Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Civil War Era Grosz Altered M-1841 Rifle

Image result for m 1841 musket

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the New York State legislature authorized the mustering in of 30,000 volunteers for the state militiaThe state had already set about updating their arsenal of weapons. One of their first steps was to issued a contract to Remington to upgrade 5000 of their existing, Remington made, M-1841 “Mississippi” rifles. This upgrade consisted of converting them from .54 to .58 caliber, replacing the ramrod with a one-piece one better suited for .58 caliber Minie balls as opposed to .54 round patched balls, and adding a bayonet lug of the 1855 type with no rails for the 1855 style saber bayonet made by Collins & Co. of Connecticut. (the M-1841 had no provision for fixing a bayonet)

Due to the inability of Collins & Co. to deliver enough bayonets, Remington had to end the contract early, after only having delivered 3,268 rifles so converted.

New York state then turned to a NYC gunsmith named F.H. Grosz to complete the contract. City directories listed a Frederick H. Grosz as smith and whitesmith located at 43-45 Greene Street.

This rifle is one of 1,600 Remington M-1841 Rifles altered by F.H. Grosz.

The Grosz alterations feature a turned down barrel muzzle with a small square bayonet stud added to the underside near the muzzle and a repositioned blade front sight behind the turn-down area. This alteration allows the barrel to accept the Model 1842 socket bayonet. The Grosz rifles retained the .54 caliber. All the rifles in the New York state contract with Grosz, were delivered by December 1861.

Some of these rifles are known to have been issued to Federal units and N.Y. 7th, 10th, 12th, and 192nd Regiments.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alsop Percussion Revolvers


The Alsop is one of the rarer of secondary martial US percussion revolvers, with an interesting lineage. The Alsop Navy percussion revolver was based on patents granted to Charles R. Alsop, and was produced in the Middletown, CT factory of his father, Joseph Alsop Sr. The revolver was based on patents granted to Charles R. Alsop and Charles H. Alsop, Joseph’s sons.

Charles R. Alsop was granted eight firearms related patents during his career, including four related to revolvers (2 in 1860, 1 in 1861 and 1 in 1862). Charles H. received only two firearms patents, one related to revolvers in 1861 and one for a breechloading firearm in 1868.

At first glance, there are clearly some similarities between the Alsop Navy and the Savage revolver. Likely due to the fact that members of the Alsop family were listed as members of the Savage Revolving Firearms corporation in the Savage incorporation papers, so it makes sense that some design similarities exist between the revolvers of the two firms.
Both have an awkwardly shaped grip, with an odd hump or spur near the top of it. They both have center-hung hammers that ignite the percussion cap through the top of the frame of the revolver. Approximately 500 Alsop Navy revolvers were produced, likely all in 1862. The first 100 were produced with a fluted cylinder and a frame mounted safety and the following 400 were produced without the safety and a non-fluted cylinder. There were also about 300 pocket revolvers were manufactured around 1862 to 1863.
I find no mention of Alsop submitting revolvers to the U.S. Ordnance Board so I assume the revolvers were all sold to the civilian market. 

The Alsop featured a complicated and somewhat fragile single action lock work. The cylinder engages a rotating plate at its rear that indexes the cylinder. This system is similar to the system used on some of the Allen & Wheelock side hammer

Pocket Model Alsop

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Confederate Kerr Revolver

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the Confederacy's, primary purchasing agent in England, Caleb Huse, engaged the London Armory Company to produce all of the Kerr’s Patent revolvers that they could for delivery to the South. It is believed that nearly all of the London Armory’s output of Kerr revolvers from April of 1861 through the close of the Civil War were produced on contract for the Confederacy. However these weapons had to pass through the Union blockade and the number that actually reached the Confederacy is unknown.

Based upon the extant examples with Confederate provenance or marks, which exist in the 1,500 to about the 10,500 serial number range, about 9,000 pistols were produced and shipped to the South during that time. (although a handful of legitimate CS inspected Kerr’s do exist in the 7XX to 1,5XX range).
To date, at least three separate Confederate government contracts have been identified for the purchase of Kerr revolvers. Two were army contracts, and one was a 1,000-gun contract for the Confederate Navy, dated August 6, 1861.
Many of the army contract Kerr revolvers were financed through the Charleston, SC based firm of Fraser, Trenholm & Company and delivered by their subsidiary John Fraser & Company. A minimum of 3,160 Kerr revolvers were delivered directly to Confederate arsenals by Fraser. In addition to the 3 government contracts, an unknown number of Kerr’s Patent revolvers were acquired speculatively for sale privately.
As a result of the contracts, London Armoury Company became almost completely dependent on sales to the Confederacy. The company would dissolve in the Spring of 1866, only a year after the end of the war.

The five-shot Kerr revolver, while appearing to be a double-action handgun, is actually a single-action revolver that requires thumb-cocking for firing, but pulling the trigger would rotate the cylinder. This was a byproduct of the cylinder locking system, which relied on a pivoting arm that was actuated by the trigger. This arm locked the cylinder in place when the gun was fired. This was very different from the standard spring-loaded cylinder stop found in frames of most American made revolvers. This system also eliminated the need to machine stop slots in the cylinder, as the rear face of cylinder was where the arm locked it into position.

The Kerr also featured a unique, frame mounted cylinder arbor that was removed from the rear of the pistol (much like on the Colt side hammer, aka “Root” designs), instead of the more common location at the front of the cylinder. This made the pistol easier and safer to manipulate when the cylinder had to be removed from the pistol.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Spiller & Burr Revolver

In 1861 as the Confederacy attempted to arm itself. Several armories and factories were created in the South to help meet these needs. One such factory which was created, at the suggestion of the Confederate government, was the Spiller & Burr factory in Richmond, Virginia. It was a joint effort Edward N. Spiller and David J. Burr plus small arms expert Lt. Col. James H. Burton.

The Confederate Chief of Ordnance granted, the private manufacturing firm of Spiller & Burr, a contract to manufacture 15,000 revolvers over two and one half years for the Confederate cavalry. The contract called for a .36 caliber Navy revolver, Colt's model. Colt's Navy revolver had been adopted by the Confederate government as a standard revolver, but Lt. Col. Burton felt another type of revolver was superior to Colt's.
Burton selected the Second model Whitney revolver as a model arm for Spiller & Burr.
Burton based his decision on the merits of the Whitney performance, stability, design, and ease of construction. This model was in production at the Whitneyville factory outside of New Haven, Connecticut in 1861. Burton adapted this pattern in its entirety except for a few minor substitutions.

Due to material shortages, the Southern Whitney differed in two ways. Brass was to be substituted for iron in the fabrication of the lock frame, and iron was to be substituted for steel in the fabrication of the cylinder. Strength was added to the iron cylinders by heating and then twisting the round bars of iron. This process prevented any single chamber from being in parallel alignment with any fault lines in the bar iron.
Shortly after getting started the Spiller & Burr factory moved from Richmond to Atlanta, Georgia. In Atlanta, the company encountered difficulty producing the revolvers in quantity due to a shortage of labor and problems with raw materials and the factory was sold to the Confederate government and moved to the Confederate States Armory in Macon, Georgia.
By war's end slightly more than 1,500 revolvers fabricated, fulfilling only one tenth the number called for in the original contract.

The Spiller & Burr had a solid brass frame, an octagonal barrel, which was rounded off at the muzzle, was screwed into the frame. The loading lever was held adjacent to the barrel with a spring and ball type catch. The rammer entered the frame, which had been angle cut to allow insertion of powder and ball. 
The grip straps were integral with the frame. An oval capping groove was cut out of the right recoil shield. 

A thumb bolt was located on the left side, which when turned properly would allow the removal of the cylinder axis-pin.

A rear sight groove was cut in the top strap.

Updated 8/3/2016