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Thorneycroft: A Victorian Bullpup Rifle with Volley Sights

The Thorneycroft was the first military bullpup rifle, developed in the United Kingdom in response to combat experiences in the second Boer War showing the British infantry rifles to be overly long and cumbersome. Scotsman James Baird Thorneycroft figured he could address this by moving the action and magazine of a rifle behind the trigger, thus shortening the overall length without reducing the barrel length – the bullpup concept. He was able to produce a series of prototype rifles using this concept beginning in 1901, which were tested by the British military. Thorneycroft’s rifle was chambered for the standard .303 British cartridge, with a 5-round magazine (no provision for charger clip use), and had a nice aperture rear sight and cock-on-open two lug bolt. While it was about 10% lighter than the standard long Lee rifle and about 7.5 inches shorter, the British military turned down his idea, instead adopting a universal short rifle for the cavalry and infantry both to use.

Armament Research Services (ARES) is a specialist technical intelligence consultancy, offering expertise and analysis to a range of government and non-government entities in the arms and munitions field. For detailed photos of this Thorneycroft, don’t miss the ARES companion blog post:

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