WE ARE ACCUSTOMED to thinking of a revolver as a weapon with one cylinder containing a number of chambers, usually five or six, firing one shot from each chamber through a single barrel. Most are like that, but revolvers have been made, some in considerable quantity, equipped with two barrels, or with two cylinders, or designed to fire two shots from a single chamber. Such revolvers may be classed as curiosa.
In this chapter we shall consider those revolvers which deviate from usual form in that they have two barrels.
Though guns with two barrels, and revolvers with one barrel, were known in the days of flintlock and even wheel lock ignition it is improbable that any revolver with two barrels was constructed until after Forsyth invented the detonators. I do not know of any two-barrel revolvers made before those manufactured by Billinghurst. William Billinghurst, of Rochester, New York, was in his day the maker of the finest guns produced in this country. His double rifles and revolving rifles were eagerly bought by wealthy sportsmen of South America and India, and his products were the only American firearms conceded equality with the British „best" guns.
Billinghurst made the two-barrel gun illustrated in figure 44. The novel features of this gun were not patented. Mr. Billinghurst took out no patents on any of the various unusual firearms he made. The gun is a combination of a 7-shot rifle and a shotgun, using pill-lock ignition. In place of a conventional solid center pin there is a shot barrel upon which the cylinder revolves. This substitution of a shot barrel for the center pin was later a claim in the patent granted Dr. Alexandre Le Mat.
The 7-chambered cylinder for the rifle is turned manually and keeps the proper chamber in alignment with the barrel by use of a perfectly fitted catch under the barrel. A close examination of this cylinder makes us better understand the high praise accorded Billinghurst workmanship by the connoisseurs of fine guns. In this cylinder the chambers are rifled to match the barrel rifling.
The lock is single action with two separate hammers and triggers. The rear trigger is connected with the hammer that fires the bullet loads in the cylinder. To fire the shot barrel the underhammer is cocked and the forward trigger pressed.
It has been thought the Billinghurst gun gave Le Mat the idea for the tatter's revolver. The Le Mat revolver employs a cylinder revolving around a shot barrel but has an entirely different lock mechanism.
Some collectors incline to the belief Le Mat revolvers were manufactured, beyond the experimental stage, in the United States. Mr. Tom McHugh, who has done much research on Le Mats, is very doubtful that there are American Le Mats. In Firearms o f the Confederacy, by Steuart and Fuller, it is stated there is no evidence Le Mat revolvers were manufactured in this country.
That certain revolvers, because they are either unmarked, or not marked as being made in Europe, should be classed as American Le Mats is an unjustified assumption. The fact a New Orleans newspaper at the outbreak of the Civil War stated that manufacture for the Confederacy of Dr. Le Mat's „grapeshot revolver" was „contemplated" is not evidence any Le Mats were made in the United States. After that published report it is unlikely Dr. Le Mat had sufficient time to fulfill any plans for manufacture here before he left for France, in 1861, to arrange for production there.
Much less study has been given the man and his titles than has been given his revolvers and where they were made. In various New Orleans directories from 1851 to 1859 are found, progressively, „Dr. A. Lemat, 188 Dauphine St.", „Dr. R. Le Mat, 188 Dauphine St.", „Dr. R. Le Mat, 124 St. Peter", „Dr. A. Le Mat, 215 Bourbon". On his 1856 patent his name appears as „Dr. Alexandre Le Mat"; on his 1869 patent it is „Francois Alexandre Le Mat" with no title given. Mr.
HcHugh has found no record that Le Mat was a member of any medical association of the period, but feels Le Mat's claim to „Doctor" is much stronger than his claim to „Colonel". Mr. McHugh was unable to find the inventor's name on the roster of any military organization before, during or after the Civil War.
Most Le Mats were made on the continent of Europe. Usually those guns have „Paris" included in the barrel markings. All not made on the continent were probably manufactured in England.
The patent for the percussion Le Mat was granted Dr. Alexandre Le Mat, October 21, 1856, U. S. Patent # 15925. There were only two claims in the patent: one was for the substitution of a shot barrel for the usual solid center pin; the other was for a „gun-cock with a double hammer". Actually, Dr. Le Mat offered two ideas for the construction of a cock that would „explode at pleasure" either a cylinder cap or the center barrel cap. One idea was the use of a one-piece cock with two fixed hammer noses, but with a percussion cap for the shot barrel held in a sliding bar. With the slide out, the top hammer nose was free to strike caps on the cylinder nipples; with the slide pushed in the lower hammer nose could fire the shot barrel while the top nose could not reach a cylinder cap. The other idea was for a two-piece hammer with a movable nose that could be depressed for the firing of the lower, or center, barrel. Dr. Le Mat stated he preferred the two-piece arrangement. The Le Mats we find today in collections will nearly if not quite all be of this type.
One Le Mat may possibly differ from another not at all, or only in some single detail, but the chances are the next Le Mat you see will be different in several ways from the last one you saw. Two percussion Le Mats are pictured in figures 45 and 46. Each fires nine bullets through the upper barrel and a buckshot charge through the lower barrel. One has a full octagon barrel, the loading lever on the left, a set screw to keep the top barrel in position, and an oval trigger guard. The other has a part octagon, part round barrel, the loading lever on the right, a spring catch to hold the top barrel, and a spur trigger guard. There are other minor differences, in the loading levers, in the movable hammer noses, and in the lanyard ring fastenings. The revolver with the octagon barrel has Paris markings; the other has no marking other than „Col. Le Mat's Patent" on the barrel.
The Le Mats had fire-power-nine shots from the cylinder as against the usual six, and in addition there was that heavy buckshot charge that must have been a sure man-stopper at close quarters. Except that none of the various types of hinged nose hammers is sturdy, and that the loading levers are not of as good design as the levers on the best American revolvers of the period, the percussion Le Mats are of fine construction. The odd caliber, .40, of the bullet used in Le Mats was not desirable at a time most Army revolvers were .44 caliber. Those Le Mats that came through the blockade brought high prices in the Confederacy. Le Mats were carried by such famous Southern leaders as General Beauregard and General Stuart.
After the War, on December 14, 1869, U. S. patent #97780 was granted „Francois Alexandre Le Mat, of New Orleans", for a breech-loading two-barrel revolver designed to use center-fire metallic cartridges. The patent specifications indicate that in this revolver Le Mat contemplated the firing of a conical ball in the large center barrel.
Illustrations 47 and 48 are of two center-fire Le Mats.
On these breechloaders the hinged hammer is of improved but still fragile and not standardized design. There are two gates in the breech, one to permit insertion of cartridges in the cylinder, the other to permit loading a cartridge in the lower barrel. There is a rod for ejection one at a time of cartridges in the cylinder. There is also a mechanism for extracting the cartridge in the center barrel. This goes in operation automatically when the loading gate is opened. The larger of these revolvers, figure 47, is stamped „2", presumably a serial number, and is like the patent drawing in all respects apparently. This is marked „Colonel Le Mat, Paris." The cylinder, being only 11/8" long, takes a very short cartridge, of about .45 caliber. The lower barrel takes a cartridge of about .60 caliber. The short barrel Le Mat, figure 48, serial #30, uses cartridges of about .38 caliber in the cylinder and .50 caliber in the lower barrel. Minor differences in construction of the two guns may be noticed. For instance, in the case of the small gun the beak is put in position to fire the lower barrel by pressing down the thumb piece on the hammer, whereas on the larger revolver the thumb piece is pressed up. The percussion and center-fire Le Mats pictured here all have top barrels rifled, and center barrels smooth. One of the pin-fires illustrated has both barrels rifled. Pin-fire Le Mats were probably made in large numbers in Europe, but their export to this country was small. The use of pin-fire cartridges was always thought risky here, and their transportation by common carrier was severely restricted. The revolvers called pin-fire Le Mats regularly used pin-fire cartridges, commonly 12 mm, in the cylinders, but percussion cap ignition in the center barrels, which were usually about .60 caliber. Illustration 49 is of such a pin-fire Le Mat, marked „Colonel A. Le Mat Brevete" and bearing
Belgian proof marks, serial 3023. Illustration 50 is of a pin-fire Le Mat that uses 9 mm cartridges in the cylinder and has a rifled barrel of about .45 caliber. This lacks the Belgian proofs.
45. Le Mat cap lock.
Though all the Le Mats illustrated here have 9-shot cylinders, some center-fire and some pin-fire Le Mats were made with 10shot cylinders.
Le Mat revolvers were also made in long guns. They have shoulder stocks and long barrels and are bigger and heavier in every way, but otherwise there are no decided changes in construction. Though none is illustrated here the collector should not overlook the fact that Le Mat long guns are scarcer and harder to find than Le Mat short guns.
Illustration #51 is of a percussion cap revolver that is notably different from Le Mats and other two-barrel revolvers. The two barrels in this revolver, bored in a single block, are neither sideby-side nor superposed; they have „one bore on one side and below the other". The two concentric rows of chambers in the cylinder have axial nipples for the outer row and oblique nipples for the inner row. There are two hammers, operated by a single trigger, with the right hammer having a square nose to hit the axial nipples in the outer row, and with the left hammer having a slanting nose to insure striking squarely the caps on the obliquely set nipples. These unusual features are evident in the patent drawing, reproduced in illustration #52. The patent, #35404, was granted Aaron C. Vaughan, of Bedford, Pennsylvania, May 27, 1862.
Notice also in this Vaughan revolver the unique hinged loading lever designed to ram charges in two adjacent chambers simultaneously.
The cylinder is rotated when the two hammers are cocked simultaneously. Pressure on the trigger drops the right hammer; a second pressure drops the left hammer.
The following year Mr. H. D. Ward of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, obtained a patent for a two-barrel metallic cartridge revolver with barrels side by side. This was patent #39,850, granted September 8, 1863. Illustration #53 is a reproduction of the patent drawing. Figure 3 in the drawing shows the muzzles of the lateral barrels. In this Ward revolver, which like the just described Vaughan has two hammers and one trigger, the unusual feature is the choice of operation given the user. He may fire one shot at a time, operating the gun like a conventional single-action revolver, cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger for each shot, or he may discharge two shots „without recocking between the discharges". Further, these two shots, one through each barrel, may be „either in such rapid succession that the discharge seems to be simultaneous or with an intermission of any desirable interval between the discharges."
To fire the gun as conventional revolvers are fired, use is made of the right hammer only. To fire the double shots without recocking, both hammers are cocked at the same time. Then when the trigger is pulled the right hammer falls first, but if the trigger is „pulled directly back the whole distance at once" the two shots are in unison. If the trigger is pulled „until the first hammer is felt to escape, and then allowed to rest for a time" the firing of the second shot may be delayed or even forgone. The two-at-a-time shots may be repeated by cocking both hammers simultaneously. Obviously, the cylinder must have an even number of chambers. The illustration shows eight.
51. Vaughan revolver/ Smithsonian Institution collection.
Of the two-barrel revolvers the most dubious as to practicality of construction and the most controversial as to provenience is the Albert Christ. There are only a few of these guns in existence, and where they were made is uncertain. The U. S. patent, #57864, dated September 11, 1866, was taken out by „Albert Christ, of California, Hamilton County, Ohio". The Christ revolver, illustrated in figure 54, is an 18-shot cartridge revolver with two superposed barrels. The chambers, for .22 caliber rimfire cartridges, are in two concentric circles in the cylinder, twelve being in the outer row and six in the inner. The hammer has a single, small unadjustable nose which strikes always at the same distance from the periphery of the cylinder. After striking in succession the rims of two cartridges in the outer circle the striker must hit the rim of a cartridge in the inner circle. This requires uncomfortably close fitting of the two concentric rows of chambers. The rotation of the cylinder is accomplished by two „feed-fingers", moved by cocking the hammer. These „feedfingers" do not turn the cylinder by pressure against teeth of a ratchet; they turn it by pressure directly against the rims of the cartridges. These radical features are found in no other revolver.
In the firearms field Rollin White was one of our most prolific inventors. One patent granted him in 1855, which he sold to Smith & Wesson, probably caused more furore and frustation and law suits among arms manufacturers than any other patent before or since. The many other patents granted Mr. White caused no particular commotion The one for a two-barrel revolver, # 100,227 of February 22, 1870, raised not a ripple.
The peculiar revolvers made under this 1870 patent are among the scarcest of American revolvers, but they were not successful, and what is more important, their patent did not stop manufacture of other revolvers of conventional type.
In his patent specifications Mr. White tried to cover all contingencies. He claimed the supplemental barrel whether placed „above, beneath, at the side of" the regular barrel, „so that it is arranged in front" of the cylinder. He claimed further the supplemental barrel when not in front of the cylinder, provided it was „above the cylinder and ordinary barrel". The patent drawing includes an illustration showing an auxiliary barrel placed above the regular revolver barrel and extending over the cylinder. In this case the hammer has a movable beak. Another illustration in the patent drawing has the auxiliary barrel hinged in front of the cylinder, to drop down and away from the revolver barrel. Firing of the lower barrel was by means of a firing pin working through the center pin, or by a firing pin fixed in a sliding center pin. The construction might be such that the charge in the auxiliary barrel could be fired with the first shot from the cylinder, or such that the charges from the two barrels could not be fired simultaneously. Certainly, very few of the possible permutations were ever utilized.
Each of the two Rollin White revolvers illustrated in figures 55 and 56 fires seven .22 cartridges through the upper barrel and one .41 cartridge through the lower auxiliary or supplemental barrel. On these illustrated guns the auxiliary barrels turn for loading as shown in the second illustration. The upper barrels tip up for cylinder loading. On one gun the lower barrel turns end for end, perhaps with the Perry & Goddard „Double Header" idea of having fired cases ejected by the next shot from the reversed barrel.
Most revolvers use cartridges all of one size. Mr. White said his invention was designed „to overcome this objection". Mr. Owen Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had another idea to permit the use of „projectiles of different sizes in the same revolver". Figure 57 is a reproduction of the drawing in patent # 151,882 which Mr. Jones obtained June 9, 1874. Notice the barrel block has two bores of different sizes. Notice also the cylinder in the butt. There are two cylinders furnished with bores corresponding to the two barrel bores. With the small bore cylinder in firing position the barrel with the corresponding bore is placed uppermost. Depressing two spring latches permits changing the cylinders and also turning the barrel group, thereby making the large bore of the changed cylinder coincide with the large bore barrel.
Still another two-barrel revolver designed to shoot cartridges of two calibers is the „Osgood Duplex". This revolver was patented December 7, 1880, patent #235,240, by Freeman W. Hood, Norwich, Connecticut. The example shown in illustration 58 is marked only „Duplex" with the patent date. That is the usual marking. Sometimes the marking includes „Osgood Gun Works, Norwich, Conn." Examples have been reported marked „Monarch". This single-action cartridge revolver has its two barrels made in one piece which is hinged at the bottom. Raising the catch in the upper part of the frame permits tipping down the barrel block and sliding the cylinder off the extension of the lower barrel for loading or unloading. There is no ejector. The hammer has a movable nose, similar to that on the Le Mat, but the lower barrel is not fast to the standing breech, as it is on the Le Mat. The cylinder holds eight .22 short cartridges which fire through the upper barrel. The center barrel holds one .32 cartridge.
57. O. Jones patent drawing.
Illustrations 59 and 60 are of two French double-action pin-fire revolvers. Each has two barrels and two concentric rows of chambers in its cylinder. Figure 59 shows a gun marked „Le Page Freres a Paris". This is a 20-shot, with ten chambers for 7 mm cartridges in each row. By means of the two fixed beaks on the hammers shots are fired alternately from the two rows. The gun has on the right a loading gate and also an ejector which is swivelled to take care of expulsion of fired cases from both rows of chambers.
The other pin fire, figure 60, is an unmarked 18-shot, firing twelve 7 mm cartridges from the outer ring of chambers and six from the inner ring. The hammer has only one striking nose, but there is a sliding member in the standing breech which rises when the hammer is cocked and falls with the fall of the hammer. This sliding piece, which fires the cartridges by driving in their pins, has two steps arranged so that one shot from the inner ring of cartridges through the lower barrel follows two shots from the outer ring through the upper barrel.
Illustration 61 is of a finely made, modern European two-barrel double-action revolver. The cylinder holds sixteen .32 S & W center fire cartridges in two concentric rows of eight each. The two sturdy strikers are integral with the hammer. The chambers are so spaced that though both strikers descend together only one cartridge can be fired at a time. Chambers in the outer and inner row fire alternately. The gun, hinged at the top, opens at the bottom when a spring release is pressed. A manual ejector extracts all sixteen cases together. When pressure is released from the trigger the hammer automatically comes back a small fraction of an inch, to keep the striker free of the cartridge primers.
A German „Bar" pistol is shown in illustration 62. Guns like this had wide sale and could be bought from dealers in modern weapons until quite recently. The cartridge block is a rectangular prism holding four .25 A. C. P. cartridges. As the shells lie over one another the construction permits a very flat weapon, easy to conceal. The firing pin moves back and forth to fire the barrels alternately. After the trigger has been pulled twice, a catch on top of the pistol is pressed and the cartridge holder turned through 180 degrees, so that the two remaining shells are in firing position.
61. 16-shot revolver-9" overall/ Arnott J. Millett collection.
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