Main Page

Learn - Basics

Dates in Firearm History

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
(From the Cody Firearms Museum)

Links to Forums
At Other Sites

Evaluating History of a Gun
Article by Jim Supica

Learn - Advanced

Factory Letters
And Military Records

Museums With Arms Exhibits

Arms Collector Groups

Other Useful Links

Book Recommendations

Book Reviews


U.S. Military Arms

Factory Letters
And Military Records

Krag Bolt Removal

Which U.S. Bayonet?

M1917 Enfield Parts Markings

M1917 Enfield Sling Instructions

M1 Garand Disassembly and Parts

Cartridges and Ammunition
International Ammunition Association

European Cartridge Research Association
(headstamp info)

Edged Weapons
Society of American Bayonet Collectors

Sword Collector Homepage

Internet Sword Collectors


Manufacture Dates

Pre-1899 Antique
Serial Numbers

(From Empire Arms. Use at own risk.)


Mauser Pistol C-96


(& Factory Letters)

U.S. Military



Serial Numbers
(foreign language)

Gun Marks

House Brands

U.S. Inspectors

WWII German
Codes & Markings

Mosin Nagant Markings


Spotting Fake Firearms
Antiques Roadshow Advice

Article by Jim Supica

The Anti-Gun
Crowd Wants


Article by David Kopel

Collection Care & Records
(Preservation tips, inventory software, insurance)

Arms / Gun Show Listings

NRA List

Man At Arms List

Shotgun News List

Crossroads List

Living History
(Info coming soon)

Mannequins for Uniform Display
Make them yourself!

Main Page



     A lot of people know what a Colt or Remington pistol is. Some may not be able to tell the difference between ones made in the 1850's or 60's and those made in the 1900's but they do know or have heard about one or both of them. Some of us might also know about Starr, Savage, Metropolitan, Manhattan, Bacon, Allen & Wheelock firearms, etc., but darn few of us know a Butterfield from a Perry and a casual remark about them may lead to the title of this week's Collector's Item of the Week So we will start from there...............



     The top pistol is a five shot, .41 caliber Butterfield Percussion (cap & ball ) Army Revolver. The lower single shot, .54 caliber pistol is a Perry Single-Shot Breechloading Percussion (cap & ball) Pistol - Second Type. Both had short lived popularity and manufacture. Both had something unique about them.




     A patent was granted to Jesse S. Butterfield of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in September of 1855 for a pellet or "wafer-primer" mechanism, as contained within this weapon. A cylindrical pellet magazine is inserted into the frame by unscrewing the pronounced thumb screw located forward of the trigger guard. Thin copper-clad priming pellets loaded within are driven upward by means of a spring- loaded follower and are thrown forward over the nipple by the action of the hammer. The falling hammer would meet and crush the pellet as it flew forward and landed at the nipple! Neat trick! This saved putting percussion caps on the nipples and or removing them after firing. 
     A picture of the unscrewed thumb screw and loading spring follow:



     All Butterfield revolvers were produced prior to late spring of 1862. A number of them were made based on the assumption that a large amount would be purchased by the Fifth New York Cavalry Regiment - about 2,000 of them or more. Unfortunately for Butterfield, no official order was rewarded. ( this probably was ultimately of benefit to the 5th NY Cavalry however). No one knows how many of Butterfield's revolvers were produced. Based on known serial numbers, at most there were 800. However, some experts put the exact number of this secondary martial at 640. The serial number of the pictured specimen is 195. None of these guns were known to be stamped with U. S. proofs or inspector initials, but many undoubtedly saw service during the Civil War. 
     The marking on this gun are as follows: Top Strap " BUTTERFIELD'S /PATENT DEc 11, 1855/PHILADa" in three lines. On the bottom of the brass butt strap and in the bottom of each wood grip is the serial number "195."



     Following are pictures of the bottom of this revolver.



     This single action weapon is 13-3/4" long over all. The octagonal barrel is 7" and the cylinder is 1-11/16" long. It weighs 2 pounds, 10 ounces. The hammer is centrally located. It has, as mentioned, a special disc priming mechanism with it's loading aperture just forward of the trigger guard. The two-piece varnished black walnut grips are heavily flared at the bottom. The frame, primer housing, oval trigger guard and grip strap are bronze. The pictured revolver shows indication that the bronzed parts were once silver plated. The barrel and cylinder were originally blued with the loading lever and hammer being cased hardened.






     Alonzo Perry received a patent on January 16, 1855 for for an automatic spring-actuated capping device which is basically a copper tube that extends upward between the grips which feeds percussion caps to the nipple when the breech block is depressed for loading. The cap of this copper tube can be seen at the bottom of the butt in the following picture. 


     The exact number of Perry's single-shot pistols produced is not known. A few hundred, more or less, left his armory in Newark, New Jersey. This makes this pistol the rarest of the very few single-shot breechloading pistols produced in the United States. The Perry Patent Fire Arms Company existed only between 1854 and 1856. Samples of this arm offered to the government were never accepted.  Although classed as a secondary martial, there is no evidence of military use or government purchase of this weapon.
     The serial number "94" is stamped just forward of the top of the breech. "PERRY PATENT ARMS" over "NEWARK, N. J." is stamped on top of the breech block in two lines with the axis of the barrel. Forward of, and perpendicular to this marking, near the top of the breech, is "A. D. PERRY ." 


     This .54 caliber pistol is 14-5/16" in overall length. The round tapered rifled barrel is 7-5/16" from barrel tip to breech face. It has a side hammer. The trigger guard/loading lever is a modified S-curve. The breech block pivots on a spanner screw which enters through the side of the frame. There is a guide screw forward of the pivot screw. The grips are of polished black walnut. The iron frame, integral grip straps and operating lever were originally blued. This gun fired a paper-wrapped cartridge which was inserted rearward into the breech much like the Hall's carbine.
     It should be noted that the caliber, barrel length, overall length and the stampings given and photographed are somewhat different from "Flayderman's Guide" and Reilly's book on "U. S. Military Small Arms, 1816-1865". Be that as it may, all measurements were doubled checked as were the markings and I will certify them to be correct. It appears that inadvertent errors, once made, were passed from one publication to another without verification, or Perry modified the pistol manufacturing, by batches, for whatever reason. 


     Have a nice week. The next two weeks may encounter delay in getting posted due to some time restraints. Hopefully, I will not miss a week, but stuff happens..... so we shall see. 

Dave Radcliffe