Original U.S. Civil War Era Plant Mfg. Co. Third Model Army Revolver in .42 Cupfire Named to Inspector A.F. Baker - Serial 2937
Original Item: Only One Available. Starting life between 1863 and 1873 this is a very rare unconverted Plant's Manufacturing Company CUP-FIRE brass frame revolver. Similar to the "Teat-Fire" design, it was one of several ways developed to produce a brass cartridge revolver that would not infringe on the Patents of Rollin White. Licensed and vigorously protected by SMITH & WESSON, this patent covered the use of a bored through revolver cylinder loaded through the rear with a cartridge. Even though these had already been in use in Europe, there was no U.S. Patent, which White exploited with his patent, which also utilized a box magazine to load the cylinder, and was in reality a totally unworkable design.
To infringe on the patent, the cylinder needed to be fully bored through, however, so Plant developed the the CUP FIRE system. This has the chambers reduced in size at the rear, with a lip around the edge. This meant that the system required loading from the front of the cylinder, in reverse so to speak. The cartridges used had a cup shaped base, which gave the system it's name, and were interesting in that the cartridge entirely surrounded the bullet as well. When cycled the firing pin goes into holes in the rear of the cylinder, and sets of the primer in the cupped base of the cartridges.
Plant Mfg. Co began making Cup Fire revolvers in 1863, and ended up producing about 8000 of these revolvers in total. They originally began with a steel-framed version of the Army revolver, which was called the 1st Model, which is exceedingly rare. By serial number 700 or so, they had reached the Third model, which features a brass frame. At serial number 6800 they then changed to a second Type of the Third model, which reduced the weight somewhat. With serial number 2937, this is a Third Model Type I, made about halfway through production.
While called the "Army", these revolvers were actually much more popular with the public, as Plant did not get any major military contracts. The .42 Cupfire revolver was relatively small in size, but packed much more of a punch than the .32 Smith & Wesson pocket revolvers of the time.
The top of the barrel still shows the complete Plant address marking:
PLANT’S MFG. CO. NEW HAVEN. CT.
The left side of the barrel still has some traces of the original distributor marking, but they are mostly worn away due to oxidation and cleaning:
MERWIN & BRAY. NEW-YORK
As an added treat, the revolver still has a fully legible patent marking going around the cylinder:
PATENTED JULY 12 1859. & JULY 21 1863.
The best marking by far is however on the back strap, where it is named to:
A. F. BAKER.
We have not been able to find much on this individual, and leave it as an excellent research opportunity.
The revolver cycles, however it definitely has seen extensive service, and the cylinder stop is currently not operable. Pulling back the trigger does revolver the cylinder, but it does not index at all due to the cylinder stop issue, and the cylinder spins freely even at full cock. The hammer does have a strong dry fire. The ejector rod is a fabricated replacement, and does not spring back as originally designed.
The bore is still in very good condition, showing the rifling clearly, and having a mostly bright finish. There is no major fouling or oxidation present, and we do not see any evidence that there was any present in the past. The cylinder axis pin can be pulled out with some wiggling, as the button that would normally depress the locking leaf spring is missing. Once it is out the cylinder can be removed for cleaning.
Overall condition of the revolver is just lovely, with a fantastic patina of age overall. The brass has a lovely dull gold look, having lost virtually all of the original nickel plating, except under the grips. The iron and steel components have a lovely gray patina to them, with past oxidation and peppering removed. The grip scales show extensive wear, with cracking and chunks missing along the bottom.
A rare revolver seldom seen today, especially in the original "Cup Fire" configuration! Most of these that we have seen were later updated to take standard cartridges in the "Old West". In very nice condition, ready to research and display!
Year of Manufacture: circa 1863-1873
Ammunition Type: "Cupfire" cartridge.
Barrel Length: 6 inches
Overall Length: 11 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
Plant’s Mfg. Co. was financed and represented by the famed firearms agents Merwin & Bray, hence their name on the cylinder. The managing partner in the firm of Merwin & Bray was Joseph Merwin, who would one day go on to produce some of the finest cartridge revolvers in the world, under the name Merwin, Hulbert & Company. Merwin would also go on to be one of the primary shareholders in Hopkins & Allen (formerly the Bacon Firearms Company) and one of the largest investors in the Evans Repeating Firearms Company. Merwin was a firearm visionary and was always on the forefront of repeating cartridge firearms technology during the mid-19th century. Their revolver featured a “cup-primed” and front-loading concept, which was among the best attempts to get around S&W’s 12-1/2 year stronghold on cartridge revolvers. They found relative success with the public rather than with the military.
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