The Whitworth rifle takes its name from its inventor, the British engineer Joseph Whitworth, who designed and patented it in 1854.
The key feature of this muzzle-loading rifle was its polygonal-rifled barrel, a concept that Whitworth was the first to pioneer.
Joseph Whitworth wanted to improve the intrinsic accuracy of long-range ordinance weapons. He offered his rifle to the British army to replace the Pattern 1853 Enfield, whose long-range shooting limitations had come to the fore during the Crimean War.
In 1857, Sir Joseph Whitworth, who had just founded the “Whitworth Rifle Company”, organized a trial for the British army, demonstrating the superiority of his .451-caliber rifle by hitting a target from an impressive distance of 2,000 yards (1,828 meters).
Despite being impressed by the weapon's performance, the army inspectors ultimately rejected the rifle when they found out that it cost four times more than the Enfield.
Furthermore, although its polygonal barrel offered unrivalled precision, it was also prone to fouling due to the accumulation of dregs and gunshot residue, and was deemed to be unsuitable for military use.
History of the Whitworth rifle
Whitworth did not lose heart and concentrated his efforts abroad. While some of his rifles were sold to the French army, most made their way across the Atlantic where the American Civil War was raging, to equip the Confederate Army.
The accuracy of this British-made rifle in the hands of the “Whitworth sharpshooters” became legendary, with the whistling noise of the incoming hexagonal bullets spreading fear among the Unionists.
The Confederate snipers used the Whitworth to decimate enemy shooters and officers.
The case of Union General John Sedgwick is legendary. At the Battle of Spotsylvania, he was reprimanding his soldiers for throwing themselves to the ground at the sound of an incoming Whitworth bullet when he was shot dead by a Whitworth bullet to the head. His last words are reported to have been: “I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!”
Another event that confirmed the extraordinary accuracy of this rifle involved none other than Queen Victoria herself. In 1860, the British monarch opened the first meeting of the National Rifle Association in Wimbledon by firing the first shot from a Whitworth rifle on a machine rest. She hit the target at 400 yards, just 5 millimeters below the bull's-eye.
The Whitworth rifle by Davide Pedersoli
Davide Pedersoli & C. took up the challenge to replicate this extraordinary rifle. The result is the Pedersoli Whitworth, with a 36-inch (914-mm) cold-hammer forged polygonal barrel with hexagonal rifling.
The rifle is 1,295 millimeters long and weighs 4.3 kilograms.
It comes with a tangent sight as standard but can also be fitted with the Pedersoli long-distance diopter sight.
The rifle takes special hexagonal bullets that can be made using the customized bullet mold available from Davide Pedersoli & C. The 100% lead bullet weighs 550 grains (36 grams) and requires hexagonal wads made of special fiber.
The price of the Pedersoli Whitworth is approximately € 1,700.
The video shows the Pedersoli Whitworth being tested at the “Valle Duppo” firing range in Lodrino, in the province of Brescia (Italy).