Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Confederate Dickson, Nelson & Co. Rifle.

The Dickson, Nelson rifle has been often referred to as "The Holy Grail" of Confederate Arms.

The rifle pictured was manufactured by Dickson, Nelson & Co. at their Macon or Dawson, Georgia factory.

With the outbreak of the war in 1861, William Dickson (a planter from Alabama), Owen Nelson (an attorney from Tuscumbia) and Lewis Sadler (a physician) started the Shakanoosa Arms Company. Operations began at there first plant in Buzzard Roost, Colbert County, Alabama. They received a $7000.00 advance funding to manufacture U.S. Model 1841 “Mississippi” type rifles for the state of Alabama. The rifles were to conform to the U.S. Model 1841 Mississippi pattern, having 33” barrels of .58 caliber and stocks 48” in length. Brass hardware on these rifles included a straight butt plate, two piece trigger guard, barrel bands and nose cap. In the summer of 1862 the Shakanoosa Arms Company was forced to move its operation to Rome Georgia in fear of the nearing Union forces, after a short time at this location the factory was destroyed by fire.

At this point they moved manufacturing to Adairsville, Georgia under the name Dickson, Nelson & Company. On August 1863, once again, Union advances forced them have to move further south to Macon, Georgia.

Finally in February of 1864 the company moved to its final home in Dawson, Georgia.

 These rifles were manufactured in very limited numbers and relatively few known survivors exist today. Estimates on the number of rifles manufactured range from 645 and up. Estimates of dates of manufacturing range from 1862 thru 1865. However, I have not seen documentation to prove any of those figures. 

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The M-1871 Springfield Ward-Burton

The period of 1870 to 1872 was a time of experimen­tation and uncertainty for the U.S. Army Ordnance Department. To this end, the Ordnance Department commissioned the Springfield Armory to submit four various designs to be field tested and evaluated for possible adoption as an improved breech loading service rifle.
The rifles were the M-1870 “Trapdoor”, the M-1870 “Rolling Block”, the M-1870 Springfield “Sharps” and the M-1871 Ward-Burton bolt action.

The Ward-Burton was invented and patented by two Americans, Gen. W G. Ward and Bethel Burton. There were 1,011 rifles and a mere 316 carbines produced.

The rifle was of single ­shot design that featured a bolt with two sets of serrated threads on either side of the body that locked into corresponding threads inside of the receiver. The stubby bolt rotated 90 degrees and functioned like that of later bolt actions. It cocked upon closing. There was a small, spring-loaded bolt lock on the right rear of the receiver that functioned as a safety.

The barrel and most of the furniture were finished in "National Armory Bright," as were the other trial arms of the period. The M-1871 rifle had a 32 1/2" barrel secured to the full-length stock by two barrel bands and was fitted with a folding-leaf rear sight. The M-1871 carbine had a 22" barrel secured by a single barrel band to an appropriately shortened stock. It was fitted with a ring-and-bar attachment on the left side of the stock similar to the other Spring­field Armory carbines of the era.

The M-1871 rifles and carbines were issued to a number of US. Army units for field testing, along with the other three .50-70 breechloading trial designs.
The various trial arms were subjected to grueling and rigorous use. In the majority of the subsequent test reports, the Ward-Burton did not fare well in the estimation of the reporting officers. There were several reasons for the near universal dislike of the Ward-Burton. Undoubtedly, the unusual (for its day) bolt-action was distrusted by many of its users. Unlike the Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps and Rolling Blocks, all of which had large outside hammers that could be readily observed, it was difficult to ascertain whether the Ward-Burton's action was cocked and/or loaded.
As the results of the field trials were reviewed and evaluated, it became apparent that the Ward-­Burton was not suitable for continued production and it was dropped from further consideration.
The Model of 1870 Trapdoor Springfield was eventually selected as the best trial breechloader.


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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Fluck Dragoons Enigma

"This is a rare example of a Colt U.S. Walker Replacement Dragoon revolver that was manufactured in 1848. The Fluck Dragoons are believed to have been manufactured by Colt as replacements for Colt Walker Model revolvers that failed in service and were assembled with some re-worked Walker parts. Little documentation exists on these pistols." (Auction house description.)

From Flayderman’s Guide

US Walker Replacement Dragoon. Also known as the “Pre 1st Model Dragoon” and the “Flunk” Dragoon (named after the late John J Flunk whose detailed research in 1956 first identified the gun as a distinct model) Manufactured in 1848.
Closely resembling the First Model Colt Dragoon. Just 300 of these were made by Colt for the US government to replace Colt Walkers which had burst or otherwise failed while in US service.

More recently, tentatively renamed “Colt’s Second Contract Dragoon” (not to be confused with the “Second Model Dragoon”) In a 1989 detailed study “Observations on Colt’s Second Contract” November 2, 1847 add complication and controversy to this rare model. The authors have theoretically identified 1000 (rather than 300) of this enigmatic Colt, contracted in 1847 and delivered in four shipments, each with their own variations, in 1848. As this survey is conjectural and was based on the examination of “...well over a dozen specimens”.

"Fine Pair of Rare Consecutively Serial Numbered U.S. Colt "Fluck" Dragoon Percussion Revolvers -A) Colt Pre-1st Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver" (Auction house description)

You be the judge, if any that makes sense to you.

Me? Well I'm certainly glad I'm not a Colt collector. I'm not sure what all the above tells me, but like Granny Hawkins said, it "don't mean doodley squat", 'cause I ain't a lookin' to buy one.


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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Ballard Military Rifle

Invented by Charles H Ballard of Worchester, Massachusetts and was issued US Patent #33631 in November of 1861.
That patent was the basis for his Civil War era military rifles and carbines. The Ballard Military Rifle was said to be one of the best single shot, self-contained cartridge rifles to see use during the course of the American Civil War.

Arms historian and author John McAulay, in his book Rifles of the US Army 1861-1906, referred to Ballard military rifles as “the most advanced single shot rifles to see service in the Civil War.”

As Ballard was an inventor and not a manufacturer, he sought a way to market and sell his invention with an eye towards collecting patent royalties, instead of investing in a manufacturing facility to produce his guns. This desire lead to a partnership with New York sales agents Merwin & Bray, who represented Ballard’s invention, received contracts for his guns, and then subcontracted the production of the guns to other established arms makers. Ball & Williams of Worcester, MA, initially produced the rifles, with production running from 1862 to 1865. In 1863, due to the inability of Ball & Williams to produce enough guns to fill contract orders, Dwight, Chapman & Company of Bridgeport, CT began producing the rifles as well, and did so into 1864. War time production is believed(?) to be in the 20,300 to 22,000 range.
The rifles were all chambered for .46 rimfire, utilized a dropping block action, actuated by an under-lever that doubled as a trigger guard and pistol grip. The action dropped and tilted out of the way to allow the loading and unloading of the chamber.

All of the rifles were produced to use self-contained metallic rimfire cartridges. The fired cartridges were ejected with a manually operated extractor. A short lever, under the forend was drawn backwards when the action was open, extracting the cartridge. The extractor was tensioned by a coil spring, which returned the extractor to its resting position when the lever was released.
Some of Ballard's military rifles were manufactured with a dual ignition system, like the one pictured, that allowed the guns to fire both rimfire ammunition and allowing the arms to be ignited with percussion caps as well. The theory was that the spent rimfire cartridges, which were not reloadable, could be loaded manually with powder and a bullet, and then have a small hole drilled in the bottom of the casing, allowing ignition with the percussion cap; similar to the cartridges used by 1st and 2nd model Maynard carbines.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Walch Revolvers

John Walch was a man trying to catch a ride on the Sam Colt run-away band wagon so he invented a firearm that fired more quickly. He took the popular revolver design and reasoned that one could carry more firepower with superposed rounds in each chamber.

John Walch and his partner J.P Lindsay (inventor (1863) of the Lindsay Two-Shot) founded and owned the Walch Firearms Company but they had no manufacturing facilities. Walch would eventually contract the Union Knife Company, located in Naugatuck, CT and the New Haven Arms Company to produce the twelve shot .36 Navy Models and the ten shot .31 Pocket Models, respectively. The Walch pocket model would be made in the same factory and at the same time as the Henry rifle.

About 1000 steel framed and 2000 brass framed pocket models were were manufactured from 1860 - 1862. Allegedly only 200 of the Walch 12-shot revolvers were ever produced around 1859.

The pocket model fires two shots from each cylinder chamber. The cylinder is twice as long so that two loads can be put in the same chamber. Both hammers are cocked at the same time.
 There is a channel leading from the front load to the right nipple, and the left nipple fires directly into the rear of the chamber. When the trigger is pulled, the right hammer drops firing the front load. The trigger must be released before it can be pulled a second time to fire the rear load. 

If complex design and complicated mechanism weren’t enough, the fact that loading two charges into one still requires a much smaller bullet as well as a smaller powder charge.This results in smaller bullet, being fired at a lower velocity - not exactly desirable traits in a revolver if you are hoping to win a military contract.

The revolvers did see use in the Civil War and I have run across several mentions that in late 1861 or early 1862, when the regiment was stationed in Kentucky, the whole of Company I of the 9th Michigan Infantry purchased Walch revolvers.

Jeff Kinard references the Walch shortcomings with this Civil War story in his book,”Weapons and Warfare: An Illustrated History of Their Impact”;
"Elisha Stockwell, a Wisconsin private, recounted an incident in which he and a fellow soldier armed with a Walch attempted to supplement their rations in a farmer's pig sty: "Reeder shot several times before he would give up. That gun wouldn't kill a hog, and the pigs got so wild we couldn't get near them."

For a Forgotten Weapons video on the Walch Pocket pistol go HERE .


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Westley Richards Monkeytail Match Rifle

Very few names in English gunmaking are associated with the level of quality, craftsmanship and innovation as that of Westley Richards.
Author and firearms researcher DeWitt Bailey may have said it best of Westley Richards when he noted: “The Westley Richards firm certainly enjoyed the highest reputation of any Birmingham maker with the ‘sporting gentry’, and were the only Birmingham manufacturers to seriously compete with the ‘Best London’ makers in the field of sporting guns and rifles.”

Richards patent #633 (March 25, 1858) for a breech loading percussion rifle design, was probably the most important. This patent covered his famous“Monkey-Tail” breechloading system. This simple and elegant design allowed the advantages of a breechloading rifle to be applied to traditional muzzle loading, cap lock designs. The system received its nickname from the shape of the breech lever, which resembled a monkey’s tail when the breech was opened for loading. The locking system utilized a sliding plunger that was actuated by the pressure of the cartridge being fired, moving backwards and locking the breech so it could not open until the pressure subsided. As a double safety, the hammer was machined in such a way that the breech could only be opened when the hammer nose was resting on the cone (nipple). Placing the gun on half-cock or full-cock prevented the action from being opened unintentionally. 
Richards was also innovative in advancing the science of rifling, and appears to have developed the concept of polygonal rifling simultaneously with (or possibly just prior to) Joseph Whitworth. As Whitworth had no facilities to manufacture arms during his early days (prior to the establishment of the Whitworth Rifle Company), he relied upon Richards to produce his early guns.

The most prized of the Westley Richards “Monkey Tails” were his Military Match and Prize Rifles. Richards produced 1,500 of these extremely well made and accurate rifles between 1858 and 1869. They were manufactured with both 36” and 39” barrels, with the 39” gun being produced in very limited quantities. These “Match & Prize Rifles” were the guns that consistently won the breechloading rifle competitions at Wimbledon from their inception until the 1886 rule change that required breechloading rifles to utilized “fixed” or internally primed ammunition, which eliminated the percussion guns from completion. 
Of these highly prized and desirable guns (numbered individually from 1 to 1500), less than 50 are known to have survived to today. Most of the above research regarding the “monkey tail” is derived from the work of Robbie Betteridge, from a paper he delivered to Great Britain’s Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association.


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