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ALLEN & WHEELOCK CENTER HAMMER .44 CALIBER ARMY PERCUSSION REVOLVER – SCARCE CIVIL WAR PISTOL IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  This is a very nice example of the Allen & Wheelock Center Hammer .44 Caliber “Army Model” Percussion Revolvers - one of the scarcest of the secondary US Martial revolvers to see service with the Federal Army during the American Civil War.  According to Flayderman, the total production of this revolver was limited to approximately 700 pieces, of which 536 were purchased by the U.S. Government during the war.  Surviving regimental returns made during the Civil War record that troopers in the 2ND and 3RD Michigan, and the 8TH Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiments were armed with these Allen & Wheelock Revolvers as of June 30, 1863.   

Examples of these center hammer Allen & Wheelock Army Revolvers were converted after the war to lip fire and centerfire cartridges, making specimens in the original percussion such as this pistol quite scarce.   

Ethan Allen, a prolific American gun maker and designer, held some 22 firearms patents - five specific to the development of the percussion revolver – and was well established in the firearms industry for some twenty years before partnering with Thomas Wheelock in 1857 – an important year in the chronology of revolver production in America.   

As was case with a number of other contemporary gun makers, Allen & Wheelock were very aware that the patents held by Colt would expire in 1857, and it is quite possible this new partnership was specifically formed to take advantage of this opportunity.  It is believed that at a number of gun makers, including Allen & Wheelock, had viable designs for mechanically rotated revolvers prepared in anticipation of the expiration of Colt’s patents and were ready to begin immediate production.  Developing a series of revolvers between 1857 and 1861, the company’s .44 caliber Army Model Center Hammer Revolver was in production as the Civil War ignited and the government began buying arms to equip the soldiers.  The U.S. Ordnance Department purchased 536 of the 700 produced, and through surviving records, it is known that a significant number of those purchased by the government were issued to the 2nd and 3rd Michigan, and the 8TH Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiments. 

While showing evidence of having seen use, this Allen & Wheelock .44 Caliber Army Revolver is in very good condition.  The pistol has survived intact with all of the matching numbered components – frame, loading lever/trigger guard, grip panels, cylinder and cylinder pin – bearing the number “421”.  The company’s maker stamp and patent information is present and very legible on the left flat of the full length octagon to round 7 ½” barrel: “ALLEN & WHEELOCK WORCHESTER, MASS. U.__ / ALLEN’S PT’S . JAN . 13 . DEC . 15 . 1857 . SEPT. 7, ____”   [It is an interesting footnote to Allen’s manufacturing practices that he had a reputation for being somewhat parsimonious.  These barrel stampings bear that out in that it is known he used the same stamping die from one model to the next, with little regard to whether all of the characters in the die would fit in the area available.  Hence the final “S.A.” of U.S.A. at the end of the top line and the last four digits of the year date at the end of the bottom line were not struck simply because there wasn’t sufficient room on the barrel flat.  I have noted this characteristic on almost every A&W Army pistol I have seen.]

It has been noted that the blued finish applied to Allen & Wheelock firearms was not particularly durable, often prone to flaking and commonly missing altogether, so it is not unusual to find an otherwise gently used Allen & Wheelock with no finish whatsoever.  This revolver retains considerable amounts of the original blue finish in the more protected areas as can be seen in the close up photographs below, a definite added value to this specimen.  

One of the unique features of these pistols is the combination trigger guard/loading lever assembly that hinges at the front-bottom of the frame.  Described as a “creeping” or rack and pinion design, the lever arm is contoured to form the trigger guard, latching to the static rear bow of the guard.  When the trigger guard/lever is released and rotated away from the frame, studs on the forward swell of the lever engage corresponding holes in the ram and move the ram into the chamber aligned with the ram.  This assembly is complete and intact with all the original parts and it functions as it should.   

The original cylinder pin, enclosed in a channel below and parallel to the barrel, is held in place by a latch.  When the catch is depressed, the pin can be withdrawn and in turn, the cylinder can be removed from the frame. The latch function is very crisp and the pin seats as it should with no looseness.   

The six chamber original cylinder is full form with no damage and all six of the original nipples are present and in excellent condition - full form with no chips, cracks or excessive peening.  

The barrel is full length and the front sight is present and full form.  The bore is clean with distinct rifling and no pitting.  All the corners and edges of the barrel, frame, cylinder, hammer and guard/loading lever are distinct and the contours are not worn or altered.  

The two original, matching walnut grip panels are in very good to excellent condition with the majority of the original varnish present.  There are no heavy dents or handling marks, nor any cracks or splits.   

The overall finish of the metal is clean and smooth with no signs of heavy use or abuse and no pitting, with a nice natural patina overall.   

The mechanical function of the pistol is excellent, properly indexing at full cock and at half cock allowing the cylinder to rotate.  The trigger to hammer mechanics function properly as well, as tight as the day the pistol was issued.    

This .44 Caliber Center Hammer Revolver is one of the rarest of the Allen and Wheelock revolvers – particularly in the original percussion configuration - and is one of the least common secondary US martial percussion revolvers which were issued during the Civil War.  As such, these Allen & Wheelock Army Pistols are a key addition to any collection of Civil War cavalry firearms, and as compared to many of the other pistols carried by the mounted soldiers, decent, complete specimens are increasingly scarce.   This is a very nice specimen which has survived intact with all its original parts.  SOLD


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