Tell me more! Prior to Colt, was there any civilian market for side arms? (Excluding Derringer.)

Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Samuel Colt's mainstreaming of the revolver changed history forever, but prior to that, was there any non-military market for sidearms? I'm going to give some examples I've found of pistols that are interesting. One caveat I will be making is that I will be excluding Derringer from the list, simply because I already know alot about Derringer.

The pistol you see below was owned by a man that fought in the Texian Revolution, it's a flintlock pistol, but something I find interesting about it is the knob at the end of the barrel. Is this what many call a 'Kentucky pistol,' if so, did most small gun makers create them?

pistola.jpg


Below is a set of dueling pistols from England, I don't know the maker. I imagine dueling pistols probably weren't available to the average citizen back then. But who knows, do you?

dueling pistols 2.jpg


The pistol below is an Adams made 'muff gun.' They called them that because women would carry them in their hand warmers (or so legend has it.) The trigger drops down when the hammer is put at half cock.

adams muff gun.jpg


So, does anybody know the market was for civilian hand guns looked like prior to Colt's civilian models. (example being the model 1849) We're side arms only for the wealthy? Do you know?​
 

bayonet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
you asked "was there any non-military market for sidearms"? Gee take a look at today especially your from Texas. Quite a market for non-military sidearms these days wouldn't you say! Same as yesteryear if not a small pistol then a Dirk, a Dagger, or other knife of some sort, to include open carry of Swords being small or gentlemen type blades.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
you asked "was there any non-military market for sidearms"? Gee take a look at today especially your from Texas. Quite a market for non-military sidearms these days wouldn't you say! Same as yesteryear if not a small pistol then a Dirk, a Dagger, or other knife of some sort, to include open carry of Swords being small or gentlemen type blades.
Sorry, I'll try to pharse it better next time, lol.
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
@W. Caldwell-37thNC As someone else pointed out, pepperbox pistols are something you might want to investigate. During the 1830s-50s they were the working man's alternative to the new and expensive revolvers that were on the market, and they actually were fairly common. A lot of guys during the California Gold Rush took pepperbox pistols with them for self-defence against claim jumpers, etc.

Here's a video to start you off, covering one of the more popular manufacturers of these guns:

And a video of one being tried out on a shooting range:

I own a .36 caliber Allen & Thurber, never fired it, but after all these years the action still works smooth despite the gun looking pretty well-worn...
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
@W. Caldwell-37thNC As someone else pointed out, pepperbox pistols are something you might want to investigate. During the 1830s-50s they were the working man's alternative to the new and expensive revolvers that were on the market, and they actually were fairly common. A lot of guys during the California Gold Rush took pepperbox pistols with them for self-defence against claim jumpers, etc.

Here's a video to start you off, covering one of the more popular manufacturers of these guns:

And a video of one being tried out on a shooting range:

I own a .36 caliber Allen & Thurber, never fired it, but after all these years the action still works smooth despite the gun looking pretty well-worn...
Thank you so much. =D
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
@W. Caldwell-37thNC As someone else pointed out, pepperbox pistols are something you might want to investigate. During the 1830s-50s they were the working man's alternative to the new and expensive revolvers that were on the market, and they actually were fairly common. A lot of guys during the California Gold Rush took pepperbox pistols with them for self-defence against claim jumpers, etc.

Here's a video to start you off, covering one of the more popular manufacturers of these guns:

And a video of one being tried out on a shooting range:

I own a .36 caliber Allen & Thurber, never fired it, but after all these years the action still works smooth despite the gun looking pretty well-worn...
The videos were excellent...thanks for posting! The only problem is that now I really want to own a pepperbox...heavy sigh........
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
The videos were excellent...thanks for posting! The only problem is that now I really want to own a pepperbox...heavy sigh........
Haha well if I keep having issues trying to get mine shipped to me from the States, maybe I'll give up and sell it to you :wink:

I'd recommend doing a bit of online browsing. They made so many of those guns back in the day that you can find them for reasonable prices these days (at least in terms of the collector market for mid-19th century firearms). I believe I paid around $550 for mine, that was maybe 4 years ago.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Start looking into the pepper box pistols. You’ll find quite a lot.
I've been very suprised to find that that pepper box got around. I didn't know that. I'm suprised you never hear about Allen and Co. giving colt serious competition. I guess the range was very limited?

Derringer only made 12,000 units of his Philidelphia model. Interestingly, it sounds like Allen made even more than that, how have I not heard about this?
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I'm suprised you never hear about Allen and Co. giving colt serious competition. I guess the range was very limited?

Effective firing range was limited and also Allen (and Co, Thurber, etc.) weren't really competing for the same market as Colt. In the 1830s-50s Colt did military contracts, while Allen didn't bother with the military and did affordable, short-range self-defence pistols. The kind of guy who could afford to buy a Colt in the 1840s wasn't on the same paycheck as the guy who settled for an Allen&Thurber pepperbox.

There's an older book called "Pepperbox Firearms" by Lewis Winant, if you're looking for reading material that delves specifically into these types of firearms. I own a copy.
 

Papabyrd

Private
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Really? I'm suprised the pepper box didn't over take the Colt's design in popularity.
The pepper box was very popular till Colt made lighter revolvers. The pepper box was heavy and harder to hide. But after the rim fire shells came out little 4 barrel 32 and 22 caliber guns like the Remington ring trigger and the sharps very popular.
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
But after the rim fire shells came out little 4 barrel 32 and 22 caliber guns like the Remington ring trigger and the sharps very popular.

I think this is really what killed off the old pepperboxes as the working-man's handgun. Pepperboxes like those made by Allen & Thurber weren't easily convertible to metallic-cartridges, unlike many of the revolvers of the period. But before rimfire and centerfire revolvers became commonplace, muzzle-loading pepperbox handguns certainly weren't the worst option you could carry for short-range self-defence.
 

Papabyrd

Private
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Colt was not the only one making revolvers in the 1850s . But they were the only makers that could make them that revolved the cylinder when the hammer was cocked. Because Colt held the patent on the auto revolving cylinder. Whitney Arms co and Massachusetts arms co got around this by making revolvers that the shooter had to turn the cylinder by hand manually.
The Whitney had a second trigger in front of the trigger guard that when pulled it released the cylinder to turn by hand. The Mass arms revolver has a button inside the trigger guard that you push up to turn the cylinder. Both guns are about 31 caliber. slower than a Colt But a big step above a single shot.
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Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
The pepper box was very popular till Colt made lighter revolvers. The pepper box was heavy and harder to hide. But after the rim fire shells came out little 4 barrel 32 and 22 caliber guns like the Remington ring trigger and the sharps very popular.

Colt was not the only one making revolvers in the 1850s . But they were the only makers that could make them that revolved the cylinder when the hammer was cocked. Because Colt held the patent on the auto revolving cylinder. Whitney Arms co and Massachusetts arms co got around this by making revolvers that the shooter had to turn the cylinder by hand manually.
The Whitney had a second trigger in front of the trigger guard that when pulled it released the cylinder to turn by hand. The Mass arms revolver has a button inside the trigger guard that you push up to turn the cylinder. Both guns are about 31 caliber. slower than a Colt But a big step above a single shot.
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Manual turning the cylinder isn't that bad, do you know if they functioned well?
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
@W. Caldwell-37thNC As someone else pointed out, pepperbox pistols are something you might want to investigate. During the 1830s-50s they were the working man's alternative to the new and expensive revolvers that were on the market, and they actually were fairly common. A lot of guys during the California Gold Rush took pepperbox pistols with them for self-defence against claim jumpers, etc.

Here's a video to start you off, covering one of the more popular manufacturers of these guns:

And a video of one being tried out on a shooting range:

I own a .36 caliber Allen & Thurber, never fired it, but after all these years the action still works smooth despite the gun looking pretty well-worn...
My mind is still blown by this, Allen and Co. pepper box was one of the first double action pistols ever? That's crazy.
 
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