This is a very interesting presentation grade 2-band Sergeant's Percussion Rifle manufactured by William Greener in 1860. Greener was one of the less prolific manufacturers of the Enfield and his work was first rate. Standard .33" barrel in caliber .577. Complete with original swivels, rear sight, ramrod, bayonet lug. It also comes with most of its original chained nipple protector (not in photos). The lockplate is finely engraved with wheat stalk border-lines, pin wheels around the screws, and floral vignettes at the front and rear edges. The hammer is a target style with graceful styling with fine scrollwork. Barrel tang and bolster are also finely engraved as are the screws that hold the lockplate, barrel, and hammer. The wooden stock is nicely scalloped just under the lockplate (see photos). The mountings are all iron...consistent with many 2-band Sergeant rifles we've seen over the years. Barrel is commercially proofed with Birmingham proofs and dual "25" bore gauge marks (.577 caliber). However, all that aside, it's the marking on the the face of the lock plate that makes this rifle truly INTERESTING. It's engraved "NVRC" Originally we thought this stood for "National Volunteer Rifle Corps" but we were corrected by an astute collector who advised us that the true meaning behind the NVRC was actually "Newcastle Volunteer Rifle Corps". Sure enough, the seal braced by twin dragons is that of the town of Newcastle located in Northern England. In fact, their football team (or Soccer as we say here in America), Newcastle United used this same seal or badge today as the NVRC did back in 1860. Thank You Andre!
VRC and NRA: During the late 1850's, following the Crimean War, there was fear of an invasion of the British Isles from France. The Volunteer Rifle Corps was formed in 1859 to counter such threats. The Corps was comprised of British citizen volunteers who trained to serve their country...somewhat like the CMP and National Guard does here in America. The organization's primary focus was to train citizens in the art of marksmanship. In case of war, their goal would be to have thousands of citizens fully marksmen and basic drill who were ready to join the Army at a moment's notice. The Volunteer Rifle Corps would eventually become the National Rifle Association of Great Britain. The NRA organized shooting matches for Volunteer Rifle Corps, the first national event taking place at Wimbledon (yes, where they play tennis today) in 1860 and attended by Queen Victoria. Given its 1860 date of manufacture along with its VRC and NRA associations, its possible this rifle would have participated at the Wimbledon match of 1860. The only balls flying through the air were ones made out of lead that no tennis racket was going to return. The winners of these matches did not receive silvery trays or cups but were awarded "prize rifles"...often with a silver plaque engraved with the event won and the winner's name. These prizes were often in the form of a London Armoury Pattern 1853 Musket and sometimes Presentation Grade Whitworth rifles.
The NRA concept was so greatly admired by Americans living in Great Britain that they pushed to form a National Rifle Association in America during the Civil War. They even went so far as to purchase Whitworth Prize Rifles for the first match but America was too busy fighting its Civil War from 1861-65 to be interested in shooting matches. The formation of the NRA was put on hold until 1871. Target shooting went on to become a big sport here in America during the 1870's and 80's...especially in the northeast. So historically speaking, this rifle represents the original conception what would eventually become the NRA here in America.
The American Civil War "angle": so yes, this rifle once belonged to a member of the NVRC/NRA in Great Britain. The Volunteer soldiers purchased their own rifles which were to be used in drill and target practice along with shooting matches. In fact, that's how the concept of the London Armoury's .45 Kerr rifle was developed...after shooting at a match, the Kerr rifle's barrel could be interchanged with a standard P1853 .577 Enfield barrel for drill practice. To most in England, it was a poor man's way of owning a quality target rifle. It was the Confederates who maximized the Kerr's capabilities as sniper rifles during the Civil War and made it famous. The only problem here was that the British government was not too keen on Volunteers purchasing their own Enfield patterned rifles as these tended to be to be a little or in some cases A LOT fancier than standard gov't issue Enfields. In essence, the very nature of the military is uniformity and to no surprise, it wanted Volunteers to drill and fire the exact same weapons that the regular armed forces were using. Thus, by 1862, Volunteers were banned from using their own weapons. One could imagine that a number were sold on the British market at the same time Confederate purchasing agents were scouring London and Birmingham for arms. That leaves room for a bit of an interesting theory. Could this rifle have been purchased by the Confederate buyers, run through the blockade, and used during the Civil War? After all, it turned up over here in America...from an old collection (so I'm told). Over the years, I've attended a number of Civil War shows and seen a number of fancier Volunteer Enfields...often ones with checkered stocks advertised as "Jefferson Davis" rifles. That these Volunteer rifles ended up serving the Confederates during the Civil War would be difficult to prove without some sort of provenance (certainly a few actually did participate in the war) but it's an interesting angle to ponder for an already fascinating rifle.
Overall, this rifle is in NRA Antique Very Good Condition. The metal has aged to a smooth brown patina. The markings and and engraving are in excellent shape. The walnut stock is in Very Good Plus Condition with a wonderful untouched patina. The wood-to-metal fit is fantastic. It exhibits numerous small handling marks as to be expected on most military weapons from this era but no cracks, chips, repairs. The mechanics are in perfect order and to our surprise, the bore was immaculate, still fairly bright, near Excellent with all of its original 3-groove rifling intact. It's not very often we find an Enfield with all of its parts intact...they are almost always missing something, be it a swivel, a sight, the ramrod, etc. This rifle is 100% intact and all original. Over the years, we've encountered a number of these Volunteer rifles but this is the only one of only two we've now seen with NRA markings.