While stationed in India, General John Jacob experimented with improving military service rifles. In early 1858, he decided to raise a battalion of native riflemen who he planned to arm with a short-barreled .52-caliber double rifle and an unusual broadsword-pattern bayonet. London gunmaker Swinburn & Son was to produce the guns. The twin 24-inch barrels had deep, four-groove rifling and a series of leaf sights fitted to the barrel, including a long-range (out to 2,000 yards) sight bar that would allow the piece to be used against enemy ammunition carts with special explosive projectiles.
With Jacob dying of exhaustion in December 1858, his rifles were to have only limited military application. For intrigued collectors, the less than 1,000 military examples made are somewhat easier to find than their elusive 30-inch bayonets. This excellent-condition Jacob rifle and matching bayonet are on loan to the National Firearms Museum from Peter Dowd.
Firearms history abounds at both the National Firearms Museum, located at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., and at the new National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro in Springfield, Mo., where visitors can view thousands of historic arms, including guns from famous shooters and American presidents, free of charge (donations appreciated) seven days a week. For more information, check out the museum website at www.nramuseum.com, e-mail [email protected] or call (703) 267-1600.