Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Leech and Rigdon Revolver


Around the outbreak of the Civil War Thomas Leech, a cotton broker, and Charles Rigdon, a scale maker, with prior revolver manufacturing experience, began making revolvers in Columbus, Mississippi. Leech provided the capital and Rigdon the technical knowhow. Their association would produce, for the Confederacy, one of the best revolvers of the time. One that could easily compete with the 1851 Colt Navy, of which it was a copy. 



They secured a contract with the Confederate Government to manufacture 1500, .36 caliber revolvers. 




 Production began in Columbus, but less than two hundred revolvers were made before the threat of capture, in late 1862, forced them to move their manufacturing to Selma, Alabama, and then, in the first months of 1863, on to Greensboro, Georgia. 

In December of 1863, Leech and Rigdon dissolved their partnership.
There seems to be different views as to the fulfillment of their government contract.
I’ve read “about a 1000”, however when Rigdon began producing revolvers under the Rigdon, Ansley & Company serial numbers began with the number 1500.
One of those uncertain things.
One thing that collectors and historians agree on is that this is one of the most-often, if not the most, counterfeited Confederate revolvers and the counterfeiting likely began around 1870.

So if by chance you are offered one a Leech and Rigdon revolver, use caution.
I pass along the following, from knowledgeable collectors, which will help identify a real ones.

“General features of the Leech and Rigdon are the round barrel copy of the Colt Navy, the small round-shaped trigger guard, the small serial numbers stamped individually and in an irregular line, the ball type loading lever catch and the lack of a cap release groove in the recoil shield. The barrel has seven lands and grooves, a clockwise spin with a modest gain twist”. 


“The first revolvers had a ball type catch to the loading lever with no pin; later it was changed to a ball and pin type catch. The cylinders had safety pins between the nipples up until about the 900 numbers, then they were eliminated”.









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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Winchester Hotchkiss, it would be Winchester’s first attempt at producing a bolt action firearm.



First Model Carbine
The operating system for the Winchester Hotchkiss was originally designed by B.B. Hotchkiss. 
Winchester, after viewing the designs at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, bought his patents in early 1877. 
All told there were approximately 82,000 produced in three basic designs and two calibers–45-70 and .433 Spanish. Egypt, Mexico, China and South America all purchased many chambered in .433 Spanish.

The first production of the Hotchkiss Rifle and Carbine, the Model of 1879, was for the U.S. Military; 1,474 Muskets for the Navy, 500 Muskets for the Army, and 500 Carbines for the Cavalry. This Model had a rotary switch on the right side of the receiver serving as a safety and a magazine cutoff as they were loaded from the receiver into the stock, holding five cartridges.

For several reasons they proved unsatisfactory and were replaced in 1880/1881 by the “Improved” or Second Model. The Second Model had a lever on each upper side of the receiver for the cutoff and safety. Most of the original Military First Model rifles were returned and altered to Second Model cutoff and safety improvements.
The US Ordnance Department would order approximately only 2000 Second Models.

During this time period, 1879-1884, there were also orders produced for Egypt, Mexico, and South America chambered in .433 Spanish. China purchased First Model rifles and carbines, and out of the 13,332 Second Model Muskets produced, 11,000 were sold to China.



Second Model with cutoff and safety improvements.




















In 1880, Winchester began selling First Model Carbines, Muskets, and Sporting Models to the general public. Second Models for the public were also available by special order. Curiously, Winchester continued to produce First Model Carbines for the general public and for overseas sales. 

Sporting Model







The Third Model 





The First and Second Models used a one piece stock which was subject to cracking. 
Winchester then started producing the Third model, the M-1883 Hotchkiss in a two-piece stock design. The safety and cutoff were located on each side of the receiver. 
The U.S. Army purchased 712 of this model in the Musket configuration. China also purchased at least 4,000 of the M-1883 Muskets. In total 59,446 Third Models were produced, with most going to foreign markets. Production ceased around 1900.

The Hotchkiss operated like most early bolt-actions and had a single rear locking lug integral with the bolt handle, but was unique in feeding multiple rounds from a tubular buttstock magazine similar to the Spencer rifle. However the magazine was loaded thru the opened action.



















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Sunday, April 9, 2017

This interesting carbine caught the eye of someone in the Confederate War Department as they contracted with Virginia arms maker, Bilharz, Hall & Co., to produce 1000 near copies of the arm in 1963/early 1864.




The Springfield M1855 rifled carbine. Only around 1,020 of these rifled carbines were manufactured by Springfield Armory in the mid-1850s. They were the first rifled carbines produced at the national armories and differed from the other Model 1855 series firearms in that they lack the Maynard tape primer system.

The barrel was the typical 22” carbine length and rifled to use the .54 caliber Minnie ball.
It featured a captive ramrod that was retained by a swinging link system, similar to the pattern used on the US M-1842 pistol.
As you will note the carbine has the basic front sight and three folding leaf rear sight. Two piece trigger guard with a large round saddle ring mounted on the rear.







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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Palmetto Armory Arms










The Palmetto Armory was established by William M. Glaze, a South Carolinian whose many activities serve to puzzle and confuse historians. Above all, Glaze was an accomplished entrepreneur who readily attracted financial backing. His political ties also added to his success.

Sometime around 1849 the South Carolina State Legislature authorized the purchase of locally made weapons. Shortly thereafter Glaze received a contract from the state for 274 rifles and 100 muskets. The rifles were made on M1841 Rifle machinery purchased from Eli Whitney.

The origin of the muskets are not real clear. It is likely they were on hand inventory from the defunk New England manufacturer, A.H. Waters & B. Flagg Company.

In 1850, pleased with the work, South Carolina gave Glaze another contract, this time for 660 percussion muskets. At this point Glaze persuaded Benjamin Flagg to purchase the musket machinery and move to Columbia, South Carolina.

Glaze also negotiated the purchase of the pistol machinery belonging to Asa H. Waters.



The Palmetto Armory was a three-story building on Arsenal Hill, with a one story wing. The Armory's building's were approximately 64 by 154 feet. Included with the other machinery he installed was a 'large fast-acting trip hammer and a steam driven fan for the furnaces. Among the 40-odd workers he imported were machinists and iron workers, stockers and burnishers, all highly competent, many of whom brought their families with them and settled in Columbia. The net result was the largest arms manufactory south of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. 

On April 15, 1851 Glaze received a third contract for 1000 percussion rifles. 6,000 percussion muskets, 1,000 pairs of percussion pistols (2,000), 1000 dragoon sabres, and 1000 artillery sabres. The contract specified times and month delivery quotas and began January 1852. The expectation was that the rifles conform to the U.S. M1841, the muskets to the M1842, the single shot paired pistols to the U.S. M1842, the dragoon sabres to the U.S. 1840, and the artillery sabres to the M1840. The state later amended the contract, dropping half of the pistols and changing the 1000 dragoon sabres and 1000 artillery sabres to 2000 dragoon sabres after 526 had been made and accepted.


By May 8, 1853, all of the pistols, and most of the other arms had been delivered. But, the contract was extended for the unfinished items. Final payments and deliveries were completed by November 28, 1853.


With the completion of this contract, Glaze shifted the company to making agricultural machinery and steam engines in a retooled and renovated "Palmetto Iron Works."

Sometime in 1861, Glaze received a contract for rifling smoothbore muskets. By the end of the year the Iron Works had rifled an estimated 4500 (?) muskets.

Days before Sherman took Columbia, on a Friday in February, 1865, Glaze destroyed buildings, machinery and all inventory.




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