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~ Westley Richards Monkey Tails & Guns for Sale

    I have several superfluous Monkey Tails, from Pistols with a 9" barrel, through Clavinas and Carbines to Rifles. I also know of a number for sale elsewhere and take enquiries from potential buyers looking for specific items to fill their collections. For example - the first I wrote up in Black Powder, the magazine of the MLAGB:

Old Soldiers  . . .

   I'm having an identity crisis. I was born one of the 2,000 Westley Richards Monkey Tail Army Rifles of 1864, Number B 893.

 I have no Birmingham Proof Marks, instead I'm stamped on
the barrel, afore the nipple, B/17, I think that's a Viewing Mark because it is repeated on my lock plate inner, my hammer and my sight ladder. I'm also B/70, and I’m fairly sure that's my Proof Stamp because my cousins 4850 and 4858 of 1874 and (B)16786 of 1878 have the same B/17 stamp but no B/70 instead they are Birmingham proofed in the usual manner.

When I was first assembled I was called "/ / /", and that mark is to be found on most of my original parts, the barrel wedge, the trigger blade, the brass trigger guard, my breech screw, & my nails.

    Instead of "/ / /" I've got "3" on my tail's tail, the breech block, the barrel and the shoe.



 FJ inspected my trigger mechanism and oversaw it being fitted.

             Westley Richards didn't sell many rifles after the Army Contract of 1864, I believe they had a few barrels left over that didn't get Army Proofed, just Viewed, and rather than waste them they finished them as and when required and marked them up accordingly. I had Westley Richards Patent on my tail but it's gone now, that's thanks to a file, the thickness above the ramp for the block is a tad reduced, as it is further aft - in comparison to that of a Portuguese Hunter, furthermore my rear rivet is a touch rough to the finger, it may well be that the reduced rivet depth is undesirable in the long run. The other mark I should sport is the 'Whitworth Rifling', that's gone and is replaced ahead of my rear sight by 'C.A. Ansell Bloemfontein'.

             I may have been one of the 1800 which wintered with the Montreal Garrison, Canada in1866 (as explained by David W. Edgecombe in his book Defending The Dominion - Canadian Military Rifles 1855-1955, pages 31 and 159 - does anyone have a copy?).  It was a hard winter, lots of our bayonets got used as toasting forks and have ended up somewhat shorter than they were originally,  and Westley Richards made some funny little pusher tools to help the Canuks insert our cartridges because the grease froze. (Burnt off is also a possible reason why my stock was de-nosed)
We got replaced by Sniders in 1867, stuffed back into Store and according to the papers we got sold off in three tranches, a mixture of Rifles, Carbines and parts, many of the early ones got bought by the Williamson brothers which caused a right ding dong because they cobbled a load of bits together and sold them as 'working' guns to Africa. Westley Richards Arms & Ammunition Co Ltd complained that the Williams brothers were taking the 'Mick' and demanded that they cease reselling guns with Westley Richards markings - by inference trading off the Westley Richards name and reputation, the plea that a stock brand trumped all other markings fell on deaf ears.


           Before I get to the confusing bit I should tell you I'm longitudinally challenged, my only known brother, who lives in Melbourne, is a full 36 inches; and he's properly dressed, lucky chap. I think I got snipped (I've lost my original bayonet lug foresight and got an adjustable block instead). I'm only 28 inches, even shorter than my 33 inch cousins, 'though we all have the same inboard ramped rear sights, 4850s's on backwards and has got a fancy ladder and 4858 duplicates the ramp's 300 & 400 on his ladder.


         Westley Richards connived in my make-over. They must have sold Hollis one of their redundant Army locks because mine is the standard T. Rigby with B/17 on both the lock plate inner and the hammer but has T. HOLLIS & SONS forward of the hammer and their logo aft. I say “T”. Hollis because the “I” for Isaac has no seraphs at its base but the “I” in H
ollis does. I'm not a Hollis watcher but I doubt that the transformation can be dated from the lock markings although some reference books say  “& Sons” became “& Son” in '78. Barry Berkovich had C.A. Ansell as 1875 but from the number of top quality patch box lids I've seen I suspect he was more than a flash in the pan. My make-over batch number is "X l ",
as found on my lock plate lower leading edge,
trigger plate, trigger guard (have you noticed how nicely they filled my sling swivel's hole?), stock - in the trigger guard rebate and wedge.


    Now we get to the confusing bit (apart from a few spurious markings like the " . . . . " on my block and the thick "l l" on my nails - I suspect Westley Richards were scraping the barrel and recycled some previously allocated parts). I've also been called "X l l" on both my barrel and my stock's barrel rebate -

and that really is the puzzle unless Hollis contracted out the barrel work, the fitting of an under rib, stock shortening, fitting the German Silver nose cap, brass ramrod pipe, foresight and the shortening and reprofiling of the ramrod, which incidentally was then stamped C G. (Cooper & Goodman?).


   The confusing bit, yes, what is the

TP at the side of my serial number?

Then there was: 126, sorry you missed out on this one, she's gone
Who was originally issued to the King's Regiment'

Staying with the Portuguese Contract there is Clavina PC786.

 These delightful little pieces are rare, I only know of 3 dozen survivors of the original 2,000 - so a very rare gun indeed. There are still a few roaming around in the States that Bannerman sold in 1907 for $10. Those that I've seen seem to be in far better condition than the ones that were crated up and returned from Mosambique for repair.
786 is one of the latter.
    From an historical perspective she prooved how Monkey Tails were made in 1865 - very much still by hand. Her fault, a crack in the lock plate above and from the tumbler hole, was occasioned by the stock maker cutting too high an angle on the lock surround so that when the lock was fitted and drilled - and tapped (each lock has it's own angle and positioning of nail entry) - and over tightened, it fractured. She has seen considerable service - but is an honest gun, cracked, as so many are, in the left cheek, and  with her history plain to be revered - £1650.

Continuing in increasing barrel length to the Hunter, P 2135, another one with a cracked cheek, and also missing his rod but one of

 the few that didn't get turned into stair rods for the Officer's Mess in Lisbon, Bannerman had some in 1903 for $4.35. In the Register I have 40 left of the original 8,000  - so not quite as rare as the Clavina - now £1450.

  For £2000 I might be persuaded to part with my Central Fire 25" Carbine

I would want a rifle in my collection and this is a rare 36" barrelled of 1861; whale nipple bolster, detented lock, three screw bridle supporting the trigger scear, with hammer lock & a very well preserved stock, chequered fore & aft. Currently in Nottingham - £1800. About 650 were made in 1860 & '61, mainly for target shooting and were sufficiently treasured that some 10% have survived. Ones as good as this rarely turn up for sale .

From the same collection a 25" Carbine in Australian half band fashion is also looking for a home, in my opinion undervalued at £850, even with a replaced rod. Most of these were hard used by the volunteers and few have survived unscathed. This one lacks unit identity, and with a lock date of 1863 may be late unissued or a civilian.

Continuing on the Westley Richards theme I have a spare Martini made for ZAR, one of those superb shooting nine groove rifles, they are strong and dark from a century of sleep and New South Wales Police Department, Australia Alex Henry.

Calling Charles Reeves Revolver, 3rd Patent, No. 1623 of 1858
Gun numbered 17.
I'm a lost arbour and rammer lever looking for the rest of my gun.