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Blog Post Featured Image

Thomas Horsley Percussion 'Howdah Rifle'

Thomas Horsley Gunmaker, was originally founded in 1832 in Doncaster, England moving within only a couple of years to the City of York where the rifle shown here was manufactured circa 1840. This particular .450 percussion rifle retains much of its original finish and patina, but is particularly interesting in that a damascus telescopic sight has been added at some stage, presumably by the maker. This is the only muzzleloading double rifle that we have seen fitted with a quick detachable telescopic sight and there certainly cannot be too many around as it would undoubtedly have been a very new invention for the time.

Horsley York Rifle-3851-Edit

Going back to the business, Thomas Horsley the elder passed the company onto his son Thomas who continued the operation from Coney Street, York. On his death, circa 1915, the business passed on once again to his son, another Thomas (!) who ran it with his brothers from Blossom Street, York and later Micklegate, York, which was to be the company's last address when it ceased trading in the late 1950's.

Horsley York Rifle-3881-Edit Horsley York Rifle-3888-Edit-Edit

Another interesting feature of this rifle is its compact size. Whilst we cannot confirm it, we have always rather romantically referred to this rifle as a 'Howdah Rifle' as its compact nature befits the tight space likely encountered from the howdah on the back of an Indian elephant. It would certainly be very handy to use and the telescopic sight might just help pick an animal out from amongst the tall grass. The wonderfully naive engraving on the lock plates of tiger and deer adds greatly to this hypothesis!

Horsley York Rifle-3909-Edit Horsley York Rifle-3925-Edit


  • Peter Buckley. on June 24, 2017 at 5:07 am


    Wonderful elegant damascus double rifle, of course it would be, it was built in God's country, "Yorkshire"!
    Seems to be yet another gem from the depths of Westley Richards vaults, what other remarkable finds have yet to be revealed?

    I have never seen before now a damascus telescopic sight on any gun or rifle, it was well worth posting this rifle just for the scope, and quick detachable!
    Tell me are the other sights that are let into the top rib contemporary with the age of the rifle, they do seem to me to be another much later addition?

    Thank you for another very interesting post.

    Kind regards. Peter.

    • Trigger on June 28, 2017 at 3:05 am

      Hi Peter

      There are always more finds out there, you just have to look hard enough! The scope really is unique and makes for a fabulous looking rifle. It is the only one that I have seen. I think, like you that the other express sights have probably been moved to accommodate the position of the scope. When we build such a rifle here, we have to base the express sight position on where we can fit the scope bases. Makes perfect sense that they did the same.

      All the very best and thank you for your support.


      • Peter Buckley. on June 28, 2017 at 4:41 am

        Dear Trigger

        With posts such as the above its just so easy to support the 'Blog', I have yet to find one of the posts on the 'Explora' that doesn't excite and stimulate my interest!
        And the photography just encourages me to look even closer.
        It's quite obvious that I am searching in the wrong places to find the treasure!
        I have collected sights for years, rifle and pistol, and never found anything quite as unusual and unique.
        Keep on with the fascinating subjects it's great for the 'Blog'.

        Kind regards. Peter.

        • Trigger on June 28, 2017 at 5:12 am

          Hi Peter

          Many thanks. Maintaining the blog is a serious job made worthwhile if people like yourself appreciate the effort that goes into doing it.

          Best regards


  • David Hodo on June 26, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Trigger,

    Wow, a Damascus scope! Only Westley Richards could come up with a find like this. And from around 1840....Value to a serious collector with deep pockets?
    Thanks for continually educating the followers of this blog!

    David Hodo

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