AIR­GUN COL­LEC­TION

Lin­coln Jef­fries/BSA Ladies and Light Mod­els by John Atkins

Air Gunner - - Contents - Ad­di­tional Pho­tos cour­tesy of Ch­ester Purl­lant and Mick Watts

This month, John Atkins finds some­thing light for the ladies

Spring-pis­ton op­er­ated air­guns were adopted by both shoot­ing gal­leries and in­di­vid­ual shoot­ers who quickly formed clubs for com­pet­i­tive tar­get shoot­ing in pub­lic houses dur­ing the 1890s, where the mem­bers of spon­sored shoot­ing teams shot air­guns at pa­per tar­gets or bell tar­gets. Dis­tance was stan­dard­ised at not less than 18 feet as a rule, nor more than 24 feet from the face of the tar­get. Clubs shot matches against one an­other and leagues of clubs were formed. The first clubs were in South Africa, Guernsey and Bri­tain and by the com­mence­ment of the First World War the sport had grown very large, and over 4,000 air ri­fle clubs and as­so­ci­a­tions ex­isted across Great Bri­tain, many of them in Birm­ing­ham.

En­ter­pris­ing gun­smith ge­nius, Ge­orge Lin­coln Jef­fries, re­alised the po­ten­tial and worked hard to de­sign and patent his new in­ven­tion of a fixed-bar­rel, all-in-line, air ri­fle to take the sport for­ward with a pre­ci­sion lack­ing in the im­ported Ger­man mod­els he had pre­vi­ously im­proved and sold. The Oc­to­ber 1905 is­sue of Arms & Ex­plo­sives jour­nal, saw his new air ri­fle produced ini­tially both by him­self and BSA be­ing ac­claimed - prais­ing Lin­coln Jef­fries for his first-class prod­uct. The next month’s is­sue in­formed how Lin­coln Jef­fries had, in ad­di­tion to his Or­di­nary Pat­tern, in­tro­duced a Ladies Model, which was four inches shorter and 1lb. 3oz. lighter. ‘ It is of BSA man­u­fac­ture and one of the neat­est air­guns we have ever han­dled,’ said Arms & Ex­plo­sives.

Slightly slower off the mark in an­nounc­ing the new BSA Or­di­nary Pat­tern was The Sport­ing Good Re­view. Their Novem­ber 1905 is­sue com­men­tated on the re­mark­able progress in Bri­tish air­gun man­u­fac­ture, thanks mainly (thinks TSGR) to the Lane’s ‘ Mus­ke­teer’ break­through. It in­cluded il­lus­trated re­views of the new BSA un­der­lever; the Mil­lita Club and the No. 3 bore (.250” cal­i­bre) Cox Bri­tan­nia from C. G. Bone­hill. It was also stated that the Cana­dian agent in Birm­ing­ham, a Mr. Ball, was re­port­edly very keen on the Bri­tan­nia air ri­fle, which he shoots on his own 47-yard gar­den range. ‘Oth­ers in the Birm­ing­ham area are fol­low­ing suit, in­clud­ing ladies’.

It seems that in late 1905, both Lin­coln Jef­fries/BSA and Bone­hill were keen on link­ing use of their air­guns to fe­males, see­ing the op­por­tu­nity of

sell­ing air ri­fles of man­age­able weight and length for the use of lady shoot­ers; although, frankly, the Bri­tan­nia ri­fle, whilst por­ta­ble and short was too heavy for many. More­over, the Ladies or Light Model LJ/BSA met the re­quire­ments of youths, lads’ brigades, schools etc., and like the Or­di­nary Pat­tern, could be sup­plied with ei­ther straight-hand or pis­tol-hand stocks.

LIN­COLN AIR RI­FLE TRAINER

Seen rest­ing against a cob­nut tree in the small wood in my gar­den in Fig­ure 1 is a Lin­coln ex­am­ple with cylin­der stamp­ings: ‘ H. The Lin­coln Air Ri­fle’ Patent. 8761/04’, adapted for train­ing use with ramp fore­sight, Ter­ri­to­rial Ri­fle back­sight (shown raised) and ser­vice ri­fle butt. Se­rial no. 10439, it’s of Stan­dard size pat­tern and from the fifth batch of Lin­colns made in May 1908.

The Ter­ri­to­rial rear­sight c.1911 fit­ted to the Lin­coln air ri­fle is de­tailed in Fig­ure 2, shown folded down. With usual ter­ri­to­rial ‘ U’-shape sight­ing notch and plat­inum in­laid cen­tre line, the slide has been pro­fes­sion­ally re­duced for air ri­fle range use. The left-hand milled head is ro­tated to trans­verse the wind- gauge slide, whilst the right-hand head locks the slide at any el­e­va­tion on the leaf.

I was de­lighted when my ri­fle’s pho­to­graph ap­peared fea­tur­ing in BSA ex­pert John Knibbs’ ad­ver­tis­ing long ago, lead­ing col­lec­tors to ask me what it was. I didn’t re­ally know. I bought it lo­cally from a news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ment in the mid-1970s so I can only guess that it served in some Cadet or Vol­un­teer Corps, lad’s bri­gade or school. The ramp and other parts all dis­play the same amount of pati­na­tion and cor­ro­sion as the rest of the ri­fle, sug­gest­ing a very old con­ver­sion, prob­a­bly pre-Great War. The filled area in the Ser­vice ri­fle

stock shown in Fig­ure 3

in­di­cates that a very tall rear­sight for long-range, back po­si­tion matchshoot­ing might have been once fit­ted there, so it clearly didn’t start life on the Lin­coln air ri­fle. A piece of tim­ber has been let in neatly, semi­dove­tailed at the front and pegged, but dowel rod re­pairs will al­ways be vis­i­ble due to the end grain tak­ing in more stain or dirt than sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Dow­els should be sunk be­low the sur­face with a suit­able size punch while the glue is wet, and later filled with spackle, coloured with suit­able pig­ment, and af­ter abrad­ing, fur­ther dis­guised by paint­ing in to match sur­round­ing grain, with a tiny brush and acrylic paint be­fore pol­ish­ing. Sup­ported filler as this, will usu­ally stay level with the sur­face and not sink. If you have a hun­dred lit­tle wood­worm holes to fill with cock­tail sticks and matches by this pro­fes­sional method, it’s not a job for an im­pa­tient man! The top Lin­coln in Fig­ure 4 is fit­ted with the 1906 ad­justable breech plug and marked ‘ L. THE LIN­COLN” AIR RI­FLE PATENT.’ Yet, the other is marked: ‘ H THE LIN­COLN AIR RI­FLE. PATENT. 8761/04’, which fur­ther dis­proves the the­ory that ‘ H’, could stand for ‘ Heavy’ Model be­cause both are 39” long Light mod­els that once resided in Ch­ester Purl­lant’s col­lec­tion. I’m in­debted to fel­low col­lec­tor, Mick Watts, for the fac­sim­ile pho­to­graph of an old-time shooter – pos­si­bly an Amer­i­can – and all his tro­phies won with his beloved BSA. See Fig­ure 5. Mick knows nothing fur­ther about this man, but he was clearly a very pro­fi­cient match shooter. This image, plus an­other orig­i­nal photo that I hope to fea­ture later, were both pur­chased from the USA a few years ago by Mick, on the In­ter­net. We don’t know if the man is large or small in build, to give clues to the scale and pro­por­tion of his ri­fle in re­la­tion to him, but the cylin­der ap­pears too short for a Stan­dard Pat­tern, so it could be an early Lin­coln Jef­fries Ladies Model be­cause the pis­tol grip seems to ex­tend fur­ther down­ward than later mod­els. Mick agrees it’s of Light or Medium Weight Pat­tern, and spot­ted that it’s fit­ted with a neat aper­ture sight folded down into the trig­ger block, rather than the wood­work. Whilst col­lec­tors of­ten seek the Gi­ant and Boy’s model size BSA un­der­levers, I don’t ever re­call any­one specif­i­cally re­quest­ing the Ladies/Light mod­els in ad­ver­tise­ments, but they are great shoot­ers and also use­ful for men of ad­vanc­ing years - like me! For pro­longed tar­get ses­sions, I seem to reach more for my Light Pat­terns than my heav­ier Stan­dard or Gi­ant size BSAs nowadays.

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL COM­PE­TI­TION

Mick Watts also kindly sup­plied pho­tos of this 1909 In­ter­na­tional Air Ri­fle Com­pe­ti­tion medal, bronze with pan­els, etc. nicely picked out in white and coloured enam­els to high­light let­ter­ing and coats of arms seen in Fig­ure 6. I’ve searched through the sport­ing mag­a­zines for 1909, to dis­cover in The Sport­ing Goods Re­view Oc­to­ber 1909 there’s an en­try: ‘Air ri­fle shoot­ing said to be in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in South Africa. The larger mod­els are pop­u­lar for ‘game shoot­ing’. NARA (Na­tional Air Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion) has helped or­gan­ise a postal shoot against South African clubs. Bri­tain won.’

It’s in­ter­est­ing that it was a postal shoot, but the cost of bring­ing a team over would have been a slow and ex­pen­sive busi­ness in those days. Of course, TSGR couldn’t

re­sist adding, ‘ Bri­tain won’ in their typ­i­cal jin­go­is­tic way – the magazine hav­ing an al­most fa­natic, over-the-top ex­treme pa­tri­o­tism, believing we were the best and all oth­ers were in­fe­rior … as most did in those days! (Lit­tle won­der many other coun­tries still re­sent this at­ti­tude).

The re­verse of the United King­dom v. South Africa medal shown as Fig­ure 7 proves com­peti­tor H. Ash­ton must have been a prodi­gious shot, scor­ing 96 out of 100. From a ‘ South African Brother’ is a friendly mes­sage. High­light­ing the let­ter­ing of the back with a blue ground is a nice touch too. Let’s now move from South Africa across to West Africa.

EX­ACTLY ONE CEN­TURY AGO

The tech­ni­cal and trade jour­nal Arms and Ex­plo­sives in­cluded a vast amount of air­gun in­ter­est dur­ing its many years of pub­li­ca­tion from Oc­to­ber 1892 un­til De­cem­ber 1920 when it was dis­con­tin­ued. It was rarely hu­mor­ous, but ex­actly 100 years ago, in the De­cem­ber 1917 is­sue, it was re­ported that BSA had re­ceived a let­ter from the Gold Coast, West Africa (now Ghana) ad­dressed to: ‘ The BSA Air Ri­fle, Im­proved Model D, The Birm­ing­ham Small Arms Co. Eng­land, The Sole Man­u­fac­turer’….

Clearly, the sen­der had re­li­giously copied, word for word, the cylin­der markings found on his BSA Im­proved Model D, rather than es­tab­lish the cor­rect ad­dress at Ar­moury Road at that time. But the ex­cel­lent postal ser­vice made sure that his let­ter safely reached BSA 100 years ago. Fig­ure 8 at­tempts to pick up the cylin­der markings on BSA ‘ Im­proved Model D’, .22 Stan­dard Heavy Weight Sport­ing Pat­tern se­rial num­ber 40238 made in 1911. De­pend­ing on which part of the coun­try you come from, these long cylin­der 45½-inch BSA mod­els were col­lo­qui­ally known as ‘ Long Toms’, ‘ King Dicks’ or ‘Gi­ants’ in the past.

The to­tal length of the Or­di­nary Pat­tern with the usual 14¼-inch butt was about 43¾ inches, whereas the Ladies/Light Pat­tern with the nor­mally sup­plied 13¼-inch stock was 39¼ inches. The 19¼-inch bar­rel of the Or­di­nary model was re­duced to 17 inches for the Ladies/Light Pat­tern, whilst the cylin­der length was also re­duced from 8½ inches to just over 7 inches with as­so­ci­ated com­po­nents also re­duced ac­cord­ingly. Oddly, the ‘ef­fec­tive range’ of both was given as up to 50 yards ini­tially. Cost for ei­ther Or­di­nary or Light Pat­tern was the same 50/- (£ 2.50) for pis­tol-hand stock and 45/- (£ 2.25) for straight-hand.

This meant fe­male shoot­ers ( Fig­ure 9) could han­dle the Ladies/Light mod­els far better than the Or­di­nary Pat­tern ri­fles be­cause the cen­tre of grav­ity for­ward of the trig­ger was only four inches, rather than six and a half inches, due to its re­duced length. For size com­par­i­son, on the left of Fig­ure

10, is a BSA Im­proved Model D Stan­dard Pat­tern se­rial no. S68827 (1914) with six Light Pat­tern ri­fles along­side: se­rial nos. 54878 (May 1912); 58764 (June / Nov. 1912 when only one Light Pat­tern was ap­par­ently is­sued); L27021 (c.1926); L32583 with peep sight raised (1927/8); L33441 (1928) and A1767 (1937).

The prac­tice of photo- etch­ing cylin­ders started in mid-1914 and con­tin­ued af­ter World War 1.

Fig­ure 11 shows cylin­der etch­ing sur­viv­ing sur­pris­ingly well since c.1928 on my BSA Light Model L33441. The markings are fugi­tive and eas­ily lost due to han­dling and lack of care to pre­serve them. I use mi­cro­crys­talline wax on cylin­ders of the few air pis­tols and ri­fles I have with the sur­viv­ing elec­trolytic writ­ing.

GAMAGES GUN DE­PART­MENT

I al­ways wanted to visit Gamages De­part­ment Store in cen­tral London as a boy at Christ­mas time but never did and it’s all too late now they are closed! Thanks to David & Charles (Hold­ings) Ltd. for per­mis­sion to re­pro­duce Gamages and Benetfinks stores’ ad­ver­tise­ment from ‘Gamages Christ­mas Bazaar Cat­a­logue 1913 with some pages from the 1911 Gen­eral Cat­a­logue’ as Fig­ure 12. All the non-mil­i­tary pat­tern BSAs il­lus­trated with bay­o­net, or im­proved bay­o­net- end un­der­levers, are printed from old blocks be­ing utilised, be­cause by this time they should be fit­ted with side-but­ton re­lease ends as seen on the Mil­i­tary Pat­tern Long shown here. The Stan­dard Pat­tern metal block is clearly frac­tured mid- cylin­der, prob­a­bly due to print­ing process pres­sures.

Un­for­tu­nately, the David & Charles re­print does not spec­ify if the rel­e­vant page comes orig­i­nally from the 1911 or 1913 cat­a­logues, and there are in­suf­fi­cient clues in the ad­ver­tise­ment for me to me able to say which. How­ever, I sus­pect that any­one send­ing for a box of ‘Ad­der’ brand pel­lets, would have re­ceived a ‘ BSA’ marked box by ei­ther of those dates. Sup­pli­ers of the A.W.G. (A.W. Ga­m­age) branded .177 Slugs would most likely have been Lane’s of London.

Pre­sum­ably, one of the two stores had at least one or two Short Mil­i­tary Pat­tern mod­els avail­able for sale, or it would be point­less ad­ver­tis­ing it be­cause there is no ‘Avail­able only to Spe­cial Order’ men­tion here de­signed to so­licit suf­fi­cient or­ders from cus­tomers to ‘ test the wa­ters’ for BSA to sup­ply them. At a mas­sive £ 6 against £ 4 for the Long Pat­tern, the num­ber of tak­ers would have been very limited in­deed. There

was then still a cer­tain amount of ini­tial hos­til­ity to­ward the ‘ Short’ ser­vice firearm that the air ri­fle was meant to sim­u­late, un­til it later proved it­self be­yond doubt dur­ing two world wars, re­main­ing in ser­vice for over 50 years.

The ar­rival of the bolt-action SMLE ( No. 1) Short, Magazine, Lee Enfield .303 in 1902/3 wasn’t an in­stantly pop­u­lar one with all used to the longer 1895 mod­els, and there was some dam­ag­ing crit­i­cism. The lack of en­thu­si­asm was par­tic­u­larly voiced among Bis­ley ex­perts tri­alling and test­ing it in 1903/4 as a marks­man’s ri­fle, or as a sport­ing ri­fle, and who seemed to for­get the ser­vice ri­fle was in­tended for use in war­fare and not ex­clu­sively for them, and the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the troops had lit­tle skill as long-range marks­men! Read­ing some of these old reports, I’m dumb­founded by their ar­ro­gance; the ri­fle should have been re­garded not as a tar­get ri­fle, but as a weapon for the ar­ma­ment of troops.

In May 1909 it was an­nounced in The Sport­ing Goods Re­view that BSA were in­tro­duc­ing a new air ri­fle in .22 cal­i­bre – for the first time. The magazine said it would be ‘suit­able for shoot­ing small birds, etc. Sure to be pop­u­lar’. In the Jan­uary, 1910 is­sue, it was re­ported that BSA were putting a new air ri­fle on the mar­ket, the ‘Ju­nior’, de­scribed as be­ing ideal for 10-15 year old boys. ‘ It has a 11¼-inch stock and weighs 5¼ lbs., ¼ lb. less than the nor­mal pat­tern’. By this, I think they meant the Light Pat­tern.

A BSA Ju­nior Pat­tern Im­proved Mod. D at only 34 inches long, se­rial no. 30242 dat­ing from 1910 is shown top of Fig­ure 13 above two BSA Light Pat­tern Im­proved Mod. D 39¼ inches long, s. nos. 54878 and 58764, both 1912. Later, in­ter-wars Light mod­els ap­pear­ing 4th and 5th ri­fles down are: BSA No. 1 Light Pat­tern No.1 s. no. L27021 c.1926 and ‘A’ Se­ries s. no. A1767 1937.

Lin­coln Jef­fries’ ‘ Im­proved Bis­ley Model’ air pis­tol and ‘ Match’ Pel­lets are shown in Fig­ure

14, along­side an un­used sur­viv­ing Im­proved BSA Air Ri­fle 10m tar­get card dated 24-11-09 in lower left cor­ner. Judg­ing by word­ing on this card – found in the card­board box of a blued West­ley Richards’ ‘ High­est Pos­si­ble’ air pis­tol I have – the .25 bore BSA Im­proved Model D had been mainly dis­con­tin­ued be­cause only .177 and .22 ri­fles and suit­able Ad­der Pel­lets to fit are now men­tioned.

SOURCES: ‘Arms and Ex­plo­sives’ and ‘ The Sport­ing Goods Re­view’ - is­sue dates as men­tioned in text; ‘ Lin­coln Jef­fries & BSA Air Ri­fles’ 2012 by John Knibbs, ‘ The Golden Cen­tury’ His­tory of the Com­mer­cial Gun Pro­duc­tion of BSA by John Knibbs 2002.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: My thanks to Mick Watts and Ch­ester Purl­lant for pho­to­graphs; to John Knibbs for his in­valu­able BSA his­tory books and to David & Charles (Hold­ings) Ltd.

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