Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3128: Civil War Era Whitworth 'Best' Marked Percussion Rifle

Auction Date: September 12, 2014

Civil War Era Whitworth "Best" Marked Percussion Rifle

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $6,500 - $9,500

Civil War Era Whitworth "Best" Marked Percussion Rifle

Manufacturer: Whitworth
Model: Percussion
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 45
Barrel: 33 inch round
Finish: blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 10560
Serial Number:
Class: Antique

This percussion rifle is an example of a Whitworth rifle like those used by Confederate sharpshooters during the Civil War. Only about 250 of these rifles were made for the Confederate Army. The Confederates used the rifles as sniper rifles with scopes and the Whitworth is widely considered to have been the first rifle used for true sniping. They were reportedly accurate up to 1800 yards or more. At 1800 yards, the rifle was recorded with groupings less than twelve feet which was acceptable when targeting groups of soldiers and officers. At shorter distances such as 500 yards the Whitworth was far more accurate with tight groupings under 4 1/2 inches compared to the Enfield's more than 25 inch groups. Union General Sedgwick fell victim to a head shot from a sniper using a Whitworth rifle on May 8, 1864. Shortly before General Sedgwick was killed he scolded some of his men for ducking gun fire, telling them that "they couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." The rifle features include: three Enfield pattern barrel bands, adjustable globe style front sight, folding ladder rear sight, and an additional peep sight mounted just behind the barrel tang. This rifle is marked "WHITWORTH PATENT" on top of the barrel near the breech, with the serial number and various British proofs on the left side. The lock plate has a safety lever and is marked with a crown over "W" behind the hammer and "WHITWORTH" in front of the hammer. "BEST" is marked on the lower tang. Sling swivels are mounted to the front barrel band and beneath the butt. A third stud for an additional sling swivel is found at the front of the trigger guard. The straight grip stock has checkering at the wrist and on the forend with a steel forend cap and flat buttplate. "NATCHEZ" is marked on the bottom of the stock in front of the trigger guard (origin unknown of stamp). Complete with a steel ramrod with slotted head with centric rings.

Rating Definition:

Very good. The rifle exhibits a dark gray-brown patina with some light pitting and various marks. Traces of case colors can be found on some components including the upper tang/breech and on the sights. The buttplate has some wear and residue. The stock is fine with some minor to moderate dings, dents, gouges and scratches. Mechanically fine. The markings are clear.

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