Original U.S. Civil War Massachusetts Arms Co. Pocket Percussion Revolver with Maynard Tape Primer - Serial 733

Item Description

Original Item. Only One Available. Introduced in 1850 by the newly incorporated Massachusetts Arms Company, the .31cal pocket model revolver was one of the first real competitors to Samuel Colt. It featured a cylinder that rotated when the revolver was cocked, as well as cap nipples directly behind the chambers, like most revolvers of the period. As with all pocket designs, they were popular as private purchase secondary weapons for officers.

The original design for these revolvers was covered under patents filed by Wesson and Leavitt, but unfortunately it appears that the "new" Revolver 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. Daniel Wesson one of the three principals of the company, who then broke away and started Smith & Wesson in 1855.

The end result of this was that the revolver designs of the company had to be completely redesigned to avoid further lawsuits from Colt. The cylinder advance mechanism was completely removed, and replaced by a manual lock on the cylinder, which was rotated by hand. The nipples on the back of the cylinder were removed, replaced with a single nipple on the frame, which attached to a Maynard tape primer system, as used on the Model 1855 Springfield Rifled Musket.

From 1851 - 1860, about 2500 of these tape primer pocket revolvers were produced. They all featured engraved frames and etched cylinders, with a door that rotates around the hammer for refilling the tape primer. 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, especially with the tape primer system negating the need for fitting caps to the cylinder.

The top of the cylinder is marked with the Mass. Arms Co. address:


The side of the action has a door for the tape primer system, which has further markings related to the Maynard Patent:

SEPT. 22 1845

Our lovely example has top quality walnut grip plates and has the serial number of 733, which is stamped on the gas shield behind the cylinder, and also found on the inside of the back strap. The cylinder axis pin and alignment wedge on the barrel are marked with assembly number 275, and the barrel lock is marked with patent date NOV. 25 1850.

The revolver is in very good condition, with a lovely worn patina, and original case hardening retained in some of the more protected areas. The walnut grips look great, and have a lovely finish, with the expected wear and light tending from use and age. The plating on the brass back strap and trigger guard is well retained, with only a bit of wear through. However at some point an attempt was made to reshape the trigger guard, or perhaps repair it after it bent, but this proved to be too much, and the guard broke right in front of the cylinder release button. A solder repair was attempted, but it has failed, so the trigger guard can be rotated back and forth.

The revolver functions well, as the much simplified action was quite robust. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, with a partly bright finish, showing areas of oxidation and fouling.

In just wonderful condition this is extremely rare and totally ready to display with pride!


Years of Manufacture: 1851 - 1860
Caliber: .31cal
Ammunition Type: Cap and Ball with Tape Primer
Barrel Length: 6 inches
Overall Length: 11 3/4 inches
Action: Manual Hammer & Cylinder Advance
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

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

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