Westley ‘Monkey Tail’ Portuguese Army Contract pistol
Designed by Westley Richards in 1857, rifles patented in 1858 and pistols in 1867, manufactured in Birmingham c.1873. Serial Number 585.
.451(bore)/.475(rifling) caliber, using the Whitworth patent hexagonal bullet and a 25 grain powder charge. Breech-loading, caplock, single-shot, with an automatic extractor and a concave brass breech plug.
Being a very early breechloading small caliber firearm design, monkey tail guns enjoyed a relative success as a specialist weapon in the 1860′s, being employed mainly by their country of origin the United Kingdom and its colonies. Originally shunned, notably in the USA, because of the antiquated notion that .577 was the minimum amount of death to reliably stop someone, it received renewed attention in the 1870′s with the advent of the Dreyse and Chassepot rifles, leading to a 10000 rifles purchase by the kingdom of Portugal, extended later to include a thousand pistols like the one pictured above. Later models, precursors to the express rifles, were employed by the Boers for their remarkable accuracy.
This breech loading system, unlike the later Tabatière and Snider systems, is akin to the Pauly centerfire rifle.