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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Griswold & Gunnison Revolver

 Griswold & Gunnison Second Model 1851 Navy type revolver. Manufactured by Samuel Griswold in Griswoldville, Georgia. 
The Griswold & Gunnison revolvers are copies of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver and were made with distinctive brass frames because of the shortage of steel in the South. Also typical of the Griswold is a cylinder manufactured from twisted iron instead of steel.

Griswold was the largest Confederate manufacturer of handguns and produced approximately 3700 percussion revolvers between 1862 and 1864. This Second Model Revolver has a Dragoon-style octagonal barrel lug with round barrel and brass pin front sight, brass frame, trigger guard and back strap and one-piece walnut grip. 

Griswoldville was destroyed on November 20, 1864, by Captain Frederick S. Ladd and his men of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The Battle of Griswoldville was the first battle of Sherman's March to the Sea.

My blog is filled with interesting weapons from the 19th Century so be sure to search the "Blog Archive".

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Remington 'Split Breech' Carbine

Patented 1864 this carbine is known as the Remington Type 1 "Split Breech" or Remington-Rider Civil War Carbine. Caliber 50 Rimfire (56-50 Spencer). Standard carbine 20" round barrel and saddle ring. 

This little carbine holds a number of distinctions in the history of American firearms. It is considered to be the first metallic cartridge long arm to be produced by the Remington Arms Company, even though they outsourced the production to Savage Revolving Arms Company of Middletown, Connecticut.
It was also the last pattern of military carbine to be delivered to the US government during the American Civil War.
The “Split Breech” was also the direct predecessor of what would become the most widely used single-shot, breech loading, military rifle action of the 19th century; the rolling block. 

The development of the split breech action is attributed to Remington’s Joseph Rider, who was responsible for the myriad of Remington-Rider firearms designs.
Remington had a U.S. contract for 15,000 guns but first delivery did not until take place until Sept.1865, too late for Civil War. Remington bought the entire stock back from U.S. Government in 1870. They then sold almost the entire lot to France for use in the Franco-Prussian War.

56-50 Spencer

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

- Merwin & Hulbert Revolvers -

This 1879 Leadville, Colorado, image shows two noted Westerners, (at left) Joseph “White Eye” Anderson, who accompanied Wild Bill Hickok to Deadwood in 1876, and his friend E. B. “Yankee” Judd. Judd is packing a First Model Army Merwin Hulbert revolver in his holster and is holding what appears to be a Sharps Borchardt 1878 rifle.

1st Models


Here is an informative video which illustrates the precision workings and the history of these prized revolvers.

3rd Model

4th Model

These circa 1880s Western gents are well armed for serious business. The hombre in the center proudly shows off his Merwin, Hulbert & Co. double-action Pocket Army revolver with its birds head grip (with lanyard ring-type butt), while his compadres sport their Colts and other arms of the day.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thunder and Lighting

The M1877 was designed by one of the inventors of the M1873 Colt Single Action Army, William Mason, as Colt's first attempt at manufacturing a double-action revolver. The M1877 was the first successful US-made double-action cartridge revolver manufactured from January 1877 to 1909 for a total of 166,849 revolvers.

The principal difference between the models was the cartridge in which they were chambered: the "Lightning" being chambered in .38 Long Colt; the "Thunderer" in .41 Colt. Both models had a six-round ammunition capacity.
The M1877 was offered in barrel lengths from 2.5" to 7.5" and was available with or without the ejector rod and housing. The shorter barreled versions without the ejector rod were marketed as "shopkeeper's specials".
Neither "Lightning" nor "Thunderer" were Colt designations, nor used by the factory in any reference materials. Both terms were coined by Benjamin Kittredge, one of Colt's major distributors.

The M1877's early double-action mechanism proved to be both intricate and delicate, and thus prone to breakage. The design had a reputation for failure and earned the nickname "the gunsmith's favorite". Because of the intricate design and difficulty of repair, gunsmiths to this day dislike working on them.

Outwardly, the Model 1877 shows a striking resemblance to the Colt Single Action Army revolver, however it is scaled down slightly and much thinner in dimension. The standard finishes were blued, with a case-colored frame or nickel plating. The bird's head grips were of checkered rosewood on the early guns and hard rubber on the majority of later-production guns.

Old West outlaw John Wesley Hardin frequently used both "Lightning" and "Thunderer" versions of the Colt 1877 revolver. Likewise the 1877 "Thunderer" in .41 caliber was the preferred weapon of Billy the Kid and was his weapon of choice when he was killed by Pat Garrett in 1881.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spencer Repeating Carbine

At first, the view by the Department of War Ordnance Department was that soldiers would waste ammunition by firing too rapidly with repeating rifles, and thus denied a government contract for all such weapons. (They did, however, encourage the use of carbine breechloaders that loaded one shot at at time. Such carbines were shorter than a rifle and well suited for cavalry.) More accurately, they feared that the armies logistics train would be unable to provide enough ammunition for the soldiers in the field, as they already had grave difficulty bringing up enough ammunition to sustain armies of tens of thousands of men over distances of hundreds of miles. A weapon able to fire several times as fast would require a vastly expanded logistics train and place great strain on the already overburdened railroads and tens of thousands of more mules, wagons, and wagon train guard detachments. The fact that several Springfield rifle-muskets could be purchased for the cost of a single Spencer carbine also influenced thinking.

However, the Spencer repeating carbine was eventually adopted by the Union cavalry and saw service during the American Civil War.

This exceptionally nice Spencer carbine that was manufactured by the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company, Boston, Massachusetts during the Civil War and arsenal rebuilt for the Indian Wars. The top of the receiver is marked "SPENCER REPEATING/RIFLE CO. BOSTON, MASS./PAT'D MARCH 6, 1860"
This particular Spencer carbine is equipped with the Stabler cut-off.

In the latter part of the war Edward M. Stabler of Maryland invented the Stabler Cut-Off Device. It prevented the cartridge from feeding the magazine to the receiver by limiting the lowering of the breech block. (the small lever just forward of the trigger) The carbine could then be used as a single shot weapon. 

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.”