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Original Rare U.S. Massachusetts Arms Company Wesson & Leavitt Patent .31cal Percussion Belt Revolver - Serial 261

Regular price $3,495.00

Item Description

Original Item. Only One Available. Now this is a REAL piece of firearms history! Introduced by the newly incorporated Massachusetts Arms Company in 1850, the Wesson & Leavitt Patent percussion revolvers were the first real competitor to Samuel Colt. These were produced in a larger .40cal "Dragoon Model", and the smaller .31cal "Belt Model" revolvers, which is what we have here.

The design was covered under patents filed by Daniel Leavitt and Edwin Wesson. The latter was the older brother of the famous gun makers Daniel and Frank Wesson, who had apprenticed under their older brother. The revolver was designed by Edwin Wesson and Thomas Warner, who was the factory superintendent at the time. Edwin would pass away in 1849, shortly before the release of the revolver, however his brother Daniel became one of the three principals of Mass. Arms, who then later broke away and started Smith & Wesson in 1855.

Unfortunately, it appeared that the "new" Revolver design infringed on at least three of Colt's patents. In 1851, Samuel Colt filed and won a historic patent infringement lawsuit against the Massachusetts Arms Company. This caused production to be stopped after approximately only 1800 were manufactured, 800 of the "Dragoon" and 1000 of the "Belt", making any example extremely rare.

This incredibly revolver is beautifully made and features a side hammer, a heavy six shot cylinder, and a long 6 inch barrel, which is longer than what we usually see on the "Belt Model" revolvers, but not unheard off. The design is definitely robust and a bit heavier than the Colt designs. This example looks to have seen good amount of use during its service life, and has had some repairs and alterations made as needed.

The design features a unique way of unhooking the barrel, which then folds upwards to allow the cylinder to be completely removed in order to be reloaded and then reassembled. It was apparently also considered that extra cylinders could be kept, already loaded, allowing a substantial rate of fire for the 1850s. This was originally accomplished by having a rotating hook around the barrel that went under the arbor pin, however it looks like that hook was removed on this example, so there instead is a screw that goes through the arbor pin securing the indexing wedge. It also looks like the top strap over the cylinder broke at one point, and then was brazed back together. Definitely some great history to this revolver!

The cleaning and alterations have however unfortunately removed the Mass. Arms Co. address marking from the top of the cylinder strap, however the marking on the lock plate is still fully legible:


The revolver is also marked with serial number 261 on the front of the cylinder arbor pin, and additionally has number 755 on the front of the action. The rear of the cylinder is marked with assembly number 1, and most likely any other markings that were present are now worn away.

The revolver still correctly has the barrel tip up when the brass screw is removed, allowing cylinder removal. Please take care as some of the locking pins on the receiver are missing, so the cylinder tension  and ratchet can fall out when the cylinder is removed. It does cycle with good indexing, though it definitely is finicky, and the trigger pull is quite stiff. The cylinder lockup is also not very strong. The bore shows strong 7 groove rifling, with a mostly bright finish. There is some oxidation and fouling in areas, but it does not look to have been fired much during its service life.


In lovely service used  condition, this is a true opportunity for the collector of early American firearms designs. Definitely an old campaigner, ready to research and display!


Years of Manufacture: 1850-1851
Caliber: .31cal
Ammunition Type: Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 6 inches
Overall Length: 11 7/8 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

NOTE: International orders of antique firearms MUST be shipped using UPS WW Services (courier). USPS Priority Mail international will not accept these. International customers should always consult their country's antique gun laws prior to ordering.

  • This product is not available for shipping in US state(s): New Jersey

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