BSA/Lincoln Jeffries-related articles
BSA/Lincoln Jeffries-related articles
The BSA Norman air pistol, by John Griffiths
With thanks to Prof John Griffiths, author of The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols (2008), for this fascinating article on the 1911-12 Patent air pistol that BSA never made.
Judging by its reported performance, it's perhaps just as well the gun didn't go into production, although BSA may have been able to iron out its flaws.
The prototype pistol pictured was made from the patent drawings by Mac Evans, the man who also built the BSA 1913 Patent lever cocking rifle pictured in the Gallery.
I found out a bit of interesting history about George Norman. He joined BSA in 1896, and progressed from assistant engineer to chief engineer by about 1910. He was named inventor or co-inventor on all the pre-war BSA airgun patents, and on virtually all their firearms patents, and he had a particular penchant for designing repeating weapons and cartridge loading systems. He designed the BSA version of the Thompson machine gun, and was directly involved with the development of the Lee Enfield rifles. Then I found this brief account, as part of a discussion of the Mark III Lee Enfield:
“When such a famous weapon as the Mark III with all its
associations goes out of production, there is an inevitable
feeling of regret. In such affection was the model held at
Small Heath that after the last gun had been dispatched
in December, 1943, it was decided to hold a “farewell”
dinner for those members of the staff and workers who had
been closely associated with its production over a number
of years. Among those who attended was Mr. George
Norman, a former works manager who, although 85, was
retained in a consultative capacity and used to visit the
works once a week. He had joined B.S.A. in 1896 and had
been connected with the first Mark I Lee Enfield in 1904
as well as the Mark III in World War No. 1. During dinner
he told story after story of the “good old days”. And as if
with the passing of the gun he had fathered so lovingly his
life’s work had been completed, Mr. Norman went home
that night to die peacefully in his chair.”
What a lovely way to go!
Lakey's variations and anomalies article
I'm copying this over from the "Talk" section so it doesn't get lost over time:
<b>Guns that don't correspond to regular models
In the sphere of vintage BSA collecting, there are certain things that can be relied on as fact, and there are certain things that follow more or less a given rule. Howaever, occasionally guns turn up that don’t fit in to established patterns.
One of the main design remits of the Lincoln Jeffries/B.S.A air rifle was that of mass production. Up until 1905, very few manufacturers made airguns on a mass produced basis. There were one or two, mostly continental makers that had just started to embrace mass production. But most airgun manufacturing operations were fairly small scale ones.
Lincoln Jeffries changed all that with his proposal to Birmingham Small Arms Company to mass produce his new design of airgun and to ensure that all parts were interchangeable. This interchangeability of parts has led to much confusion over the years on the part of vintage airgun enthusiasts, as airguns turn up that do not conform exactly to established models.
Another thing to bear in mind is that in the early years of the design, after the initial launch of the gun (prior to World War 1), the airguns were under constant review and development, with small changes being made to the design. These changes meant that at various points in the guns' manufacture, new improved parts were introduced into the production line.
John Knibbs, in his book 'BSA and Lincoln Jeffries Air Rifles' (1986) explains it thus: "There was never any definite point in either time or production when any of these changes were made. A stage in production would be decided upon by the production manager at which various parts would be modified or replaced. Existing old parts would not be scrapped, but would be used up entirely before the new revised parts were issued for assembly. It is for this reason that seemingly obsolete parts are found on guns of a much later date."
Another point which must be borne in mind is that although faulty and broken guns could for many years after purchase be returned to BSA themselves for routine servicing and repair, eventually these vintage BSAs became obsolete and were no longer easily repaired. Original parts became harder and harder to obtain and before 'specialist vintage airgun spares suppliers' such as John Knibbs and Chambers came into being, guns were often repaired using old spare parts salvaged from other guns. So it is common to find guns with period replacement parts from other similar models.
An example of this might be a 43" .177 air rifle with an 'A' prefix to the serial number, where someone has matched a CS prefix Club No.4 barrel and cylinder to the trigger block from a 1936 Light Pattern. The gun would work perfectly but it would not conform to an exact model type.
Another example might be a 1920s B.S.A 'Standard' Air Rifle with pre-WW1 side button cocking lever and ring catch plate. Or again a 1933 rifle with a pre-WW1 'pistol hand' stock added.
You can see what confusion might be caused when these guns are encountered.
Rear sights are a special point in fact here, as windage adjustment to these sights could only be made by tapping the sight along in its machined dovetail to move the line of sight right or left, thereby adjusting the shot impact point onto target. Over the course of time, this adjustment loosened the sights to a point where they often just fell off the gun and were lost.
Many people replaced these sights with similar (but not exactly right ) sights from later guns, such as the Cadet Major and Airsporter Mk1. These sights did the job, but were not contemporary with the given airgun model in question.
We hope to give a detailed description of each major model development as time allows......... Watch this space</b>
Edward Stokes airguns article (1950s?)
With thanks to Dean for first posting these scans. The article was originally published in <i>The Marksman</i>
The author mentions a feature on the BSAs in the very first issue of <i>The Marksman</i> in July 1950. If anyone has a copy,
please let us have scans of it.
The 1903 Birmingham airgun 'riot'
Here is an extract from Frank Spittle's wonderful book , BELL TARGET SHOOTING: an old Black Country sport
about the extraordinary outcry that followed an attempt to ban the shooting of air rifles in licensed premises,
which is known as the Birmingham airgun 'riot'.
There follows some contemporary accounts taken from newspapers at the time,
which show that licensing authorities in other areas weren't above trying for a ban in the years to come.
This explosion of the popularity of shooting in the licensed houses, had a marked impact and effect on the City Fathers of Birmingham. They looked upon it as a means of gambling and drunkenness in the crowded pubs, such that the magistrates decided that they would not issue a drinking licence to pubs with airgun shooting in, or in any part of, the premises.
Up to this time, no one had ever heard of a complaint against the sport, apart from by a few members of the clergy and the Temperance Society. A petition in favour of the pub shooters, signed by 47,000 people, half of the male population of the city at that time, drew a thumbs down from the eighty or so justices, with only a couple in favour of the pastime.
That is all it was, a pastime that the hard-working man of the day had accepted into his daily life, in exactly the same way that the higher echelon of the self-employed in the Rifle Volunteers had taken to the enjoyment of long range rifle shooting on their county rifle ranges, at Wimbledon, and then at Bisley. They shot the army rifle in their role as back up Volunteer marksmen for a Government that had perceived that Napoleon could invade Britain in his new steamships should he wish to do so, without waiting for a favourable wind or excuse.
What the magistrates thought, and what they could prove, was different matters; no evidence could be put forward to back up their decision. It seemed that they were just "agin it", on principle, believing that the lower orders should not be trained to use guns, even if they were only airguns, as one thing could lead to another. The possibility of anarchy in the streets was the only explanation for the draconian measure to stamp it out. The official reasons put forward by the magistrates - "drunkenness and gambling" - could not have been further from the truth.
Today, as in those far off days, one does not have to be reminded that it is impossible to shoot straight if one is in any way inebriated. Alcohol is a depressant which could lower the pulse rate of a nervous competitor, but it would most certainly not help his stance or vision. For the first time in years, these pub shooters had a taste of the discipline that shooting demanded then, and still does today: safety, sobriety, and sportsmanship. All had to be learned and applied if they were to succeed in a team, or individually.
Some of the areas of Birmingham at that time were pretty rough to say the least, and so were some of the inhabitants. The landlords themselves knew that their licence was at risk if everything did not meet the highest standards that soon became the norm, and they readily made available a room or backyard. The last person both shooters and landlord wanted anywhere near the pub on a match night was a drunk.
But the Birmingham magistrates did not back down. They stood their ground until something happened that even they could not just ignore. The shooting community had called a meeting with the Mayor at the old Town Hall in the Bull Ring.
What then occurred is something that should have been written in the annals of shooting sport for all time, something that the shooting community, whatever its disciplines, has very little knowledge of. On that day, over 90 years ago, 10,000 airgunners turned up to put their case personally. They filled the streets and they could not be shown to be drunks or ne’er do wells.
Their demeanour and strength of purpose for what was, after all, their right as citizens, was so apparent that it could not be ignored. A special meeting of the whole of the magistrates was called, and the highly offending resolution was set aside. Shooting began again in the pubs.
Mr. Hirst took quite an amount of flak afterwards, from people who did not approve of shooting. Some would call unannounced at his home, to berate him on the evils of drink and guns. He would convince some of these people of the harmless nature of the sport by taking them to see a match in progress, having an excellent success rate of changed opinions by doing so.
Worcester Chronicle 7.3.1903
Nottingham Evening Post 9.3.1903
Coventry Evening Telegraph 2.4.1903
Dundee Courier 2.4.1903
Nottingham Evening Post 3.4.1903
Manchester Evening News 8.4.1903
Nottingham Evening Post 20.11.1903
Nottingham Evening Post 5.2.1907
Litchfield Mercury 15.7.1910
Reference to BSA air rifle in 1925 US article
A Lincoln's Tale - fiction about an old Lincoln air rifle
With thanks to Eddie
A Lincoln's Tale.....
Joe Williams came into the world in late 1898, in the front room of his parent's Black Country back to back. He was a big baby at over 8 pounds, but then his father was a gentle giant of a man, who was well respected in the area, and worked as a foreman welder in a local heavy engineering works.Joe had a normal childhood for the time, but was growing up fast, being head and shoulders above his classmates size wise, and excelling at anything sporting.
One Saturday in the late Autumn of 1905, his father said "come on young Joe, we are going into the city"...this was an exciting and rare event, and Joe exclaimed "why father"..."wait and see young fellow, be patient" said his father.
They went into town, and ended up in the area where there seemed to be lots of gun shops to Joe.... eventually they arrived at a smallish double fronted shop, where they went in. Joe stood and looked with excitement as his father talked to a smart looking moustachioed man, who seemed to Joe to have a lot of hair!....(Joe's father always kept his very short). Presently a long parcel appeared, and with a handshake, they left. "Is it for me?" said Joe, (thinking about his approaching 7th birthday). Joe's father smiled and said "no son, it is something I have worked hard, and saved long for...but don't worry, you will like it I am sure!"
When they got home, a wooden crate was set up in the back yard with a target on, and going back into the house, the kitchen window was opened, and the gun unwrapped and laid carefully on an old blanket on the draining board. Joe's father carefully checked over the gun, and then loaded it and took aim through the window....he fired shot after shot, and Joe stood amazed....his Father seemed to hit the same tiny place every time!
"my go, my go!" cried Joe excitedly, forgetting himself for a moment. His father put the gun down and turned, and with a grave look in his eyes that Joe had never seen said " This is not a toy lad...I will teach you, if you wish , how to use it, respect it and care for it, but if I ever see or hear of you doing anything stupid or dangerous with a gun......."
There was no need for more, his fathers eyes told Joe this was deadly serious....
The years shot past..Joe was now a strapping 16 year old, and was now sitting smiling to himself one Sunday afternoon as he cleaned the Lincoln. His father had died the year before from some form of lung disease ...No doubt caused from all the stuff he inhaled at the foundry,... but before he had died, they had spent many a happy year together, and many winter evenings at the local pub's back room where his father was known as one of the best shots in the local league. Joe had beaten his father's score for the first time when he was only 14, and now he felt a mixture of intense sadness, but also pride and he stopped cleaning the gun and remembered the look on his fathers face that night 2 years previously.
"Best give young Joe that Lincoln now Harry" his fathers friends had exclaimed, "He's got the better of you now Harry",... they had all laughed at the time....But when they got home, that was exactly what his father had done!...."It's your gun now lad, but I would like to borrow it from time to time" his father had said smiling...
Joe was an apprentice at a local trap factory......but storm clouds were gathering over the continent......
Like thousands of other young men he signed up, like many others adding a couple of years to his age...in his case it was easy due to his size and appearance. Before his goodbyes to his mother, he had cleaned and greased the Lincoln, and carefully wrapped it and placed it deep in the under stairs cupboard out of sight.
He returned home from the war a different person, he had a few visible scars, but the invisible ones were the damage. He had been noticed immediately during training for his uncanny accuracy at the range, and had spent most of his time at the front as a scout or sniper, shunned even by the British troops around him due to the extra danger he brought to them on any section of the line where he plied his deadly trade.
So here he was, a 20 year old young man who had lost count of the horrors he had seen, and the widows and orphans he had created.
He went back to work a changed man a year or so later, but one evening his mother found the gun he had wrapped up, and thought it might cheer him up....She brought the parcel into the front room, and Joe just sobbed and waved her away......"I never want to hold another gun in my life" he wept.
His mother took the gun to a local pawn shop, and was grateful for the money it realized. It sat in the window for a few months until a well to do commercial traveller saw it. He bought it and took it home where he and his young son spent many a happy afternoon in their large garden shooting.Until, in time it was forgotten in the spare room as newer things came into the house.
More time passed.....
It was now early 1941, and again Britain was at war. The son of the new owner was away serving at sea when the stray stick of bombs from the crippled Heinkel hit his home, and the houses next to it....When he finally got leave, he returned to find just cleared rubble where once there had been a row of houses. The neighbours took him in and comforted him the best they could.
He would never know that some young lads, as young lads back then did, had been rooting through the rubble of the house (whenever they could avoid the wardens), and had, amongst the shrapnel and souvenirs they sought, had found the Lincoln.....dusty, but undamaged!. It now had pride of place in their den, surrounded by other trophies, and was the jealously guarded property of the 13 year old "leader" .......how-ever, all could take turns "snapping" it, but a shot with a pellet cost a marble, or a dog-end.
The gun was now the property of a teddy boy, who had "liberated" it from his younger brother, who insisted he in turn had found it in a bomb hole.......It was now in a bit of a sorry state, still working somehow, but showing signs of it's hard life. The teddy boy worked in a nearby bicycle works, and one day, after hearing another worker complaining about a rat problem at the allotments, he saw a chance to make a few bob ...."I've got one of those old air rifles at home....it would be just the job for your rats" he said. Money changed hands, and the new owner was pleased to have a rusty old gun he could leave out in his shed without to much worry.
The Lincoln now resided under a shelf in the allotment shed, forgotten and covered by gardening tools, It was now the 1970's.......again, eager youthful hands pressed against the gun as the gardener's son and his little gang spent their evenings out in the surrounding woods and fields shooting........until a stray shot broke a shed window, and the owner called the police.
The gun and the worried teenager were marched the short distance home and presented to the angry and embarrassed father..." I can see it was an accident waiting to happen " said the police sergeant..... "and I was a nipper myself once....so this time it is just a warning"......Then he said;
"But the other lads told me you keep this old gun in your shed - that is somewhat irresponsible sir!......keep it somewhere safer, or dispose of it, would be my advice!"
So the next morning found the owner going into town, and calling into a local gun shop. "do you want this" he said pulling the Lincoln out of a bag...
"It's a bit of a wreck mate!....But I suppose we could break it for spares" replied the owner.
"it's got to go....just give us the price of a pint or two, or else it is going in the canal.....the only reason it hasn't, is that knowing my luck, some tyke will fish it out and cause more trouble"
So a deal was done, and after a quick examination the shop owner put the gun with other old wrecks in the workshop store spares cupboard.
A few years again passed.......it was now 1987, and one Saturday the door opened in the shop and a youngish guy walked in....after a quick look around the racks he approached the counter and said "Have you got any of those old BSA's please.....I have just read a friends book by a bloke called John Knibbs, and I fancy one of those pre war guns"
The owner was just about to say no, when the assistant said "what about those old ones in the back store...is one of those a BSA?"
The Lincoln was found and brought out..." Oh yes sir, This is one of the first of those guns, see how low the serial number is, it must be very early...maybe even 1905-6....I bet it could tell a story or two!"
"It looks like a right wreck mate" said the customer...."I have got other guns as well, you don't have to lay it on!"
The owner, slightly taken aback, said "well I suppose we can do some sort of deal...we have had it for quite a while"
A price was agreed.......and as the young man was holding the Lincoln up and examining it while the owner found a bag, he noticed a frail old man on a mobility scooter outside the shop, looking straight at him with a strange wistful expression.....
Turning to the owner he said "what's up with that guy outside.....can you see him?"
"Oh, ignore the silly old sod" the owner said rotating his forefinger against his temple...."he's the local nutjob...Mad Joe they call him....he has all those stupid medals, and actually believes he used to be a sniper or summat!"
Outside......the old man strained his eyes, and sadly thought back over all those years to that day he stood proudly next to his dad........and wondered what had become of his treasured rifle....
John Knibbs article on BSA/Lincoln Jeffries in NZ Airgun magazine