‘Alexander Henry – Rifle Maker’ By Donald Dallas

For those eager gun enthusiasts among you the name Donald Dallas should need no introduction. He has almost single handedly written the history of many of the great names in British gun and rifle making including that of Holland & Holland, James Purdey & Sons, Boss & Co., David McKay Brown, John Dickson & Son and now with his latest publication, Alexander Henry.

Alexander Henry was unquestionably one of Scotlands finest rifle makers, posts on this blog testifying to the outstanding quality of the rifles built by him. What makes this book so special is the access Donald had to family archive via the great great grandson of Alexander Henry himself, one Richard Brown. Between the two of them they have put together the most complete history on the maker which is long overdue.

In Donald’s own words:

“It isn’t often that a gun or rifle maker is known to the general public, but Alexander Henry is with the Martini-Henry rifle. Although Henry was in business for a short time between 1852 until his death in 1894, he became a very well-known rifle maker not only in Great Britain but throughout the world. Henry was of a clever, inventive mind with his 1860 rifling and drop block action of 1865 and in addition, he was also astute in promoting this riflemaking ability. He attended all the major competitions, gave his rifles as prizes and was an early enthusiastic founder of the burgeoning Volunteer Movement.

By the 1860s Alexander Henry was the most well-known and pre-eminent rifle maker in Great Britain and the Empire. Orders flowed in from all parts of the world, with the customers in his Dimensions Books reading like a veritable Who’s Who of the period. He received Royal Warrants, unusual for a gunmaker outside London, and was on personal terms with the Prince of Wales.

Such were Henry’s achievements and fame that he featured regularly in The Scotsman and The Times newspapers in their records of shooting competitions, new inventions and military development. This contemporary documentary evidence is quite unusual for a gunmaker and was a great benefit in writing this book. He was a very public figure with not just self-interest driving his ambition, he was very patriotic and was keen to strive towards the greater good for his country.

One fortunate element in writing the Alexander Henry history is the existence of his complete records in the form of two Dimensions Books dating from 1852–1950. These books belong to John Dickson & Son and record in great detail every single firearm he constructed, making it possible to build up a very accurate account of his production.

Yet, for all his undoubted success in business and his contribution to rifle development, his personal life was marred by immense sadness and disappointment. However, he seemed to rise above this despondence and right to the end of his days strove constantly for perfection in all his works. The history of Alexander Henry is one of the most interesting histories of a gunmaker that I have encountered, an amalgam of worldwide success, yet tinged with disappointment and tragedy.”

The book contains around 200 full colour photographs, including the trade labels, patent drawings, photos of Henry’s personal shooting medals, with all 8000 guns and rifles listed by serial number. No gun library should be without a copy!

To purchase Donald’s latest book and for information on his previous publications, please visit http://donalddallas.com/

4 thoughts on “‘Alexander Henry – Rifle Maker’ By Donald Dallas

  1. I have many of the massive books that detail the British sporting arms evolution from 1800 or so until WW II. Donald Dallas is one of the authors I have with his “The British Sporting Gun and Rifle”. He has written many more books about specific gun makers which I do not have. Hopefully Christmas will bring another to my library.
    I have other British sporting arms books by Nigel Brown, Diggory Hadoke, Terry Wieland and especially the “Westley Richards and Co., In Pursuit of the Best Gun”. All of these volumes are great. Some are more reference oriented, some more readable and photo oriented. Either way each of you that admire the British gun trade of the past or dream about owning one of Trigger’s latest acquisitions, you should be building your library so you can learn more about the guns and rifles that we all crave!

    Thanks Trigger for posting about Donald Dallas and his new book!
    David Hodo

  2. Hi Trigger,

    To Donald and Richard

    Your new book looks to be another fabulous addition to your long list of classic volumes!
    The dust jacket photo, just tremendous! On seeing the post I looked on the Internet and reading what was found discovered from your text that a Alex Henry leather rifle case I own is for a 451 left handed lock falling block I think maybe a Military Match?
    I will wait now for Chistmas morning and see what ‘Santa’ may deliver.
    I know you will certainly not need it but the best of luck with the new book it will become I’m sure an instant “classic”!!
    To compile such valuable information is something not everyone can do, thank you for putting this historical evidence together in a beautiful volume.

    Best regards. Peter.

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