The First Bullpup

During the Boer Wars, British infantry were often outgunned by South African Boer cavalry using short Mauser rifles whilst on horseback. By the time the wars had ended, the British Army were convinced that a short carbine rifle was needed. Scottish ironmaster James Baird Thorneycroft designed an unconventional rifle that he believed was the solution to the Army’s problem. The Thorneycroft carbine had the same barrel length as the Lee-Enfield, and was about 7 inches shorter in length, owing to the fact that the chambering was within the rear end of the stock. He submitted his design to the War Office in 1901 and it was tested against the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) over the course of the next few years. Rigorous tests found the Thorneycroft lacking; recoil was strong, the mechanism was complicated and the aesthetics were awkward. In 1905, Thorneycroft collaborated with Moubray Gore Farquhar to create the Thorneycroft-Farquhar rifle (pictured). Although it was submitted for further trials, the British Army was set on adopting the SMLE and all interest in the Thorneycroft rifle had disappeared.