Joseph Manton Shotgun Maker

From SHOT-GUNS their History and Development – by Major Hugh B.C. Pollard 1925

The best British makers towards the end of the eighteenth century were Egg and Twigg, but they were rapidly surpassed by the genius Joseph Manton, who was born in 1764 and died bankrupt in 1835, after an amazing career in which expensive litigation absorbed all his profits.

Joe Manton guns are eagerly sought after by collectors of the present day, and his arms go right through the flintlock and transition period into the standard percussion double-barrel gun. The celebrated Colonel Hawker has nothing but praise for Joe Manton, whose art as a gunmaker made the colonel’s achievements as a shot possible. In his Instructions to Young Sportsmen (the fourth edition of 1825), we find the double-barrelled flintlock shot-gun the established arm struggling hopelessly against the percussion system.

Manton revolutionized the sporting-gun world not so much with his exquisite flintlocks as with his percussion arms, and Manton’s workmen founded gun-making firms whose names are famous as existing concerns today. Purdey, Lancaster, Hussey, and Atkins are among the number. Manton’s work shows not only an exquisite mechanical perfection, but a wonderful harmony of design. His guns handle completely differently from the clumsy arms of a few years earlier, and so evident were his successes that the other gunmakers had perforce to follow on the lines he laid down. His main improvements are, the now familiar raised top-rib and the use of platinum in touch-holes, besides many detailed changes in breeching muzzle-loaders.

In 1789 Joseph Manton (1760-1835), a maker of sporting guns, began to experiment with the rifling of ordnance, and invented a machine for that purpose. The following year the Master General of the Ordnance authorised the issue to him of a SBML 6-pr for preliminary testing. During the course of his experiments he rifled several guns with varying degrees of twist and depth of groove, firing many rounds in shot-for-shot comparison with service smooth-bores. He also invented a wooden cup or ‘bottom’ for attaching to roundshot, designed to expand when the gun fired, take up windage, and engage the rifling.

Unfortunately, neither Manton nor any Board of Ordnance member seemed aware of the advantages inherent in the use of cylindrical projectiles. Good as the rifling was it could do little to improve the ballistics of spherical shot. Thus the rifled guns performed but marginally better than the smooth-bore, which led the Board to conclude that any advantage lay not so much in the rifling as in Manton’s cups. They therefore decided to accept the cups for general use but to discontinue tests on rifled ordnance.

In 1792 Manton and the Board wrangled over payment for the cups which by this time Manton had patented. The Board offered him one farthing (¼ cent) royalty for each cup manufactured, but Manton wanted a lump sum of £30000 ($60000) which the Board refused. No further action was taken over the cups even though adopting them would have improved the performance of all SB equipments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Dales