in Firearm History
Frequently Asked Questions
(From the Cody Firearms Museum)
Links to Forums
At Other Sites
History of a Gun
by Jim Supica
And Military Records
Museums With Arms Exhibits
U.S. Military Arms
And Military Records
M1917 Enfield Parts
Enfield Sling Instructions
Garand Disassembly and Parts
Cartridge Research Association
of American Bayonet Collectors
(From Empire Arms. Use at own risk.)
(& Factory Letters)
Codes & Markings
Antiques Roadshow Advice
Article by Jim Supica
Article by David Kopel
Care & Records
(Preservation tips, inventory software, insurance)
Arms / Gun Show Listings
At Arms List
(Info coming soon)
for Uniform Display
Make them yourself!
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.
PERCUSSION ARMY REVOLVER
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
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
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.
SINGLE-SHOT BREECHLOADING PERCUSSION PISTOL (Second Type)
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.