Good Soper Rifle
This is a very good Soper rifle and a nice example of a military version as it has a bayonet lug. Bore is good with strong rifling and mechanics are perfect. Chambered for 450 Soper this is an obsolete calibre rifle. Reputed to be one of the fastest shooting rifles of it's time assisted by the rifle firing from a falling block, Sgt Warwick of the Berkshire Volunteers shot 60 shots in 60 seconds with a Soper rifle at the 1870 Olympia Exhibition. Soper was marred by bad luck and timing and there was a possibility at one time that this rifle could have replaced the Martini rifle by the British Army had Soper supplied an example early enough and made different business arrangements. See following an article from "The Engineer". It would appear that the author had partisan interest elsewhere!
The Soper Rifle
The Engineer, 13 December 1867
The rifle invented by Mr. W. Soper, of Reading, and illustrated in Figs. 1 and 2, was one of the number sent for the recent competition at Woolwich, and was rejected on the ground of "complication of breech arrangement." In this rifle the breech-piece is formed of a block of steel R, working freely up and down in a vertical slot at the rear of the barrel, and secured to a lever fixed at the bottom of the lock, which is placed in the center of the stock. The striker J is mounted inside the breech-piece, and works easily without any spring. The cock is also secured to the breech lever in such a manner that the breech-piece and cock are worked simultaneously.
The attachment is effected by the swivel H, furnished with a projection and recess for working the extractor L, so that the one movement of drawing down the lever opens the breech, cocks the piece, and throws out the cartridge case. The trigger A is mounted on the lever, and has no connection with the sear E until the breech is placed home, and thus the rifle cannot be fired until the safety catch B is pressed. For cleaning purposes the lock and breech-piece can be removed by withdrawing a couple of screws. Fig. 3 shows a section of the rifling, the calibre being that of the service rifle.
The trials of this rifle at Woolwich were satisfactory. For rapidity twelve rounds were fired in thirty-nine seconds with three mis-fires; the mean deviation of eight shots fired for accuracy from a shoulder rest at 500 yards, with Boxer cartridges, No. 3 pattern, was 2.30ft. Many excellent results have also since been obtained. Nevertheless we cannot but agree with the committee that the mechanism of the breech and lock is too complicated for a purely military weapon, and, moreover, that they were perfectly correct in doubting the value of the safety catch as a substitute of the ordinary half-cock. Mr. Soper has expended a great deal of ingenuity, and has produced a weapon which gives good results, but we think it cannot be denied that it is unsuitable for the use of the soldier.
Breech-loaders V. Muzzle-loaders
The Engineer, 6 August 1869
On Saturday, July 31st, a very interesting competition took place in the presence of Major Sir C.S.Paul Hunter, Bart., between Corporal Bainbridge and fourteen picked men of the battalion using long Enfield rifles and three men using the Soper direct-action breech-loader. The targets were similar to those for the file firing, but only half the usual size. Distance; 200 yards; time, three minutes. Each party to fire as rapidly as they please. The scores were as follows:- Enfield Rifles: 1st squad of five men, 84 points; 2nd squad of five men, 94 points; 3rd squad of five men, 94 points; total, 272. Sopers breech-loader: Sergeant Soper, 140; Private Warrick, 138; Sergeant Gostage, 110; total, 388. Majority in favour of breech-loader, 116 points. It will thus be seen that two men with the breech-loader scored six points more than the fifteen men with the Enfield. Private Warrick having fired eighteen shots the first minute, twenty one the second, and seventeen the third, making a total of fifty-six shots in the three minutes; and Sergeant Soper having scored five bulls-eyes before a single shot was got off by the squad opposed to him.
This rifle is in good overall order and has a plated barrel identical to the one sold at auction last year ( £4250 + premium) The bore is good with strong rifling and mechanically it is excellent.
The plating is faded in places as can be seen and would be possibly worthy of restoration although personally I would leave well alone.
A rare rifle.