Sunday, July 10, 2016

-Whitney Navy Revolvers-

The most famous and easily recognized revolver manufactured by Eli Whitney, Jr . was his Navy Model. It was a 6-shot, .36 caliber single action percussion revolver with a standard barrel length of 7 5/8 inches. They went into production shortly after Colt’s patent on his revolver mechanism expired in 1857 and were manufactured through the early 1860's.
Approximately 35,500 revolvers were manufactured, including about 1,500 of the First Model, which were manufactured without a loading lever and approximately 34,000 of the Second Model. Both models went through a few improvements, resulting in four “types” of the First Model; and five “types” of the Second Model.
Whitney’s desire to improve upon the guns plus the habit of making design changes when parts on hand ran, out has resulted in some confusion for collectors.

The US Army acquired 10,587 of the revolvers between 1861 and 1864 and the US Navy purchased an additional 6,226 between 1863 and 1865.
A number of Whitney Navy revolvers were also in the hands of Confederate soldiers, most notable example being one which was owned by Confederate cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart, and is now in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society. Collectors confir, that at least two-dozen Whitney Navy revolvers are known to have been repaired for use by the 4th Virginia “Black Horse” Cavalry, and a handful of identified Whitney Navy revolvers with Confederate provenance exist was well.
Some were purchased prior to the outbreak of the War and these guns tend to early production 2nd Model revolvers produced prior to the spring of 1861. However, Confederate forces acquired many more Whitney Navy revolvers after the conflict started. These later production guns were no doubt obtained through a combination of capturing weapons and purchasing the guns from secondary retailers rather than directly from Whitney.

It is not surprising that the revolver found favor on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, as the robust design with a reinforcing top strap, a solid frame with a screwed in barrel and the simple turn of a wing nut to release the loading lever and cylinder arbor were all significant improvements over the open topped frame and wedge-retained barrel of the Colt design. The popularity of the revolvers in the south is further indicated by the fact that the design was copied by Confederate gunmakers Spiller & Burr and T.W. Cofer, both of whom produced Whitney-like revolvers for the south.


2nd Model, 4th Type


The above Whitney revolver is the 5th Type of the 2nd Model which would be the last production Whitney Navies. It has features which include: (1) seven-groove rifling, (2) large brass trigger guard, (3) "Whitneyville" marked shield on cylinder scene, (4) "wedge" type loading lever latch, and (5) six stop cylinder.