Griffiths & Woodgate rifle
Country of origin

United Kingdom


William Griffiths & Herbert Ferdinand Woodgate

Year(s) designed

1891 - 1894

Weapon type

Automatic rifle


.303 British


Short recoil

Magazine/Cylinder capacity

10 rounds

The Griffiths & Woodgate rifle was a British automatic rifle, designed in 1891 by William Griffiths and Herbert Ferdinand Woodgate. It is thought to be the world's first automatic rifle.


Griffiths and Woodgate took out their first automatic rifle patent in 1891, and funded the development of the weapon through a syndicate of private investors. Working prototypes were developed and were trailed by the British Army in 1894. The Army found that the accuracy of the weapon was below their standards and the recoil was manageable for an automatic weapon, but in semi-automatic fire it was too strong. The general consensus among the Army officials was that the Griffiths & Woodgate rifle was unsuitable for service and it was rejected without recommendations for improvements. The rifle's investors lost significant sums of money as a result of this and thus the syndicate that funded the weapon collapsed.

Herbert Woodgate continued to expand on the design without the assistance of William Griffths and later developed the similarly unsuccessful Woodgate rifle.


The barrel and bolt reciprocated upon firing, until they were stopped by a spring collar. The bolt was then turned by a handle in the cam slot and ejected the empty casing. The hammer was forced down by the bolt and was held in place by the sear. The spring returned the bolt to its original position and a new round was chambered.