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3 STARS FOR STARR
PART 1

 

THE STARR MODEL 1858 DOUBLE ACTION NAVY .36 Caliber PERCUSSION REVOLVER

 

     Ebanezer (Eban) Townsend Starr of Yonkers, New York patented and manufactured 3 types of percussion revolvers that were purchased by the United States Government starting in 1861 and ending in 1864. 6,352 Starr DA Navy and Army revolvers were purchased on the open market and 41,102, including the SA Army, were purchased under contract for a total of 47,454 guns. Starr revolvers were the third highest in number to be purchased by the Union government. All three of these models are pictured below.

 

All three of Starr models
From Top To Bottom

Starr Model 1863 Single Action .44 Caliber Percussion Army Revolver (1863-1864
Starr Model 1858 Double Action .36 Caliber Percussion Navy Revolver (1859-1860)
Starr Model 1858 Double Action .44 Caliber Percussion Army Revolver (1862-1863)

 


 

         The first of these revolvers was the Model 1858 Double Action .36 caliber Percussion Navy Revolver. Starr produced, at his Binghamton, New York factory, 3,000 of this model between 1859 and 1860. 100 were ordered by the Navy Department in October, 1861, but were rejected and returned to Starr. However, the Ordnance Department purchased 1,402 before January of 1862, 1,000 of which were delivered in 1861. It is generally believed that a total of 2,250 Starr Navy revolvers were purchased by the federal government or directly by various military departments. All are believed to have been open market purchases.

 

Right Side View of The Model 1858 Double Action .36 Caliber Percussion Navy Revolver
Right Side View of The Model 1858 Double Action .36 Caliber Percussion Navy Revolver

 

     All of the Starr DA revolvers were rugged and successful handguns. They are considered to be one of the most "modern" revolvers of the Civil War era with their construction reflecting the ideas and work of a very gifted inventor. The rejection by the Navy and the somewhat limited purchases of this pre-war revolver led Starr to the production of the larger .44 caliber Army revolvers which were to enjoy greater acceptance with the U.S. military. Those models will be pictured and discussed in Parts Two and Three of this posting series.

 


 

     The double action Starr revolver has been described as a hybrid between a double and single action gun. It is actually a "self cocker" as the large front "trigger" only cocks the hammer and rotates the cylinder. There is an adjustable curved spring lug, screw-held to the rear of the cocking lever that engages the small "real" trigger at the inside rear of the guard that actually releases the hammer to strike the percussion cap to fire the gun. When properly adjusted a long smooth pull of the front trigger or cocking lever will push into and activate the real trigger behind it. The rear trigger can be seen in the following photograph.

 

Left Side View of The Starr Navy, Cocked with Frame Open - Hinge Screw and Cylinder Removed
Left Side View of The Starr Navy, Cocked with Frame Open - Hinge Screw and Cylinder Removed

 

     The blued hinged barrel is 6 inches long. It does not have any markings. It is rifled with 6 grooves. The mortised iron front sight is positioned 3/16" from the muzzle. The "V" notch in the hammer lip serves as the rear sight. The loading lever is cased hardened and is secured by a spring actuated plunger. The rounded lever catch is 7/16" from the muzzle. The two-piece blued frame is held together by a round knurled thumb screw which enters from the right side behind the recoil shield and hammer. The frame is stamped on the outside beneath the cylinder on both sides. There is also a solitary "A" stamped inside the frame under the cylinder.

 

Left Frame Marking
Left Frame Marking
"STARR'S PATENT JAN. 15, 1856."

 

Right Frame Marking
Right Frame Marking
" STARR. ARMS. Co. NEW.YORK."

 

"A" On Inside Of Frame Under The Cylinder
"A" On Inside Of Frame Under The Cylinder

 


 

     There is a heavily beveled large semi-circular loading groove above the hinge screw at the lower front of the rounded frame and a small capping cutout at the lower edge of the narrow recoil shield on the right side of the revolver. The separate, blued back strap is held to the frame by the rearmost frame screw, while the front strap is integral with the large oval trigger guard. The very short hammer spur is case-hardened. The one-piece walnut grips are normally oil-finished. However, on the arm pictured they are varnished. The grip is rounded at the bottom and is without a butt strap. The weapon measures 13" overall and weighs 3 pounds, 3 ounces. A primary identification feature is the outward slanting nipples at the rear of the cylinder.

 

Side View of Slanting Nipples Rear View Of Cylinder
Side View of Slanting Nipples

 

Rear View Of Cylinder

 


 

     The 2¼" inch, six-shot, .36 caliber blued cylinder is marked only with a serial number. The oval stop slots are supplemented by intermediate safety slots.

 

Close Up of Serial Number "2612" and Oval Stop Slot Serial Number "2612" on Cylinder and Left Frame Marking
Close Up of Serial Number "2612" and Oval Stop Slot 

 

Serial Number "2612" on Cylinder and Left Frame Marking

 


 

       The serial number will also be seen at the front bottom of the frame, on the inside rear of the hammer shank, and on the hammer rest. Additionally, it is stamped on the bottom of the barrel at the forward most frame screw. The latter stamping is difficult to see and has not been photographed. Normally, only the first digit or two can be seen without taking the arm apart.

 

Serial Number at Front Bottom of Frame
Serial Number at Front Bottom of Frame

 

Serial Number Stamping Hammer Shank And Hammer Rest Close Up of Hammer Rest Stamping
Serial Number Stamping Hammer Shank And Hammer Rest

 

Close Up of Hammer Rest Stamping

 


 

     The Starr Navy Model is the most difficult Starr revolver to find as it had a rather limited production when compared to the Army types. It should be noted that these revolvers are seldom found with inspector stampings. However, some martially marked specimens have been found with the stamping "JT" on the wood grips. 

 

     The next posting, "3 STARS FOR STARR - PART 2 ", will feature the Starr Model 1858 Double Action .44 Caliber Percussion Army Revolver. The Starr Model 1863 Single Action .44 Caliber Percussion Army Revolver will be featured in "3 STARS FOR STARR - PART 3".

 

     Once again, a substantial amount of reference material and wording came from Robert M. Reilly and his book "U.S. SMALL ARMS 1816 - 1865", William B. Edwards great book, "CIVIL WAR GUNS" and, as always, from the great Norm Flayderman's FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE(S) TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS.... AND THEIR VALUES." Information was also gleaned from an American Rifleman reprint by  the NRA - "CIVIL WAR SMALL ARMS".

 

     My webmaster and son, Reed Radcliffe, once again provided the technical expertise to process these words and pictures to my web page as well as taking the time to upgrade my computer and provide maintenance services as needed.

 

Dave Radcliffe