Gunmakers | The Queen's Prize19th Century RiflemenRifle Volunteers


Historical information on gunmakers; primarily those associated with long range target rifles

England George Gibbs | William Soper | Joseph Whitworth
Ireland John Rigby
Scotland Daniel Fraser | Alexander Henry
USA Homer Fisher | Charles Overbaugh

George Gibbs, Bristol, England

Manufacturer of the muzzle loading Gibbs-Metford rifle and the breech loading Gibbs-Farquharson-Metford rifle. See also: W.E. Metford

William Soper, Reading, England

Manufacturer of a single shot breech loading rifle, renowned for its rapidity of fire.
  • The Soper Rifle - Sent for trial at Woolwich, the rifle and was rejected on the ground of "complication of breech arrangement." [1867]
  • Breech-loaders V. Muzzle-loaders - Report of comparative firing of the Enfield muzzle loader and the Soper breech loader [1869]
  • The Soper Rifle Factory - In Liquidation - News report from 1881 dealing with the sale of the Soper Rifle Factory

Joseph Whitworth, Manchester, England

Approached in 1854 by Lord Hardinge to investigate 'the mechanical principles applicable in the construction of an efficient weapon,' Whitworth's experiments revolutionised rifle design.

John Rigby, Dublin, Ireland

Rigby muzzle loading and later breech loading long range match rifles were famously used by Ireland in international shooting competitions against America.

Daniel Fraser, Edinburgh, Scotland

D. & J. Fraser manufactured a falling block breech loading rifle for Match and Military Breech Loader competition.

Alexander Henry, Edinburgh, Scotland

Alexander Henry (1818-1894) was an Edinburgh gunmaker of muzzle and breech loading rifles including the Henry Fraser two position rifle. Henry's rifling was famously used on the Martini-Henry rifle, adopted by the British Army.
  • The Henry Rifle - A. Henry's "entirely new principle in rifling fire-arms" [1861]
  • The Henry Rifle - Description of the Henry muzzle loading rifle [1862]
  • Obituary: Alexander Henry - A selection of obituary notices following the death of Alexander Henry on 27 January 1894
  • Muzzle Loading Rifles
  • Henry-Fraser Two Position RifleA.Henry & D.Fraser: Improvement in Fire-Arm. United States Patent Office. Specification forming part of Letters Patent No. 201,524, dated 19 March 1878. (nb. the British Patent was applied for on 21 April 1877 and granted on 6 July 1877, under Patent No. 1559). Muzzle and breech loading versions of this rifle are known.

Homer Fisher, New York, USA

New York dealer who sold Fisher's Muzzle-Loading Long Range Match Rifle and other American breech loading match rifles. Fisher was a member of both the Amateur and Empire Rifle Clubs of New York and the US Team to Ireland in 1880.

Charles E. Overbaugh, New York, USA

Charles E. Overbaugh has been reported as at one time Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company's chief travelling salesman and exhibition shooter. He was instrumental in the design of Sharps Model 1877 Long Range Rifle. In 1878 he established his own business, C. E. Overbaugh & Co. Manufacturers and Dealers in Guns, Rifles, and Sporting Goods.

Gunmakers | The Queen's Prize19th Century RiflemenRifle Volunteers

The Queen's Prize

The National Rifle Association: history and progress

NRA Annual Rifle Meeting

The NRA held their first rifle meeting on Wimbledon common in 1860 and with royal patronage and the daily papers and weekly-illustrated journals reporting widely on events, the 'Wimbledon fortnight' was marked for success.

The Queen's Prize

Queen Victoria fired the inaugural shot at the first NRA rifle meeting on 2 July 1860. The Queen further offered encouragement by founding an annual prize that Volunteers competed for.


  • The 2000 yard Competitions - In 1865 the NRA instigated the first of two competitions held at the extreme range of 2000 yards. The rifle designed by William Metford and manufactured by George Gibbs was the only successful one.

Rifles & Marksmanship

For further information on target rifles and target shooting history see: Rifles & Marksmanship

Gunmakers | The Queen's Prize19th Century RiflemenRifle Volunteers

19th Century Riflemen

Pioneers of the sport of target rifle shooting


The Riflemen Index covers countries listed below, and includes brief information about those featured. Where more extensive biographic detail is available, follow the linked names; alternatively browse via the biography label.

Canada | England | Guernsey | Ireland | Scotland | USA | Wales


The men who pioneered the sport of target rifle shooting from the muzzle loading and into the black powder breech loading era.

Special Collections

Sir H. Halford (1828-1897)

"The country owes to him the debt which is due to a man who made the science of rifles, as well as the practice of rifle-shooting, the main pursuit of his life, who without thought of pecuniary advantage, laboured without ceasing to discover all that could be discovered about the infantry weapon and to bring that weapon to a state of perfection." The Times, 5 January 1897

The painting to the right is oil on canvas, by John Collier in 1896.

W.E. Metford (1824-1899)

G.T. Teasdale-Bucknell in his book "Experts on Guns & Shooting" (1900) referred to William Metford as the 'father of the match rifle' and 'the father of modern rifle-boring.'

William Metford worked closely with the Bristol gunmaker George Gibbs, the manufacturer of the Gibbs-Metford muzzle loading match rifle and the later Farquarson-Metford breech loading rifle.

The photograph to the right is from 1878.
  • The 2000 yard Competitions - In 1865 the NRA instigated the first of two competitions held at the extreme range of 2000 yards. The rifle designed by William Metford and manufactured by George Gibbs was the only successful one.
  • Metford & Bullet Alloys - W.E. Metford's correspondence with Sir H. Halford provide a fascinating insight into the experimentation conducted by these gentlemen in the pursuit of accuracy.
  • Obituary: William Ellis Metford - (Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 140, 1900, UK)
  • Memoir of William Ellis Metford - This Memoir was privately printed in May, 1900. It was written by H. Brunel, C.E. and Major the Hon. T.F. Fremantle
  • Bibliography - Documents within the Research Press archive

Gunmakers | The Queen's Prize19th Century RiflemenRifle Volunteers

Rifle Volunteers

Volunteer Infantry, 1859-1908

Rifle Volunteers

  • The British Volunteer System - Written by Rt. Hon. Earl Brownlow, this article gives a brief history of the Volunteer Movement from its establishment to 1900.
  • War Office, Pall Mall, May 12, 1859 - On 12 May 1859 the Government issued a circular sanctioning the formation of Volunteer Corps.
  • County Precedence - Following the sanctioning by the Government of the formation of Volunteer Corps, on 12 May 1859, there was an immediate rush of volunteering. The date on which the first company in a county was formed determined County precedence.
  • Territorial Regiments - In 1881 the British Army was reorganised into territorial regiments with regular, militia and volunteer battalions.