Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Henry Rifle

Colonel Allen L. Fahnestock

This Henry lever-action rifle, manufactured in January 1864 by the New Haven Arms Company, was one of an 800 rifle contract for the U.S. Ordnance Department. Most of the 800 Henry rifles purchased under this contract went to arm the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry regiment.

The 1st D.C. Cavalry was the only Federal unit that was completely equipped with Henry rifles during the Civil War. In May 1864 it was assigned to Kautz's Cavalry Division, Department of Virginia and North Carolina and remained part of that division for the remainder of the Civil War. Many of the Henry rifles issued to the 1st D.C. cavalry were lost in action during 1864 and a number of these rifles were known to have been captured by Confederate forces.

In March 1865 the Henry was issued to 3rd U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment (3rd VVI). The 3rd VVI rifles were part of a group of Henry, Sharps and Spencer rifles purchased by the Ordnance Department to arm four VVI regiments of the Veteran Volunteer Corps raised in early 1865. These regiments were composed of veteran soldiers armed with the most advanced firearms who would serve as an elite infantry unit. As an incentive for enlistment, the VVI soldiers were authorized to retain their rifles when they mustered out of Federal service. The VVI regiments were organized too late to see any significant action.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Winchester Revolvers


“In the early 1870's it was announced that the U.S. government as well as the Russian government were on the market for a new side arm. Smith & Wesson as well as Colt competed for these contracts but what many people do not realize, so did Winchester. "Winchester submitted a number of pistols for trial to the Russian representatives but the Smith & Wesson design was awarded the contract for 140,000 guns. Winchesters design was similar to Smith & Wesson's except the Winchester ejected spent cartridges individually while the Smith & Wesson ejected all six at once". The failure to gain the contract did not put an end to Winchester’s plans for developing a revolver to put on the market. Winchester's plan was to make a splash in the market and planned on doing so at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876. “Winchester invested a great deal of money and time in the "Centennial model 76" (see Madis pg 562). This pistol designed by Hugo Borchardt and S.W. Wood is the patent model revolver for the Winchester “Centennial” revolver series. It is the only patent model known and one of only a handful of Winchester revolvers in private hands. It is the only 32 caliber manufactured. It is the only pocket model manufactured. It is the only spur trigger manufactured and most importantly the only fully functional swing-out cylinder manufactured. "The three major designs developed in the Wood and Borchardt revolvers; A) a double action mechanism, B) fixed thumb and cylinder extractor, and C) swing-out cylinder and simultaneous extractor" (see Wilson, pg 319). This was the first and only successful swing-out cylinder design of its time.”     


                                             Winchester M1883 revolver

“This Winchester Prototype Revolver is just a beautiful example of a super rare "One of A Kind" Winchester M1883 revolver. Around 1874/75, Winchester began development work on new revolvers, intended for both commercial and military contracts. Enter two of the most inventive and least known designers at this time Stephen Wood and William Mason. Both had worked in the firearms industry for several different companies for over 10-15 years, and had developed significant patents for both rifles and pistols. Stephen Wood worked for Winchester earlier on and actually held the patent for the solid frame on revolvers along with a rapid ejection design. William Mason was an independent contractor making Springfield type rifle-muskets during the Civil War and worked at both Remington Arms and Colt (1872-1882) before being hired by the Winchester Company. While at Colt, Mason was issued several patent related to the commercially successful 1873 Peacemaker revolver. So when Winchester hired Mason one of his tasks was to developed a revolver that was almost identical to the Colt Single Action revolver, albeit the design would have allowed Winchester to produce a competing revolver at a much lower cost than Colt, which had the possibility to beat out Colt. Supposedly a 1884 meeting between Winchester and Colt, where Winchester showed Colt the new Winchester designed revolver and shortly after that both companies agreed to non-compete with each other, however they reserved the right to design and produced prototypes for patent work development. This "gentleman's agreement" has since been maintained with each company staying out of the other's respective sector of the firearms market.”