how long he continued to do so is unknown, but throughout the 1840’s he advertised fixing others’ bad barrels by reboring them adding, “no cure, no pay.”*39c Testimonies as to the excellence of Reilly-bored percussion gun barrels can be found.*39d.

What machinery Reilly was using to bore his barrels is unknown. In 1826 London barrel-maker Lancaster patented a machine that could finish a barrel precisely. It was improved in 1838 allowing the bored barrel and chamber to be precisely aligned along one axis.*39e It is possible that Reilly obtained one of the Lancaster machines.

. . . . .Barrel Lengths: From an analysis of some 700 extant photographed Reilly's:
. . . . . . . . . .— Rifles: After the arrival of the pin-fire in 1856 the normal barrel lengths for Reilly center-break rifles including big bore game guns were 26” to 28”. There are exceptions of course; a small rook rifles might have a 24" barrel. (An 1861 advertisement states rifle barrels could be obtained in 24, 26 and 28 inch lengths).
. . . . . . . . . .-- Shotguns: The standard Reilly break-action shotgun barrel length after 1856 was 30”. There are a few shorter barrels for .410, and boy’s guns. There are longer barrels up to 36” for big bore, center-break shotguns. In general If a 12 bore shotgun has barrels shorter than 30"'s, they have either been cut down, re-barreled or repurposed from a rifle.

. . . . .Damascus: Reilly from the beginning used Damascus barrels for long-guns and for high-end percussion pistols (he ceased making pistols in the late 1830’s). Reilly continued to make Damascus barreled guns until bankruptcy in 1912 although for the most part his early 1900’s production had switched to steel. His Damascus patterns were conservative, and based on a review of about 600 surviving guns, fell into three types:
. . . . . . . . . .-- 1820-1865 – Variations of a Plain English Stub Twist*39f

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. . . . . . . . . .-- 1865-1912 – Crolle patterns – variations of Large scroll, Symmetric, or Annular Crolle.*39g

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. . . . . . . . . .— Other Patterns. There were a few seemingly more exotic patterns but they were rare.*39h

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Note: Dr. Hause identified the patterns in the above footnotes.

. . . . .Barrel Blanks: Where Reilly obtained his Damascus barrel blanks is unknown.
. . . . . . . . . .-- There was a well known barrel forger in London William Fullerd used by Manton, Purdey and others, However, Fullerd barrels are stamped with a ‘WF,” *39i None have been found on Reilly’s so far. (The surviving guns from this period are few and their barrels for the most part not photographed). Fullerd closed his forge in 1844.
. . . . . . . . . .-- Presumably at least during the 1820’s-1850’s Reilly's barrel blanks came from Birmingham and the plain patterns, so different from Continental flamboyance seem to bear this out. (Purdey used similar patterns at the time).
. . . . . . . . . .-- There is one Reilly shotgun from the early 1860’s which has a faint Liège proof-mark on it overlain with London proofs,*39j possibly indicating that by then, if not earlier, Reilly like other London gunmakers might have begun using Belgian barrels.
. . . . . . . . . .-- By 1890 UK Damascus barrels came from Liège per numerous references.

. . . . .Initials on Barrels, 1870’s: In the early 1870’s, shortly after the changeover in Damascus patterns, a series of barrels have workers'' initials on them. These began around SN 17500. Since these barrels were sourced in Birmingham (by all accounts) they likely are Birmingham barrel maker initials; Similar initials have been noted on other Birmingham barrels used by other makers. There are 10 examples, SN 17552 (WJ), 17626 (WJ), 18593 (WJ), 19500 (GE), 20249 (BE), 20255 (BE), 20466 (GE), 21361 (CP), 21369 (FR), and 21839 (WE), the last being numbered in 1879. Whose initials are these is still unknown. However, they are similar in style.*39k
. . . . . . . . . .Note: There may be initials on other Reilly barrels but again this sort of detail is often not included in advertisements. Other Reilly barrels before, during and after this period do not have initials.*39l

. . . . .Steel Barrels, 1882: In January 1882 Reilly advertised for the first time guns equipped with Whitworth compressed fluid steel barrels (originally an 1865 patent extended in 1879 for 5 years).*39m The first extant Reilly with a confirmed Whitworth barrel is SN 23574, a 12 gauge SxS pigeon gun hammer-gun owned by Cyril Adams. It is dated per the chart to December 1881.*39n

*40 Non-Serial Numbered Reilly’s; Reilly Engraving and Marketing Others' Guns:

No Reilly SN-not made by Reilly: In addition to making his own guns, selling used guns, etc. Reilly, throughout the history of the company marketed guns produced by others but finished and engraved by him. It was a major line of revenue for the company. These guns sported the Reilly name and address, but were not serial-numbered. If gun has no serial number, but has the Reilly name on it, he either 1) obtained the gun “in the white” and finished it or 2) it came to him complete from the manufacturer and he simply engraved and marketed it. He did not claim to have made it.

To differentiate, Reilly’s serial numbered guns were made by him; they include his own guns and guns he made using others’ patents under license such as the previously pictured Terry Patent breech loader, Prince Patent breech Loaders, Nuthall’s Patent, Gen. Jacob’s Patent, etc.

This was not at all unique to Reilly…other gunmakers did the same thing; Cogswell & Harrison had a “retail” branch (they placed a "retailed" insert plate on the guns); Holland & Holland were marketing a Lee-Speed at the turn of the century.

As examples in the first instance, there are the following:
-- A number of classic looking Reilly SxS’s with Birmingham proofs, *40a,
-- Enfields likely marketed to the Yoemanry Militia*40b,
-- Needle-fire Rook Rifles made in an ubiquitous style, market by many gun makers and the time and possibly made by Adams*40c
-- Complex four-barreled high-end muzzle loaders from 1858-59 with London proofs but no Reilly serial number.*40d
-- Reilly put his name on 6,000 Reilly-Comblain breech-loading carbines, not one of which is serial numbered.
-- The same applied in the 1870’s to Reilly Martini-Henry’s and Swinburns.

As for the second instance, during this period Reilly retailed several complete guns. These include:
-- Sharpes Rifles, for which Reilly became a UK distributor. (Sharps had obtained a contract with UK in 1855 for 6,000 guns; They saw action in the mutiny and along the NWFP but were not adopted generally by the army and were phased out after the adoption of the Snider; Sharps along with Prince may have been an early Reilly hope for a large Arsenal contract; he continued to advertise them for 20 years.*40e
-- Winchesters - at least three are still in existence;*40f
-- An Adams Beaumont revolving cylinder carbine from 1855*40g; among many others.
-- As the 60’s and 70’s progressed, he offered ready made guns from other makers (including Westley-Richards) as well in his advertisements.

These non-serial numbered Reilly’s cannot help with the Reilly date chart. Nevertheless examples are provided in order to establish their existence and articulate the concept of Reilly putting guns on the market with his name that he did not claim to make.

Last edited by Argo44; 11/22/23 09:59 PM.

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*41 Reilly and Pistols

Reilly always retailed pistols of all types from the beginning of the firm to the end. He engraved them and put his name on them. However, after 1837 he did not serial number them although Reilly was still listed as “gun and pistol makers” in business anthologies as previously noted in chapter 6.

By 1859 he was selling all types of pistols and revolvers, Trantor, Adams, Colt, Smith&Wesson;*41a He sold Howdah's, pepperboxes, duelers, derringers, Flobert, etc.*41b Some of these are extremely well made.*41c Some are highly engraved such as a gold-washed Trantor revolver that certainly did not leave the Trantor factory like that.*41d But, because he did not serial number these guns, he did not build them.

There are accounts of people buying a Reilly revolver, walking out of the shop and committing suicide on the sidewalk. An Irish terrorist purchased a Reilly revolver in 1898 meaning harm and was arrested; It is interesting that the Reilly shop foreman at the time James Curtis suddenly couldn't identify the man who bought it (Reilly's were Irish of course).

Reilly apparently did assemble foreign made revolvers from parts imported from Liège possibly as early as 1860. But Reilly did not serial number assembled guns. Thus pistols are ignored in this study; they cannot be used to date Reilly long-guns except for those with surviving cases with original trade labels, which helped build a data-base of Reilly case labels.

Reilly marketed Revolvers and dozens of other types of handguns including custom target specials:

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Note: A Reilly pepperbox may have been wielded by "Flashman" in the novel Flashman and the Mountain of Light, by George MacDonald Fraser.*41e

Note2: An 1890's "Vampire Kit" exists with cross, hammer and wooden spikes, vials for holy water, bible, mirror (for checking if the suspected Vampire has a reflection), various holy relics etc. along with two Reilly, 316 High Holborn pocket pistols firing silver bullets. Whether Reilly marketed the kit is questionable (Vampire stories originated in the 1890's).*41f

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*42 Reilly Cartridges and Ammunition Following is a cursory look at Reilly’s involvement in the cartridge business, which came to be a major revenue producer for him. Specialists in cartridges may have more information on the subject.

For the first five years of Lefaucheaux pin-fire history in the UK, 1854-1860 the majority of the shells and shell hulls used were imported from France. There is a Reilly 12 gauge rifle pin-fire cartridge dated 1855 probably imported from France.*42a The French hulls of course were meant to be reloaded. During the 1858 trials a young Reilly employee was designated to do this task to assure all guns had equal charges, demonstrating Reilly’s involvement in the reloading business.*42b

The principle UK maker of shells and ammunition Eley seems to have begun offering pin-fire shells in early 1858; the first Eley ad for a breech loading cartridge is 02 January 1858 (possible for a rifle such as a Prince) and the first specifically for a pin-fire shotgun in May 1858.*42c These Eley cartridges initially received bad reviews per letters to the Field.*42d.

In a letter he wrote to “The Field” in December 1857, EM Reilly complained about hide-bound practices of the UK cartridge establishment and the inability of UK ammunition makers to manufacture pin-fire shells even when given complete examples, plans and drawings.*42e By that time Reilly was guaranteeing access to ammunition for gentlemen who bought his pin-fires.*42f

In an 1859 book by the editor of “The Field” the author “Stonehenge” pointed out that even at that late date at the very end of decade, French shells could be found in every town in UK and were clearly predominant.*42g

By 1858 it appears that Reilly, frustrated with Eley and possibly influenced by France, saw a marketing opportunity and had made the decision to go into the shotgun shell manufacturing and sales business. Reilly from the beginning of his involvement with pinfires, mentioned “cartridges” in his advertisements for breech-loaders. However, the first stand-alone mention in a Reilly advertisement of cartridge’s being sold appeared in June 1859.*42h Who made the cartridge casings for Reilly is unknown. It is possible that he imported them from France under contract with his name stamped on the base, or he may have found a local manufacturer.

Note: A drawing of a Reilly cartridge which appeared in a book published in early 1860 shows a pinfire 12 bore cartridge with only "Reilly" stamped on the case much like the 1855 12 bore cartridge pictured above.*42i The name of the company changed to E.M. Reilly & Co. circa Feb 1859.*42j. This may indicate that Reilly was filling and selling his own cartridges in 1858-early 1859.

Centripetal Machine: In 1861 he patented a new machine for crimping shells called a “centripetal device.”*42k This patent was renewed twice in 1891 and 1892.*42l

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Cost of pinfire cartridges: In 1859 “Stonehenge” recorded the cost of French pin-fire cartridges, 2£ 10s per 1000 cartridges. In modern dollars that would be around $450 for 1000 cartridges, an average of about $11.25 per box of 25, $.45 per cartridge.*42m. (Cheaper than RST today).

Reilly continued to manufacture and sell his own shells for the next 40 years making the jump to marketing centerfire hulls and cartridges around 1865. This was apparently a significant stream of income for the company. Reilly shells (in centerfire format) have been found in archeological digs including an investigation of an old whaling station in New Zealand*42n and in Saskatchewan, Canada.*42o By the 1890's he was providing buyers with options on smokeless powders.*42p.

There is some question about if and when he began to use Eley as a source for his cartridge hulls; the Reilly cartridges unearthed in the archeological dig in Canada allegedly were made by Eley (no pictures to confirm this).*42q. However, in 1868 Reilly definitively for the first time advertised the sale of "Eley's best quality green case" cartridges (50 shillings per thousand empty; 150 shillings per thousand loaded with proper charge). Years later In 1899 Reilly again began advertising the sale of Eley cartridges in his store. This was perhaps an acknowledgement that his cartridge business had succumbed to the weight of specialized mass production.*42r.

*43 Early 1860’s: Reilly and Cutlery, Swords, Bayonets

Business anthologies at this time identified EM Reilly as both gun and pistol manufacturers and sword/cutlery makers.*43a Reilly's name has been found engraved on bayonets and swords from the era. Bayonets were a part of the Yoemanry Militia “kit” and Reilly included a bayonet with each militia rifle he sold, enough volume to make a subsidiary business profitable.*43b

One surviving Reilly bayonet is a slightly modified version of the “official” “sword bayonets” attached to Gen. Jacob’s patent SxS’s which fired an explosive bullet; Reilly made the guns under license.*43c

*44 Reilly Accessories

Reilly like many London gunmakers marketed numerous accessories for his guns. Reilly devoted a lot of time advertising for the Yoemanry Militia, organized in the late 1850’s and offered everything from knapsacks to cartridge belts.*44a A unit he outfitted, the Princesses’ Own, won acclaim for their showmanship, marching and appearance.*44b

Reilly sold everything associated with the trade, cartridge boxes, cartridge belts, bullet molds, likely the products of small cottage industries within London.*44c

. . . . . VIII. FORGING AHEAD:1860 – 1867:

*45 1850’s-1895: Reilly staff; quality young employees:

Without company records available it is difficult to determine who worked for Reilly during the 90 years of the company’s existence. This difficulty is not confined to Reilly but rather is one found across the board in London gun making except perhaps for some elite gunmaker such as Purdey (three of their engravers are known) and those whose records still are intact. The UK census for 1831-41-51 asked only the interviewees occupation. 1861-71-81 the census also asked employers the number of workers employed.

The only way to catch a glimpse of who was working at Reilly during this time is if the employees surfaced in some news report or if they self identified later. There are four so identified shop managers and one store manager in France:

. . . . .John Baker – 185?-1861:*45a Not much is known about Baker. He was born in 1822 and was married. He appeared in a court case on behalf of Reilly in April 1861, when Reilly was seeking payment for a volunteer militia gun from a deadbeat. In June 1861 he registered the patent for Reilly for the shotgun shell crimper and per a newspaper article in October 1861 he accidentally poisoned himself. Since the patent was registered for 315 Oxford Street, he must have been managing that shop. He lived in Westminister Parish, probably within a mile of the Oxford Street manufactory. There seems to be no record of him in the 1861 London census.

. . . . .W. Jennings – 1869:*45b. Jennings was identified as Reilly’s Shop Foreman in a 01 May 1869 series of articles about a fellow who committed suicide after buying a revolver from Reilly (specific store not identified).

. . . . .Francis Davis –1870:*45c He testified for Reilly at the 1870 hearings for violating UK neutrality in the Franco-Prussian war by trying to ship 2,000 shells to his shop in Paris in unmarked packages. No further information on Davis.

. . . . .Ruben Hambling - 1884-85:*45d He may have started out with Reilly in the late 1850's - ran his own gun shop in the midlands then back to Reilly:

. . . . . . . . . .“On the matter of Reuben Hambling, he was a gunmaker. Born in 1833 in Blackawton, Devon, he apprenticed under his father, William Bartlett Hambling. He married in London in 1858, had a daughter there in 1861, and was listed in the 1861 census. He was most likely working as a journeyman for a London gunmaker, name unknown. He was in Manchester from 1865-1869, with his own shop at 27 New Bailey Street, Salford. He may have occupied another address for a time, on Bexley Street. He then moved to High Wycombe northwest of London around 1872 and lived for a time in Brighton (1874-1875), possibly working with his brother William, another gunmaker. From at least 1884-1885 he lived in Paddington, London, on Ashmore Rd. This may have been the time when he was employed by Reilly. After this, he moved to Ashford in Kent, with a business at 41 New Street. He lived at number 39. According to the 1891 census his son, Roger, was apprenticed to him. Reuben Hambling died on 12 December 1891. His son continued the business until 1894.": (Courtesy of Steve Nash)

. . . . . . . . . .Per the Internet Gun Club: "As there is both a New Bailey Street and a New Bexley Street, there is no way of knowing if the paper made an error, or if Reuben Hambling moved from one location to another. He didn't stay long in Manchester and later worked for E. M. Reilly & Co. in London, and finally in Ashford, in Kent. Reuben Hambling died in 1891."

. . . . .James Curtis – 1895:*45d,e[color] He testified in a trial re the purchase of a Reilly revolver by an Irish terrorist (and on the day of the trial conveniently couldn't identify the purchaser).

. . . . .M. Poirat- 1868-84? Paris:[color:#FF0000]*45f
Manager of Reilly store at 2 rue Scribe, Paris, who tried to convince the new 3rd Republic to buy 6,000 Chassepot rifles stored in Birmingham from Reilly in fall 1870 - Paris still under siege, Reilly's rifles in his 2 rue Scribe shop confiscated by the revolution. (This would have been totally a violation of UK “neutrality”...far worse that 2,000 shells but he might have gotten away with it. The size of the crime would have been justified by the profits). Poirat was obviously a salesman, not a technician).

There are two young workers identified by last name only, who were highly complimented in the press leading to the conclusion that Reilly carefully screened his young employees and meticulously trained them:

. . . . .Mr. Bennett - 1858:*45g He carefully loaded rounds for the guns used in "The Field" trials of 1858 and 1859.

. . . . .Mr. McNamara - 1862:*45h He was responsible for guiding visitors through the Reilly 1862 London World's Fair exhibit.

*46 1861: Reilly manufacturing and sales:

As the new decade of the 1860’s began and in the lead-up to the 1862 London Exposition, Reilly’s two workshops were busy. Reilly was making about 430 serial numbered guns a year, more than one a day, more than Boss, Purdey and Haris Holland combined. He had increased his production by 30% after the spurt of orders received at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855 and with the demand for pinfire center-break guns probably, even with the addition of 315, was hard put to satisfy it.

His reputation as a gun maker after the two trials and with the opening of 315 Oxford Street blossomed. A tacit endorsement by “The Field” quoted in Reilly ads probably helped.*46a

-- Guns under License: In addition to making his own percussion and center-break guns and various breech loading rifles, he began to make guns using patent use numbers from other gun makers (as mentioned in a previous chapter).

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. . . . .1861: Dougall “Lockfast” patent:*46b In 1861 Reilly advertised guns using the Dougall “Lockfast” patent (Patent 1128, May 1860).*46b(1) Dougall licensed production of his patent to other gunmakers including Belgians; among them in UK were Benjamin Cogswell, W & J Rigby, E M Reilly and John Lyell of Aberdeen. *46b(2) According to Crudrington & Baker, an entry for payment by Reilly to Dougall for a patent use number exists demonstrating that Reilly likely made the gun.
. . . . . . . . . .There is one extant Reilly Lockfast, sold on Gunstar some years ago unfortunately without mention of its serial number.*46b(3) It probably has the Dougall Patent use stamp like known examples.*46b(4)
. . . . . . . . . .It resembles Dougall SN 2186 in the Royal Armouries.*46b(5)

. . . . .1861: “Double grip” - “Jones Underlever:*46c In 1861 Reilly mentioned for the first time in advertisements his manufacture of the “double grip” system.*46c(1) This was Greener’s description of the Jones underlever patented in 1859. The patent was released to the general public in January 1862. Assuming that the “double grip’ referred to in the 1861 advertisement is indeed a Jones underlever, Reilly would have had to pay royalties to someone. After the patent went public, the U-L became Reilly’s go-to action for his own guns;
. . . . . . . . .SN 11937: 1861. The first extant Reilly with a Jones U-L*46c(2): E.M. Reilly & Co., 502, New Oxford Street, London; 4 bore, Shotgun single barrel; U-L, non-rebounding hammer gun. (possibly converted from a percussion gun.)
. . . . . . . . .SN 12316: 1862.*46c(3) E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). 14 bore, Shotgun SxS. pin-fire, U-L hammer gun, non-rebounding hammer, grip safety, extractor.
. . . . . . . . .SN 12527: 1862.*46c(4) E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). 10 bore, Shotgun SxS. pin-fire (converted to C-F), U-L hammer gun, rebounding hammers (added).
. . . . . . . . .SN 33457: The last U-L so far photographed is 33457 (1890)*46c(5) E.M. Reilly & Co., 277, Oxford Street, London. 8 bore SxS Shotgun. U-L, hammer-gun; pistol grip.
There is a 10 bore 35012 – 1903 – allegedly with a Jones underlever but with no picture thus not confirmed. Assuredly, though, if one wanted an U-L in 1911, Reilly would get it for you.

-- Developer of inventions: Various gunmakers and experimenters chose Reilly to develop and make their inventions:

. . . . .1859: Nuthall’s Patent:*46d In 1859 Major Nuthall’s patent rifle and ball were developed and built by Reilly per “The Field.”*46d(1) Nuthall rounded the rifling of the barrel to prevent fouling and this was found in a number of subsequent Reilly's. Reilly advertised using Nuthall’s Patent on his Enfield rifles:*46d(2). Reilly was one of two authorized manufacturers, the other been Turner.
. . . . . . . . . .While no Reilly Nuthall patent guns have been found, one made by Turner & Co. of Birmingham still exists. 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) barrel sighted to 1000 yards, marked 'MAJOR NUTHALL'S PATENT'; rounded groove, Birmingham proof marks:*46d(3)

. . . . .1861: .451 Enfield target rifle:*46e Reilly began making a .451 Enfield.*46e(1) which won marksmanship trophies according to a series of articles in “The Field.” Reilly was advertising “rounded off” rifling to reduce fouling (Nuthall Patent above).*46e(2). However the exact specifications of his match rifles are not clear other than the use of .451 elongated bullets and 5 groove rifling:
. . . . . . . . . .SN 12073, Reilly Enfield match rifle.*46e(3)

. . . . .1861: .451 Enfield experimental rifling: Writings in "The Field" from the era indicate extensive experiments with rifling were being conducted by everyone, this just a year after Henry filed his shallow groove rifling patent and after the Whitworth hexagonal .451 high velocity bullet made such an impact. One article referred to a rifling system with shallow groove rifling created by a Volunteer unit which Reilly was making.*46f

. . . . .1861: Capt. Scott's Patent Progressive Twist Rifling and bullet.*46g Reilly was sole manufacturer.

. . . . .1861: General Ray's Pattern Brigade Rifle with elongated bullet.*46h

. . . . .1861: Cape Guns:*46i Reilly was one of the first to advertise “Cape Guns” (22 May 1958, “The Field”).*46i(1) The earliest extant serial numbered Reilly cape guns are:
. . . . . . . . . SN 12207 from late 1861, E.M Reilly & Co., 15 ga/.488 cal percussion gun and from early 1862.
. . . . . . . . . SN 12251 - E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London; SxS Cape rifle .25 bore/.500 cal; percussion hammer gun.*46i(2).

. . . . .1861: Bastin Lepage sliding action:*46j He also advertised a sliding action which was certainly Bastin Lepage. A number of London gunmakers at the time were using it. Purdey made 27 Bastin action guns; Durs Egg, Lylell, and others advertised and made them as well. (No extant Reilly Bastin action exists).

-- Retail display: Others chose Reilly’s retail shops to display their new inventions. An example is “The Field” itself; In 1861 ”The Field” decided to market a screw-on action for an Enfield which could act as both a breech loader and a muzzle loader.*46k. It was displayed at Reilly 's.

-- Auction sales: He sold off massive amounts of surplus guns, for instance auctioning 1,500 Enfields in 1861.*46l

-- Dog dealer? And oddly enough there are four advertisements over the course of 40 years for hunting dogs being sold by individuals, details to be obtained from Reilly's business. Whether Reilly himself was involve in selling dogs or whether he was just a clearing house of sorts is unknown.*46m

By 1861 Reilly’ had become known as a gun manufacturer who could get innovative projects made. It appears he rarely said, “No,” to an idea. (It is hard to imagine a gun maker such as Purdey being open to itinerant gun experimenters' concepts). His manufacturing of military rifles such as the Enfield, Jacob’s rifle, Terry Patent breech loader, and Prince patent breech loader, and his selection to make explosive bullets for Baker and Jacob, cutting edge technology at the time, only increased his reputation for seeking out innovations.

Again, Reilly was not an inventor himself; he was a business man. But he had an eye for what might sell. He more resembled the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who funded the Impressionists. Reilly now had bigger things in mind, to wit a military contract using his reputation as a gun manufacturer. But first he was carefully planning his upcoming exhibit at the 1862 London Universal Exposition.

*47 1862: Reilly and the 1862 London exposition:

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In 1862 Reilly showed at the London International exposition.*47a Reilly placed great store in publicity from such fairs for his two workshops and carefully planned his exhibit. Just about every gun maker of consequence in the UK were there with UK gunmakers showing marked improvements in their inventiveness over 1851 but with still a way to go to match French barrel decoration and Liège prices.

For a thorough review of the gun exhibits and the status of UK gun making at the time see the section on guns written by John Rigby in "The Record of the International Exhibition," published in 1862 (Glasgow, W. MacKenzie publishers).

Reilly had a large exhibit which showed the guns mentioned in ads above, cape guns, breech loading double-bite pinfires, Dougall patent, muzzle-loaders with Brazier locks as an (expensive) option, revolvers, etc.*47b and apparently showed his own improvements in the pinfires.*47c J.D. Dougall won the overall Gold Medal. Reilly won a sort of “honorable mention” medal which had to be disappointing. It may be that the judges were more engineering minded in their approach in this fair and were looking at workable innovations.

As mentioned before, his careful marketing planning was evident; He was lauded for the intelligent young man who attended his exhibit to explain the guns and take orders (in marked contrast to Lang).*47d Per newspaper accounts he also displayed a gold washed 12 bore muzzle-loader shotgun*47e which may still exist (SN 12532).*47f SN 12532 is housed in a case with the Prince of Wales feathers on it; it was bought to be given as a gift, possibly to an Indian Rajah; This may be one of the reasons why Reilly tried to claim to be a gun maker to the Royal Family the following spring.

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*48 1863: Attempts to Curry Favor with the British Royal Family:

Throughout the 1860's Reilly guns were purchased by various members of the British royal family, usually to give as gifts to foreign dignitaries or persons who had done favors for the family. This included guns bought by Prince Albert Edward (Later King Edward VII).*48a and his younger brother Prince Alfred (later Duke of Saxe-Coburg).*48b Reilly tried to obtain, but without success, a Royal Warrant as "Gun Maker to the Royal Family."

Top: Prince Albert Edward (King Edward VII)
Bottom: Prince Alfred (Duke of Saxe-Coburg)

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For a few months in 1863 Reilly published advertisements associating himself with the Royal Family based apparently on these royal purchases of Reilly guns. He also spent hundreds of pounds on elaborate gas light decorations to his buildings on the wedding of the Prince*48c and on various Royal anniversaries.*48d He apparently was slapped down pretty quickly and after November 1863, such claims never again surfaced.

Note: The Reilly’s were Irish Catholic. E.M. at least appears to have been involved with the church*48e and to have campaigned against religious discrimination against Catholics in UK.*48f Whether this influenced his ability to obtain a “Royal Warrant” in a very Anglican anti-Catholic England at the time or even to win a contract with Arsenal is problematic. And, one cannot overemphasize the prejudice and discrimination against Irish Catholics at this time in England.

*57 1863-65: Reilly’s Sporting Gun Business

Returning to the early 1860’s and Reilly’s sporting gun business, Reilly was numbering from 400 to 450 guns a year from 1858 to 1868, a pretty consistent number which perhaps reflects the maximum he could produce at the time (still more than Lang, Purdey and Haris Holland combined). Breech loaders shared place of honor with muzzle-loaders especially during the American War Between the States period.

However, it was a time of dynamic change in the UK sporting gun business. Purdey patented his “double-bite” system (pat. 1104) in 1863 which combined with Scotts 1865 Spindle (Pat 2752) became a standard; Reilly was to make (and pay royalties for) dozens over the next 14 years. Snap-actions were introduced. Retractable firing pins. Westley-Richards began building “dolls head” fasteners, etc.

Reilly was not an innovator; but he kept abreast of all new patents changes; he advertised them, paid the royalties and built the guns. There is one 1865 advertisement which pretty well sums up what the entrepreneur E.M Reilly was all about: Reilly in an ad discussing a rifle construction system advocated by James Forsyth, had this to say:

. . . .“We are prepared to waive all the existing prejudices of “the Trade,”
. . . . .and to make Double and Single Rifles to order, on the principles laid down
. . . . .by Mr. Forsyth, and to have the Rifles carefully and accurately tested,
. . . . .so as to warrant their performance.”

If a customer wanted it, Reilly would build it.

*58 1863-73: Pin-Fire vs Center Fire

Center Fire inventions were available early in the history of break-action breech-loaders, Lancaster's patent from the late 1850's being an example. However the pin-fire won out for a variety of reasons.

In 1861 Daw took out his center-fire patent 203, a copy of Pottet’s French patent. And by 1862 in John Rigby’s assessment of London Exposition breech-loaders, the advantages of center-fire system were obvious. (Rigby bet on Lancaster;*58a The British gun-press on Daw.*58b)

By the mid-1860's the advantages of a center-fire system for center-break guns became more and more evident. Eley broke Pottet’s patent for center-fire shells in 1865. This coupled with the 1866 invention of the shotgun center-fire primer shell by Berdan in America and almost simultaneously by Boxer in the UK made center-fire shotguns practical and viable along with certain other inventions such as the Anson fore-end. In the 1867 Paris Exposition Reilly featured center-fire long guns.*58c However, center-fire systems did not apparently supplant pin fires until around 1872. Extant Reilly pin-fires far out number center-fire guns until that time.

. . . . .-- Reilly’s first newspaper advertisements for “Direct-Action Central-Fire” appeared in 1865.*58d
. . . . . . . . . .1865 – ad in “The Life of Lord Palmerston”
. . . . . . . . . .03 Jul 1865, “London Daily News”

. . . . .-- SN 13688 (1865) - The first existing Reilly center-break center-fire long-gun is a 20 bore single-barrel under-lever hammer-gun shotgun (converted from an original rifle) with a Joseph Brazier action dated 1865.*58e

. . . . .-- SN 14115 (1866) - Reilly's first extant center-fire shotgun is SxS 12 bore U-L non-rebounding hammer gun dated 1866.*58f

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Note: One other invention from this time helped cement centerfire primacy, the invention of rebounding hammers patented by Stanton in February 1867. Most surviving Reilly guns both pinfire and center-fire from this age were later converted to center-fire with rebounding hammers. One would think this was the type of patent that would be immediately adopted. However, the majority of existing, original condition Reilly's up to the 1870's have non-rebounding actions. In fact there continued to be non-rebounding hammers on extant Reilly built guns up until the 1880's (just as there were Reilly built muzzle loaders). The London gun trade was extremely conservative.

*59 1866: Reilly and Purdey Kerfuffle

To illustrate the state of Reilly fortunes and confidence at the time, in 1866 there was a widely reported dust-up between Reilly and Purdey. A salesman at Reilly reportedly told a client that essentially Reilly guns were the same as Purdey's but without the extra-charge for a name, implying Reilly made them for Purdey. Purdey was indignant and fired off an emotionally charged letter demanding retraction.

Reilly not only rejected the charge but in an infamous poem, quoted several times the phrase "exactly the same"...thumbing his nose at the gun aristocracy.

A place-beyond all we in London know
To Messrs. E.M. Reilly & Co.
What other houses charge sixty-five pounds
For, and keep you four or five months (which astounds),
In waiting for; one exactly the same
For which only £45 they claim
Having it ready too in thirty days
Or less, for which they merit highest praise
Exactly the same I've already said
The Gun shall be, by my Art-Heroes made,
But only here to give what's rightly due
You may be able thus to strike more true;. . . .


(This is not a way to win friends, obviously)

So, the question remains. Did Reilly make guns in the white for Purdey? Purdey didn’t exactly deny it. He just begged the question and deflected.


*49 1863-1872: Attempts to Win a Military Contract; Reilly Builds Military Rifles:

From at least the 1850's the Reilly's thought about trying to win a lucrative military contract from the British government. Reilly’s possible financial involvement with Prince and his building Prince Patent breech loading rifles, his making Terry Patent breech loading rifle (Chap *31 – p.78), Gen. Jacob’s SxS percussion rifle and various Enfields (Chap *30 – p.78) and Enfield rifling variations (Chap *46 – p.85) have been discussed.

The next five chapters somewhat out of chronological order will deal with Reilly building five military Rifles: the Green Brothers Patent Breech Loader, Snider-Enfields, Reilly-Comblain breech loaders, Martini-Henry’s and a M-H variant the Swinburn and Reilly's own 1869 patent for an exploding bullet that he attempted to sell to Arsenal.

Reilly never obtained a major contract (as far as the present day evidence goes). He did build (or in the case of Martini-Henry "assemble"), privately sell and engrave all sorts of British military rifles - Enfields, Snider's, Martini's and later Lee-Speeds; He hawked these guns to the Yoemanry Volunteer Militia and to rifle clubs at wholesale prices, versions of them to Military personnel going abroad and to big-game hunters for 50 years. But, unless he built them himself he did not serial number these guns.

*50 – 1863-1868: Reilly and the Green Brothers Patent Breech Loader:

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The Green Bros. Patent 2002 Jun 1862 breech loader is integral to Reilly's story in the 1860’s. As such it is gone into in some detail. The conclusions are, Reilly built about 350 serial numbered Reilly Green Bros. rifles from 1864-1868 in his London workshops, all proofed in London. After 1868 production was likely transferred to Birmingham where another 3,000 may have been made over the course of a few years (depending on whether the patent use numbers remained consecutive; Reilly's pat use #'s seem more chronologically accurate than most). Reilly also made Green Bros. rifles for the trade. C1870 the patent was made by other trade makers with a decline in quality, the last patent use number found being in the 5000’s.

The Green Brothers, CJ and J. were well known in the 1850’s as innovative gun makers in London. For several years they were in partnership with Prince (dissolved in 1859). In 1860 they took out a provisional patent on a breech-loading rifle. The idea was pretty ingenious. Attach a second breech loading changer to the back of an Enfield and use a bolt actuated plunger to push the charge and bullet into the original chamber, then use the ordinary hammer and usual cap. The gun could be converted back into a muzzle loader simply by unscrewing the action and replacing the barrel plug. (This sounds remarkably like the action advertised by “The Field” and displayed at Reilly’s shop in summer 1861).*50a In June 1862 the Green Bros received patent nr. 2002 for the invention.

As mentioned previously Reilly had some sort of relationship with the Greens and Prince, possibly a financial stake since Reilly did not sign the March 1858 open letter in favor of Prince’s rifle. This relationship with the Green's must have continued to develop in some way and in April 1863 Reilly announced in a newspaper advertisement that he had obtained “sole manufacturing rights” to the gun.*50b Reilly’s early involvement in making breech-loaders and in bringing others’ inventions to market might have persuaded the Greens to follow this track.

Reilly started experimenting with the action by modifying an old Reilly-made 1853 Enfield, SN 12002 (dated 1861), which still exists and carries patent use #1 (see below). This rifle was .577 caliber and retained the Enfield 39” barrels, weighing in at 9 lbs. 2 oz.

Reilly clearly wanted to market the rifle to Arsenal and to other militaries perhaps something which grew out of his experience with the Terry Patent and Prince Patent breech-loaders. In this he was prescient. In early 1864 the Prussians with Austrian allies attacked the Danes over the question of Schleswig. The early performance of the Dreyse needle gun (adopted by the Prussians in 1848 and well known to UK gunmakers) was impressive and panicked Europe’s armies into a frantic search for a similar gun.

By March 1864, while the Scheswig War was still raging, Reilly had the Green Bros Patent breech-loader ready for testing per newspaper advertisements.*50c He began production in late April, early May 1864, The production guns had 24” steel barrels and weighed in at a handy 7 lbs. 4 oz. A series of press articles that spring and summer touted the gun.*50d This happened to be concurrent with the decision by Arsenal to field a request to the UK gun makers to submit an interim breech-loading rifle for testing, to be used by the army until a completely new purpose-built breech-loader could be designed. (The fact that British diplomacy hopelessly bungled the Danish question added force to the recommendations; a combination of Prussia, Austria and France on the continent was more than England could handle).

In the 1865-66 Arsenal trials Reilly’s Green Bros Patent rifle performed well. However, ultimately the Snider action (American) was adopted in 1866. Like the Green Bros rifle the Snider action could be screwed onto an 1853 Enfield barrel and used with the original stock. It was simpler, cheaper and it could use the new “Boxer” cartridge with an integral primer doing away with the percussion cap; The Green Bros rifle could not be adapted to use the metallic cartridge. Nevertheless Reilly continued to advertise the Green Bros Patent and to make the guns as “sole manufacturer” in London up to at least 1868.

From patent use numbers it appears that Reilly made about 350 Green Bros rifles at his shops in London from May 1864 to Jun 1868. The guns, which were built at both 502 New Oxford Street and 315 Oxford Street, may have been made in “batches.” For instance Reilly SN 13326-13333 match patent use #'s #16 - #23; i.e. they were consecutively numbered rifles. SNs 14763-15047 (1867-68) with pat use #’s 177 - 325 would indicate that Reilly made 147 Green Bros rifles out of 300 guns serial numbered during the period September 1867 - February 1868, nearly 50% of his total production.

All extent Reilly Green Bros. rifles with a Reilly serial number were proofed in London. Following are seven existing Reilly-made Green Bros. Patent breech-loading rifles with Reilly serial numbers proofed in London and made by Reilly:

*12002 (original 1861) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). .577 cal. Rifle; single barrel, Enfield, London proof, breech loader, hammer gun, Green Bros patent; Pat use #1, Reilly manufacture (originally type 3 Enfield) *50e

13326 (spring 1864) - E.M. Reilly & Co., 502, New Oxford Street, London; .577 cal. Rifle; single barrel, London proof, breech loader, hammer gun, Green Bros patent; Pat use #16, Reilly manufacture*50f

13333 (spring 1864)- E.M. Reilly & Co., 502, New Oxford Street, London; .577 cal. Rifle; single barrel, London proof, breech loader, hammer gun, Green Bros patent; Pat use #23, Reilly manufacture*50g

xxxxx (fall 1865?) – E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. .577 cal. Single barrel rifle, London proof, breech loader, , hammer gun, Green Bros patent; Pat use #109, Reilly manufacture (from a Japanese site) *50h

13884 (summer 1865) - E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London; .577 single barrel, London proof, breech loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - use #159, Reilly manufacture*50i

14763 (Sept 1867) - E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London. .577 cal. Single barrel, London proof, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #177. Reilly manufacture.*50j

15047 (February 1868) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. .577 Rifle. Single barrel, London proof, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #325. Reilly manufacture.*50k

The last Reilly advertisement as “sole manufacturer” for the Green Bros. Patent was in 1868,*50l although in 1869 Reilly was still specifically mentioning Green Bros Patent guns in his advertisements.*50m (Green was replaced by the Reilly-Comblain in the “sole manufacturer” bragging rights category in his ads). Apparently sometime in 1868 Reilly transferred manufacture of Green Bros. rifles to Birmingham (where all his Reilly-Comblain’s were later made). The last Reilly with a Green Bros. patent use number is #3116, date indeterminate (warning: this number may not represent a chronological progression of the patent use numbers). (The reason the rifle remained relevant into the 1870's might be due to the fact it could be used as a muzzle loader (advertised by Reilly late on); a shooter could use regulation soft cartridges and ball in the gun from either end.)

NSN – E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London. .577 cal. Single barrel, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #3116. Reilly contract in Birmingham? *50n

There is one known Green Bros rifle with Belgian proofs (no Reilly name)(Royal Armouries).*50o

In addition there are two Green Brothers breech loaders made by other London gun makers which in view of the fact that Reilly was “sole manufacture” of the patent, had to be made by Reilly for the trade. Alternatively in view of the Reilly rifle with pat use #3116 with no serial number, it is possible that Reilly gave-up being “sole manufacturer” in 1868 and subsequent rifles including his own were made in Birmingham:

Xxxxx – Issac Hollis & Sons. .577 cal. Single barrel, proof not mentioned, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #554. Reilly contract in Birmingham?, probably a chronologically accurate pat #.*50p

Xxxxx – Wilkinson, London. .577 cal. Single barrel, Brum proof, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #2858. Reilly contract in Birmingham?*50q

Finally, there is one Green Bros. rifle with no Reilly provenance, made in Birmingham, Pat use #5008, the last pat use # found. The gun is a sad shadow of the guns Reilly had produced with a stock that looks like a fence post and poor fittings and engraving.

Xxxxx – Green Bros Patent Central Fire. .577 cal. Single barrel, Brum proof, breech-loader rifle. Green Bros Patent - Pat use #5008.*50r

Coda: In the late 1860's the Serbian army without a budget searched for a cheap way to modify Enfields available after the American War-Between-The-States to counter the Austrian Empire's upgrading of their rifles. They found they could buy the Green Brothers action cheaply (presumably from Birmingham) and modify the guns themselves. They had major problems with misfires - probably because of the ammunition.

*51 Reilly Builds (Civilian) Snider-Enfields:

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Arsenal had been bombarded with proposals to adopt a breech-loading military rifle ever since the adoption of the percussion Enfield rifle in 1853. It was well known that the Prussians were using the Dreyse needle gun (since 1848),*5a but a hide-bound bureaucracy was wedded to the percussion gun. It was thought that breech loaders would only lead to inordinate waste of ammunition by the troops. In early 1864, however, the Dreyse rifle proved its worth on the battlefield*51b in the Schleswig war between the Prussians/Austrians and the Danes.

In July 1864 the British conducted a series of committee meetings on adopting an interim-measure breech-loader. Trials were held that September and ultimately the Snider action was selected.*51c By Fall 1865 Enfield Arsenal had constructed 10 “model guns” for use by gunmakers in making the actions. The Snider was ready for trials in spring 1866 and was formally adopted in September. The cartridges with integral primer redesigned by Col. Boxer were a key component of the new system.*51d

It had its first combat use in Napier’s expedition from India to Ethiopia (Abyssinia) to rescue some European hostages in 1867-1868 where it performed admirably.*51e (Note: Reilly pin-fire shotguns were carried by some on this expedition to supply meat to the troops.*51f)

Hundreds of thousands of percussion Enfields were converted to the Snider action. Arsenal modified only Enfields made 1859 or later. By late 1868 these had all been modified and new-made Sniders began coming out of Enfield and BSA by 1869; they had steel barrels rather than iron, the first in UK army history. The Snider was supplanted in 1874 when the Martini-Henry was adopted. However, it continued in use for 60 years. Sniders were entered in marksmanship contests up to 1920 in Canada and pre-war in Britain.

Reilly did not advertise specifically making or marketing Sniders until March 1867,*51g although it can be safely assumed that he was selling the guns as soon as, if not before, they were formally adopted. This is evident when he supplied a mixture of breech-loaders including a Snider, a Chassepot needle gun, and other breech-loading rifles for a lecture given to a Militia gathering in December 1866.*51h

Reilly converted a lot of percussion Enfields to Snider actions and advertised his ability to do the work.*51i This includes transforming Enfields built by other makers. This makes it difficult to know what were the actual characteristics of a true Reilly-built "new" Snider as opposed to those Enfields he upgraded to a Snider action. Reilly apparently sometimes stamped his own serial number on the guns he modified since he sort of (re)built them, meaning that some Reilly’s, ostensibly serial numbered after the Snider was adopted, were made before 1866 by other makers and have Birmingham proof marks and other non-Reilly characteristics:

. . . . .SN 16036 (1868) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. .577 original Hollis-made Enfield converted to a Snider breech-loading rifle, sporterized, by Reilly; The Reilly SN is stamped on the trigger guard tang and on the barrel. However, there is a faint stamp “Isaac Hollis & Co” (or Sons) on the barrel which has been over-stamped with “E.M.R. 16036.”*51j

However, Reilly also made and serial numbered “new” Sniders in and of themselves, a number of which are extant including large bore big-game rifles. These were civilian guns made before Arsenal began turning them out for the military; Reilly was not given a part of Arsenal contact to make military Sniders. Believe Reilly’s first extant specifically built civilian Snider is SN 15021 (early 1868). The last known (existing) Snider constructed by Reilly is a massive 8 bore big game rifle SN 18514 (1873).

How these Reilly-built Sniders are marked is not clear:
-- Most Reilly rifles have “Snider” stamped on the guns somewhere,*51k sometimes along with other patents (such as Newmarks). Some have the "arrow with GR" stamp which is allegedly "crown property proofed" perhaps meaning the bolt and action were obtained from arsenal. However, literature is not clear on to whom Reilly paid royalties or how much these were. There are no patent use #'s. Presumably this would have been to Arsenal since Jacob Snider had died before receiving a penny of compensation for his invention.
-- Nor is it clear where stamps are to be found or what stamps were required. Reilly Snider barrels have London proofs but there are exceptions as mentioned above. They vary from gun to gun (or they are not included in current day auction advertisements). Note: Government Sniders allegedly were the first UK military gun serial numbered. SN stamps are found on the bolt, barrel, sight, and lever but are often not the same numbers or are simply missing. (These questions will be left for the thousands of Snider action enthusiasts to correct or solve).*51l

Following are a few significant (time-wise) Reilly-Sniders from a historical stand-point:

. . . . . -- SN 10021 (1856) – E.M. Reilly & Co, New Oxford Street, London (*re-labeled "E.M" after conversion) .577 Enfield 3 band, converted to Snider c.1866. The first extant Reilly-made 1853 Enfield rifle and paradoxically the earliest Reilly made Enfield converted to a Snider action. The name “E.M. Reilly & Co.“ was likely added when the conversion was completed.*51m

. . . . . -- SN 15021 (early 1868) - the first extant Reilly made specifically as a Snider-Enfield: E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. .577 Snider Enfield Volunteer 3 band rifle. German silver rear sight cover stamped "Snider": No Photo-1997 auction.*51n

. . . . . -– SN 15239 (late summer 1868) - E.M. Reilly & Co. New Oxford St., London. .577. single barrel Snider Enfield. 15239 - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street., London. .577. Rifle, Snider-Enfield 2-band; Brum proof.**51o

. . . . . -– SN 16607 (1870) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). .577. Rifle; Single barrel. Snider Enfield breech-loader. [/color]*51p

. . . . . -- SN 18514 (early 1873) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned); 8 bore. Single barrel rifle; Snider Patent & Newmark's Patent*51q

Last edited by Argo44; 12/06/23 08:13 PM.

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*52 1868-70: Reilly-Comblain Breech Loaders (No Reilly SN):

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Almost immediately after the Snider was formally adopted UK Secretary of War announced a new competition for a purpose-built breech loader. Possibly in response to this competition Reilly, still dreaming of a big military contract, in 1867 obtained sole manufacturing rights to Hubert-Joseph Comblain's breech loader, which had been patented in Belgium. The gun was assigned UK Patent No. 2778 of October 2nd, 1867 (Reilly is not mentioned in the patent). It fired the .577 “Boxer” (Snider) cartridge. The gun was featured in a May 1868 article in “The Engineer.”*52a

Reilly did not submit the rifle for the competition in summer 1867 as required (obviously). Rather, the entire competition was reopened in February 1868 after another wave of breech loaders was submitted and while the committee was working on accuracy issues for the barrels. The Reilly-Comblain, however, was part of the large group rejected in July 1868 when the committee settled on the Henry barrel, rifling and cartridge and selected a final 9 actions to be tested. In February 1869 the committee chose to unite the Martini action with the Henry barrel and rifling system and the "Martini-Henry" was born.*52b

Reilly mounted an extensive newspaper advertisement campaign for the Reilly-Comblain rifle in UK. The first advertisement appeared in Feb 1868 (when the competition for the action was reopened to late-comers) and ads continued almost daily until July 1868.*52c After that the ads were confined to long-range publicity contracts with guide books up until about 1870 when they disappeared entirely.*52d His advertisements spanned a relatively short time period and after the Reilly-Comblain was eliminated from the competition emphasized both "military and sporting uses" for the rifle.

Note: The Comblain in a new less awkward form was featured in newspaper articles and shooting contests throughout the early 1870’s especially in reports on UK Volunteer Services militia; UK and Russia were the two guarantors of Belgian independence. Reilly appears to have abandoned his association with Comblain by that time.)*52e. The Comblain was later adopted by the Belgian and Brazilian armies (though not in the Reilly-Comblain configuration); It was used by Brazil for 30 years. Reilly had nothing to do with these contracts.

Per patent use numbers Reilly apparently built some 6000 Comblain's in UK over 3-4 years 1867-71. 6000 rifles are not an inconsiderable number, more it would seem than the UK civilian market could consume over the 3 years that Reilly was “sole manufacturer.” Who bought these guns and where they went is something of a mystery. Perhaps various militia units adopted them; the units could choose their own weapons. Alternatively Reilly might have changed the patent use numbering system after the first series were built, starting anew at SN 5000… meaning a bit more that 1,100 were actually made, a more manageable sporting use number over 3 years of sales.

There are a number of Reilly-Comblain's extant. There is not enough information presented in the advertisements for these guns to be able to discern definitive patterns. However, following are some observations:
. . . . .-- The first existing Reilly-Comblain is use number #14. It has Belgian proofs. (See below for details)
. . . . .-- The last extant Reilly-Comblain is use number #6108 with E.M. Reilly & Co., Sole Manufactures, New Oxford St, London on the action. It has Birmingham proofs. (See below for details).
. . . . .-- None of the Comblain rifles have a Reilly serial number indicating all were manufactured elsewhere.
. . . . .-- Most early Reilly-Comblain have only the London address (not Paris)-it was a British army trials after all and having a French address would not have been a plus; however one trial gun has “Paris” stamped on the butt plate.
. . . . .-- Most of the extant guns have Birmingham proofs.
. . . . .-- The early guns have an ornate brass plaque on the lower receiver of the rifle with the patent Use #.
. . . . .-- Later guns have “E.M.Reilly & Co., Sole Manufacturers, New Oxford St., London” just ahead of the breech. The Patent use number is stamped on the breechblock just ahead of the bolt.
. . . . .-- Later guns have a “Patented by” or a “Warranted by” “E.M. Reilly & Co., London, Paris” stamped on the stock or on the breech.

A Few Extant Reilly-Comblain Rifles:

. . . . .Patent use #14. This is the earliest Reilly-Comblain known. It was mentioned in a gun chat site thus information is quite limited. It is stamped on the barrel ahead of the breach “E.M.Reilly & Co., Sole Manufacturers, New Oxford St., London”; on the lock plate “E.M.Reilly & Co. London.” The caliber is .577 .The barrel is 30.5 inches long. The Obelisk can be clearly seen on the breech block; It is the Belgian Inspectors mark for final proof. It is bereft of other numbers other than #14 on its stock.*52f

. . . . .Patent use #25. .577 Snider, 20 1/2" barrel. The top of the action is engraved "H. HOLLAND / 98 NEW BOND ST. / LONDON", the lock plate is engraved simply "H. HOLLAND" and the breechblock is marked "REILLY-COMBLAIN / PATENT NO. / 25". A brass plaque affixed to the bottom of the stock beneath action is beautifully engraved "Reilly / Comblain / Patent / No. 25”.*52g

. . . . .Patent use #32. .577 Reilly-Comblain rifle, serial no. 32. Blued 30in barrel, block and blade fore-sight, ladder rear-sight, the breech block signed 'E.M. REILLY & Co. RIFLE MANUFACTURERS, NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON', block signed 'REILLY-COMBLAIN PATENT No. 32', plain color-hardened lock signed 'E.M. REILLY & Co. LONDON.”*52h

. . . . .Patent use ???. This rifle is stamped on the barrel ahead of the breach E.M.Reilly & Co Sole Manufacturers New Oxford St., London on the lock plate E.M.Reilly & Co. London. Caliber is .577.*52i

. . . . .Patent use #5048: Reilly Comblain rifle; 30” barrel with Birmingham proofs. "25" (i.e. .577), saber bayonet lug and typical period Enfield sights; 5-groove rifling like the 1860 or '61 Short Rifles. Chambered for the .577 Snider round. Receiver ring stamped "E.M.REILLY & Co / SOLE MANUFACTURERS / NEW OXFORD STREET / LONDON" . Breechblock stamped "REILLY-COMBLAIN / PATENT No 5048". Butt is marked with a large 3" ink stamp "PATENTED BY E.M. REILLY & Co., LONDON & PARIS".*52j

. . . . .Patent use #5051: E.M. REILLY & CO. LONDON. Reilly-Comblain Patent No. 5051. On Barrel, E.M. REILLY & CO, SOLE MANUFACTURERS, NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON. Warranted by E.M. REILLY & Co. London & Paris.*52k

. . . . .Patent use #5298. Fusil d'infanterie, percussion centrale, modele E. M. Reilly ; calibre 14.8 mm ; canon poli blanc, poinconne et signe : "E. M. Reilly & Co., Sole Manufacturers, New Oxford Street London" ; culasse marque : "Reilly Comblain patent nr 5298"; platine avant polie blanc (carbon steel), marque : "E M Reilly & Co., London.”*52l

. . . . .Patent use #5439. E.M REILLY & CO, LONDON;.577 BREECH-LOADING CARBINE, MODEL 'REILLY-COMBLAIN PATENT', serial no. 5439, probably converted from a Pattern 1861 Cavalry Carbine. 18 1/2in. blued barrel, block and blade fore-sight, small elevating ladder rear-sight, the top of breech block stamped “E.M. REILLY & CO, SOLE MANUFACTURERS, NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON”; the top of the breechblock marked “REILLY-COMBLAIN PATENT NO. 5439”, plain flat bar-action lock marked “E.M. REILLY & CO, LONDON,” walnut full-stock, the right hand side of butt stamped in large oval form 'WARRANTED BY E.M. REILLY & CO. LONDON & PARIS', iron furniture including two barrel-bands and jag-ended clearing rod, much finish remaining.*52m

. . . . .Patent use #6109. British Reilly-Comblain breechloading trails rifle. Overall length is approximately 49”. The 29¾” round .577 caliber centerfire barrel. Barrel is marked with the usual London proofs and caliber (25) mark. The breech is marked “E.M. Reilly & Co/ Sole manufactures/ New Oxford St/ London”. Stock is marked in ¼” letters on the right butt in an oval “warranted by/ E.M. Reilly & Co/ London & Paris.” There are also two small inspection stamps to the rear of the trigger guard tang. *52n

*531871-1890: Reilly builds Martini-Henry Rifles (NSN):

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The history of Reilly building Martini-Henry rifles/actions is instructive. This is the legendary gun of the Zulu Wars, Rorke’s Drift, **53a the 2nd campaign in Afghanistan**53b and British imperial wars all over the planet which continued in use to WWI. **53c, *53d

As mentioned in the two previous chapters on the Snider and Comblain, in summer 1864 the UK recognized the need for a breech-loading military rifle. As a stop-gap measure the Snider-Enfield was formally adopted in September 1866. It turned out to be a very good weapon. Almost immediately in October 1866 Arsenal advertised a prize for a purpose built breech-loader. In March 1867, the Committee reported that no less than 104 rifles had been submitted and 9 finalists were recommended.

Trials for the 9 did not begin until late November 1867 and by February 1868, the competition was temporarily abandoned due to repeated failure of the trials rifles and severe accuracy problems. The Committee set about addressing the problem of barrels, rifling and cartridges first; the Committee had become convinced that a hybrid rifle was necessary combining a barrel from one bidder and an action from another. At the same time another 45 new rifles had been submitted to the War Office and the Committee decided to start all over again. (See Reilly-Comblain chapter referencing the start of advertising for the Reilly gun).

By July 1868 the Henry barrel and rifling was adopted and the chosen actions were again whittled down to nine. By 11 February 1869 the Henry barrel mated to the Martini action (a Swiss modified copy of the American Peabody) was announced. Trials began on the gun which lasted until 1871 uncovering various problems which included critical parts failures and uncomfortable recoil from the .451 Henry cartridge. On 13 April 1871 orders were placed at the royal Small Arms factory at Enfield for production. Between 1871 and 1874 the rifle was trialed by various units working kinks out of the design and finally on September 18, 1874 (fully 8 years after the need for the gun was advertised - and one thinks modern military acquisition times are long!) the M-H was authorized for full issue to the British army.

As a coda to this in November 1874, the Henry shallow groove rifling patent from November 1860 was allowed to be extended for another 4 years to November 1878. **53e It subsequently somehow (by a process not yet understood) may have been extended again to November 1888. There was some speculation that the extension was tied to the rifling being adopted by the army. In fact Henry received £5000 (equivalent today to $900,000) in 1872 from the British government for the patent use in the Martini-Henry and no more though he petitioned for a supplement. There are Reilly SxS rifles with Henry Patent marks (without use #'s published) which were serial numbered in the 1880’s. **53f Henry patents in the USA expired 15 November 1874 by court ruling.

Many companies made sporting versions of the M-H including in particular Greener. However, there apparently is not one M-H sporterized rifle with a company serial number made by any gun-maker in UK while the patents were in force. It appears that Arsenal would send over an action from Enfield or one of the authorized producers of the M-H, if a company wanted to build a sport M-H. Perhaps Braendlin had the license since its logo appears often on Reilly's. (Welcome additions, corrections to this conclusion).

**Edit: Here is a mystery: Who held the Martini-Henry patents? According to some sources the National Arms and Ammunition Co was formed by Wesley-Richards in 1872 to make Martini-Henrys and Henry granted a license to them. The company manifestly failed to produce what was needed. But in 1875 allegedly it claimed to own the rights to the patents and expected to receive royalties from other companies who had been making the Martini-Henry Rifle. It initially won a court case but the judgement was overturned the following year; it was finally settled in National's favor by the House of Lords. So were companies like Reilly paying National Arms and Ammunition Co., for the right to make a Martini-Henry? Was it just for the barrels and rifling? Who owned the Martini patent for the action for civilian makers? This information is surely available but a bit off topic re Reilly Martini-Henry's- unless a list of payments for the patent use can be turned up.

Reilly’s first advertisement for a “Henry-Martini” appeared in Jun 1871. **53f His first advertisement for “Martini-Henry” rifles appeared in December 1871. **53g

There are many extant Reilly-made sporterized Martini-Henry’s with all four London address on their barrels (502/16 New Oxford Street and 315/277 Oxford Street). Reilly M-H’s are found in half a dozen calibers, one being an 8-bore (cal .775) big game gun. Several are pictured. (**53h, *53i, *53j, *53k ) He engraved and retailed M-H’s; he may have assembled rifles himself at both manufactury’s using actions and barrels sent from elsewhere. Like the other gun makers, however, none of these have Reilly serial numbers until after the expiration of the Martini-Henry Patent (again who held this patent is a question).

There is one extant Reilly M-H with a serial number *33899(1894) **53i which has neither the Martini Patent plaque with crossed flags or Braendlin "B" logo.

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**541872-1912 Reilly sells other Military Rifles; Swinburn, Gibbs, Soper, Lee-Speed

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The Snider-Enfield was apparently the last military rifle Reilly made in his London workshops and serial numbered. He did not serial number the Reilly-Comblain nor the Martini-Henry sporting guns he sold. However, he continued to advertise and market military rifles, selling some to the Volunteer Militia and some to private owners for sport. These were made elsewhere. Here are four:

. . . . . Swinburn-Henry: **5a The Swinburn was similar to the Martini-Henry but differed internally quite a bit. For instance it had a thumb manipulated side lever which could cock the hammer without operating the lever. It fired the same .577/540 Martini-Henry cartridge but was more prone to breakage. It was patented in 1872 and all production was done by by Abingdon Works Co. Ltd., Birmingham. Reilly’s first advertisement for a Swinburn rifle (which he misspelled) is from October 1875. *54a1
. . . . . . . . . .-- There is one extant Reilly Swinburn from about 1885 in the Royal Armouries. It is highly engraved with a lion surrounded by fine scrollwork on the right side of the receiver and two stags on the left. It is engraved “E.M. REILLY & Co., 277 OXFORD STREET, LONDON, AMMUNITION GOV 577.450.” *54a2

. . . . . George Gibbs “Farquharson Patent”: *54b This is a single-shot hammerless falling-block action rifle. It was patented by John Farquharson in Scotland in 1872. George Gibbs, a Bristol gun-maker, bought into the patent in 1875 and was the sole maker until the patent expired in 1886. Per Wikipedia, fewer that 1,000 Gibbs-Farquharson rifles were made, the last in 1910. Famous hunter Frederick Selous was known to use the rifle. *54b1
. . . . . . . . . .-- There is one extant Gibbs-Farquharson .451 cal rifle with Reilly's name on it, signed “E.M. REILLY & CO., 277 OXFORD STREET, LONDON,” with a Gibbs serial number 1331 (Wikipedia can be wrong too). *54b2

. . . . . The Soper Rifle: *54d The Soper Birmingham-made breech-loader missed out on the breech-loading trials in 1867-68. However, in a separate test in 1872 it fired 60 rounds in one minute, a rate not matched by magazine guns. Soper put up a £100 bet ($10,000+) in 1878 that he would match two men firing his gun against three firing any other rifle in the world to see who could get most rounds on a 200 yard target in 3 minutes. No one took him up on it. Per an early 1880 advertisement Reilly was the Soper rifle "agent for London." *54d1 . Examples of the Soper rifle in 1870 and 1880 are pictured. *54d2,d3

. . . . . Lee-Speed: *54c The Lee-Speed was a bolt-action magazine rifle, which was basically a sporting variant of the Lee-Enfield made for civilians. It shot the .303 cartridge. The first advertisement for a Reilly marketed Lee-Speed is in 1893. *54c1 A number of London gun-makers offered Lee-Speeds for sale to sportsmen including Holland & Holland. *54c2
. . . . . . . . . .-- There is one extant Reilly marketed Lee-Speed shooting the .375 x 2.5” nitro express cartridge, introduced in 1899 (basically a hunting cartridge, a slightly longer version of the .303 necked out to .375). This Reilly has on the barrel “E.M. REILLY & CO., 295 OXFORD STREET, LONDON” indicating it was marketed between May 1904 and June 1912. *54c3

*55 1869: Explosive Bullets:

Reilly patented an explosive bullet in 1869, a sort of early M-79 idea. *55a

Note: As already mentioned Sir Samuel Baker wrote in his books that Reilly made custom explosive shells designed by him for his use as early as 1853. In addition Reilly made explosive shells for BG Jacob for his self-designed long-range double rifle used by his Pashtun cavalry in Sind and Baluchistan (1854-57). It may well be that Reilly used this knowledge to create his own explosive bullet. However, Reilly never obtained a major military contract with the War Department (as far as the present day evidence goes).

*561856-1871: An End to Reilly's Arsenal Contract Dreams

As a summary to these chapters on Reilly's military rifles, Reilly never achieved his ambitious plans to make a fortune with a contract with Arsenal. He always seemed to be one step behind; His Green Brothers breech-loader was very good, but could not shoot a cartridge with an internal primer. His Comblain was awkward looking, was late and was not the handsome Comblain of the Belgian militia of 1870, which might have stood a better chance, etc.

He did sell and engrave British military rifles - Enfields, Snider's, Martini's, Swinburns and later Lee-Speeds; He hawked these guns to the Yoemanry Volunteer Militia and to rifle clubs at wholesale prices, versions of them to Military personnel going abroad and to big-game hunters for 50 years. But, unless he built them himself he did not serial number these guns. He sold a lot of militia guns he did not make; but afterwards his business seemed to zero in on the civilian sporting market.

Nevertheless, the desire and the conceit never fully died. From Wyman's Industrial Encyclopedia 1888 on his 1885 exhibition at the London industrial innovations exposition, he still expressed a shadow of hope for some sort of contract or at least a recognition that he was still relevant:
. . . . ."They also showed some fine specimens of repeating rifles, which are now very prominently before our Government for adoption in the Army." *56a

. . . . .X. REILLY - 1868 – 1880; PARIS AND EXPANSION

*601867-1870, Paris-1: Reilly Takes on Paris, Again; Gun-Maker for Napoleon III

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EM Reilly always seemed to be enamored with Paris and as the 1867 Paris Universelle exposition*60a approached, he meticulously prepared an exhibit*60b that was extensively lauded. *60c It won him gold and silver medals. *60d

Note: Apparently the entire exhibit of Reilly guns at the Paris Universelle was bought by Grand Duke Constantine (son of Czar Nikolas I) and Count Nikolay Alexandrovich Orloff, who was then the Russian ambassador to Belgium, at the time the cockpit flash-point of Europe. (Russia and UK guaranteed Belgian independence). *60e

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As a result of the medals E.M. Reilly became a "gun maker" for Napoleon III.*60f, *60g

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*61 February 1868-1870, Paris-2: Reilly opens 2 rue Scribe, Paris as “E.M. Reilly & Cie”

Reilly’s triumph in Paris led him in February 1868 to open a branch office (EM Reilly & Cie.) at 2 rue Scribe, Paris where orders for his guns could be taken.*61a The store was located in the Grand Hotel near the Gare du Nord, a prime location (British travelers to Paris arrived at the Gare du Nord).*61b, *61c, *61d This branch office remained open for the next 17 years.

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. . . . .-- SN 14983 - The first extant gun with 2 rue Scribe on the rib is 14983, an 8 bore SxS under-lever, hammer gun shotgun (with a firing system very much resembling the earlier Lancaster "base-fire" action - other observers note that it was very like the Pape patent with retractable firing pins).*61e

The extant gun’s hammers resemble the hammers pictured in Reilly ads at the time.*61f

. . . . .-- SN 15287 - A second center fire 12 gauge shotgun hammer gun from this period with similar hammers.*61g

Note: The French press in articles about Reilly in the 20th century has claimed that the artistic elegance and balance of a Reilly gun came from its association with Paris.*61h

*62 1868-1897 – Paris-3: New Label

His case labels changed at this time to feature the two medals won at the 1867 World's Fair and often (but not always) mentioned both branch addresses.*62a, *62b

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His presentation cases appeared to be red velvet with the 502 and 2 rue Scribe addresses on them, sometimes with no "promotion clause", sometimes with "Gun Manufacturers" below the name:

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*63 1870, Paris-4: Fall of Napoleon III; Reilly Prosecuted; Pro-French proclivities:

Two and a half years later the Franco-Prussian War broke out. After the battle of Sedan September 3, 1870 Napoleon III fell from power*63a - the Third French Republic was declared; the medals (with Napoleon III's profile on them disappeared from Reilly's case labels for awhile yet continued occasionally to resurface on both labels and in advertisements for the next 15 years.

Bismark and Napoleon III after the battle of Sedan, 03 September 1870:
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Note: Napoleon III died in exile in England in 1873. His widow Empress Eugenia*63b bought a Reilly 12 bore SxS shotgun, while in England SN 17532 (dated per the chart to mid 1872), and a second Reilly 16 bore (SN unknown) both of which are now in the USA somewhere. Her son was killed in the Zulu Wars in 1879. She died in 1920 having been awarded the Order of the British Empire.

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Reilly's affinity for France was well known and commented on in London newspapers at the time. (Was this possibly an Irish-French Catholic connection?)

-- A French woman was found in his house in the 1861 census;*63c

-- In Fall 1870 he was prosecuted for attempting to smuggle 2,000 shells to his rue Scribe address, a violation of UK neutrality in the conflict; The London press commented to the effect that this Reilly-Francophile affinity was inevitable (i.e. Reilly "couldn't help himself."). Reilly maintained that the French Republic had invaded his store and confiscated all the guns; he dared not resist their insistence on ammunition. (The cartridges in question were for Snider .577 sporting rifles in Reilly’s inventory in Paris. What happened to his shotguns is unknown).*63d, *63e, *63f

-- and in 1871 Reilly offered to sell 6,000 Chassepot rifles (stored in Birmingham) to the new French Republic. (Obviously the rifles were to be sent to France via some sort of back-channel; the French parliament - really a sort of 3rd Republic "Revolutionary Committee," hesitated over a few centimes of commission - the opportunity was lost).*63g

-- There are Reilly trade labels from the period where the owner of the gun has taken pains to erase the Paris address - Francophobia was alive and well in UK.*60h

-- And with this long-time connection, one must assume that early on, after the 1851 exposition, EM was in contact with French center-break breech-loader makers and must have been experimenting. He had contacts in Liège (as did Trantor or perhaps through Trantor) possibly as early as the 1850's.

-- Whether he spoke French is unknown. However, there are mid-1860’s Reilly advertisements which mention, “Ici on Parle Francais” (French spoken here).*63i

*64 1869-76: Reilly and the American Market

From as early as 1868 Reilly evinced an interest in penetrating the American market.*64a He acquired an American agent (Joseph Grubbs, Philadelphia),*64b and had his guns advertised in mail order catalogs.*64c At the 1876 Philadelphia centennial*64d he exhibited along side very high-standard British guns*64e, and won a medal which was later displayed on his post 1897 case labels.*64f

*65 1868-76: New Labels and Descriptions

. . . . .1869: New Description - Gun and Rifle Manufacturers: Around 1869 EM changed the description of the company in print journal ads to "Gun and Rifle Manufacturers" (as did many other English gun makers).*65a This description was occasionally but not usually used on some trade/case labels for the next 15 years.*65b

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. . . . .There are two extant guns with this phrase on the ribs or barrels:

. . . . . . . . . .-- SN 25572, a .450 BPE SxS U-L hammer gun rifle dated 1883 with “To their Majesties Kings of Spain and Portugal.”*65c

. . . . . . . . . .-- SN 26537, a .450 BPE SxS U-L hammer gun rifle (later rebored as a 20 gauge shotgun) dated 1884.*65d

. . . . .The phrase also appeared on some of his post February 1868 (opening of rue Scribe) long-gun presentation cases.*65e

. . . . .1868: New label for handguns: Shortly after the 1867 Paris exposition for a short time he used a different label for revolvers with only the 315 Oxford Street address, without the scollops or the medals, advertising “Breech Loading Gun and Rifle Manufacturers," which included the phrase, "By appointment to his majesty emperor Napoleon III.*65f. The label was only used for a few years.

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. . . . .1876: New outlier Label for 502 New Oxford St: In 1876 an outlier Reilly trade label for 502 New Oxford Street began advertising a connection to the King of Portugal*65g echoed by advertisements in the print press.*65h (Only two examples of this case label have so far been found).

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. . . . .1876: New Label for 315 Oxford Street: Also around 1876 315 Oxford Street got its own label back; it was slightly different from the classic 502 label, without scollops and with no scroll work at the bottom.*65i

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*66 1875-80: Choke Boring and New Proof Marks

In Jan 1875 WW Greener had perfected his choke boring method which became the standard of the industry. It was immediately controversial with some traditionalists maintaining it did nothing but make shooting more difficult. However, tests run by “the Field” in March 1875 showed its advantages. London and Birmingham proof marks were immediately changed with “Not For Ball” being added to choke bored shotguns. Of course, if a gun had no choke the stamp was not used and most UK shotguns sold up to 1880 were cylinder bore.

The interesting fact about Greener's choke boring system is that unlike some inventions, just about every gun-maker in London jumped on it. By late spring all sorts of high-quality makers were advertising the system. (This almost instanteous adoption of Greener's choke boring is an interesting phenomena from the formerly extremely change-resistant UK gun community. By 1875 excitement over new innovations was apparently driving the market; and much like Reilly did in the late 1850's others now jumped whole-heartedly onto the band-wagon of new ideas, to sell new guns and make the old ones feel out-dated; shades of modern marketing).

. . . . .Reilly's first advertisement for a choke-bored shotgun is from 08 May 1875, "The Field"*66a.

. . . . .SN 20681 (1877) - 12 bore SxS side-lever hammer-gun shotgun: 1st extant Reilly shotgun with a confirmed “Not For Ball" proof stamp.*66b

*67 1875-80: Reilly paying royalties for Patent uses:

This esoteric chapter is placed here for academic reasons because it potentially could be a very important tool in understanding Reilly (and other London gunmakers). From the early 60’s to the end of the company in 1912 Reilly used others’ patents on his guns and paid patent royalties to these companies (as did virtually every gun-maker in London). Reilly apparently thought it cheaper and faster to build his own versions of the patents than wait an intermiable period for an action or forend or an injector to be delivered.

However, the question remains (never to be adequately answered because of the chaotic nature of patent use numbers), “if a gun has a patent use number stamped on it, was it built by the payer of the royalties, or by the owner of the patent, who built it in the white and sent it to the royalty payer?” It would seem to be the former but it could be both. The problem of trying to investigate patent use numbers also lies with individual users and auction houses. With the exception of Toby Barclay no one seems to pay attention to these important markers.

This chapter will not go deep into this rabbit hole, but is meant to be an example of what one might find in investigating it further because Reilly is recorded historically as paying patent royalties to various companies.

The most common patents found on existing post 1860 Reilly guns (with patent use numbers- i.e. royalties paid to the patent owners) are as follows:

1860, May - J.D. Dougall “Lockfast” action patent. Per published information Reilly made a gun in 1861 with documented royalty payents paid to Dougall. *67a

1860, 15 Nov - Henry patent 2802 - 7 groove shallow rifling. The patent was extended in December 1874 for four years and then by a process not understood for another 10 years to 1888. Reilly built dozens of Henry barreled rifles and paid the royalties (as did virtually every gun-maker in London). Henry records exist but do not record royalty payments. The first extent Reilly Henry-barreled rifle is SN 17626 (1872) and last gun being SN 27405 (1885).

. . . . .SN 17626 (1872) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. .450 SxS Rifle. BPE. C-F, U-L, hammer gun. 28” Henry Pat #408, 409.*67b

. . . . .SN 27405 (1885) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). .577/500 SxS BPE Rifle. U-L, hammer gun. 8 lbs, 11 oz. Henry rifling A&T.*67c (Note there are no use #'s on this patent stamp. There was a time in UK gun history where certain patents had acquired a status in and of themselves for quality - Whitworth for steel barrels being one of them and as such some makers went out of their way to stamp those patents on their guns but without a patent use #. It was sort of like, "As advertised on television" from the 1960's.

1863, 01 May - J. Purdey patent no. 1104 - “double bite” under action bolt. Found on Reilly guns up to the expiration of the patent in 1877. The Purdey patent 1104 combined with the Scott spindle became one of the standards of the industry. It expired on 01 May 1877. The patent cost a user £2, a considerable sum.

Nine extant Reilly guns have 1104 patent use numbers. Presumably Reilly paid Purdey (and Scott) directly. Patent use numbers were usually not chonological and were sometimes sold in batches. Purdey was queried about records for patent use payments; unfortunately these are locked away and cannot be accessed; they would have a story to tell. The first extant Reilly with a 1104 patent use # is SN 17393 (1872) and the last SN 20623 (April 1877) (the last month before the expiration of Purdey Patent 1104).

. . . . .SN 17393 (1872) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London and 2 Rue Scribe, Paris; 12bore. Shotgun SxS. Push-forward U-L, hammer gun. Purdey Pat 1104, use #948 (dated 1872)*67d

. . . . .SN 20623 (Apr 1877) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London and Rue Scribe, Paris. 12 bore. Shotgun SxS. U-L, rebounding hammer gun. (Purdey patent 1104 use #4928 (April 1877)*67e

1875, 11 May - Anson & Deeley patent 1152 and/or 1756 - Boxlock hammerless action. See separate post below. 25% of extant Reilly's made after 1880 are boxlocks. The first extant A&D Reilly boxlock is SN 22482, use # 1156:

. . . . .SN 22482 (early 1880) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned), 12 bore SxS Shotgun. BLE. A&D use # 1156. *67f

1876. Scott patent 761 from 1878, the "Triplex Action" which included crystal indicators, etc. There are 5 extant Reilly’s with the Scott patent 761: Please note that Holland & Holland bought a bunch of the Scott patent 761 “Triplex Actions” early on during the first 6 years of the patent; in 1882 he advertised a "Triplex grip" pigeon gun*67g :

. . . . .SN 24675 (1882) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). 12 bore SxS. top lever, hammerless, back lock, non-ejector. Scott action patent 761(no use #).*67h

. . . . .SN 24736 (1883) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (stock, action,forend). 12 ga. Shotgun SxS. Scott triplex action Pat 761 use #339, Perks, crystal indicators, Scott gas check Pat 617 use #1233.

. . . . .SN 25038 (1883) - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Sreet, London & Rue Scribe, Paris. 12 Bore Shotgun SxS. Top lever, hammerless. Scott/Baker pat 761, use #200; Needham/Hinton sears (Pat 705) 1879 patent.*67i

. . . . .SN 27853 (1886) - E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London & Paris Improved Patent. 16 bore, Shotgun SxS. Dolls Head; Side-clips; S-L, Scott triplex action Pat 761 use #2112, Perks, crystal indicators, Scott gas check Pat 617 use #1953, Whitworth Steel barrels, 1st of pair. "Not for Ball"*67j

. . . . .SN 27854 (1886) - E.M. Reilly & Co., Oxford Street, London & Paris Improved Patent. 12 bore, Shotgun SxS. Dolls Head; Side-clips; S-L, Scott triplex action, Perks, crystal indicators, Whitworth steel barrels, 2nd of pair.*67k

1882, 8 Feb - Scott patent 617 - gas check. An amazingly simple patent which preserved shotgun actions from the corrosive effect of black powder, found with patent use #’s on 20 or so Reilly shotguns from 1882-to the dawn of smokelesspowder. (It was not used on rifles apparently).*67l

1886 - Perkes patent 10679 – ejector. Reilly used several Perkes patent forends and ejectors on his rifles.

1865 - Whitworth patent for fluid compressed steel barrels. Patent extended for 5 years in 1879. Reilly began using Whitworth steel barrels on his pigeon guns in 1882 (SN 24365). (see separate chapter on steel barrels below.

. . . . .SN 24365 (1882) - E.M. Reilly & Co., (address not mentioned). Shotgun SxS, 12 bore, top lever, 31" whitworth steel barrels, pigeon gun).*67m

*68 1878-80: Paris exposition; Situation of the company

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Reilly again exhibited at the 1878 Paris exposition*68a and again won medals.*68b

In 1880 Reilly sold about 650 serial-numbered guns a year, a number which had remained pretty constant since the opening of the Paris store in 1868. This was still a third more hand-made bespoke guns than both Holland & Holland and Purdey combined.

This was in addition to other revenue streams for the company including:
. . .-- a very active business in guns sold under license from well known gun makers including revolvers - Trantor, Baumont-Adams, Walker, Colt, etc), rook rifles, repeating rifles - Sharps (sole importer)*68c, Winchester*68d, etc.,
. . .-- as well as merchandising every type of gun accoutrement - reloaders, cartridges, shells, cases, etc.
. . .-- and sustaining a huge business in previously owned guns.

Reilly got regular publicity from users of his guns, who posted comments in "The Field"*68e and from an editor of "The Field" who consistently lauded his Reilly-made 20 bore shotgun in numerous articles.*68f

The company had a firm niche in the London gun-making business and several commentators have speculated that he was building guns in the white for other makers. But EM, with the death of his dreams of obtaining a contract for a military rifle, still had big plans.

. . . . . XI: REILLY – 1880’s; 1,000 GUNS A YEAR:

*69 Reilly in the early 1880's; 1881 Census; 1000 guns a year

Reilly's business was booming and in 1881 expanded dramatically. Serial numbered gun production rose from about 650 a year in 1880, a number which had remained pretty constant for 12 years, to over 1000 a year in 1882.

Reilly told the 1881 census taker that he employed some 300 people in his firm in his two workshops on Oxford street and store in Paris and agents in Birmingham, an extraordinarialy high number for the times, an indication of the extent of his gun manufacturing and sales business.*69a (WW Greener in the same census claimed to employ 140, less than half the number of Reilly; Purdey in 1871 said he employed 58, 1/5th the number of Reilly workers).*69b

The number “300” has become controversial and a number of writers have tried to downplay it or explain it away. After all the average number of employees at a London gunmaker in 1851 was "14." But the words are from E.M. Reilly to the census taker as are those of Greener, etc. Reilly had no reason to embellish. The gun trade was highly cyclical as illustrated by this post on the Birmingham gun industry. Not one Birmingham gun making concern could say exactly how many workers were employeed on a given day.*69c

Since Reilly, at the time of the 1881 census was quite dramatically expanding his sales of serial numbered guns. it is entirely possible that at the time of the census Reilly was adding to his workforce and this could have included independent gun part makers under contract to him. However, the fact remains that this is what the census taker noted; if the figure is challenged then the figures for Greener, Purdey are also wrong.

Note: See below chapters on the A&D Boxlock and his decision to begin “selling off the rack.” It is probable that with his 1880 pivot to the boxlock that he began to sell guns made in the white in Birmingham like everyone else, which might well account for the increased production.

He also around this time allegedly (not confirmed) began importing cheap Belgian-made revolvers in parts which he assembled in his buildings, engraved and sold. (Reilly, like Trantor and others, possibly was involved with the Belgian manufacture and "assembly trade" much earlier...perhaps dating to as early as the 1850's).

*70 1880: Reilly and the Anson & Deeley Boxlock

In early 1880 Reilly adopted the boxlock (Anson & Deeley 1875 Patent) and began building or having them built in significant numbers. Some 25% of the surviving Reilly guns from 1880-1912 are Boxlocks.

The Anson & Deeley boxlock articles and ads began to appear in the UK press in March, 1877 following a full page ad in “The Field” by Westley-Richards.*70a W-R quoted an article in the US Press for the 1876 centennial about the gun cribbed from a Birmingham press article of 1876.*70b By summer 1877 the Anson & Deeley was being touted by all sorts of London gunmakers. Even a few prominent ones such as Greener began to market the gun.*70c However, Reilly (like a few other London gun-makers) never specifically advertised the A&D. Reilly endorsed the boxlock whole-heartedly an 1882 cameo on his company but he was clearly several years behind some.*70d

By 1880 Reilly was beginning to dramatically expand serial numbered production from 650 to over 1000 a year and had decided to "sell off the rack." (see below) The A&D boxlock would certainly have simplified the manufacturing process. Reilly could have tried to produce these himself at least early on..he had the ego and the manufacturing space.

But almost certainly Reilly began to avail himself of Birmingham produced actions in significant numbers for the first time. Buying boxlock actions from Birmingham and finishing them in London, as just about the entire trade did at the time, would have been a logical business step. Birmingham was fully geared up to produce boxlocks by 1880. The impression is strengthened since Reilly did not include the A&D in his late 1870-early 1880 ads. Importing guns in the white from Birmingham would also explain how Reilly could jump serial numbered gun production up 400 a year without adding more manufacturing space.

Birmingham box-lock actions usually have workers' initials on them someplace. None have yet to be found on a Reilly box-lock but this type of information is not usually published by auction houses.

. . . . . . . . . .-- SN 22482 (1880): The first surviving Reilly box-lock is SN 22482 (1880), a 12 gauge top lever shot gun, A&D Patent use #1156.*70e

*71 1882: Selling Off The Rack

In late 1881 per advertisements it appears that Reilly made a business decision to stock ready-made guns and sell them off-the-rack as well as selling his usual bespoke made-to-order guns.*71a This might account for the soaring number of guns serial numbered per year, which grew from about 650 numbered in 1880 to some 1050 in 1882. It might also account for certain discrepancies in serial numbered guns from this time forward such as 303xx which would have been numbered in late 1888-early 1889 but still has "Not For Ball" on its barrels (a stamping discontinued in 1887).*71b

If this were the case, Reilly possibly serial numbered his bespoke guns when ordered (usual London practice) and his off-the-rack guns when sold. (When knowledgable gun historians and makers were queried about this phenomena - guns with pre-1887 proof marks apparently made after that date - they shrugged and said essentially that no-one can logically explain the process at the time - some gun makers ignored or stretched the law; some used barrels already proofed..etc.)

As pointed out above, the decision to vastly expand production and sell ready-made guns may mark the origin of a trend towards marketing Birmingham-made guns finished in London to satisfy demand, supplementing Reilly’s own production which seemed to max out at about 650 a year per the attached chart.

*72 Nov 1881: Oxford Street Re-numbered; Change in Labels

In November 1881 Oxford Street was renumbered; "502" became "16 New Oxford Street" and "315" becoming "277 Oxford Street." The first advertisements for the new numbers appeared in early November 1881.*72a.

(Prior to the renumbering virtually the entire block were 315 and Purdey's 314 1/2 were located was numbered either "314" or "315." Attached is the 1882 London postal directory which has both sets of numbers for that block for the record.*72b.

The first Reilly with either of the new addresses is SN 23536 below:

. . . . .SN 23536 (Nov 1881) - The first extant gun with either of the new addresses on the ribs is SN 23536, a 12 ga. SxS BLE shotgun with E.M. Reilly & Co, 277 Oxford St., London on the rib. *72c

In spite of the formal change in numbering, the old numbers occasionally appeared in Reilly ads and on gun ribs for the next couple of years.*72d

Labels changed to reflect the two new addresses:

. . . . .-- A label for "16, New Oxford Street" with "rue Scribe" exists obviously post November 1881 and pre July 1885.*72e

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. . . . .-- However, the Reilly trade label used at "315 Oxford Street" does not appear to have changed definitively to the new numbering system until after rue Scribe closed in 1885; no "277 Oxford Street, London" labels with the Paris branch have so far been found. (There are a very limited number of the 277 labels for this time period uncovered so far; one may still turn up).*72f

. . . . . . . . . ._____________________
. . . . . . . . . |. . .Searching for . . . . |
. . . . . . . . . |. . . .Reilly Label. . . . .|
. . . . . . . . . |. 277 with rue scribe . .|
. . . . . . . . . |____________________|

. . . . .-- A presentation case label from this time period has yet to come to light. However there is a presentation case for SN 26181 (a very special gun) SN'd in 1883 but with a case from 1880 for the King of Spain with the 502 address and "Gun and Rifle Manufacturers" on it. The key is the use of blue velvet which appears to have become the Reilly hallmark for the next 30 years for presentation cases:

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*73 1881: Spanish and Dutch Royal connection

In 1881 in addition to the connection to the King of Portugal Reilly began advertising a connection to the Spanish and Netherlands thrones, advertising which continued for the next 8 years.*73a The crests of the two monarchs appeared also on an outlier label from 1884-85.*73b

Spanish King Alphonso XII was a modernizer and much liked by the Spanish people. He unfortunately died in November 1885, cutting short what could have been a revitalization of the country.*73c He introduced the English sport of pigeon shooting to Spain. There are two existing Reilly gun’s dedicated to the King of Spain:

. . . . .SN 25161 (1883) - E.M. Reilly & Co., 502, New Oxford Street, London & rue Scribe, Paris. .500 BPE/12 ga. Rifle/Shotgun; side lever, hammer gun. (King of Spain prize - 1880 case; Purdey double-bite patent 1104.*73d The story of 25161 is odd but it likely led to the Reilly claim to build guns for Alphonso XII. 25161 was to be given as a prize in 1880 by the King according to the case. However, the gun has an 1883 serial number and a pre Nov 1881 address on the rib. It is a beautiful gun and case presentation

. . . . .SN 25572 (1883) - E.M. Reilly & Co., 16, New Oxford Street, London and Paris, Gun & Rifle Manufacturers. .450 BPE. Rifle SxS. U-L, hammer gun. "To Their Majesties Kings of Spain and Portugal” on the rib. The gun was purchased in Spain but there is no history attached.*73e

No extant examples of Reilly guns made for the King of the Netherlands, William III, a giant abusive man who may have been insane, but who, with his second marriage in 1878 settled down quite a bit,*73f or the King of Portugal, Louis I from the Braganza Dynasty,*73g have been discovered. (Reilly’s claim to make guns for the King of Portugal has already been discussed and dates to 1876.)

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Last edited by Argo44; 11/22/23 08:20 PM.

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