Monday, December 17, 2018

Chambersburg School Golden Age Long Rifle by John Noll

John Noll (1747-1824) was a late 18th and early 19th century gunmaker active in Lancaster and Franklin counties in Pennsylvania. 

Note the "IN" silver barrel stamp at the breech. Joe Kindig, Jr. notes: "John Noll is the only Kentucky rifle maker I know of who used a little silver mark like this. Marks of this type, but usually with a gold background, were often used by European gunsmiths." 

Kindig also notes: "John Noll was one of the really great master gunsmiths during the Golden Age of the Kentucky rifle. He made beautiful long slender guns." This rifle certainly fits Kindig's description. 
It has a 43 inch .50 caliber barrel and unmarked lock.
The rifle has the classic brass furniture, the engraved patch box, engraved silver escutcheons, and intricate carving especially on the left side of the butt below and to the rear of the cheekpiece.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Winchester Patent Model for M-1876 Pocket Revolver


In 1875/1876 Winchester was again planning to make a splash in the revolver market and planned on doing so at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876.
“Winchester invested a great deal of money and time in the "Centennial model 76" revolvers". This pistol designed by Hugo Borchardt and S.W. Wood is the patent model revolver for one of the Winchester “Centennial” revolver series.

It is the only patent model known and one of only a handful of 1876 series Winchester revolvers in private hands.

It is the only 32 caliber manufactured.
It is the only pocket model manufactured.
It is the only spur trigger manufactured.
It was the only fully functional swing-out cylinder manufactured at the time.

"The three major designs developed in the Wood and Borchardt revolvers;
1. A double action mechanism,
2. Fixed thumb and cylinder extractor,
3. Swing-out cylinder and simultaneous extractor and was the first and only successful swing-out cylinder design of its time.”


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ethan Allen Falling Block Rifles

Ethan Allen was a very inventive firearms designer/manufacturer who was involved with a series of different firearms companies. This “Drop Block” rifle type was patented September 18, 1860. It was offered in the same .44 rimfire cartridge used with the much more popular 16-shot Henry repeater, but this rifle just didn’t get the same (market) respect. Less than 2,000 were made. Some short-barreled, large-caliber specimens with sling swivels served as secondary martial carbines in some Civil War encounters. Because these carbines were never officially adopted during the war, private citizens sometimes obtained these for service on both sides of the lines. While several calibers were offered it was the 44 rimfire chambering that gained limited acceptance for private purchase during the Civil War. A few years after the conflict was over, however, several northern states adopted these carbines as official militia arms for mounted troops. In either of these roles, these carbines proved to be very satisfactory.

The rifle was offered in various barrel lengths, two frame sizes in either iron or brass and chamberings in..22, .32, .42, and 44 rimfire. Sight styles varied through the years of production. 

The action is operated by depressing the latch at the rear of the trigger guard that allows the guard to swing forward, which in turn drops the breech block. A spring loaded extractor then ejects the case.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Sharps & Hankins Model 1862

The action was patented by Christian Sharps, July 9, 1861, and the rifles were manufactured by the Sharps & Hankins, established in Philadelphia in 1863. 
The United States Ordnance Department purchased about 8,000 variations of the M-1862 Sharps & Hankins from 1862-1865. 

There were 700 rifles, like the one on the left, manufactured; all but 100 were purchased for use by the Navy.  
Most of the rifles were used to arm Marine guards aboard ships and some were used on gunboats on the Mississippi River. 
It is believed about 7,200 carbine were manufactured and vary some in detail and barrel size. Most of them finished blue, but some were tinned. Some of the carbines made for naval use have leather barrel covers, secured by two screws at the breech, for protection against sea-spray and salt air. 

Army carbines had saddle rings and no leather cover.

These rifles/carbines vary some in detail and barrel size. Naval carbines measured 35 5/8 inches overall with a 23 5/8 inch barrel, cavalry carbines had 20 inch barrels.

They were all .52 caliber weapons that fired the .56-52 Spencer rimfire cartridge.

Operation was by pressing a release behind the trigger and pulling the trigger guard lever downwards, this slides the barrel along the forward extension of the frame. 

Sharps & Hankins Navy Carbine pictured below.

Sharps & Hankins Short Cavalry Style Carbine pictured below.

This variation is also known as the 11th New York Volunteer Cavalry Model given the 11th Cavalry was equipped with Sharps & Hankins carbines. Only an estimated 1,000 Short Cavalry carbines were manufactured, and many had a tinned finish. 

Below is yet another S&H that I have yet to find out just what variation it might be. Possibly another Navy model.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Jenks Naval Carbine

The Jenks Naval Carbine was originally manufactured in 1845 by N.P. Ames of Springfield, Massachusetts with a total production of approximately 4,250. The vast majority of these were made for the U.S. Navy and they were the only "mule ear" type arm that was officially accepted by U.S. armed forces.

In 1846, the final contract was purchased from Ames and Jenks along with most of the carbine making equipment by E. Remington of Herkimer N.Y. who completed the contract obligations. Remington then filled the contract of September 22, 1845 calling for 1,000 “improved” Jenks with Maynard Tape Priming system.

These additional carbines were delivered in 1847 and 1848. Both the Ames and Remington versions of the carbine had 24.5” barrels, walnut stocks and brass furniture. All were originally manufactured as .54 smoothbore guns, with a round loading aperture in the breech.

With the coming of the Civil War, nearly all of the carbines were recalled and subsequently altered to accept paper cartridges.
The round loading aperture, which was designed for loose powder and a round ball, was enlarged to an oval opening which allowed the loading of the paper cartridges. 



At that time the majority of the carbines were also rifled during the alteration process.

Today, it is very difficult to find a smoothbore Jenks carbine and nearly impossible to find an original configuration smoothbore Jenks with the round loading hole.
The Remington made, Maynard primed “Round Hole” Jenks carbines are so scarce that their prices usually start at double the price of a comparable oval hole, tape primed Jenks. In fact, only a handful of the original configuration smoothbore, “round hole”, tape primer Jenks carbines are known to exist.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

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.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Shawk & McLanahan Navy Revolver

This revolver’s history varies from one arms historian/collector to another. It has little, if any, real documentation. Collectors argue the who, what and where about these revolvers and even suggest that some of these revolvers may have seen Civil War duty, although that is not documented. Any revolver made in the late 1850’s era would likely have seen service in the war. 

The following information has been gleamed from bits and pieces of several sources and I’ll pass it along as hearsay.
Regardless of who knows what, the Shawk & McLanahan revolver has to be considered one of the rarest American percussion revolvers made.

The Shawk & McLanahan shop was located in Carondelet, on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri in the late 1850s. It is thought that Abel Shawk and J.K. Mc Lanahan financed the operation and Charles Rigdon provided the engineering and the majority of the machinery. (Rigdon of later Leech & Ridgon Co.)
The first few revolvers were basically handmade by a German immigrant gunsmith named William Tegethoff and so marked with his name. (Tegethoff is said to have been previously employed by Samuel Hawken) The later revolvers bare the Shawk & McLanahan name. 

Estimates of how many of these revolvers were produced run from 9 to 100.
The company suddenly went out of business about the time the Civil War erupted, the sudden dissolution appears to have been owed to the divided North/South loyalties of the three pardners.

As you can see, by the following pictures, there were two known variations of this brass frame revolver. Both of which bare slight resemblance to the Whitney and Spiller & Burr revolvers. They had 7-1/2” to 8” barrels and were .36 caliber.