G.H. Daw was one of many makers of what is now called the Tower Enfield pattern P56 Infantry and Naval Rifles. Unlike many in the small arms trade, Daw crafted superior examples of the standard British military patterns and was known for detailed workmanship and fine oiled premium grade walnut stocks. Many examples by Daw are known used by both flanking companies and sharpshooters in the Confederate Army and many had the owner names and units on a small oval plate at the wrist of the stock, as this one once had. It is unknown why the marking was removed.
Chambered in .577, these weapons were incredibly accurate and were originally issued with a sabre bayonet which was numbered to the weapon. Many authors call this pattern the “Volunteer” pattern and many were originally issued in England to non commissioned officers. This example is typical for an exported weapon which was devoid of any crown or British War Department markings and was most certainly manufactured in late 1860 to early 1861.
To quote Tim Prince, known weapons authority and appraiser on the Antiques Road Show, “At least two Daw marked “sharp shooters’” rifles are known, both with strong Confederate provenance. Both rifles surfaced in the Shelbyville, TN area. During the winter of 1862-1863, the Army of Tennessee wintered in the Tullahoma area of Tennessee, near Shelbyville. It was during this winter that the Army of Tennessee was truly instructed in musketry. General Patrick Cleburne, who had served in the ranks of the British Army, supervised the instruction. Cleburne adopted the British School of Musketry training practices in teaching aimed fire, range estimation, the proper use of sights and the practice of adjusting them for the range estimated. His training was so successful, that some units were designated as “sharpshooters’ at the company and even battalion organizational level. It was during this same winter that a small number of military style, high-grade target rifles were delivered to the Army of Tennessee. The guns were distributed to the finest shots in the army, based upon a number of shooting competitions. Both examples of Daw produced “sniper rifles’ are attic condition guns from the Shelbyville area, apparently untouched since that winter of 1862-63. Additional Daw marked rifles are known to have been sold at auction in Bermuda, after the cessation of hostilities, in an attempt by the land lord who owned the warehouses and offices used by Confederate supply officers, to recover unpaid rent. As a result of these extant examples, Daw marked rifles from the era have a strong association with the Confederacy.
Some of these unmarked Volunteer pattern arms were Confederate central government purchases, but the large majority of these guns appear to have been speculative purchases by enterprising blockade-runner owners and captains. Certain English makers are strongly associated with these speculatively purchased, high-grade short rifles, including Thomas Turner, James Kerr, Joseph Whitworth and George Daw.”