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Argo44, bushveld, campero, CJF, Drew Hause, DropLockBob, HomelessjOe, Imperdix, ivanhoe, John Roberts, KDGJ, keith, LeFusil, mc, montenegrin, pamtnman, Parabola, SXS 40, Woodreaux
Total Likes: 43
Original Post (Thread Starter)
by Argo44
Argo44
Edit Note: The current New History of Reilly is on p.54 of this line; the list of extant guns, dated is on p.44 - (the history is regularly updated and moved to the last page of the line)

Gentlemen, I am new. I am a Vietnam Vet, 2 tours, Special Forces, MACV-SOG and have spent some 25 years of the last 40 serving abroad for our country. I'm a gun enthusiast but not an expert. I recently bought an English hand-made EM Reilly, 12 ga. SxS hammer-gun shotgun after thinking about purchasing an English double for 25 years. The reason?

I served at the American Embassy in India for three years in the late 1980's. My landlord was Indian Army Major General D.K. (Monty) Palit, former chief of operations of the India Army (during the Indo-China War), Sandhurst in the 1930's, WWII Indian Army veteran, and noted military author. He was from an upper-class Indian family which had adopted British customs when it came to gun-sport (late 1880's on). He had 5 doubles on his wall passed down by his father and grandfather, I believe they were: a 12ga Holland & Holland, a 12ga E.M. Reilly, a 16ga possibly Army-Navy, one I'm not sure of and a 20ga. William Evans.

I had a CJ-7 Jeep in New Delhi at that time; he had the hunting permits; and we went out often in the Falls of those three years, hunting ducks, dove and quail in the brilliant yellow mustard fields of Uttar Pradesh on the Gangetic plain. He used his H&H; I used my Remington 870 - a pump - something he informed me one didn't do in polite society (I countered that in Alabama we might have a dog - here he had 5 shikaris and a couple of servers cleaning the birds and making duck-curry sandwiches - different places, different solutions). But the idea that I needed a SxS became fixed - even more so when he gifted my wife the 20ga William Evans as we left country. Since then I've held dozens of English SxS's. Nothing felt right.

Gen. Palit's books and obituary:
https://www.amazon.com/D.-K.-Palit/e/B001IC8QPK
http://www.india-seminar.com/2008/586/586_in_memoriam.htm

Then at a gun show in November this Reilly hammer gun just stuck to my hand. It was 6 lbs 1oz, chambered for 2 1/2; 30" Damascus barrels; twin triggers; no ejectors; with that beautifully slim upper stock and receiver back that comes with hammer guns - It was similar to the General's E.M. Reilly as I remembered it; Perhaps I had imprinted on that gun? But whatever It felt like a rapier, while everything else now seemed like battle-axes. The seller had about 15 guns from very high-quality makers. He said I was the only person ever to show interest in the Reilly. He insisted on my shooting it..I did and couldn't part with it..It had some imperfections; it wasn't pristine, had been worked on; I paid too much but it was my gun,

The Serial number is 34723. On the rib is the name and address of the maker, E.M Reilly & Co., 16 New Oxford Street, London. I believe this shotgun was made in 1898 and it is perhaps one of the very last guns produced at the Reilly store at this location where they had worked for 51 years before they closed it (to be explained in subsequent posts).

I'm by no means an expert on English handmade doubles - there are contributors here who definitely are. However, After buying the Reilly I've done some research. I believe the Reilly numbering system (for long guns - hand guns had another entirely different system) from at least 1830 to 1905 was consistent, always numerically ascending (with a possible break of some 5000 SN's when the Store was transferred in 1847 per below) and that there are enough guns on the internet and enough known events associated with certain serial numbers to enable one to get a pretty good idea of when an individual Reilly was produced, possibly within a couple of years. And I've discovered some erroneous information which has been widely disseminated (Brown's Vol 3 being one of them).

I thought I'd share some of these findings with this extremely knowledgeable group and with the SxS shooting community at large with a request: that owners of Reilly's post their guns on this line, including serial numbers, Company name and address as imprinted on the guns and patent numbers if possible, and photo. With this information available in one spot surely the chronology of E.M. Reilly Serial Numbers can be refined.

I'll add three moe posts - 1) History of the firm (including various patent dates); 2) Important "date marker" serial numbersed guns; and 3) a list of 100 Reilly guns with serial numbers I've found on the internet in serial number order.

L-R: Author; Patel (who made the duck curry); General Palit, in New Delhi, November 1988:

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

28 years later....a Reilly SxS in memory of General Palit:'

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Liked Replies
by LeFusil
LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.
3 members like this
by keith
keith
Originally Posted by Argo44
There are no Reilly records.

And there are no Syracuse Lefever records either. The factory records were lost during or after the move to Ithaca N.Y., after the sale of the gun manufacturing business by the Durston family in 1915. Yes, the Lefever name was sold to Ithaca Gun Co. too.

However, as a long-time Lefever collector, I have no doubt that Dan Lefever actually built guns. Nobody doubts it. We know that he apprenticed under famed N.Y. gunsmith and gun maker William Billinghurst in Canandaigua, N.Y. beginning in 1848. We know that he went into business for himself in Auburn, N.Y. in 1853. We know that he later partnered with J.A. Ellis and built percussion guns in Canandaigua around 1862.

We also know that Dan later partnered with F.S. Dangerfield, L. Barber, and John Nichols. They built guns and employed people to help them build guns. They even printed catalogs of the guns they would build for their customers. We know there were at least a dozen different catalogs of guns built by Dan Lefever, or he and his partners. We even have a copy of the partnership agreement between Lefever and Nichols. We know about his departure after being forced out of his own company in 1901, and we know that he went on to build the Lefever crossbolt boxlock shotgun in Syracuse, Defiance, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Ohio until his death in 1906. Nobody has ever encountered any surviving records from those three short-lived gun companies either.

Although Lefever built over 60,000 guns in Syracuse, the Lefever Arms Co. never employed anywhere near 300 men. Total employment in 1890 was only 70 employees. Yet we know a lot of their names.

In the Robert Elliot books, we have photographs of the Lefever Arms Company, and photos of their employees. We have photos of them working at their machines, and can even read the names of employees on a time board. We have correspondence from Dan Lefever describing the rib matting machine he designed and built, and we have his description of the tragic fire that destroyed much of his building and equipment. We have surviving correspondence between the Company and customers, and we have surviving original blank and completed order forms for the guns. We know that Dan Lefever's sons were among his gunmaking employees, and we know that his son Frank went on to work to produce the Hollenbeck Drilling at the THREE BARREL GUN COMPANY of Wheeling, West Virginia. We also know that he later worked for Daisy Airgun Co., and designed the Daisy BB pumpgun.

Hard to believe that all this compelling evidence, and more, survived 120-130 years or more in places like Syracuse, Ithaca, Canandaigua, etc. But there is so little about E.M. Reilly being an actual gunmaker in such a refined, organized, and civilized place like London. .

So although there are no surviving factory records from the Lefever Arms Co. of Syracuse, N.Y., nobody doubts or questions whether they were actual gunmakers (and producers of bicycle chains). And although there has been a lot of misinformation printed about total production of Lefever shotguns assembled by Ithaca Gun Co., and the quantity of Syracuse Lefever guns built out of serial number sequence, even by the LACA, nobody ever even thought that Dan Lefever was nothing but a retailer who merely sold guns built by others. Nobody needs to rely upon conjecture or highlighting a few words in old advertisements to prove that Dan Lefever was a real Gunmaker.
3 members like this
by Argo44
Argo44
Added title page to Reilly history on p.94 (Still haven't gotten the hang of Yahoo editing software - New Year's resolution to take a course):
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
3 members like this
by Geo. Newbern
Geo. Newbern
I don't know whether E.M. Reilly was a maker or a merchant. My first British double was a Reilly boxlock I acquired from for sale ad here back in the '90's. I inquired here at the time and the prevailing wisdom seemed to be that Reilly wasn't a maker. Our friend Gene has done a yeoman's task of investigation and has been kind enough to share his work with all of us. While I appreciate his work, I cannot yet agree with is conclusion which is counter to the historic opinion on Reilly. I think E.M. Reilly was for his time the epidemy of the tradition of the British gun trade as a multi-layered combination of outworker craftsmen and sales companies whose names appeared on the guns of the period. With, of course a few actual manufacturers whose names and bonafides have traditionally been accepted in the business...Geo
2 members like this
by lonesome roads
lonesome roads
Originally Posted by HomelessjOe
Originally Posted by LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.

The hOax lives on.

Nah. More like a Lost Cause. An insane attempt to re-write history.


______________________________________
What a waste. All that time spent. Could’ve been playing golf.
2 members like this
by Argo44
Argo44
A gentleman in Australia has just forwarded information on this magnificent 1850's short-forend sporterized .577 Reilly Enfield rifle converted to a Snider (the contact made courtesy of Diggory). The gun is SN 10377 and was made in summer 1857 shortly before JC Reilly retired and before the opening of 315 Oxford Street. It has the percussion patch box with game engraving, shortened forend, engraving and Damascus barrel of a classic high-end Reilly sporting Enfield of that time. The engraving for that era is particularly well done.

But this one is special. It had both a stalking safety and a match set trigger. And the locks were made by Joseph Brazier. This was clearly a very high-grade Reilly from 1857. (This is now the first identified Reilly using Brazier locks or actions).

It was transformed by Reilly after 1868 into a Snider, making it the second oldest Reilly so far found (10021 being the oldest). The address on the receiver, "EM Reilly & Co., 315 Oxford Street, London & rue Scribe, Paris" (post Feb 1868), was added after the gun was converted (a couple of other similar examples exist). However, on the side plates the name is just "Reilly, London " - classic mid 1850's.

Per the Reilly history Reilly developed a "short stock" for the Enfield which allowed it to be carried in a "normal" sized case. Most extant Reilly Enfields from the mid 1850's with the short sporterized stock, had straight stocks with a trigger guard which aped a pistol grip stock. This rifle has a pistol grip stock. This is so unusual for the 1850's that one speculates it was restocked when converted.

After 1866 Arsenal transformed hundreds of thousands of Enfields into Sniders for the Army using these "screw-in" actions. They only modified Enfields made 1859 or later. When they ran out of guns to convert they began making new ones with steel barrels (See the Reilly history chapter 51.)

The sporting gun world obviously was another story and 10377 with its exquisite barrels (assume they are Damascus - no good photos) and engravings was deemed worth changing by its owner. Reilly advertised his ability to do this work after 1866 (see the Reilly History, chap. 51).

The owner has not checked the proofs - he doesn't want to damage the screw threads - but no doubt they will be London proof marks. Note the "Snider's Patent" Arrow proof on the top of the action - endorsement or maybe patent paid to Arsenal for the Snider action (added to the original Brazier lock).

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
2 members like this
by Argo44
Argo44
Why keep records? History. Diggory sent information about the Reilly Big-Bore SxS rifle which has come to light in Ireland. It is SN'd 22432 probably numbered in very late 1880 or very early 1881. It is a .577 SxS Jones Under-Lever Rifle with what appears to be back-action locks.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

There is an inscription on the barrel flats - presumably some Celtic runes followed by "RM" - probably the owner.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The "5288" on the under rib probably is a Birmingham barrel maker number. I can’t tell if these are Steel barrels or blued damascus – possibly the latter since Reilly was not advertising Whitworth steel until late 1881. There looks to be a faint 22xxx on the barrels which would have been the stamped serial number. Perhaps the original barrels were blued at some point.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The address on the rib is 502 New Oxford Street. It does not match the case label which is for 277 Oxford Street in a format not seen (Gun and Rifle Makers on leather) until the 1890's.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

There is a problem: a gun with the same description and SN 22432 was sold 10 years ago at Holts:
https://www.holtsauctioneers.com/asp/fullcatalogue.asp?salelot=A1214++++914+&refno=+++76477

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

At that time the Holt's gun was housed in a case with a label with the address 16, New Oxford Street and 29 rue du Faubourg, St. Honore, Paris (1885-1886).

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

That case had the name of George Sackville Sinclair Wemyss on it . He died in Scotland in 1882. Six years ago we speculated that the case was not original to the gun or that it had been returned to Reilly for servicing and a new label added (and it does appear that that label was indeed a replacement of some sort.

Possible solutions to the problem:

1) There are two Reilly 22432's (unlikely)

2)This gun in Ireland is the same as the Holt's gun but the case and label has been changed.

The case though very similar seem to have slight differences.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The stocks look similar (photos are not good)
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The sights on the guns look slightly different though it is hard to tell from the quality of the photos.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

3) or once again Holt's got mixed up by the similarities between Reilly's "3"'s and "5"'s and the "Wemyss" cased gun was in fact "22452” not “22432." Holt's did not publish photos of the SN or mention the inscription/initials which are on the barrel flats of the Irish gun, something they usually would done (unless Holt's was trying to use the Wemyss name on the case to sell the gun).

Diggory has been asked to try to find out more about the Irish gun. Personally I think they are the same gun.
2 members like this
by Imperdix
Imperdix
Wincanton in Somerset.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
You're right Gil. This was mentioned once before when we discussed the pin-fire SN 10054 (see above p.53). I believe this is the oldest datable extant UK made pin-fire - late summer 1856.
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Re the comments in the article by Mark Crudgington: "Mark advised caution about dating guns with limited information, commenting; 'Modern , especially American ideas , of how the gun trade of the 18th and 19th C worked always appear to me to be based on a modern model that is irrelevant within an historical perspective."

Mark told me he knew of two Lang's which allegedly had original 1854 receipts but he has never actually documented this story - and he later said the earliest datable Lang SN is 1858. (Per Lang's own pamphlet he claimed he began to make center-break pin-fires in early 1854)
. . - In the Diggory article Mark expressed skepticism about my dating methods for Reilly SN'd guns.
. . - I have had conversations with him on several subjects from this time period and he is quite opinionated on lots of things; However, to my knowledge he has never actually read through the details of the methods I used to write the history, date Reilly guns, etc. He has been wrong on some of the topics we went over. (The British class system it seems still sits heavily on the Island from some of his comments - I discussed this with David Trevallion - this is a sociological observation, not a value judgement).
. . - Donald Dallas' view of this research is the opposite to that of Mark's - see p. 53
(This is not an attack on Mark, the son of a legendary researcher and gunsmith Ian Crudgington and a noted gunsmith in his own right and the holder of an alleged excellent collection. It's just that those credentials and his opinions may not be accurate for true history).

Diggory put a bid in on that gun maybe because of our discussion about it; but, possibly because of the Reilly History it went for as I recall £ 2,750. And yes I did take a dig at Diggory about that phrase (though of course it is sort of accurate). smile

edit: And I continue to believe until other evidence is posted - not just hear-say - that this rifle is the earliest extant UK made center-break pin-fire...based on the Reilly research above. (And that dating chart is NOT whimsey).
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Not slacking off. Here's part of the Reilly label Photo collection compiled over 5 years. The labels can definitely now be dated.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
1 member likes this
by Woodreaux
Woodreaux
For the Reilly enthusiasts, this article just came to my email from Gray's Sporting Journal. A short, enjoyable read from Terry Weiland.

Terry Weiland- Reilly Restoration
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Oh Mcnabs said that? Oh well it’s settled then. It looks like Reilly’s did, after all employ 300+ gunmakers (that nobody has ever met or known) and they made all sorts of breech loading shotguns off of about 10 to 15 different actions, patents, etc. What an extremely skilled work force to produce so many different firearms in their own factory.
I thought it was ridiculous and far fetched….but now, since Mcnabs says Reilly did in fact manufacture all of these guns bearing the Reilly name, even guns that are known to have ONLY been completely built by 1 particular factory, I suppose the whole thing is settled isn’t it.

Or not. Nice try Gene. Press on.
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Oh, there’s plenty more than just Me, Gene. Believe that.
1 member likes this
by mc
mc
Are there any records with the worshipful company of gunmakers on the apprenticeship at Reilly or steel or wood consumption with 300 employees it would seem there would be some paper trail.at least on times of trouble published layoffs?published rehire ?material shortages? Liquidation of assets ?equipment purchases?news paper engravings of the premises.i know most large company's were shameless self promoters good luck with you research.mc
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
The Ghost of Reilly and his imaginary 300 employees lives on.
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
Nothing about Mr. Hambling building actual guns for Reilly though, right? So in reality, we have NO clue as to what Mr. Hambling did or didn’t do at this so called Reilly gun factory during the 1880’s to the 1890’s. He could’ve been doing repairs? Selling guns? A staff professional to help clients order guns in? Any number of jobs he could’ve done there.

A fuzzy picture. You got that right.
1 member likes this
by ellenbr
ellenbr
Many thanks Jani for looking @ this & your precise input.

Serbus Jani.


lep pozdrav,


Raimey
rse
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
Did you used to eat lead paint chips when you were a child ?
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Merci M. Woodreaux. The Reilly dates to late summer 1896. It was rebarrelled by Jeffery, interestingly in Damascus. It's been added to the list on p. 57. There are now 543 Reillys whose type and caliber are known and another 50 with photos published but whose SN was not, 1.5% of the total he made and a good sample. Very attractive and handy looking little gun.
1 member likes this
by Parabola
Parabola
Gene,

It bears 1904 to 1925 Birmingham proof marks and with that serial number is clearly a Riggs-Reilly.

As 13/1 it should measure .719” (+?). As the bores are now .728” it has clearly been honed since proof and is now marginal even though the wall thicknesses are good.

Either the case has been re-labelled or it is from an earlier Reilly gun?
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
*92 June 1912: Bankruptcy

Per advertisements in September 1911 the company announced it was for sale or in need of new partners with cash. Its stock of guns was advertised at reduced prices for cash only.*92a

In December 1911 the company was changed to a limited liability company with George Watkinson Roberts - liquidator specialist, as one of the directors. Roberts was a bankruptcy lawyer. Reilly's continued advertising 295 for sale in Spring 1912 per newspaper advertisements. It appears Bert Reilly knew bankruptcy was coming and changed the company to protect his personal assets. He retained his separate homes after bankruptcy. It also appears that Reilly deliberately attempted to sell off as much stock as he could before bankruptcy was declared. Whether he also tried to move machinery and other items out of 295 is possible but not knowable.

Bankruptcy was declared on 06 June 1912 (publicized on 08 June 1912 in the London Monday morning papers).*92b

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

. . . . .—SN 35678 (1911?): The last extant gun with 295 on the rib is 35678, a 12 bore SxS BLE shotgun.*92c

Note: Per the 1911 census Bert Reilly no longer lived on the premises of his workshop at 295 Oxford Street, a first for a Reilly owner.*92d Reilly's had lived in their shops since at least 1835.

*93 1912-1918: 13 High Street, Marylebone

Bert Reilly opened a small gun repair shop, "E.M Reilly & Co., Gun Maker," at 13 High Street, Marylebone in 1912 after the bankruptcy.
. . . . .—Attached map of Marylebone*93a
. . . . .—Attached googe.map photo of 13 High Street.*93b

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

No advertisements can be found for the shop though per London postal address, telephone and business directories they identified themselves as "gunmakers."
. . . . .—attached 1912 Post Office Directory – Reilly, E.M. & CO., Gun & Rifle mfrs, still at 295*93c.
. . . . .—attached 1915 Street Directory – Reilly, E.M & Co. Gunmakers, 13 High St Mrlebne*93d
. . . . .—attached 1916 Street Directory – Reilly, E.M., Gun Maker 13 High St Mrlebne*93e

No guns with this address on the rib have been found. The date of its closure is not noted although it is listed in the London telephone directory in 1918 (but not in 1919).
. . . . .—attached 1918 Street directory – Reilly E.M., Gun Maker 13 High St. Mrlebne*93f
. . . . .—attached 1918 phone directory - Mayfair 406 Reilly E.M., Gun Maker, 13 High St Mrlebne*93g
. . . . .—attached 1919 directory – E.M. Reilly not found.*93h

(Note: IGC claims that 13 High Street was occupied by Reilly as early as December of 1911 while 295 was for sale; no footnotes or validation of this claim were published. It has not been verified. London directories and telephone directories do not seem to support this assertion. Since the newspaper report of the 06 Jun 1912 extraordinary meeting to decide on bankruptcy states it was held at 295 Oxford Street, this IGC detail has to be called into question.)


. . . . . XIII. CHARLES RIGGS ERA; 1922 – 1950:


*94 Charles Riggs era, August 1922-1950?:

In August 1922 The Reilly name was bought by a sporting goods dealer named Charles Riggs. Riggs apparently decided he could use the name to promote his premium line of guns made In Birmingham (possibly built by Osborne/Midland or perhaps Holloway - based on similarity of engraving).

Charles Riggs was born in 1874 in London, one of 8 children of John Riggs. In 1878 Epping Forest, Essex, northeast of central London was saved from the ax by Parliament in the Epping Forest Act. A number of “retreats” were located there which were popular day visits for Londoners. John Riggs in particular owned several such auberges or hotels and passed them on to members of his family. One of these, “Riggs Retreat,” was located in Buckhurst Hill, Essex.*94a It was a large establishment and could allegedly sit 400 visitors for afternoon tea at one time. It featured a balcony wrapped around a huge beech tree.*94b, *94c.

By the early 1890’s Riggs’ Retreat was being run by a young Charles Riggs, who looks to have had a knack for business. In the mid 1890’s Charles Riggs began advertising Riggs Retreat as an ideal stopping point for touring bicyclists and he himself apparently became an avid cyclist. The ads in “Cycling” continued virtually weekly from 1897-1907.*94d By the mid-1900’s tennis tournaments were also being held at “Riggs’ Retreat.” Riggs likely sold tennis and cycling equipment. Golf courses were located in close proximity to the retreat and he probably became involved with that sport as well. This no doubt was his introduction to the sporting goods industry.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Also in the mid-1900’s Riggs’ Retreat became a meeting point for the Essex Yoemanry Militia.*94e Riggs as host to the militia probably became interested in guns and in the unit in the early 1900’s and quite probably also began to sell firearms at Buckhurst Hill. By 1907 he was a corporal in the Essex Yoemanry and was one of the founding members of the “Yoemanry Rifle Club.” He is mentioned in rifle match results.*94f

Business for his sporting goods stores at “Riggs Retreat” must have been profitable for in November 1908 he opened a shop in central London “C.Riggs & Co.” at 11, Queen-Victoria Street, where he advertised BSA guns, rifles and ammunition. The advertisements mention that the company was also located at Buckhurst Hill, Essex.*94g

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Around 1910 Riggs apparently sold “Riggs Retreat” (or possibly one of the other Epping Forest resorts similarly named). At that time he moved his London sporting goods shop to 3, The Arcade, Broad Street Station, Liverpool-Street. He marketed guns and rifles, selling mostly BSA products with his name on them.*94h. He is listed in the 1911 census as "Gun and Rifle Maker."

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

In 1912 he moved the company to 107, Bishopsgate billing himself as a sporting goods company. There he sold tennis and golf equipment, bicycles, soccer and cricket equipment, was involved in boxing, sold BSA motorcycles and sold guns and ammunition.*94i, *94j, *94k. His catalogs include all sorts of BSA firearms including advertisements for .303 SMLE Enfields and the like.*94l He allegedly marketed his own ammunition under the name "the Bishop" made by Eley up to at least 1914. He, also originally had his own “Riggs” brand of sporting guns and billed himself as a “gunmaker” even though his guns were built in Birmingham:
. . . . .Advertisement for a “Riggs Gun” *94m
. . . . .Case and Label for a “Riggs gun.”*94n

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Charles Riggs was by this time a sergeant in the Essex Yoemanry Militia. He wrote a pamphlet in 1915 “Practical Points of Musketry.”*94o Beginning in 1911 Riggs sponsored an annual reunion of the Essex Yeomanry (His task no doubt made simpler by his past occupation as a hotel owner and caterer).*94p Among other businesses, he brokered the sale of 1,500 Martini-Henry's to local militia groups early in WWI.

Riggs bought the Reilly name in August 1922. (Most Reilly history summaries put the date of purchase as 1917; this is belied by the dates of newspaper advertising). How and why Riggs got interested in the Reilly name is unknown.
. . . . .attached - 1st ads:*94q
1. . . . . . . . . .1922 advertisement
2. . . . . . . . . .18 Aug 1922, “Essex Newsman”
“Guns: Reilly and Co., Famous Gunmakers 100 years in Oxford Street, ask you to send for List, 107 Bishopsgate, London. C11."
3. . . . . . . . . .30 Sep 1922, “Essex Newsman”
"Guns: Best English Make, £4 to £40 to suit your pocket. Send for full illustrated list. E.M. Reilly & Co., Ltd., 107 Bishopsgate, London. C11. Estd 100 years in Oxford Street".
4. . . . . . . . . .07 September 1922, “Wales Brecon”
"Guns: Best English Make, £4 to £40 to suit your pocket. Send for full illustrated list. E.M. Reilly & Co., Ltd., 107 Bishopsgate, London. C11. Estd 100 years in Oxford Street".[/I]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The Riggs' 1922-23 catalog highlights the adoption of the Reilly name with a glowing introduction:*94r

. . . . .“The WORLD FAMED HOUSE OF E.M. REILLY & Co., late of Oxford Street, London, W. is now amalgamated with the house of CHARLES RIGGS & Co. Ltd of 107 Bishopsgate, London: E.C., thus making one of the strongest combinations ever known in the Gun Making and Sports Goods business….

. . . . .”The 'House of Reilly' is too well known in gun circles to need any comments here having been established nearly 100 years and its reputation for craftsmanship and value is a household word. All our guns in future will be named “E.M. Reilly & Co., London” thus adding another 25% to the value should you ever desire to sell it.”


The Riggs catalog featured the Reilly name as the centerpiece of his quality gun line-up, ahead of the BSA Guns. Riggs stopped specifically mentioning the Reilly name in advertisements by January 1923 but continued to label his guns as "E.M. Reilly & Co., London."

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Riggs continued to use the Reilly name on his Birmingham made guns for the next 25 years, selling over 24,000 guns (based on serial numbers). He died in 1950; “subscribers” who took over his shares in the company, per newspaper reporting pledged to continued to “carry on the business of manufacturers of and dealers in guns, rifles, pistols, revolvers.” Advertisements for Charles Riggs & Co, were still being placed in the Chelmsford newspaper in 1960. Riggs allegedly remained in business until 1966 (not confirmed; however, eyewitnesses remember walking into the sporting goods store in the early 1960’s and seeing only a few BSA air-guns).

Riggs-Reilly guns usually have "E.M. Reilly & Co., London" on the ribs; Sometimes "E.M. Reilly & Co., Ltd." As a further identifier, most of the Rigg's-Reilly's have "Prince of Wales" half pistol grip stocks, something the original Reilly firm almost never made. All the Riggs-Reilly’s were proofed in Birmingham. Riggs'-Reilly named guns have six-digit serial numbers and appear to begin at around 128000. (On occasion a Riggs-Reilly will have a 4 digit serial number). The earliest Riggs serial number so far identified is 128466). A Riggs "Reilly" with a serial number in the 150000's is known to exist.

Examples of extant Riggs-Reillys:*94s
. . . . .SN 128466 - E.M. Reilly & Co., London. 12 bore SxS Shotgun, 29" barrels. Nfi. 1st extant Riggs-Reilly
. . . . .SN 134481 - E.M. Reilly & Co., London. 12 ga. SxS shotgun. BLNE. 30” steel brls. 2.5” chambers
. . . . .SN 136720 - E.M. Reilly & Co., London. 12 ga SxS Shotgun. hammer gun, extractor
. . . . .SN 139564 - E.M. Reilly & Co., London. 12 bore SxS Shotgun, hammer-gun
. . . . .SN 139801 - E.M. Reilly (address not mentioned). 12 bore Shotgun SxS. Hammer gun
. . . . .SN 150570 - E.M. Reilly & Co., London. 12ga. Shotgun SxS. Boxlock non-ejector. (Brum proofs) Last extant Riggs-Reilly

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Riggs was quite a self-promoting character and comes across in advertisements and articles as something of an annoying, pretentious, status-climbing, individual with a large ego and a huge amount of hubris and energy. There are pictures of him medaled like a royal prince claiming marksmanship trophies that the historical record doesn't support.*94t He billed himself as a yeomanry sergeant early on*94u but had promoted himself to Lieutenant later on in life.*94v He very well could have rubbed the gun establishment the wrong way.

. . . . .Charles Riggs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Prince Charles
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Reading Rigg's letters to the London Press etc., can be grating (such as this 1914 letter about his son having "the time his life" on the western front in WWI).*94w The man would have made millions in the USA with his energy and without the class chip on his shoulder. In UK the way he presented himself and his business might have resonated with the BSA motorcycle crowd, which were his customers also, but likely was deadly to the upper classes; he made a lot of money - helped soccer clubs, contributed money to a down and out boxer, etc. - but apparently not a lot of friends in the close-knit gun making fraternity.

The Riggs guns are not ugly...but are now regarded as "journeyman guns," made in Birmingham "for the trade" of medium quality. Who negotiated the sale of the Reilly name is unknown. Whether a Reilly was involved in the design of the Riggs-Reilly's is not known.

What a come-down in advertising: from weekly ads in "The Field" and almost daily advertisements in the major London newspapers, the major travel guides of the country and the most important sporting events of the year, to Rigg's tiny advertisements in the "Essex Newsman," the "Chelmsford Chronicle" and the Bracon, Wales County papers.

Note: The legend that Reilly was a retailer only probably came out of the Riggs era. There is no mention of this claim until 1990's and by that time anyone who remembered the original Reilly company had passed away and memory had faded.


. . . . . CONCLUSION .


*95 Conclusion:

Over the course of 90 years the Reilly's sold all types of guns in various qualities using all types of actions. Reilly serial numbered about 33,000 guns from circa 1828 to 1912, all built in house. Though Reilly targeted relatively budget buyers, the guns that they made had an artistic elegance and balance, which is unmistakable. Reilly was one of the first to use highly figured French walnut for their stocks and their engraving, for the most part floral scroll work, was in a finely artistic style and consistently classy. Reilly's best guns were as good as those produced anywhere in England at the time.

Gene Herbert Williams, Sep 05, 2018; last updated March 10, 2024
1 member likes this
by Drew Hause
Drew Hause
Part I of Gene's article has been published in the October The Vintage Gun Journal
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/a-new-history-of-e-m-reilly
1 member likes this
by Parabola
Parabola
Gene,

The arrow through S is not a War Department Broad Arrow but Snider’s Trade Mark. Civilian not military.

Very interesting rifle.
1 member likes this
by Parabola
Parabola
The “engraving” on the Reeves blade is in fact etching where the areas to be left bright and raised are masked and the rest is subjected to controlled acid removal.
1 member likes this
by LeFusil
LeFusil
And what exactly did Mr. Hambling do at Reilly? What kind of gun shop did Mr Hambling run in the midlands? Where was Mr. Hambling apprenticed? Who did Mr. Hambling train? Was he a specialist of some sort? Barrels? Finisher? Actioner? Stocker? Or was he a specialist in something like.. retail? Sales? Was he a trained gunmaker? Trained in what discipline? Lots of stuff unanswered. These are things you as the researcher need to spell out with facts, not conjecture.

You bring up one guy to prove your point, Gene. One guy, no matter what his skill set is, is not going to posses the skills to set up the all the machines and tooling to manufacture that many different designs of guns, pistols, rifles, swords, knives, cases, etc. It’s just impossible, Gene. It’s about the most impractical idea as well. Do you have any idea how large a factory like that would have to be to produce so much weaponry and house 300+ employees? Take a look at the size of W&C Scott, W&S, Midlands, BSA, etc. those were ginormous factories. Reilly would’ve had to have been as big or bigger. They absolutely were NOT that massive. See what we’re getting at here…..Reilly was not that big, Gene.
1 member likes this
by HomelessjOe
HomelessjOe
Originally Posted by LeFusil
You should be proud, Gene. You’ve done one heck of a job trying to date and make sense of your beloved Reilly’s serial numbers and trade labels. You should absolutely be proud of that work. Kudos to you for that, seriously.

You have not provided one bit of empirical evidence that proves that Reilly made any guns, shotguns, pistols, etc during what we refer to as “The Golden Age” of British gunmaking. Sorry. It just hasn’t happened for you. Even Ray Charles can see that. Every time you sound off about Reilly being a Golden era gunmaker, you site completely circumstantial evidence to prove your point. It’s not convincing anyone, least of all anyone with a clue how the trade operated at that time.
Not one actual maker could’ve possibly made so many iterations of various action designs under one roof with the exception of a massive concern like BSA, Midlands, etc.
Read that last sentence again, Gene. No way Reilly could’ve done that. Not even Greener or W&S made that many different designs. Do you understand that??? Do understand the amount of expertise that would require? Specialist to set up machines and tooling to produce this action or that action. Impossible. Reilly’s didn’t do that. I highly doubt they even finished off barreled actions in the white. You know of no names of any specialist. Not a stocker. Actioner. Barrel filer. Finishers. Not one trade person person ever claiming to have learned their trade or even being employed by Reilly. That, Gene, is a huge red flag.

The names you listed above, not one of those names are associated with being an actual gunmaker or specialist in any part of the gunmaking trade. Shop managers? Walmart & Target have those too. Cartridge loader? Lots of stores, retailers, gun making shops loaded their own cartridges in those days. That’s not surprising.

The hOax lives on.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
===============================================================
How to conduct an intellectual inquiry - where I stand


I want to return to the above because the “debate” over Reilly has gone off track and I have personally taken a good bit of guff. Here is an analysis of the argumentation:

-- A group of gun connoisseurs has stated that “historically” Reilly was known only as a retailer. Anyone challenging this view must “prove” that Reilly was more than this and this proof must be definitive.
. . . . . . .This is quite simply anti-intellectual to its core. It is “I am right and you are wrong until you prove you are not wrong” dogma. There is not one truly intellectual investigation of anything that can start off with the conclusion as a given.

-- The second group began this line with a plain statement of facts: “J.C. Reilly, a jeweler by trade, began selling guns at his shop at High Holborn sometime between 1826 and 1828." This type of observation is similar to the start of any philosophical or intellectual endeavor, noticing a fact and wondering "why?" "how?" "what?" Then the investigation, based on the evidence, illuminated over the course of 5 years of research:
. . . – what type of guns he sold
. . . – how many he sold
. . . – what was his business model
. . . – what other lines of revenue did the company pursue, etc.
. . . – the fact that he made guns as well as sold retail, wholesale, including what types, etc.
. . . – It identified his market and his customers
. . . - It dated the serial numbered guns, and the labels….etc.

. . . - ALL the source materials were original from the 19th century - early 20th century.....none were from secondary sources or "oral legend."
. . . - The source materials and research were published on this line every step of the way.


. . . . . . . .This intellectual exercise, the research into Reilly, did exactly what such an investigation was supposed to do and it was conducted in exactly the way it should have been. It started with a simple goal - to date the Reilly guns. It then followed the evidence and clues which were uncovered. And the history was finally written by putting these together in the most logical way possible. It was refined as additional information was found and per appropriate comments from peer review.

I cannot accept the proposition that “historically” Reilly was only a “retailer,” when there is absolutely nothing "historical" about that assertion. Nor should gun scholars and students of guns.

To sum up: This history is the most complete one on Reilly that is available. It’s conclusions are based on the best possible original-source, historical evidence and analysis. There are places where some facts are still unclear and awaiting additional information. But, that is the fundamental truth about this research and it is the way any intellectual exercise should be conducted.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
As I'm compiling a bit more data, here is a reminder of what this sort of research can accomplish:
https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=596554&page=1

I'll repost the key part of the above which is apt:

Quote:
"I'd just like to add a plug for scholarship.

"It's so easy now to say about Reilly that this label was from this period; this gun is dated this year; etc. When I bought 34723 in Nov 2015 there was nothing on Reilly except bits and pieces of urban legend, often contradictory and often contentious. It took over 3,000 hours of research to rehabilitate Reilly and to recreate the history of the Company, date the guns and date the trade labels. It was fun; I enjoyed that sort of thing and was often in the middle of no-where with not a lot else to do.

"However, the fact that 26584 in North Hertfordshire found its case in Virginia is directly related to that Reilly research. Donald Dallas recognized this. Others should do likewise for their favorite guns which have no records."

And Merry Christmas to all...hoping you have a full double-stocking.
1 member likes this
by bonny
bonny
I don't have any real input on the subject of E.M. Reilly and co as gunmakers. I do have an interesting and useless little snippit of trivia for you though.

Reilly took over the premises of 2 rue scribe in Paris. The person who leased or rented the same address immediately previously to Reilly was an American man by the name of Adam Worth. Worth was a man of high intellect and intelligence, and he was also a master criminal wanted on both sides of the Atlantic.

This man Worth, was the person that Arthur Conan Doyle based "The Napoleon of crime" aka "Professor Moriarty" on in his Sherlock Holmes stories. It is believed Worth used the premises as a casino and front for his crimes.

Told you it was trivia, but there you go.
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Thanks Dr. Drew. Actually there are three articles in VGJ based on the Reilly research:

Reilly dating chart, September 2021:
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/dating-your-reilly-gun-or-rifle

Reilly History part I, August 2019:
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/a-new-history-of-e-m-reilly

Reilly History part II, September 2019
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/the-life-of-reilly

Diggory also has the text of the "Dating Reilly Labels" part of the research (p. 93, 94), which he may publish a bit at a time:

The Histories were edited somewhat by Diggory. It was the original pretty straight forward minimalist manuscript. This original text has been superseded by the 120 page version on P. 94 & 95 of the line which goes much more into detail, partly in response to challenges made to the original. The dating chart is updated on p. 95 of the line (or p. 57 for the complete extant gun list). The History and the Dating Chart are updated on this line when new guns come to light that compel a change .
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
In Chapter IV, 23, - Origin of the UK center break gun - Hodges and Lang: the following has been added and Stephan has done ground breaking research:

"This is not a detailed recounting of how Lefaucheaux’s break-action pin-fire breech-loader conquered the UK and changed gun history. However, the facts must be reviewed in brief so that Reilly’s part in it can be understood. (This is according to widely accepted gun-history legend; see below re Stephen Nash's rewriting of this narrative)."
.
**Note: Stephen Nash, a pin-fire expert, has published an excellent and erudite examination of the British adaption of the French breech-loading concept. He has postulated credibly, based on analysis of existing guns and gun sketches, that Hodges and Lang adopted elements of Beringer's center break concepts in their gun, vice those of Lefaucheaux.
*23m
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/lever-over-guard-origins
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Reilly's use of Whitworth steel barrels has been well documented in the History Chapter XI, 76 - first advertisements (Jan 82), first guns (Dec 81), grain sheaf trademark, etc. But this gun continues to haunt. If it is steel. . .Reilly was light years ahead of the gun industry. Added to the history:

Text:

There is an 1876 Reilly SxS rifle that appears to have steel barrels, but may be blued Damascus, the advertisement gun description being minimal; If these are in fact original steel barrels they pre-date Purdey's use of Whitworth steel by 4 years:

. . . . .SN 19953 (1876): - E.M. Reilly & Co., New Oxford Street, London. 500 BPE. Rifle SxS. U-L hammer gun, steel barrels. Round back-action lock. 28”*76c

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
1 member likes this
by Argo44
Argo44
Chapter VII, 43. Early 1860’s: Reilly and Cutlery, Swords, Bayonets concerns Reilly as a cutlery maker - making knives, swords and bayonets; he is so listed in London business directories in the late 1850's and early 1860's.

There is a Reilly Yataghan bayonet for sale on this site:
https://auctions.bosleys.co.uk/catalogue/?searchTerm=Reilly&searchOption=3
It has the two address 315 and 502 Oxford, London and the name "E.M. Reilly & Co. . i.e after the August 1858 opening of 315 Oxford street and the March 1859 change in the name to E.M. Reilly & Co . . . . with no maker's name on it. It has a dark background etched field on the engraving.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

A Reilly Enfield sword/ Yataagan bayonet was previously pictured with E.M. Reilly & Co. 315 and 502 Oxford streets. . .with a maker's name "Reeves." The engraving is identical but with a light background field.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

There is a sword /bayonet for a Jacobs' Rifle with only Reilly 502 Oxford Street on the engraving (pre March 1859); it does not have a contrasting background to the engraving.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

It would be interesting to know where and from whom Reilly sourced his blades. The Reeves name above likely refers to a patent solid hilt designed by Charles Reeves and patented around 1853. "as early as 1854 the Wilkinson records show that they were producing the Patent Solid Hilt also on officers' swords, presumably while paying a royalty fee to Reeves. "

https://www.antique-swords.co.uk/im...ilt-british-light-cavalry-officers-sword
Patent Solid Hilt officers' swords were usually the products of either Reeves or Wilkinson's workshops in the early years and these two companies seem to have had a close operating relationship. Reeves was the biggest manufacturer of swords in Birmingham (until Robert Mole & Sons later took that place) and Wilkinson was the largest in London. Reeves went bankrupt in 1869 and then returned to sword making on a smaller scale, but in 1883 Wilkinson bought a large share in the company and later completely absorbed it.

Most surviving Patent Solid Hilt swords are therefore Wilkinsons, however a few other makers did copy the feature, whether under official licence or not it is not currently known. The author has seen examples of the solid hilt made by Pillin and Mole for example. As well as examples with only retailers' names on, such as Phillips (which could have been made by Reeves for the retailers), which could have been made by Reeves, Wilkinson, Mole, Pillin or someone else. There were not actually many sword makers in Britain by the 1850s and a few companies were making most of the sword blades, which were then etched with the retailer's details.


The engraving on Reeves' swords resembles that on the Reilly:
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

A paragraph has been added to the book to suggest that Reilly possibly sourced his blades from Reeves.
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