Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Raphael Revolver

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The Raphael revolver is one of those revolvers that could’a, would’a, should’a depending upon what historian/collector you read. One thing that is for certain is that the revolver’s name came from the broker that imported these revolvers, George Raphael & Company of New York. Their manufacturing and design history are relatively unknown but most feel that they were manufactured in France. Raphael is said to have supplied other French and European revolvers and swords to the Federal Government and was involved with James Richard Haskell in presenting one of the earliest machine guns to the government in 1862

One source stated, According to US records, approximately 106 of these French made, double action, 6-shot revolvers were purchased for US military use on September 21, 1861. 

Another source stated, 1,000 of these large frame double action 11 mm Raphael revolvers were purchased on the commercial market by the Federal Government during the Civil War. Some Raphael revolvers may have been privately purchased by officers during that same time period. It is assumed that the revolvers were manufactured in France. George Raphael was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and he supplied revolvers and swords to the Federal Government.

Quoting a 3rd source, Even the many of the most advanced collections of Civil War handguns are unlikely to have a Raphael in it. It would be equally appropriate in a collection that centered on US or CS handguns, early cartridge guns, or imports arms.

My findings lead me to speculate that Raphael almost certainly imported more than the 106 figure and sold them on the commercial market prior to and/or during the Civil War. Known samples indicate some revolvers may have been privately purchased, perhaps by Confederate agents. The revolver below is stamped CSA, was it done so post war? Maybe a Bannerman special? Who knows? Draw your own conclusions. 

The revolver is famous for very precise machining of their complex mechanism. It fired an early version of a centerfire cartridge that was 11mm (or roughly .42 caliber). The back plate had six holes through which the firing pin on the hammer could contact the primer in the cartridge. They feature a very interesting design with a loading gate on the upper right side. The cylinder and breech plate rotate at the same time when the hammer is cocked, however the cylinder can also be rotated separate from the breech plate when the loading gate is open for loading and unloading. The revolver has a solid open top frame design, dovetailed front blade sight and a dovetailed notch rear sight mounted on the breech end of the barrel and six round cylinder. The usual butt cap lanyard bolt doubles as an ejector rod.


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