19thC. Patching Paper

Patching Paper for Small Bore Match Rifles
An examination by analysis of a sample c1870

by W.S .Curtis

Following an approach made in 1981 by Messrs. Wiggins Teape, the paper manufacturers, samples of match rifle patching paper were made available to them for study. They had received an enquiry through a trade source from someone who wished to see if it was possible to duplicate original quality and material. However, as was rapidly ascertained the market for such material is unlikely to exceed a few hundred sheets a year and consequently there was no commercial interest whatever.

Having the specimens in hand it was nevertheless decided to proceed with the analysis and subsequently the following report was made.

Sample A. This was a double thickness .002 patch wound clockwise onto a 530 grain Rigby type bullet taken from an original match rifle accessory loading case containing 48 glass phials and compartments for 56 bullets in japanned tin cylinders. It was pointed out that the specimen could be contaminated with lead oxides following over a century in intimate contact with the bullet.
Comment – 100% Flax Hemp. The sample was very well fibrillated. Fibrillation in paper making jargon is more simply explained as the length or shortness of the fibres at the pulp preparation stage of paper making. If the pulp is treated in a certain way so that it becomes “well fibrillated”, this enables more water to be absorbed by each fibre resulting in greater bonding and a more cohesive sheet of paper. This in turn would also result in a paper of greater strength and thus lasting properties. Chemical testing revealed a trace of rosin.

Sample B. This was a piece of modern bank paper .002 thick and currently used for paper patching purposes.
Comment – 100% Softwood Pine. Bleached Sulphate. The sample showed virtually no fibre fibrillation. Chemical testing revealed that it was rosin sized.

Otherwise both samples were chemically the same, i.e. there was no starch, polyvinyl alcohol, wet strength resin or filler.

The tests were carried out by the Research Centre of Messrs. Wiggins Teape (UK) PLC to whom acknowledgement and thanks are due.

First printed in the MLAGB's Black Powder magazine, Volume 33, 1986
Reproduced with permission

Ammunition Range Box

For the long range rifleman shooting black powder in muzzle loading rifles, one of the critical factors for accuracy is consistent weight of powder charges. William Metford wrote about this in his notes on the management of the muzzle loading match rifle. Correspondence on this matter will also be found in contemporary newspapers; Horatio Ross referred to it in ‘Hints for Long Range Riflemen’.

Much paraphernalia was necessary for the muzzle loading rifle; the following affectionate (satirical) article extract, published in Punch in 1867, gives some indication of what the discerning rifleman (and his servant!) may be encumbered with:
“The great shooting reputation which this country has made for itself at very long distances has been made by the men who are known as the “small-bore men,” who shoot delicate rifles, not in any way adapted to military purposes, but which are admirably suited for target-shooting. These men usually appear on the firing point with a servant to assist in the multifarious occupations with which they have to prepare for the great trials of brains and skill. For they have to shoot more with their brains, availing themselves of their vast experience, than with their rifles, which will do simply what their masters enable them to do. When a really skilled shot of this kind misses the bull’s-eye, or is out of the centre at any rate, he can almost always assign a sufficient reason for his failure. The Servant assists in carrying the precious rifle, the carefully weighed charges of powder, the mechanically fitting bullet and cleaning rod, their Ross, Burrow, or Steward telescope, the all-important waterproof bed on which to lie down, the portable gunsmith’s shop, with every variety of instrument that accident may call into use, and, although last, but by no means least, a box containing many sights of many forms patterns and sizes, which these skilled and highly trained men adapt to their rifles under the varying circumstances of wind and light.” 
So how did the enthusiastic rifleman get his carefully weighed charges to the range? Well some may have invested in a range box like that pictured below.

Glass phials are included for the charges, and this is completed with a tray to hold bullets and wads. Storage is 42 phials and bullets The phials have capacity for 120 grains of powder (checked using Swiss No.3 (FFg)). Beneath the lift out tray is an additional small compartment which currently holds a shoulder strap for the box.

The bullets still in the tin tubes are of two types. The round nosed are standard cylindrical Whitworth as sold by Whitworth, Eley and other makers; they measure .450 including papers. The base cavity is just like Whitworth’s which is of small diameter but deep. The ones with a longer nose are those of Metford’s and measure .460 including the paper with base cavities which are shallow and wide. The patches are spirally wrapped.

In the small tin there are dozens of the wads which are .470 diameter and .116 thick. These are made of a fibre material which looks like cardboard and soaked in some kind of lubrication


The following description of the Farquharson breech is from a series of articles published in 1882 on 'The Military Rifle And Its Development', this part of the series discusses the then 'Modern Breechloaders'.
The Farquharson breech, which is attached to the Metford rifle as manufactured Mr. Geo. Gibbs, of Bristol, is one of the oldest actions we have among the rifles of the present day. The inventor – Mr John Farquharson – is a Scotchman, and formerly lived at Blairgowrie – and we remember having seen him at Irvine, in 1871, exhibiting the action, which was then fitted to a Henry barrel. Mr Farquharson approached several Governments with the view of getting his invention adopted, but it was just a little too late. Nearly all of them had selected a breech action shortly before, and they were therefore unwilling to re-open the question and incur additional expense before giving the newly chosen weapon a fair trial. Ultimately the action was purchased by Mr Gibbs, who proceeded to perfect it and protect it by letters patent under the Great Seal. In this endeavour he was met by Mr Henry, of Edinburgh, who contended that Mr Farquharson was not the original inventor, that it was founded on and was infringement of patents by Mr Henry, and that Mr Farquharson had made use of information confidentially imparted to him or obtained during visits he was permitted to make to Mr Henry’s manufactory. It is not necessary to go further into this dispute than to say that the Lord Chancellor, before whom the case was debated, decided in favour of Mr Farquharson. This breech block was the first in which the principle of the concealed hammer was introduced. It consists of a vertical sliding block, lowered by an underlever. The lock has the old a gun spring and swivel attached to the tumbler. The spring drives an internal hammer on to a striker held by and passing through the breech block. The hammer is cocked by a bar, one end being attached loosely to the main lever and the other end fitting into a notch in the breast of the hammer, which is begun to be lifted just before the breech block is pulled down by the main lever. This is accomplished by the use of the slotted link, and the striker is at liberty to be pushed back by the slightest down movement of the block, so that it is impossible for the striker to hitch in the cartridge or be in the way. An extractor of great power is fitted to the action, so as to ensure the speedy exit of the fired case from the chamber. The calibre of the barrel is .461, has seven grooves, and the spiral is what is known as increasing, being sharper at the muzzle than at the breech. It takes a solid drawn brass cartridge containing 75 grains of powder and a bullet of 480 grains in weight.

Source: Glasgow Herald, Scotland, Thursday 6 July 1882

John Farquharson's had two patents for his 'breech block', the first No. 3178 of 1870 and the second No. 1592 of 1872. Illustrated right are drawings from the 1872 patent abridgment.

In 1875 Farquharson's patent of 1872 was reassigned to John Farquharson, George Gibbs, Thomas Pitt and William Ellis Metford.

The patent was also registered with the US Patent Office in 1877 and a version of this available on line [pdf].

The patent dispute between Alexander Henry and John Farquharson referred to in the above article was reported upon in The Scotsman of Monday 23 December 1872:


IN the London Court of Chancery on Saturday two petitions – one by Mr Alexander Henry , of Edinburgh and another by Mr John Farquharson, of Blairgowrie in the county of Perth – were heard before the Lord Chancellor for his decision as to which of the two was entitled to a patent which had been applied for by them for improvements in breech-loading arms, for the purpose of rendering the piece self-cocking and for combining in one motion the throwing open the cartridge chamber and the extraction of the spent cartridge-case and cocking the tumbler. Mr Henry, the well-known manufacturer of breechloading rifles, had obtained a patent in 1869, and a farther patent for improvements m 1870. It was stated that another improvement had been invented by Mr Henry in 1871, a sketch of which was shown to one of his workmen, and for this improvement he presented a petition for a patent in August last. At the same time the-usual declaration and complete specifications were left at the office describing the nature of the invention. On the 24th of September objections were lodged, to this application on behalf of Mr Farquharson, who had applied in May last for letters-patent for improvements in breech-loading firearms, accompanied also by specifications, Mr Henry objected to Mr Farqubarson's application, on the ground that the latter was not the first and true inventor, and that his application was made in fraud of his (Mr Henry’s) rights, and that the invention was the same in all respects as the invention for which Mr Henry had obtained a patent in 1869, and in pursuance of which breech-loading firearms had been made and sold previously to May last year. When these conflicting claims came to be discussed before the Solicitor-General in November last, he declined to adjudicate upon them, and consequently the present application was made to obtain the decision of the Lord Chancellor. The evidence was of a very conflicting nature. On behalf of Mr Henry it was alleged that Mr Farquharson, who was a gamekeeper, had obtained information about his intended application from one of Mr Henry's men, and had been allowed access to Mr Henry’s manufactory and shooting grounds at Edinburgh, where the different kinds of firearms were fully explained to him. On the other hand, it was alleged by Mr Farquharson that he was the first inventor, and that Mr Henry had obtained information about his improvement from a man to whom he had shown a sketch, and also from its having seen, publicly used and explained at the Wimbledon meeting in July last.

HIS LORDSHIP, after considering the evidence on both sides, decided upon refusing the application of Mr Henry and granting that of Mr Farquharson.

is a .461 Farquharson patent falling-block military breech loading rifle by George Gibbs of Bristol. It has a 33in Metford barrel.

This rifle was sold by Holt's of London in June 2011.

John Farquharson was born in Glenfernate, Perthshire in the mid-1830s. He served Lord Rosebery as a gamekeeper, and at this time devoted considerable attention to rifle shooting, also gaining permission to attend rifle meetings. He won many prizes and is notable for shooting from the "back", or "Farquharson," position. His skills as a marksman were such that he was selected for the Scottish Eight to compete for the Elcho Shield. Having become expert with the rifle he turned his head to its construction and designed the breech action described and illustrated above, eventually selling the right of producing his breechloading action to George Gibbs of Bristol.

After leaving Lord Rosebury, Farquharson became gamekeeper to a Mr. Dalgleish in Argyleshire. Their relationships was not a happy one and Farquharson was not allowed holidays or permission to attend rifle meetings. After two years service this confinement was too much and he gave up his position and started shooting "on his own" amongst his beloved mountains and moors. Thus began his career as a poacher. For many years he took heavy toll on the Perthshire moors and forests, stalking game there on the preserves of the aristocracy. In the end, however, he settled down and passed away in 1893 of heart disease.

First Hints On Rifle Shooting: Wind

Source: First Hints On Rifle Shooting by A.P. Humphry (William Clowes and Sons, London, 1876)

It is well to begin at once to contract the habit of noticing the direction and strength of the wind, and the indications of them afforded by flags, the smoke from rifles, the rustling of leaves, and other signs. The firer should be on the alert as to these the whole time he is on the range, and experience will teach more about the effect of wind upon the bullet, and the way to judge it, than all the books that could be written. At 600 yards the very gentlest perceptible wind will deflect the Snider bullet one or two feet, and in a gale it may be necessary to aim perhaps 18 feet off the target. The allowance required at 600 yards is quite half as much again as at 500 for the same wind. A wind blowing from the rear aids the bullet in its course, and tends to throw it over the target, while a head wind exercises a retarding, and hence depressing, influence.

As long as the wind remains steady there is no great difficulty in dealing with it, inasmuch as, after the allowance is once ascertained, nothing but steady shooting is required; but, when the wind so constantly changes its force and direction, that a fresh calculation has to be made before firing every shot, then it is that the skill of the rifleman is tested to the utmost, and he must give his whole mind to watching every change, and, if possible, its effects upon the shots of other firers. This watching of the results of other men, though often a source of much assistance, nevertheless requires the greatest discretion; in each case, unless the firer be a known and steady shot, his results are not worth taking into account, because it is impossible to tell how far the causes chiefly affecting them are external to himself. Indeed, in no case is it wise blindly to adapt one's judgment to the results obtained by other firers; such results should only be taken as means of calling the attention to conditions of the wind, which might otherwise have escaped notice, and no change of aim should be made unless the actual reason for it is clearly made out. If the advisability of a change is doubtful, it is better not to make it. During the aim the attention must be sufficiently on the alert against a change of wind, which may at the last moment upset all the most careful calculations. Of course, with all precautions, a misfortune of this kind will sometimes surprise us at the moment of firing; nevertheless, much may be done to prevent it by not taking a longer aim than is absolutely needed, and by firing each shot, as far as possible, at a moment when the wind seems likely to hold firm.

Perhaps the most disappointing days for shooting are those on which the wind has not sufficient strength to lift the flags, but the atmosphere seems nevertheless lazily to swing to and fro. Before the firing, the apparent absence of wind gives every hope of brilliant shooting, but the uncertain manner in which the bullets strike first one side of the target and then the other, and the extreme difficulty of judging the right aim to be taken for each shot, soon induce a feeling of contentment with a very moderate performance.

Some ranges, from the conformation of the ground, or the proximity of trees or buildings, are subject to peculiar currents of wind. These are of course soon learnt by the habituƩ, but such experience is of little use for firing in other places. Undoubtedly it is a great advantage to have learnt to shoot upon a range situated in an open country, where the path of the bullet is neither unduly sheltered from the wind, nor exposed to any local diversion of its force. Knowledge acquired on such a range is useful everywhere, but a person whose practice has been confined to a range of the former sort can only possess a very distorted knowledge of the true effects of wind.

Parker-Hale Rifle Sights

The rifles sights illustrated were sold on the internet auction sight eBay in June 2016 for US$536.00.

The cased set comprises a Goodwin style rearsight with eyepiece and mount, a foresight with spare elements and mount, and a nipple key. The sights would have been used on the popular Volunteer and Whitworth rifles manufactured by Parker-Hale. They were manufactured by the late Rex Holbrook, a prominent member of the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain (MLAGB) for many years.

The following is extracted from An Announcement from Parker-Hale  published in the MLAGB Newsletter No. 4, July 1988.

"The Parker-Hale .451 Volunteer Rifle is now offered in limited production, fitted with Dr. Goodwin’s Orthoptic sights. These authentic reproductions of Dr. Goodwin’s Orthoptic Sight illustrated on page 31 of the Manual of Rifling and Rifle Sights by Lord Bury in 1864 are accompanied by an interchangeable element front sight which follows the original design. The fitting of Dr. Goodwin’s Sights will add around £225 to the retail price of the rifle which will be available to special order through Parker-Hale Dealers."

How many such sight sets were made (and how many so complete survive today)?

Images reproduced courtesy: John Romans