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MERWIN & HULBERT SINGLE ACTION ARMY 2ND MODEL - .44 WCF – WITH ORIGINAL IVORY GRIPS:  One of the unsung firearms of the American West, the Merwin, Hulbert & Company of New York City began marketing a series of revolvers manufactured by the Hopkins & Allen Company of Norwich Connecticut in 1876.  Their designs produced one of the strongest revolvers of the period, and briefly earned a loyal following in the very competitive market.    

It has been reported that during the late 1800's, Merwin & Hulbert revolvers were carried by many city police departments in the East, and further, that contrary to popular belief, more law enforcement officers carried Merwin & Hulbert revolvers than they did Colt, Smith & Wesson, or Remington pistols.  Some well known luminaries of the American West on both sides of the law favored the Merwin & Hulbert, including Pat Garrett and Jessie James. 

Merwin & Hulbert incorporated a number of design innovations which were quite popular to include folding hammers on their pocket pistols, but the most distinctive feature which separated their design from the competition was their unique rotating barrel and sliding cylinder which facilitated rapid extraction of spent cartridges, yet left the unfired cartridges in place, the bullet providing the additional length to allow for this feature.  When the barrel and cylinder were so extended, the manipulation of a second button allowed the barrel and cylinder to be released and both removed from the frame for maintenance.  This feature also allowed the owner to purchase a second, shorter barrel so that he could carry the pistol with its reduced profile concealed in his clothing.  These mechanics necessarily required very precise machining tolerances, resulting in a very well manufactured revolver.      

Merwin & Hulbert developed a nickel plating process that is regarded by many to be superior to that of any of their competitors.  Adding to the pistol’s popularity, the durable nickel finish served to protect the Merwin & Hulbert revolvers when exposed to the harsh environments of the West.  Even on specimens which show heavy, consistent period use, much of the Merwin & Hulbert nickel plating survives.     

All of these factors – one of the strongest, user friendly designs of the period, consistently precise manufacturing, and a durable finish – contributed directly to the popularity of the Merwin & Hulbert revolvers.  Unfortunately, that popularity was necessarily short lived, for in the mid-1880’s the company closed its doors after being besieged by financial difficulties and lawsuits regarding patent infringements.  Joseph Merwin died shortly thereafter in 1888, and with him went any future for the company.   

In 1879, Merwin & Hulbert introduced this 2ND Model which replaced the earlier form of “scooped” cylinder flutes with the traditional open ended flutes and a top strap was incorporated to strengthen the frame.   

This revolver has survived in excellent mechanical condition, with all of the cocking, cylinder rotation, indexing, and hammer-trigger functions are fully operational, crisp, and very smooth.  Likewise, the barrel and cylinder releases function properly with no play and no resistance – as smoothly as the day the parts were machined.  All of the major parts bear the same matching assembly number, 8270, and the bottom of the grip frame retains the legible serial number, 18065.  The barrel retains all of the legible Hopkins and Allen manufacturing information on the left side, and the Merwin & Hulbert patent information on the top, however the M & H info is abbreviated due to the barrel having been shortened from 7 ˝” to 5”.  The chambering stamp on the left side of the frame below the cylinder, “CALIBRE WINCHESTER 1873” is fully legible, indicating this pistol is chambered for the famous and versatile .44 Winchester Center Fire, or also known as the .44-40.  This chambering allowed the man to carry one cartridge for his Winchester rifle and this pistol, making it quite popular.  

As mentioned above, the barrel was shortened during the period of use, a common modification on the late 19TH Century revolvers of all makers to make them more comfortable to carry.  The front sight was replaced with what appears to be a piece of a coin, soldered in place.  The bore retains strong, clear rifling throughout with some light patches of pitting at the muzzle.  The chambers are all smooth with no pitting or darkening.   

The original ivory grips are full form with a wonderful naturally aged color.  The panels bear matching numbers stamped on the inner surfaces, “14”.  The panels have retained their full form with only two very minor chips along the bottom edge of the left panel.  The ivory has a uniform checked surface, evidence of exposure to the elements due to prolonged use, but they are both solid with no cracks that negatively affect the strength or integrity of the panels. 

The nickel finish has suffered some wear as can be seen in the photographs from being regularly carried in a holster, no doubt over many years.  There are some light patches of pin prick sized pitting scattered over the entire metal surface, but not to the point of having roughened the surfaces.  No doubt this revolver saw constant use during the period, but the strong and fully functional mechanics and the clean bore and chambers testify that the owner took care of his revolver.    

While Merwin-Hulbert had some very innovative and successful designs, their revolvers were produced in relatively limited numbers due to the short duration of the company, resulting in fewer specimens surviving today as compared to the larger and longer lasting companies such as Colt and Remington.  While showing use and having been carried regularly by a man who depended on this Merwin & Hulbert, it still presents as a complete and fully functional specimen of a very desirable revolver of the American West.  SOLD





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