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#558345 - 11/14/19 11:50 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Argo44 Offline
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Registered: 02/21/16
Posts: 1634
Loc: McLean, Virginia
==================================================================================
Pinfires still going strong in 1867-1871-1880


Two references to Reilly pinfires in 1867




13816 - dated 1865 per the chart: Barnaby's Auction: E M REILLY & Co. AB.12B PINFIRE SHOTGUN No.13816, ONE HAMMER MISSING.
https://www.barnebys.com/auctions/lot/e-...sing-qfzvexayla


George L's 4 bore 15629 (dated 1869) - originally a pin-fire, converted to centerfire.


16810 - 1871 per my chart:
https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/e...49-c-a8759a5cd2
A 12-BORE PINFIRE DOUBLE-BARRELLED SPORTING GUN WITH CARTRIDGE LIFTER, serial no. 16810,
circa 1870, with rebrowned 30in. barrels, the top-rib engraved 'E.M. REILLY & CO, NEW OXFORD STREET LONDON & RUE SCRIBE PARIS', unusual cartridge lifter formed from the rear portion of the rib and molded to the shape of the breech-ends, plain borderline engraved action, plain borderline engraved bar-action locks signed 'E.M. REILLY & CO' in a banner, plain hammers, chequered walnut straight-hand butt-stock, iron heel-plate, 'Jones' swing under-lever opening and chequered splinter fore-end (action and locks brushed bright)


And in 1880.....Note: Wildfowler visited Reilly's "Establishment"..... The extractor mechanism Wildfowler describes sounds like the Perks extractor on my 16 bore 27853.
https://books.google.com/books?id=WUMCAA...ire&f=false



Edited by Argo44 (11/15/19 10:34 AM)
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#558387 - 11/15/19 01:14 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Remington40x Offline
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So Argo, when are you going to write the definitive article (or book) on Reilly? It would be a great addition to any serious collector's library. I'll bet Dan Cote at Double Gun Journal would take a multi-issue article from you with great pleasure.

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#558389 - 11/15/19 01:46 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Argo44 Offline
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Registered: 02/21/16
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Loc: McLean, Virginia
I sent the article to DGJ and Dan Cote more than a year ago....never heard back. So in August and September Diggory Hadoke published a good bit of it in two parts in his new on-line magazine "Vintagegunjournal."

https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/a-new-history-of-e-m-reilly
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/the-life-of-reilly

The dating chart has not been published yet. After the above two articles appeared, I asked Dan by email if he'd be interested in publishing the chart; he replied that "He'd let Diggory do this." Frankly I don't know why he wasn't interested in the original article. He had published John Cambell's article on Reilly in Summer 2015...and my research shows a good bit of that article to be erroneous. (This is not a dig at John, all writings on Reilly for the past 75 years have been filled with errors including Brown and Boothroyd). Perhaps Dan was just burned out on Reilly.

Diggory tells me he will ultimately publish the chart which may be the most useful part of the article, enabling an owner or prospective buyer to date his gun, often to within a few months.

At some point I will write this as a pamphlet or book....probably starting with the article then breaking the paragraphs down into chapters to show the footnotes and reasoning. I do have a number of things still to research though, so for now, I dump it all onto this line. I have changed the "New History" a bit as new conclusions come to light. I'll soon move the history and the extant gun chart forward again from p.33 and 34. And thanks for the compliment.

Gene Williams


Edited by Argo44 (11/15/19 09:17 PM)
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#558399 - 11/15/19 05:19 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Steve Nash Offline
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Registered: 07/02/14
Posts: 275
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Gene, keep up the good work! I’ll definitely order your Reilly book.

Back to the discussion. Defining exactly when the pinfire came and went is a tricky proposition. The only certain date is 1836, when Casimir Lefaucheux patented the pinfire cartridge in France. There is the anecdote whereby a Lefaucheux gun of the 1836 type was said to have been imported into Britain in 1844 by the noted firm of Wilkinson and Company of Pall Mall, London, successors in business to the great Henry Nock. The story goes that despite the reputation of the firm, no one could be persuaded to use the gun.

It is not unreasonable to think that someone in Britain would have brought back a Lefaucheux-type breechloader prior to 1851, together with the necessary cartridges. Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Hawker’s views on the gun at the time probably deterred many, but perhaps not all. There would not have been any impetus for Benjamin Houllier to improve the pinfire cartridge if it was not in demand. Contemporary sources affirm that by the 1850s all French gunmakers were producing pinfire guns, so availability of the guns and cartridges would be easy for anyone crossing the Channel.

The year 1851 is important, for the pinfire gun and pepperbox exhibited at the Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations in London’s Crystal Palace, and illustrated in The Illustrated London News in its 5 July edition. The timeline of what follows next is not so clear. Joseph Lang offered his version of the pinfire sometime afterwards, in 1852 or 1853. The earliest record I can find is for 1855, but clearly Lang (and perhaps Reilly and Blanch) was producing them prior to this. There may also have been an influx of Continental guns to meet the demand. Sportsmen were using British or Continental pinfires, otherwise there would not have been any sizeable reaction to the letter in The Field in December 1856, which started the heated fanboy debate over the merits of muzzle-loaders versus pinfires that led to the two Field trials of 1858 and 1859.



We are still not talking large numbers of guns in circulation, as makers were not equipped to produce large quantities of bespoke sporting guns, and demand would have been limited to land-owners with free time, and competitive pigeon shooters. Game at this time was walked-up. It was the quick-loading feature of the breech-loader that enabled the development of driven shoots, which began to appear at shooting estates in the late 1850s. Looking at a number of important maker’s records around the late 1850s, it was not unusual for 100 serial numbers to be used in a year, which might include sporting guns, rifles and pistols. Even assuming that more than half might be shotguns, this is still a limited number of makers producing a limited number of guns for a limited number of shooting opportunities. With the advent of driven shooting in the social calendar and the emergence of railways to take sportsmen to distant shooting grounds, it is not surprising to see the demand for pinfires increasing throughout the 1860s, with more and more makers meeting that demand. Excluding makers identified as makers of rifles and pistols only, I’ve counted over 900 gunmakers in business for at least part of the period 1855-1870 that might have built a pinfire sporting gun. Of course, there will be some of these that ceased business while never having made a breech-loader, and others that may have only built centre-fire guns which appeared at the same time; what is certain is that from a handful of mostly-London makers in the mid-1850s the number grew to several hundred makers by the end of the 1860s.

Talking specific examples, Boss & Co. built 735 pinfires between 1858 and 1871; John Dickson & Son produced 430 pinfires starting in 1859, and only 5 were built in 1875. Unfortunately most surviving record or order books simply distinguish between breech-loaders and muzzle-loaders, without specifying what type of breech-loader was delivered, either pin- or centre-fire. These numbers agree with the 1871 observations of William Wellington Greener that 100 centre-fire guns were being made for every pin-fire (indicating that pinfires were still being built).

It is worth looking at contemporary writings. Not surprisingly, John B. Johnson’s 1851 book The Gun and How To Use It makes no mention of breech-loaders, and Robert Blakey’s Shooting: A Manual of Practical Information on this Branch of British Field Sports (1854) also makes no mention of breech-loaders. The second edition of John Henry Walsh’s book Manual of British Rural Sports (1856) mentions and illustrates Lang’s pinfire, and adds: “The advantages of this gun are manifest, and to all those who value rapid and safe loading as highly as it deserves, I should strongly recommend a trial or it, since it appears to me to supply a great desideratum, and if as good in practice as it appears to me to be theoretically perfect, its invention will be as great an era in gun-making as that of the detonator itself. Time, however, and time alone, must decide its merits.” The same text was repeated in later editions (e.g. the 5th edition of 1861)

J. D. Dougall wrote in the conclusion of his 1857 book Shooting Simplified: A Concise Treatise on Guns and Shooting: “Another novelty is the rapid introduction of breechloading firearms. These have been in common use in France for the last fifteen years, and are said to have stood the test of that period. It is yet immature to decide upon their merits. They are strongly advocated as excellent by many sportsmen, but the strength of our powder is so much greater than that of the French or Belgian, that they have still to pass through a severe ordeal before receiving the full confidence of British sportsmen. How long the jointing at the breech end may continue to withstand the tremendous vibrations of our heavy charges, time alone can show.” He also added: “One of the very best judges of firearms, a gentleman of scientific attainments in these matters, for whom the author has had the honour to make many guns, writes to him in these terms, "In a few years muzzle loaders will be, as flint locks are now, in the category of things that were."”

In Dougall’s 1875 book, Shooting: Its Appliances, Practice and Purpose, written largely to promote his Lockfast design, he wrote: “In the year 1856 was introduced from the Continent that most daring alteration—the sporting breechloader—which has carried the day against its old competitor, in so far as sportsmen in this country are concerned, although for rough, outlying, or foreign work, the muzzle-loader may, for a time, hold its own. That the breech-loaders, as originally introduced, wore defective, and open to many objections, cannot be gainsaid ; and although, on their construction, it was plain that they might be equal to the requirements of the weak gunpowder and light charging of the Continent, still they were not equal to our strong powder and severe work. This proved itself by their rapid deterioration at the jointing, and it soon became clear that that jointing was insufficient. As is not uncommon, the ingenuity of the foreign inventor has been improved upon in this country. Our mechanists, while less inventive, surpass those of the Continent in carrying out new modes of construction—in all branches of manufacture—to a satisfactory end.”

From these contemporary writings it looks like mid-1850 is when the breech-loader, the pinfire, starts to attract attention from the few in use at the time. By 1856 sportsmen are being encouraged to try them, and in 1857 terms like ‘rapid introduction’ are being used; by the 1870s no one is questioning the breech-loader, but this includes the centre-fire, which also appeared in Britain around 1856. The Trials of 1858 and 1859 undoubtedly popularized and promoted the pinfire, and the lapse of Henry Jones’ patent for the double screw grip action in September 1862 meant it was a lot easier for any maker to built strong guns without paying royalties. Demand for pinfires decreased towards the end of the 1860s as the centre-fire started to dominate, and by the early 1870s demand for pinfires dwindled to just a few. It was in the late 1860s that dual-fire guns emerged, which could fire both pinfire and centrefire cartridges. This practice did not continue for very long.

A shooter with a pinfire gun faced one of three choices in the 1870s: continue using it, converting it to centre-fire, or relegating it to a corner of the gun room. A gun represented a sizeable investment, so only the very well-heeled could set a usable gun aside and buy another; 25 guineas was more than an annual salary for many, and the best makers could command prices of 50-60 guineas for a pinfire. Cartridges were widely available, so if fashion was not a great concern, it made sense to keep on using it until it needed replacement. Conversion to centre-fire was not as complicated as conversion of a muzzle-loader to pinfire (again, the latest Double Gun Journal illustrates one of those), and without a doubt many pinfires were converted. Perhaps not surprisingly, a collector of pinfires will encounter pieces either completely worn out from years of hard use, or fairly intact ones where the owner could afford to retire them. While few new pinfires were being made in the early 1870s, I expect pinfires were commonly used in the field then and into the 1880s. They were certainly popular in Europe into the beginning of the 20th Century.

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#558419 - 11/15/19 08:37 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Argo44 Offline
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Registered: 02/21/16
Posts: 1634
Loc: McLean, Virginia
Steve, many thanks for that excellent and very knowledgeable response. I'd like to comment on three elements of it.

1). I've asked the question "who could have made Reilly center-break breech-loading guns in 1855-58" for a reason.
. . .-- The "urban-legend" has been that Reilly never-ever made a gun for its 90 years of existence, was just a retailer, and always put his name on outsourced finished guns.
. . .-- Lefusil and other knowledgeable posters state that of course Reilly made muzzle-loaders for 30 years or so...but never had any machinery at all (the contradiction is noted) and certainly couldn't produce a breech-loader. (and that those two huge buildings at 502 New Oxford Street and 315 Oxford Street were for some purpose other than manufacturing.)
. . .--The evidence from primary sources, however, indicates Reilly not only made his own guns, he may have been one of the few "vertical" gun making companies in London and certainly in the 1860's-70's was one of the largest gun making companies in the city employing dozens of people.

So the question of who made SN 10655 (April 1858) (and earlier Reilly center-break breech-loaders going back to 1855) is important to the history of Reilly in particular. From what I understand now, no-one in Birmingham in 1855-58 could have or would have made 10655 "in the white" for Reilly. So, if he did not make it himself, he had to have gone to Liège for it or....what??.

2). Integral to the wide-spread adoption of the breech-loader from 1856-60 was the question of ammunition. I believe there was not a producer of pin-fire cartridges in England outside of Lancaster, who tried to corner the market by tying ammo to his own patented gun, up to 1860-61 and that the vast majority of pin-fire cartridges were imported from France during those years.


There was a lot of money to be made selling ammunition and predictably Reilly the businessman got into that sector very quickly. Reilly-made cartridges are still around which makes this Reilly patent interesting....John Baker was the head of his shop...there is a John Baker who was a gun maker later on...still working to identify him.



3). Finally here is a Reilly SN 10354. My chart dates that to 1857. It was a muzzle loader. It was converted to a Jones U-L center-fire break-action breech loader about 1885 (my estimation). The label is an "outlier" that has been pictured before on this line. Interesting - the owner must have loved those barrels...and the excellence of Reilly barrels has been commented on before - see above posts.
=========================================================
10354 Jones Underlever…. per conversion.

http://www.icollector.com/Cased-English-...och-2_i19846957

Cased English SxS double rifle by Reilly of London and converted by John Fry Derby, .400 Kynoch 2” caliber, 27” brown damascus barrels with matte rib fitted with triple folding rear sight and marked “Reilly 502 New Oxford Street London” and also“Converted BY John Fry Derby”; original barrels appear to have been silver soldered to a monoblock and a new receiver, underlever, hammers and stock provided during the conversion. The original gun likely was circa 1848 to 1858 with the conversion by Fry occurring sometime between 1895 and 1904 per a write-up provided by the consignor. Overall, the rifle appears to be in good condition as converted with a pleasing patina to metal surfaces; the bores are very good, the actionscrisp and the butt stock and forend overall good to very good; the casing is overall good with wood cleaning rod, cleaning brush and interior paper E. M. Reilly & Co. label; also accompanied with 40 Ballard Rifle and Cartridge, LLC .400 Kynoch 2” unprimed brass cartridge cases. (Antique). Est.: $1,500-$3,000.



The conversion was between 1895-1904 per a consigner write-up. But the address is still 502 New Oxford Street...which would normally mean it was done before 1885 when the 502 was generally dropped... (and had it been converted after 1898, 502 (16) was no longer a Reilly property).

The Capitol letters "G", "R", & "M" in this label are similar to those in H&H and Watson Bros from the same era:


Edited by Argo44 (11/24/19 12:33 AM)
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#558477 - 11/16/19 03:27 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Steve Nash Offline
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Registered: 07/02/14
Posts: 275
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Oh boy. One of the hardest things to do in discussing 19th Century British firearms is to give a certain answer!

“So the question of who made SN 10655 (April 1858) (and earlier Reilly center-break breech-loaders going back to 1855) is important to the history of Reilly in particular. From what I understand now, no-one in Birmingham in 1855-58 could have or would have made 10655 "in the white" for Reilly. So, if he did not make it himself, he had to have gone to Liège for it or....what??.”

In first trying to answer the question of exactly who were making pinfires in the period 1855-1858, the 1858 Field trial is a start: C. P. Aston of Birmingham; Edwin Ladmore of Hereford; E. M. Reilly of London; Thomas Fletcher of Gloucester; and Moore & Harris of Birmingham. In the 1859 Trial there were pinfires from Prince & Green of London, William Rochester Pape of Newcastle, E. M. Reilly again, J. V. Needham of London, William Egan of Bradford, Elliot of Birmingham, Philip Hast of Colchester, and Joseph Lang of London. Crudgington & Baker state that according to Walsh, all of the pinfires at the 1859 Trial were of the Lang forward-underlever type. We know Joseph Lang (who started it all) and John Blanch were early promoters. In Boothroyd’s book Shotguns & Gunsmiths, the author illustrates a Lang pinfire of 1852, though sources disagree whether 1852 or 1853 (or later) was the actual start date. In John Blanch’s book, A Century of Guns (1909), Blanch states Reilly and Lang were the earliest firms to offer pinfire breech-loaders, and describes his first pinfire was in 1856, of the forward-underlever, single-bite type. I have an illustration of a single-bite forward underlever pinfire by Parker, Field & Sons. This maker had Queen Victoria’s royal warrant, which might explain the famous 1860 picture of a gamekeeper in Windsor Great Park with a forward-underlever pinfire gun. From guns that I have, I know Barnett of London, John Blissett of London, and Hugh Snowie of Inverness sold guns under their name on the original Lang pattern (forward underlever, single bite, rising stud). Smith & Curtis’s book The Pinfire System illustrates a rearward-facing underlever James Purdey pinfire that Purdey apparently confirmed was made in 1857; however this is contradicted in Richard Beaumont’s 1984 book Purdey’s The Guns and the Family, which states Purdey’s first pinfire was in 1858. It appears Westley Richards’ first doll’s head snap-action pinfire was in 1858.

I do have a rearward underlever, single bite pinfire by Charles Frederick Niebour of Uxbridge that dates from no later than 1859 (when he ceased business), and a very similar rearward underlever single bite pinfire by William Moore & Co., which might be of the same period though I have no means to determine a year for it. It is not unusual for early makers of small numbers of pinfires to not affix serial numbers. There is a double-lump design patented by Smith, Townsend and Williams in 1859 illustrated in Crudgington & Baker, which has appeared on pinfire guns by Thomas Blissett of Liverpool and Moore and Harris.

By 1859 there were others just starting to produce pinfires. This is when Boss & Co., under Stephen Grant, started producing them and in 1859 Boss sold 15 breech-loaders, out of their total output of 90 (to give an idea of how rapidly the market was changing, in 1860 Boss’s pinfire output was 74 out of 120, and in 1861 it was 72 out of 82). John Dickson & Son started producing pinfires in 1859 (though G. Boothroyd claimed they started in 1856).

By the time you get to the 1860s, this is where the patents proliferated and the number of makers greatly increased, and that’s a whole other area of discussion.

Back to 1855-1858. We know the above makers sold pinfires. The era of sporting guns being produced in factories is not for some years yet, production is still small, a handful of guns by each maker, often/usually with the help of specialized outworkers. Crudgington & Baker assert that prior to the 1858 Trials there were no more than a few hundred British-made pinfires in circulation, and I haven’t seen anything to contradict this. This is not from the lack of available gunmaking skill, as I imagine if you can build a muzzle-loader, you can build a breech-loader, if you have the right parts. Very few at the time would have known how to make the parts and action such a gun. The most famous actioner of his day would have been Edwin C. Hodges, the man who designed and built Lang’s first pinfire. As an outworker, Hodges made actions for the best gunmakers, and to maintain his reputation he often signed his work. My 1859 Niebour and @1859 Blissett have Hodges-signed actions. Hodges actioned pinfires for Boss & Co.. Hodges may have actioned pinfires for Lang, Reilly, Blanch and Parker, Field & Sons, and others. Unfortunately Hodges signed some actions behind the face instead of on the action bar, which can only be seen if the butt is removed. For others, such as Boss, Hodges’s name is recorded in the order books, with the details of other outworkers working on the gun. There is no complete record of who E. C. Hodges provided actions to.

Another who provided makers with pinfire actions based on the Lang pattern is Joseph Brazier of Wolverhampton, best known for his fantastic locks, but also a gun and pistol maker in his own rights. I have a fine single-bite forward-underlever pinfire by Barnett of London, a maker almost entirely known for their military and trade guns. This action of the gun is signed Joseph Brazier, so yet another example of a specialized outworker providing actions based on the Lang design.

Whether Reilly made his own actions in-house or whether he bought actions from outworkers like Hodges, Brazier or others might remain a mystery. A maker might make all parts in-house, or buy the parts from suppliers; build the gun entirely in-house or buy a complete or near-complete gun and do the final finishing. Some makers clearly did all of these, according to demand and manpower. I’m not sure it is possible to know for sure.

Here is an action forging, ready to be cut and filed!
[b][/b]

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#558491 - 11/16/19 10:18 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Argo44 Offline
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Registered: 02/21/16
Posts: 1634
Loc: McLean, Virginia
Steve, many thanks for that educational tour d'force. I hope you write your own book...and soon.

The New Zealand gentleman has had the lock plates off and hasn't reported a signature. I'm not sure if he's had the stock off...but for now, I'll assume that Hodges did not make the action. Given the paucity of firms making pin-fire breech loaders at the time, the presumption will remain that it is a Reilly-made product...until proven otherwise.

I was going to go to Paris after Thanksgiving with spouse. I thought I might spend a bit of time in the Mitterand library there hoping to find some information on Reilly's exhibit in the 1855 Universelle...but a general strike is scheduled for that time, the "Gilet Jaune" are in the streets, and I've cancelled the trip.


Edited by Argo44 (11/16/19 10:19 PM)
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#558493 - 11/16/19 11:17 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Stan Offline
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Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 10177
Loc: somwers in Jawja
Thanks from me too, for that excellent an informative post, Steve.

SRH
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#558497 - 11/17/19 04:02 AM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Imperdix Offline
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Registered: 10/20/19
Posts: 97
Loc: UK
You`ve amassed an impressive amount of information on Reilly,and this thread is a most interesting read ! Thankyou for sharing!

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#558534 - 11/17/19 12:42 PM Re: E.M. Reilly; History; Chronology; Serial Numbers [Re: Argo44]
Argo44 Offline
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Registered: 02/21/16
Posts: 1634
Loc: McLean, Virginia
In wondering about the connection between London gunmakers and Liège in the 1850's....the connection with Birmingham was definitely there, Trantor and Adams making revolves in Liège....(Raimey has explored this in detail) - I read through this 1858 book.
https://books.google.com/books?id=hRsb2R...ege&f=false


The author labeled the breech loader and revolver "Aberrent Systems"...then spent 3 pages apologizing for even mentioning these in his book.


He did not discuss British-made center-break guns at all though he mentions that the system has found "some favor" in Britain (and he misspells "Lefaucheux").


He did spend a lot of time on the Prince bolt action breech loader and lauded it - and the book has the most complete explanation of the superiority of the Prince over the just adopted Enfield .577 rifle-musket.


Edited by Argo44 (11/17/19 07:39 PM)
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