I must confess, that as an old Southern boy, I do get a grin every time I read the story of General Sedgwick and his perfectly timed comments about the abilities of Southern snipers and elephants.
I have had a bit of a Whitworth bug for a while.
Does anyone here own or shoot a Whitworth? How much of a hassle is making your own bullets? What kind of accuracy do you get? What's the longest shot you've connected with? Are the reproduction Whitworths at Dixie Gun Works actually worth the price?
Thanks for any answers.
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August 3, 2003, 11:05 AM
An aquaintance and I were talking about BP shooting and I expressed my desire for a BP rifle. He said I should get a Whitworth. I was unaware they were being made as reproductions. My question was about ammo also and he stated that a swaging die is sold with the rifle so you can run production conicals through it to get the hexegonal bullet required to shoot the Whitworth. As for DGW's rifles I know nothing about them.
August 3, 2003, 11:09 AM
I've got one and use a Romano Bullet mould (Penneville, NY). Methinks my front sight needs to be pushed over as it shoots too far to the left. That & I have to try it at least 200 yards distance.
Mike Weber is the one to ask as he has been shooting his a lot longer than I have mine.
August 3, 2003, 01:47 PM
What part of Arkansas are you in? I've had my Whitworth for over 20 years. I bought one of the early Parker Hale Whitworths. I use the Dyson mold from Dixie Gun Works to cast 575gr Hexagonal bullets. Kind of an expensive mold and tricky to get the hang of using these but I get good results with it. I'm shooting loads with between 70-80 gr of FFg Swiss brand powder. I got lucky when I bought my Whitworth and I got a good one. I've heard mixed revues on the newer Whitworth reproductions. The Southern sharpshooters made a pretty good accounting of themselves with these rifles considering that they didn't have that many of them. I've been shooting my Whitworth in some long range CAS side matches. Competing against shooters who are mostly shooting Sharps, Remington Rolling Block, and Ballard Target rifles with mid and long range tang sites. I've been holding my own against them out to the three hundred yard line. Some of these shooters are using custom built rifles. Mine is an out of the box rifle all I've done to it was stone the trigger a bit to slick it up and I lightened up the trigger pull.
August 3, 2003, 02:45 PM
Thanks for the info, Mike.
I'm in the western part of Arkansas.....just north of Fort Smith.
What kind of groups do you get at 300 yards, and have you ever shot at even longer ranges?
August 3, 2003, 10:52 PM
We are shooting Steel Silhouette targets in these matches with a spotter calling our hits and groupings for us. I'm able to keep my hits into a dinner plate sized area at this range for some reason the groups tyend to really open up beyond the 300 yard mark. This is shooting from a sitting position using shooting sticks to steady the rifle. If I were shooting in an NSSA skirmish event I could probably tighten these groups up shooting from a prone position using a knapsack for a rest. We have a 1000 yard range where my gun club shoots. I've rang steel at 600 yards shooting life sized bear silhouettes with the Whitworth. These are finicky rifles but once that you find the right load for them they will really reach out there. I keep a log book for this rifle and loads. I used to live down. In Fort Smith. Ya'll have some fine squirrel hunting down there. I used to do quite a bit of hunting up around Mountainburg.
August 10, 2003, 08:17 AM
..........Hillbilly,"I have had a bit of a Whitworth bug for a while. "
Me too <VBG>.
"Does anyone here own or shoot a Whitworth? "
I've had one now, 5 or 6 years I guess. Mine is a 2nd Gen version. Unlike the original repros fully made in England, mine has the Parker-Hale hammer forged barrel, but was assembled in Italy.
"How much of a hassle is making your own bullets? "
Naw. Like casting any other big long bullet. Alloy needs to be hot, as does the mould when using close to pure lead. You must have a good flow and a substantial sprue.
"What kind of accuracy do you get?"
My local range is only 200 meters. Accuracy off the bench is 3" for 5 rounds at that distance. I won a BP postal match at 100 yards with 5 rounds going 1.22". For that I used a 400 gr slug over 50grs of Swiss 2F. The normal heavier bullets are still kind of yawing around at only 100 yards, so don't hold as tight. Also the recoil is unnecessary for that short a distance.
"What's the longest shot you've connected with? "
That would be 650 yds.
"Are the reproduction Whitworths at Dixie Gun Works actually worth the price?"
Mine came from Gibbs, so I can't say. Dixie has a tendancy to bend you over sometimes. On the other hand, who else has them? If they are like mine and you wanted one I'd say yes, they are. Mine has a very nice piece of dense mineral streaked straight grained walnut.
Further speaking of mine, the inletting is well done with no big gaps, and the metal is well polished and blued and/or casecolored. The hammer strikes the cone straight. THere are no truly 'Fine' locks made on todays production type percussion rifles. If they set the cap off that's all they want. Now, the lock is sturdy but there were no hands on stuff done.
I double relieved mine, and lightened the hammer and sear springs. The hammer spring would have been more at home under a 59 Studebaker 3/4 ton pickup than driving a hammer around to fire a cap :-). The lock is exactly the same (with the exception of having a fly) as that in my P-H P58 2 band 58 cal Enfield. A true target lock would be a 5 pin, having the trigger hung on it's own trunnion rather than on a bridle screw.
In essence, the Whitworth being sold is a Whitworth barrel in a military stock with military hardware. It's a reasonable copy of a 1861 MILITARY target rifle. Now, after all THAT, as I mentioned, it IS capable of very fine accuracy. What I also did to mine was to bed it and make sure the 3 bands didn't have a strangle hold on the stock and barrel.
Whitworths, even the full on no holds barred match grade half stocked rifles used in England fired many more conical bullets then hexagonal ones. Only for the very finest accuracy at 1000 yards were the full swaged (not cast) hexagonal paper patched bullets required. And probably only then because they were available, unlike now.
When I got my rifle, I also got one of the 2 piece hex swaging setups. Plus a hex wad cutter! Neither is required. COnicals work just fine, as do correct round wads. In the first 9 months I owned the thing I put 1600 rounds of lead downrange. I kept track via empty cap tins. If I could size it hexagonal or conical to .452" it got loaded and fired.
Most of those 1600 rounds were negative learning experiences. What I did wrong told me what to do right. What I have learned is pretty much already well documented historicly as to loads:
1) A bullet of 20-1 weighing between 500 and 550 grs works
2) A powder charge between 70 and 90 grs works.
3) A lube disc over a lubed felt overpowder wad works
4) A well cast, scaled conical slug sized .452" works
5) Lube quality and quantity is very important
I have to forgive myself for trying to re-invent the wheel in the process <VBG>. These smallbore fast twist target rifles operate at high breechpressure (for BP) and do not require a dead soft lead slug. In fact such a bullet can smear in the barrel. But you really don't want them hardened with antimony, rather using tin to do the deed. And since tin is so expensive (and you're shooting so much away each shot) about 20-1 is fine.
Two of the best easily obtainable bullet moulds are the Lyman 457132 Postell at about 525grs and the Saeco #745. This bullet is similar to the Lyman but a bit heavier at 535grs. Another good one, but lighter is the Lyman copy of the old military 500 gr 45-70 bullet, the 457125. I had a custom adjustable cavity cup based nose pour mould done. It dropped a .465" round nosed slug and was to be swaged hexagonal. It does no better than the above commercial bullets and is a PITA to use compared to them.
I don't have a lot of long range experience as no such facilities are close. My most extended shooting was done at a range in Sierra Vista, AZ where my brother lives. They have a wide silhuette bay with hanging steel every 100 yards out to 600 yards. The steel gongs are basicly a foot square, with some like diamonds, or circles. The benches are concrete poured in place but no sandbags. For a rest I had to put my rifle case across my rangebox.
The hanging steel is all intended for scoped rifles. The 600 yard line is a graded ledge on the facing hillside with vegetation above and below. All I could see really was a black speck agains the lighter earth. It was invisible through the floating apurture I had up front so I changed to a blade insert. I finally found the plate on the 4th shot with the ladder up and the elevator on the "6".
By that time, I had several shooters standing around watching this fool with a muzzle loader try to hit this steel plate 600 yards away!! HA! I guess they were used to patched RB Hawken repros. After the sound of the hit floated back (about 3 seconds) there was a colective intake of breath. In all, I fired 26 rounds and connected 18 times. It was very hard for me to get used to how long the faint 'clang' took to be heard.
At the shot, the faint breeze would lift the powder smoke away and I'd think, "Crap, I missed", only to be rewarded with the 'clang' of a hit! Nothing like it! Had the target been more than a mere tiny blur of black I'm sure Id have done much better. As it was I was feeling pretty frisky about myself and had a case of the big head <VBG>.
In addition to the Whitworth, I have a half stocked Rigby style 45 cal ML match rifle. It's a full on sporting rig with a 5 minute elevation range tang rear sight and insert type windage adjustable front sight. I haven't shot it as much, as it REALLY wants paper patched slugs and that is a custom mould deal that's had to wait.
August 10, 2003, 07:28 PM
Thanks for all the good info, Rick.
May 2, 2006, 05:06 AM
Read about the Whitworth for years, sounded interesting, finally found a Parker-Hale. Swaged hex slugs with PP shoot fine, but a lot of work. Tried a Lyman .451 mold, with soft lead , a tablet backer cardboard, and Ox-yoke felt wad they swage to the barrel perfectly! Shoots great with 90-130 grains of FFg or 777. I can keep it on a 10 gong at 300 yards off the bench or crossed sticks. May use it this year during general elk season, Oregon doesn't allow .45 caliber rifles for muzzle-loader hunts. A 45-90 or 45-100, worked fine for years on elk or buffalo, so figure that out. Of course they don't allow sabots or scopes either!
May 5, 2006, 02:11 AM
Go to Yahoo, check "Groups" and put in LRML in your search. Or, better yet, just click this: http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/lrml/ or paste it in your browser. Be warned however, these guys take Long Range Muzzle Loading as serious as any BR shooters, IPSC, etc. They frequently shoot their Whitworth's, Metford's, Gibb's, Alex Henry's and others at ranges of 800, 900 and 1000 yards for score. The group is well worth joining as some of these guys are "old timers" and, no offense intended to anyone, won't be with us forever. The knowledge base on this group is incredible and many of these guys shoot ORIGINAL rifles, not repros.
If you buy a new rifle, your only choices are Italian or custom. The Italians, in order of worthiness for LRML, is as follows (out of the box, any of them could change positions with a custom barrel or lock tuning):
#1. Pedersoli/Gibbs LR Match Rifle, .451 caliber, 18" twist for LONG conicals, half stock. This is essentially a copy of the rifles the Irish Team used against the American Sharps and Remingtons at Creedmore. It has a good barrel, a decent lock (not perfect) and usable target sights (they should be replaced by MVA or similar if you get serious about this). It's pretty much ready to compete out of the box from Dixie for $1200. About the only things you HAVE to do is get good mold and get a replacement nipple lined with platinum. You'll find resources for both of these on the Yahoo board. The reason for the platinum nipple is that you're basically shooting a .45-90 with no cartridge case and the pressure will burn out even a carbide nipple in nothing flat.
#2. A Whitworth copy, .451 caliber, 18" twist, either 2-band or the longer 3-band. You do not have to shoot hex bullets to get the accuracy out of this gun. It's biggest drawback is that it basically has a military Enfield lock with a target hammer and a fly in the tumbler. It's a long way from being a true tuned target lock though. Dixie sells the "Parker Hale" version for $1400 and supposedly they still have english barrels on them, but everything else is Italian. They sell the full Italian version for $925. Honestly, I'd have to see one of each shoot side-by-side to prove the difference to me. $475 would pay for a good barrel and a lot of tuning.
#3. A "Volunteer" Rifle copy, .451 caliber, 20" twist, also either 2-band or 3-band. Uses round bore with Alex Henry rifling. The Volunteer has everything going for it that the Whitworth does without the funky hex bore, but it's 20" twist limits it to about 500 to 600 yard maximum. Dixie lists it for $895. Same lock as the Whitworth, a good walnut stock, cut checkering and a decent shooter out of the box. This would probably be my choice if I couldn't afford a Gibbs right off. The lower initial cost would let me spend money on tuning and find a good mold and load. Later, if I could outshoot the gun, I could put a pretty good Green Mountain or other barrel on it.
Your other alternatives are finding one of the above used (make sure you can shoot if first or return it), or getting the excellent kit that Pecatonica River sells for around $500 to 600 depending on the grade of wood that you select. Make sure you know what you are doing though, this is not your usual Dixie or CVA "skill level 1" kit, Its a box of parts and blueprints.
The last option for a truly "English" target rifle is to do what I did. I managed to trade for a 2-band .58 caliber Enfield in good shape and I already owned a Douglas 1-20" twist .45 barrel. I turned down the barrel on a friend's lathe to fit, had my friend tune the lock a little, and inlet a tang extension to take a long range rear sight. The 20" twist limits my range, but I can't see 1000 yards anyways! I do have fun shooting it against the local BPCR guys when they're practicing, I can ring our 200 yard gong each and every time, and I built it myself, which is cool.
Check out the Yahoo group and have fun! burlesonbill
May 7, 2006, 09:56 AM
I'm really happy to find this discussion on the Whitworth. I'm going to order one in the near future, had about decided on the Euroarms model but I can go ahead and shell out the extra for a Parker Hale if I can be convinced the quality will be 33% better.
If any of you were getting into a Whitworth from scratch like I am going to, what advice would you have for me? I had planned to order a hexagonal mould at the same time I ordered the rifle. It seems from reading above that those aren't absolutely necessary. Should I have one to try out or should I just go with a conical, round bullet mould? My lead pot stays full of pure lead since all of my casting for quite a while has been for muzzle loading stuff. I have alloyed bullet metal available for casting centerfire cartridge bullets. Do I need to empty the pure lead out of my pot and try the alloy out first or not? Does the round bullet need to be softer than the hexagonal one to swage to the bore?
I won't be shooting mine in any competetive way and won't be trying much beyond a 250 yard gong at my gun club. I do plan to use it for hunting and want all the accuracy I can get because you have to thread a bullet through holes in the timber around here sometimes to hit the only vital part the deer is going to show you.
Thanks for any guidance you can give.
May 7, 2006, 04:23 PM
I've personally only fired a hex-bored Whitworth one time, and that was with a round bullet and wad. However, I've been a member of the Yahoo LRML Group for several years now and the opinions on there are pretty firm, and sometimes harsh (like I said, some of these guys are fanatics). Also, these opinions are pretty consistent over the range of original Whitworths, original P-H's, new P-H's or new Italians. And yes, there are actually guys shooting originals on a regular basis
1. If you can find a P-H Whitworth that you KNOW has an English barrel, its worth it.
2. According to the regular Whitworth shooters, the various molds, swages, etc. that Dixie sells for the hex bullet are merde and a waste of money.
3. If you join the Yahoo LRML Group and do a little searching, you'll find references to a man in Europe named Leo Kranen who make a mold that is an engineering marvel. Its a multiple-piece mold that casts a hex bullet with the correct twist that is slick as it can be.
4. The Whitworth "community" is split on whether even this "wonder bullet" is significantly better than just a properly-sized conical with a good wad and a consistent load. Most of these guns shoot very high-pressure loads and the bottom of the bullet "bumps up" or obturates to fill the hex cavity. Recovered bullets have proven this.
5. Whichever gun you decide to buy, use the resources on the LRML Group to get a couple of platinum-lined nipples immediately! Trust me (and every other member of the Group), I tried my regular nipple and literally burned it up after about 8 to 10 shots with 90 grains of tightly-packed powder.
The pursuit of perfection with a ML can be just as addictive as any of the BR or Silhouette games. I accepted my own limitations, my lack of a long enough range nearby, and my lack of funds to travel to the national matches, and decided I'd just be happy with a historically-correct repro that I built (mostly) that could bring home the bacon at 200 to 300 yards.
May 7, 2006, 08:23 PM
Thanks, burlesonbill. I did join at that site but haven't figured out exactly how to navigate it, yet. I will definately get a platinum lined nipple for whatever rifle I wind up with.
May 9, 2006, 05:01 PM
After reading some, I'm wondering if the volunteer target rifle with Alexander Henry rifling might not be a better choice than a Whitworth for my first excursion into the long range match type rifles. The consensus seems to be that rifling system, while not necessarily more accurate than the Whitworth rifling, is more forgiving and a little easier for the beginner to get results with. Forgiveness I'm sure is a virtue I will really appreciate. Also, just looking at them, it appears the two band volunteer rifle has the rear sight farther forward, almost up to the rear barrel band. My aging eyes like rear sights farther away than they used to.
If anyone has any experience with one, I'd appreciate any input. How do you load the bullet? Does it need to be paper patched or does it engrave the rifling as it's rammed in? I've shot patched round balls and minie balls but never have had any experience with the elongated type of bullets these rifles use.
May 9, 2006, 07:43 PM
A Volunteer is exactly what I built Steve. The general consensus is to size your bullet to just UNDER bore size. I started with the Lyman 457121 mold, which was made for this gun years ago (475 gr). Found some already cast and used a friend's Colt die to size them .452, found I had to clean about every three shots with 85 grains of 2F and a Wonder Wad. Finally got a friend on the Yahoo group to send me some sample bullets from a custom spitzer mold sized to .450, much better results, but still a lot of cleaning.
Here's where I am now. Ordered a custom mold from Pioneer Products for a semi-spitzer (Postell-type) that drops out at 500 gr and .450 (+/- a thou), then pan lube them and run them through a Lee sizer in my press to .449 finished size. I also started lubing my wads. The real key was making a drop tube that runs from muzzle to just above where my powder column should be. The drop tube is slightly smaller than bore size and any fouling that it scrapes gets pushed down with the new powder. I also took the factory loading rod and opened up the small slit behind the jag for a wet patch. I use this to seat the greased wad and the bullet and the patch takes care of any additional fouling. I've found that even on a humid Texas day, I can still run about ten shots before I feel the need to run a full patch all the way down the bore. I do use a tang peep sight with a P-H large globe front and find that I can put 5 rounds under a half dollar (center to center ;-)) off a good bench rest if I read the conditions right.
I found out from some BPCS friends of mine that there is a gentleman who has shot at Raton the last couple of years doing almost exactly what I'm doing. They allow him to shoot with the cartridge guns and even with his handicap of slower loading, he usually turns in a very respectable score.
May 10, 2006, 12:06 AM
Thanks again, burlesonbill. I probably will go with the two band volunteer. I may or may not equip it with a tang sight. If I can use the open sights it comes with, it will be less fragile than a tang sight while hunting.
The lubed wads you mentioned, are you making them from felt? I read over on the LRML site that some use a card wad and a lube pill under the bullet, some a lubed felt wad only. Seems there are several ways to try to see what the rifle likes.
May 10, 2006, 12:52 AM
I usually use Wonder Wads and simply wipe a little lube on the bullet side before seating. When I first started I tried everything I'd ever read about; veg fiber wads, cardboard with a grease cookie, even very thin leather that had been boiled in oil (used by British Riflemen in Sharpe's era), dried and punched out. I had varying success with different methods, but Wonder Wads were relatively cheap, worked reasonably well, and since I started wiping a little lube on one side I'm sold. I carry a little lube to the range with me in a metal tin (cap box, Altoids tin, etc.) and just give the wad a quick wipe. I could probably soak them as others have mentioned, but I'm leary of lube poluting the powder charge. I shoot real black GOEX, usually Cartridge Grade or I buy a can of 2f and a can of 3f and mix them in a spark-free environment, earthenware bowl and wooden spoon, then re-package it. It's a close approximation of Cartridge grade at a slightly lower cost.
I think the Volunteer is a great choice for target or hunting, and I also know that all guns are individual in their tastes. I'd gather a few different types of wads and experiment with loads from 75 gr of Swiss or 80 of GOEX and experiment. You can get an assortment of ready-cast and sized bullets from Dave Gullo at Buffalo Arms in Colorado, or from most of the members of the LRML Group. When you find the right load, you'll know it. You'll hear a good sharp crack, get a clean shot off on target and have a relatively clean bore.
By the way, if you want a little history and a great reference tool, find a friend with copies of Gun Digest from 1972 and 1973 or order copies through your local library of pages 22 through 36 from '72 and pages 29 through 42 from '73. These are THE definitive articles by De Witt Bailey on British Small Bore (.451) Target and Volunteer rifles. It was part of a three-part series that he did from about 1971 to 1973 that covered the Whitworths, the large-bore Volunteer rifles, the transition of the Volunteers into .451 Small Bore Volunteers and then to the full-blown Creedmore-style target rifles of Rigby and Gibbs. Several members of the Yahoo LRML Group either own originals of these, have restored originals with new barrels or other parts, or have built replicas like I did. Either the P-H or Euroarms is a good copy and there is lot's of help out there to get you up and shooting. I highly recommend the Gun Digest articles as they even show the accessories that were used with the guns and variations between makers.
May 10, 2006, 02:29 PM
Thanks again, Bill. You have really helped me figure this out. (which rifle to get, I mean. I still sit at the bottom of the learning curve on how it's to be best used) I can't wait to get started. I'm sure I'll have more questions as I go along.
May 10, 2006, 03:32 PM
That's what we're all supposed to be here for Steve. If you have any questions or want to compare notes later, you can always e-mail me offline at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat.
By the way, one of the best gunsmiths that used to do BPCS has switched to LRML and is in your part of the world. Lee Shaver is in, I believe, Icantha, Missouri. Lee could not only help you with getting your lock tuned and with some tips, but he's also a 1st class machinist who makes tang sites for long range rifles and even converts the cheap Italian tang sights into real Soule-style with new bases and adjustment mechanisms. He also makes a really nice set of inserts for the globe front sights. I have two of his tang sights and I've used his inserts both in a Lyman 17A and in my P-H globe fronts. I believe that Lee also either has his own range or access to a range where you can practice at longer ranges. Above all, Lee's a real gentleman of the "old school" and I can't recommend him highly enough.
As you start experimenting with different loads and need supplies, you'll also find Dave Gullo at Buffalo Arms to be a similar gentleman. Dave still actively shoots BPCS, don't know if he personally shoots LRML or not, but he does support us and is always willing to help new shooters out.
May 10, 2006, 03:57 PM
I seem to have highjacked your thread Amigo, and I apologize. You obviously touched on one of my passions and I just couldn't shut up. However, a lot of the advice that I gave Steve applies to your interest in Whitworths as well. I'd also recommend getting copies of the Gun Digest articles by De Witt Bailey to anyone with an interest in the British target rifles, Whitworths, large bore (.577's) or small bore (.451's). I would also highly recommend the Yahoo Group on LRML (Long Range Muzzle Loading) for anyone interested.
The link for the Yahoo Group is http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/lrml/
The articles in Gun Digest are as follows:
The Whitworth Rifle, 1971, pages 94 through 105
British Volunteer Rifles, 1972, pages 22 through 36
British Small-bore Rifles: Part One - The .451 Muzzleloaders, 1973, pages 29 through 42
If you can't find the actual books, you can order copies of the articles through your public library. De Witt had access to many original guns from collections most of us will never see and is able to do side-by-side comparisons on many of the variations. He also shows all of the accessories that were used with the guns including different sights and loading tools. The articles are full of great pictures showing lots of detail. I've cased my Volunteer and am in the process of making/modifying some of the correct accessories to go in the case with it.
They probably won't make me or the gun shoot any better, but I intend leaving this piece to my son and want it to look like a true heirloom. I'm even inletting a maker's silver plate on the buttstock engraved with my name and the date and I've made a "facsimile" of one of the old English maker's certificates to glue in the lid of the case. I'm also still making minor modifications to the gun and it's furniture. I figure about two more years, maybe a little less, and I'll have something to pass on that will rival the originals, but never be confused with one or passed off as a "fake".
Again, my apologies and my thanks. I hope I've helped someone out there.
May 10, 2006, 04:13 PM
Considering that the thread that's been "hijacked" dates from 2003, I don't think apologies are required.
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