A Look at the Whitworth rifle

by Fred Ray on January 25, 2016 · 0 comments

The Whitworth rifle, used by Confederate sharpshooters during the Late Unpleasantness, has acquired an almost mythic status and a matching price tag. American Rifleman takes a look at current specimen in private hands.

Whitworths were prized sharpshooter arms during the Civil War, some numbers of them being run through the blockade by the rebels and selectively issued. The most common Confederate guns were marked “2nd QUALITY.” This did not mean they were inferior to other Whitworths, but that they had simpler sights, were less complex and employed Enfield-pattern locks without external slide-on safeties. They featured 33″ barrels and checkered fore-ends and wrists. Other styles with Davidson scopes were also occasionally seen in the southern ranks.

Whitworth Rifle

Not all Confederate sharpshooter rifles were Whitworths. They also used an unknown number of English match/target rifles such as the Turner, Beasely, Kerr, and some others. In fact it’s an exercise in frustration trying to sort out what they did use, because many of these rifles are simply identified as “globe-sighted rifles” and such. Although some accounts make it sound like every sharpshooter had one, the numbers were very small because they were so expensive. The best guess is that about 250 Whitworths were imported for Confederate use, and some of these may have been made by other manufacturers, several of whom licensed Whitworth’s rifling system.

Whatever the cost, it was repaid many times over with the damage they did.

My only quibble with the article is that I think they undervalued this rifle. If anyone sees a real Whitworth like this that’s going for $6500, please let me know!


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