James Baird Thorneycroft


Date of Birth


Date of Death



Small arms designer
Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran

Famous Works

Thorneycroft 1902 rifle
Thorneycroft-Farquhar 1905 rifle

James Baird Thorneycroft (1851 - 1918) was a British inventor. He was responsible for the development of the Thorneycroft Carbine, the world's first bullpup rifle.


James Thorneycroft was born on the 19th March, 1851 in Wolverhampton, England. Not much is known about his early life, but at some point he moved to Ayrshire, Scotland, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1901, at the age of 50, he became the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, and in the same year he invented his first prototype bullpup rifle. It was developed in response to the British Army's interest in adopting a short rifle or carbine, since the Boers had deployed Mauser carbines effectively against British troops during the Boer Wars. Thorneycroft patented his initial prototype in 1902, and during the August of the same year he presented his weapon to the British War Office for military trials. It was tested in December and was rejected due to excessive recoil and poor ergonomics. Thorneycroft later collaborated with fellow gunmaker Moubray Gore Farquhar in creating the 1905 Thorneycroft rifle. The design was rehauled, though it was still a bullpup rifle. It was submitted to British Army trials in 1905 and once again rejected, after which Thorneycroft collaborated in 1906 with Arthur Henry Hill to create a very similar rifle to his 1905 prototype, but with an improved screw thread locking. The British Army was not interested in the weapon, and a somewhat disheartened Thorneycroft gave up small arms design while Farquhar went on to work on machine guns and Hill worked on semi-automatic rifles. Thorneycroft died on the 15th of December, 1918, in his house in Ayrshire, aged 67.

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