Original U.S. Merwin & Hulbert M1874 1st Model 1st Version Frontier Army Revolver Serial 4200 - circa 1875
Original Item: Only One Available. To some these are some of the most beautiful Revolvers ever made. Wonderful design, great workmanship and so easy on the eye. Merwin, Hulbert, & Co. or Merwin & Hulbert was an American firearms designer and marketer based in New York City which produced revolvers and rifles from 1874 through 1916. The firearms were manufactured by a subsidiary company, Hopkins & Allen of Norwich, Connecticut.
Their famous line of revolvers began with the "Frontier Model" Open Frame cartridge revolver, which took the proprietary .44 Merwin & Hulbert cartridge. This was known as the "1st Model", and was followed in 1878 by the "2nd Model", which made some improvements, but more importantly introduced a version that took the very popular Winchester .44-40 centerfire cartridge, which quickly became the most popular calibre.
This example however is definitely a First model, chambered for the .44 Merwin & Hulbert. It is also what is known as a First 1st Model, or the 1st Version of the 1st model, the earliest type they produced, with many features that were later changed or removed. It has the two screws on the left lower side of the frame for trigger removal, the "humped back" trigger spur, and the small ball bearing detent on the barrel release catch. These were all removed by the end of the run of the 1st model, making this a very hard to find revolver.
This revolver was originally nickel plated, as were almost all Merwin & Hulbert Revolvers. They had a process for plating that was actually CHEAPER than bluing. It looks like over time the plating wore away, and then the revolver was cleaned and nickel plated again. Unfortunately this process obliterated all of the markings on the barrel top and sides. Since that point it saw additional service, so the nickel plating is missing in areas. The revolver is still fitted with the characteristic Merwin & Hulbert red / black swirl color checkered hard rubber grips, which have worn down from use.
The revolver is marked on the bottom of the grip with serial number 4200 by the lanyard loop. Under the grip scales it has assembly numbers 2018 over 2021, with 2021 also marked on the rear of the barrel and on the rear of the cylinder. The cylinder arbor pin is marked with number 2242. It's possible that parts were swapped, or that these are not serial numbers, but assembly production numbers. Being from very early production, a lot of things are possible, and accurate records were not kept.
Made in single action only, the Frontier Army was hoped to be accepted by the U.S. Government, however by this date Colt had most all of the Government Contracts in its pocket. There was stiff competition from Remington, Smith & Wesson and Forehand & Wadsworth, however Mervin and Hulbert did succeed in getting some Police Contracts. As this is a First 1st Model, it is in .44 Merwin & Hulbert, so there is no need to look for markings on the frame indicating it is for a Winchester .44-40.
The revolver functions well, though as with any revolver of this age it can be finicky at at times due to wear on the internal components. The barrel rotates and pulls away correctly for spent cartridge removal, and can then be removed entirely. The trigger must be pulled back to the first click (reloading position) to be able to unlatch the barrel, as designed. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, though also areas of oxidation and wear, typical for a black powder revolver of this age.
The exterior condition is very nice, with a lovely "Frontier Worn" look. The nickel plate is well retained, with areas of flaking. The grips are lovely and fit in perfectly with the condition of the revolver. Please note that the right grip has the top portion cracked off, and it is only held in place by the rest of the grip. It was glued at one point but this did not hold.
With an ingenious reloading system it became a favorite with many individuals and even more so with Collectors of today. Merwin died in 1888 whereupon the Company became Hulbert Bros Co., but was liquidated in 1896.
A lovely and rare large Single Action U.S. Revolver, very early with loads of patina!
Years of Manufacture: circa 1874
Caliber: .44 Merwin & Hulbert (.44-30)
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 7 inches
Overall Length: 12 1/2 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
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