Original Rare British Made Snider Trials Era T.J. Mayall’s Patent Bolt Action .577 Breech Loading Rifle Serial 544
Original Item: One of a Kind. The British Government trials to convert the famous P-1853 Percussion Rifle Musket to breech loading was a very crowded affair. It resulted with the British adopting the system designed by Jacob Snider (An American) in 1866. This resulted in the Snider–Enfield Breech Loading rifle, which became the main British service rifle until the Martini-Henry supplanted it in 1874. During this period, many other designers were active in Britain, trying to get their own designs on display, and possibly accepted.
One such person was the American engineer Thomas Jefferson Mayall, a quite prolific inventor and relatively big name on both sides of "the Pond" during that era. He had something around over 200 American and 70 British patents registered, ranging from firearms and machinery to the more mundane, such as flower pots. Mayall even had a design for a breech loading revolver cannon! His rifle design and the cannon resulted in a big splash at the 1865 Wimbledon Rifle Meeting, and he also sponsored regimental marksmanship matches, with the prize being one of his rifles. In spite of this, his design was unfortunately not one of the seven rifles considered for the trials, even with its somewhat groundbreaking breech design.
The rifle itself definitely takes after the lines of the P-1853 Enfield, and uses the same .58" bore size, in this case with 5 groove rifling. It utilized a proprietary centerfire cartridge, which was different from the .577 cartridge used in the later Snider rifles. The action Mayall patented is one of the first bolt action designs utilizing a self-contained cartridge that could be extracted after firing. There had been other designs using a bolt previously, but they were essentially just breech loading percussion systems.
The action itself is well designed, both with respect to functionality, as well as safety. The lock must be at half cock to cycle bolt, and cannot be moved to full cock until bolt is fully closed. The bolt also can’t be opened with the hammer in full cock. Quite ingenious and safety minded. Ignition is accomplished by a firing pin that goes through the front of the bolt, which is struck by the hammer.
The top of the bolt is marked correctly with T.J. MAYALL'S PATENT, and the bolt handle is marked with serial number 544. Both bolt components are marked on the underside with 13, seen when the bolt is removed. The action cycles well, however the extractor mounted underneath the bolt is unfortunately missing. The left side of barrel marked 25 and CROWN / BP, the correct Birmingham England proof marks of the period. Mayall most likely contracted out production to one of the many producers in the Birmingham area, much easier than having to bring rifles over the ocean.
The metalwork on the rifle shows a lot of original finish, but also areas of peppering and past pitting, now removed. The bore has 5 groove rifling, and is in very good condition. It has a bright finish with clear lands and grooves, though they do definitely show some wear. Stock is in good shape, with some drip marks, and the expected wear and scratching from storage. There is a also small chunk missing on the right side to the rear of the receiver.
The rifle has one sling swivel, and other examples we have seen had a second on the trigger guard. However, there is definitely no hole for a swivel on this example's trigger guard, which is made of iron, and not brass as sometimes seen. These were somewhat experimental, so parts on hand may have been used in many cases.
A very attractive and rare rifle, ready to research and display!
Year of Manufacture: c. 1865
Caliber: .58 inches
Ammunition Type: .58 Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 32 inches
Overall Length: 48 1/2 inches
Action: Side Action Lock
Feed System: Bolt Action
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