Thursday, January 18, 2018

Colt Model 1848 Baby Dragoon

This factory engraved M-1848 was manufactured in 1850, it is a one of a kind factory showpiece made for international exhibition. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Colt 1851 was originally introduced as a "belt revolver", how did it get the name "Navy"?

“The mid-1850s was a revolutionary time for small arms development around the world, and the United States was no exception. The US Army had already adopted the percussion revolver in limited numbers for the US Mounted Rifles and US Dragoons by acquiring Colt “Dragoon”, .44 caliber “holster” (as in pommel holster) revolvers in 1848.
The US Navy, however, remained steadfast in their belief single shot, muzzle-loading pistols were sufficient for the use of their seamen.

In 1851 Colt introduced his “belt revolver”, a slimmed down, lighter weight, 6-shot .36 caliber handgun that would become known by its year of introduction as the M-1851 revolver.

The number of Colt’s .36 caliber M-1851 revolvers purchased by the US Navy was rather limited. While Colt had vigorously lobbied the Navy to purchase his revolving pistols during the early 1850’s, he met with significant resistance. He did manage to secure an order for 100 revolvers in June of 1852 for the use of Commander Perry’s command on his voyage to Japan.

However, the general belief of the Naval Ordnance Department was that pistols were only of use while boarding an enemy ship, and in those circumstances edged weapons such as sabers or axes were of more use to the typical seaman. In fact the chief of Naval Ordnance,Commodore Morris wrote to Secretary of the Navy James Dobbin on June 21, 1854, noting in part:

“It has not been considered advisable heretofore, to purchase Colts revolvers for general service……….Pistols can seldom be used with effect in the Navy, except when boarding vessels, with the view to their capture, which very rarely occurs. At such time,
the contest soon becomes hand to hand when sword or boarding hatchets could be used by seamen, with equal, if not greater certainty and effect than pistols.”

Colt was not to be discouraged, and ever the consummate salesman, he did manage to sell the Navy 50 of his M-1851 revolvers in June of 1856 and an additional 50 revolvers in May of 1857. In September of that year, the Navy finally placed a large order for M-1851 revolvers. They purchased 2,000 (less the ones that had been previously ordered), which were delivered starting in November of 1857. The first 615 were delivered for inspection at the Norfolk Naval Yard on November 9, 1857. The next batch of 667 were delivered to the Boston Naval Yard on December 6, and rest of the guns were delivered to the New York Navy Yard later that same month.

The Navy placed a second order for an additional 600 M-1851s in August of 1859. With half of the guns delivered to the New York Naval Yard and the other half delivered to the Boston Naval Yard.

The USN purchased Colt M-1851 revolvers were unique in that they were specifically ordered with iron backstraps and trigger guards. This is particularly interesting because the standard production revolvers had brass backstraps and trigger guards, which were less likely to be damaged by the corrosive salt air environment the revolvers would be exposed to in service.
By 1860, Colt M-1851 revolvers were listed in the small arms inventories of nearly 30 US Naval vessels.


In 1873 General W.B. Franklin, Vice President of Colt, offered to upgrade existing stocks of M-1851 and M-1861 Navy revolvers to centerfire cartridge via the Richards-Mason conversion system for $3.50 each. In a July 10, 1873 letter to Franklin, USN Chief 

of Ordnance William N. Jeffers accepted the offer from Colt and noted that he had “…advised the Commandant(s) of the Boston, New York and Philadelphia Navy Yards to send to your
manufactory 100, 400 and 300 pistols respectively for alteration". 
Thus began the process by which some 2,097 US Navy owned .36 caliber Colt percussion revolvers were altered to metallic cartridge by the Richards-Mason system. The guns were all altered to .38 Long Colt.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Now here is one that you won’t see at your local gun show, a Blissett combination flintlock and percussion rifle.

This unique rifle features both a flintlock and percussion ignition system. A pivoting flash pan and percussion bolster are mounted on the lock ahead of the flintlock frizzen and spring assembly. The lower portion of the hammer is percussion and serves as the lower vise jaw for the upper flintlock mechanism. There is a thumb screw on the bottom of the flash pan/bolster which is used to lock the mechanism into place depending on which system you are using. The side of the flash pan is marked "PATENT". The lock and barrel are marked "F BLISSETT, LONDON”.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Smith & Wesson introduced its first “automatic” handgun, as it was known in 1913, with the Model 1913 “.35 Automatic Pistol “.

When Colt began licensing several designs from John Moses Browning’s semi-automatic pistol their sales success had the other major manufacturers scrambling for a slice of the pie.

Smith & Wesson, wanting in the game, had the same problem that the others did: Patents. Colt's Browning patents covered a plethora of details, from the one-piece slide and breechblock to the method of attaching the grip panels to the frame with screws.

Smith’s answer was to shop overseas for a design to license, and they settled on a Belgian design, the Clement, and modified it to suit the U.S. market, adding a grip safety and other embellishments that they thought would help sales. 

Unfortunately, compared to the fairly simple designs from Colt, the Smith & Wesson was positively overkill, with a parts count nearly double that of its competitors. Further the control placements went beyond counter-intuitive and were actively user-hostile. The grip safety was a tab on the front of the frame and for some users it took an active effort to disengage. The manual safety was a thumbwheel that protruded through the backstrap and could not be operated with the hand in a firing grip.

To make things worse they also designed a new proprietary cartridge for the pistol: .35 S&W Auto. Similar to the .32ACP, the slightly larger round was partially metal-jacketed, with a larger exposed lead driving band that would engage the rifling. The theory was that this would couple the reliable feeding of round-nosed FMJ with the reduced barrel wear of lead bullets. Since everybody else had standardized on the Browning-designed .32, S&W owners had a harder time finding more expensive ammunition for their complex, hard-to-use pistols. This was not a recipe for sales success.

The Model 1913 was manufactured between 1913 and 1921, approx. 8,350 were produced.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Unidentified and likely one of a kind experimental 32 ACP pistol, void of any markings of any kind.

At its core, this is a blowback operated design, with the recoil spring positioned above the barrel, a cocking piece to the rear and the bolt riding below, a configuration that was briefly popular in the early 20th century but was supplanted with the now more common arrangement of the recoil spring beneath the barrel. In addition to a fairly conventional manual safety, this pistol is equipped with a novel spring loaded transfer bar safety; positioned just behind the trigger on the left side, the checkered bar must be depressed in order to fire the pistol, a very natural action with a strong right handed grip, though difficult to perform with a left handed grip. The overall ergonomics are very solid, providing a comfortable grip with fine instinctive pointing qualities.

Though not confirmed, it has been suggested that it may be the work of Iver Johnson and might have been part of an entire line of prototype pistols. I find nothing to confirm or deny that suggestion.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Volksgewehr VG-1 rifle.

One of the final weapons designed and developed by the Nazis in World War II, the VG1 was one of the "People's Weapons", last-ditch small arms produced by an industrial complex surrounded on all sides while being beaten to death by Allied strategic bombers. These weapons were intended to be used by the "Volksturm" which translates literally as "People's Storm" or "People's Assault" and more practically as "anyone we could find". In essence, the VG1 is a successor of the Mauser 98k, stripped to the bone with as many simplified or repurposed parts as possible in the name of getting a working rifle out the door ASAP. Fitted with a barrel originally meant for a machine gun, a magazine for a K43 rifle, a smooth pistol grip stock, with a fixed wire sling loop and a flat sheet metal buttplate.

The red/white/black armband, "DEUTCHERVOLKSTURM/WEHRMACHT", would likely have been issued along with the rifle and considered the bare minimum "uniform" for the assorted boys and old men pressed into service in the dying days of the Third Reich.

Friday, December 22, 2017

.22 caliber First Generation Colt SA Army

This is an example of a rare .22 caliber First Generation Single Action Army, one of 90 that were originally manufactured as .44 rimfire revolvers but were converted to .22 caliber before leaving the factory in 1888. 

 Many of these revolvers were subsequently altered or destroyed. This example is listed in the "Colt Peacemaker Encyclopedia Volume 2" as having been shipped to Kittredge on July 21, 1888, along with two other .22 rimfire revolvers. At first glance the revolver looks to be a standard .45 caliber revolver until the bore and hammer are looked at more closely. It is marked with "22 CAL" on the left front trigger guard shoulder over the original "44 CAL".