Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Evans Repeating Rifle

"The Evans Repeating Rifle (1st Model above) is often considered to be one of the oddest rifles to ever be produced in the United States. Only about 500 1st Model were made from 1873 to 1876. The Evans was invented by Warren R. Evans, a dentist from Thomaston, Maine. With the help of his brother George, they perfected the rifle and started the "Evans Rifle Manufacturing Company" of Mechanic Falls, Maine in 1873. Their rifles were marketed by Merwin & Hulbert. The hope was that the rifle would be issued by the United States Army, but the rifle failed the standard dust test.

It was then offered as a sporting rifle. The rifle has a radial block receiver similar to the Spencer, but the rounds were fed from an Archimedean-screw magazine which formed the spine of the rifle stock and could hold up to 34 rounds. The fluted cartridge carrier made a quarter turn each time the lever was operated, feeding a new cartridge into the breech.

By early 1876 the so-called transition model was in production. The primary difference between this and the old model is that the transition model has a two-piece buttstock and a redesigned buttplate. This improved the balance of the rifle and offered better protection of the magazine from damage or dents which could jam the action.
The company received numerous testimonials from its customers. One of the more colorful ones came from Kit Carson who claimed;

 “At twenty paces, have, with this rifle, shot the eyebrows from my wife, and every night regularly, in the presence of an audience I shot an apple from her hand, a pipe from her mouth, a penny from her fingers, or snuff a candle from her hand. I think the Evans is the safest and most complete repeating system ever devised.”

Testimonials like this were great advertising and highly sought after by all the arms companies.

Requests soon reached the factory from the far west for a more powerful cartridge. George Evans listened and then went to work. The new cartridge together with numerous improvements in the design were combined to make the new model Evans repeating rifle. By the summer of 1877 the new model was perfected and put into production.

The new model is easily distinguished by its larger, more robust receiver and sliding dust cover over the ejection port. The front edge of the receiver is cut straight not scalloped as in the old and transition models. The new model was chambered for a 1 ½” long .44 caliber cartridge case. Previous models used a 1” long case of the same caliber. The increased length of the new cartridge necessitated a reduction in magazine capacity to only 28 rounds. Barrel markings are the same as the transition model except with the addition of “U.S.A.”. The company went bankrupt in 1879."