The U.S. Army had continuing access to the gunsmiths and the mass-production resources of the North, and used a wide variety of handguns. Most of these were government-issue, of which the various models by Colt and Remington were most prevalent. There were also many private purchases by officers seeking both to assert their individuality and also to ensure their personal survival. Some of the manufacturers whose products are seen here would continue in business down to the present day, including Colt, Remington, and Smith & Wesson, while others disappeared at the end of the Civil War, including companies such as Manhattan, Plant, Starr, and Uhlinger. The two Remington-Beals revolvers are of particular interest. Eliphalet Remington, a blacksmith, set up his gunmaking business in the 1850s and among his early products was a series of revolvers made to the design of a man named F. Beals, hence the name. Thus, these are among the very earliest products of this world-famous company.
1 Uhlinger pocket revolver in ,32in rimfire
2 Army revolver by the Starr Arms Company of New York
4 Remington-Beals Navy revolver
5 Remington New Model Navy revolver
6 Manhattan Pocket Model revolver
7 Plant Third Model revolver
8 Smith and Wesson No. 1 Second Issue revolver
9 Colt Model 1862 Police revolver
Revolvers, like swords and rifles, appeared on the battlefield and in the camps in a bewildering variety of makes and models. The Colt 44in Model 1860 Army revolver (right) was the most commonly seen sidearm during the Civil War, both among Union officers and among those Confederate officers who could get hold of one. A percussion weapon, it used rammer loading from the front of the cylinder, with the wiser shooters having a ready-prepared stock of paper cartridges to hand. The weapon was made from iron or steel, with a bronze trigger guard and front-strap, and was no mean weight: 44oz (1.2kg).
By contrast, the distinctive
Savage revolver (left) was carried by only a few, and mostly as a privately purchased arm. It was designed and manufactured by the Savage Arms Company, which has a long-standing reputation for producing weapons of very high quality and sometimes unusual design, as was the case here The shooter used his middle finger to draw back the ring below the trigger, which rotated the six-round chamber and cocked the weapon; he then used his index finger to fire the gun in the normal manner. It was a safe and ingenious system and should have been appreciated, but it was not and it lagged far behind the Colt models in popularity.
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