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"Repeating Rifle." Patent no. 29615, filed by Edwin J. Cashmore and William M. Cooper, 1888


Patent no. 29615. Filing year 1888.

"Repeating Rifle," Edwin J. Cashmore and William M. Cooper.

While not necessarily intended for war, the "Improvement on Repeating Rifles" by Edwin Cashmore, gunsmith, and William M. Cooper, merchant, of Toronto, represents a relatively rare Canadian foray into weapons design.

In the late 19th century, there were two competing designs of repeating rifles. In bolt-action guns, developed primarily in Germany, a moveable bolt closed the breech end of the barrel and contained the firing pin. The bolt could be drawn back with a lever to eject the spent shell while a spring loaded the next. In lever action rifles, cartridges were loaded into the chamber of the barrel using a lever located around the trigger guard and parallel to the grip.

Lever action guns became widespread in North America thanks in particular to New England businessman Oliver Winchester. The former shirt-maker demonstrated a gift for buying and developing key gun-design patents, resulting first in the Henry rifle -- used in the American Civil War -- and then in the Winchester series. His Winchester 73 rifle is particularly revered as "the gun that won the West," a quick-loading wonder that was prized by lawmen and outlaws alike in the frontier lands. A 1950 film, Winchester 73, starring James Stewart, testified to the gun's desirability in the late 19th century.

Cashmore and Cooper's rifle, patented in 1888, is based on the Winchester design. A cylinder below the gun barrel -- "preferably made solid with the barrel," the patent specifies -- held the cartridges. Once the gun was fired, the spent cartridge was ejected and the next cartridge was loaded using the lever around the trigger guard. Cashmore and Cooper's improvements, as they explained it, were intended to protect the action from the recoil caused by the explosion of the cartridge. As well, they hoped to "simplify and otherwise arrange the parts of the action that the magazine may be easily filled, readily thrown out of connection with the action of the repeater, and operated in all its movements in the simplest manner possible." Toronto, however, was hardly the epicentre of gun manufacturing, and there is little evidence that Cashmore and Cooper's design enjoyed widespread use.


Van Dulken, Stephen. Inventing the 19th Century: 100 Inventions that Shaped the Victorian Age, from Aspirin to the Zeppelin. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

"Lever-action." Wikipedia.
(accessed October 18, 2005).

"Repeating rifle."Wikipedia.
(accessed October 18, 2005).