Monday, February 20, 2012

The Quest for a British Infantry Rifle

Good Evening,

I began shooting blackpowder about a year an a half ago.  The Baker Rifle (more correctly known as the British Infantry Rifle)  was the famous rifle of the British 95th rifles and features as an important pseudo-character in the Bernard Cornwell Sharpe's series (starting with “Sharpe's Rifles”).   As an avid fan of both the Sharpe's book series and the Sharpe's video series I decided that I wanted a Baker Rifle of my own.
Turns out this was far easier said than done. Early research found that no one makes a production reproduction of the Baker Rifle. There is an India made reproduction, but it has a smoothbore not a rifled
barrel. The apparent reason for this is that you have two distinct groups commonly firing reproduction black powder weapons. Military reenactors and Fur Trade reenactors. The military reenactors are perfectly happy with the smoothbore, they are mostly firing blanks anyway so the rifled barrel is unnecessary and even an inconvenience. For the Fur Trade reenactors, the Baker Rifle is not one that there is a lot of interest in. You see way more American style long rifles (Kentucky, Pennsylvania, etc.).

This is not to say that there are not people shooting a rifled Baker Rifle, but they are rare and their rifles are, by necessity, customized to some level. For example Track of the Wolf has a custom made Baker Ordnance Rifle for almost $2700. Nice rifle, but not the pattern I am looking for. I also found some that were being custom made in England, exactly the pattern I wanted, for as much as £3500 (I do not even want to convert that to dollars).
I began with a Pedersolli Kentucky Longrifle in .50 caliber. This has been a very good rifle and will always be my 'first' rifle. However, I still wanted a Baker Rifle. Now I had much more time to work on it as I already had a rifle to shoot. In time, and with much help from Craig Schmidt, I searched more thoroughly. Digging through the forums of the various 95th Rifles reenactment groups. Talking with Sutlers and gunsmiths.
The conclusion I came to was to get an India made Baker Rifle (smoothbore) from Track of the Wolf. Have it sent to Mr. Ed Rayl, barrel-maker, who will swap out the smoothbore for a custom rifled barrel.
This part of the project starts tomorrow.

If all goes well I will have a completed, semi-custom Baker Rifle by the middle of May, perhaps in time for my birthday. While waiting, I will start assembling a shooting kit for this new rifle.

- Colonel de Valois


Wiki overview of the Baker Rifle:

Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Series

Track of the Wolf, India made Baker Rifle:

Track of the Wolf, full custom Baker Ordnance Rifle:

Pedersoli, Kentucky Rifle;