Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I have to believe that the Hopkins & Allen “XL No 8” single action revolvers were the era’s most overlooked handguns. However, it did make them ‘high on the list’ for revolver collectors.

In 1867 the Hopkins & Allen Manufacturing Company was established when brothers Charles and Samuel Hopkins, along with Charles Allen purchased the faltering Bacon Manufacturing Company. Hopkins had previously worked as a gunsmith at other area firearms manufacturing companies and it appears that he was the company’s leading designer. Charles Hopkins had already been granted firearms patents. In all, some 17 patents would be held by Hopkins & Allen and associates during the company’s lifetime.

The minds at Hopkins & Allen were particularly savvy about the firearms business, and in addition to being mechanically minded and capable of turning out high quality arms, they also realized that their manufacturing capabilities allowed them to produce guns for other companies that had a design they wanted to offer for sale, but did not have the manufacturing facilities to produce them. During the latter part of the 19th century, Hopkins & Allen manufacture firearms for a number of well-known gun companies, most notably Merwin, Hulbert & Company, and the Evans Repeating Rifle Company.

Hopkins & Allen also produced a wide array of pocket “suicide special” firearms under various tradenames for retailers. More than three-dozen trade names can be associated with Hopkins & Allen. 

Around 1877, Hopkins & Allen introduced their “XL No 8” line of large frame, single action revolvers to compete with Colt and Smith & Wesson, the two major American handgun manufacturers of the period. It is believed that a total of 2,700 of the large framed XL No 8 revolvers of all models were produced by Hopkins & Allen between 1877 and 1885.
The line of handguns included the XL Army in .44 caliber, both rimfire & WCF, XL Navy and Police both in .38 caliber rimfire. All were six shot and various barrel lengths were available.

They had solid robust frames that had a spring loaded ejector rod that was located under the barrel. When the catch on the left side of the frame was depressed, the rod could be withdrawn from the center of the cylinder arbor and then automatically moved into position to eject cartridges from the cylinder, through the loading gated on the right side of the frame.

It is puzzling that these revolvers were not designed with swing out cylinders considering that Hopkins’ name was already on two patents for swing out cylinders as early as 1862.

The silhouette of the XL No 8 revolvers was very similar to that of the 3rd Model Merwin, Hulbert and could easily be mistaken for the Merwin or vice versa. The XL also utilized the same style of sliding loading gate as found on the Merwin, Hulbert & Company products, which no doubt added to the confusion.

3rd Model Merwin Hulbert

The XL No 8 was certainly Hopkins & Allen’s top of the line revolver and the closest they ever came to producing a martial handgun, but it is likely that their reputation for producing inexpensive “suicide special” handguns undermined their ability to successfully market the XL No 8 series.

Looks like the gent on the left has a H&A

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