Westley Richards Centerfire Monkey Tail Carbine

The Westley Richards “Monkey Tail” was a popular capping breechloader first designed in 1858. It was finally adopted by the British cavalry in 1866, and served until 1881. It was also a popular commercial rifle, especially in remote places like Australia and South Africa. It was named for the long lever on top of the action used to open and close the breech. In 1868, Westley Richards designed a centerfire version using a self-contained paper cartridge (somewhat like a Chassepot cartridge). Only 600 of these were ever made, and only 13 are known to still exist – including this one.


  1. I feel about five years younger. This is absolutely what I remember FW was when I got hooked. Fin brill. Learned lots with this one and not by coincidence a post not featuring another open-bolt 9mm SMG.

    • Hear, hear! More ‘Monkey Tail,’ less ‘burp-gun.’

      Of late, most of the ‘forgotten weapons’ featured deserve to be forgotten, simply because one burp-gun is much like another. Bring on the bizarre, dead-end, freaky elderly firearms festooned with gadgets, levers, dials, and knobs, with incomprehensible mechanisms and wildly impractical ammunition! Regale us with elderly revolvers that self-eject, obsolete weapons that only an Ethiopian could love, outmoded military weapons not seen in this century!
      THAT’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

      • Gun Jesus did not see his shadow yesterday and thus there will be not six more weeks of tube guns and unleavened bread before the next revelation of the apocrypha. Amen, or until the next hard primer or empty case.

  2. The inventiveness of Westley Richards 🙂

    The company that he founded is still making guns more than 200 years later

    See if they’ll let you film some of their collection and their current work, next time you’re in Britain?

    The company’s most famous development is far from forgotten – the Anson and Deeley “boxlock”, and its very high end development, the “droplock”.

    They did have (perhaps still do have), an original .500 (12.5x70mm) Schüler built on a standard length Mauser 98, and a couple of the original 27 or so Jeffery rifles built for the .500 on magnum length mauser 98 actions.

    Along with examples of their own .425, arguably the first “short magnum”.

  3. How was the percussion cap fixed in the paper cartridge? Was it on kind of nipple or was the cap of a different design?

  4. How did this handle black powder fouling? Perhaps the primer, felt pad, and other parts of the paper cartridge which did not burn would scrape the bore cleanish?

  5. felix has it correctly. The paper cartridge had a substantial felt wad at the base which did not combust. The nose of the next cartridge pushed it into the breech and it was blown down the barrel with the next firing. the grease and scouring action of this was said to reduce fouling of the barrel. This seems to work when I have treied it, substituting plasticised cork surface felt (used to protect tables from hot dishes). I heavily grease the edges of the felt only. Gas escape is noticable but not extreme.

  6. What concerns me is the paper cartridge being ignited by smoldering residue left by the previous shot. This is why heavy artillery using bagged charges is either swabbed out or has air blast “washout” mechanisms. If you watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVvEPTYrcXA
    you will see at about 1:40 minutes in a large amount of smoke ejected from the muzzle appreciably after the guns fire – that’s the air blast ejecting toxic gasses and any residue out the muzzle before the breech is opened. In addition, without the washout, there is the problem of flare back with the hot gasses igniting when they hit oxygen when the breech is opened.

  7. The simple burp guns taught me a lot about mass produced manufacturing, and to me, their subtle differences and details are just as fascinating as a monkey tail single shot rifle..

    • All good Mel, some people like anchovies on their pizza, some like pineapple. Variety is my favorite spice…

      • Au contraire, mon vieux. Anchovies on a pizza are just FINE. Pineapple, on the other hand, is anathema, fit only for carefully picking off and feeding to a nearby, trusting dog, which will instantly become less trusting after being fed pineapple and will never see you in the same light again.

        Be that as it may, the occasional burp-gun, or larger burp-gun, is fine; It’s just a steady stream of burp-guns that is daunting. A burp-gun with a water jacket, belt feed, and a tripod. . . ah, bliss!

        • Geen probleme nie my kleinding. I will call you my interwebs friend, so long as you never feed a dog pineapple, don’t leave your brass on the range, call your mom at least once a week and use your turn signals…@XO10924 is confident in your good character.

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