Allen & Wheelock Lipfire Navy Revolver

Not all companies responded in the same way to the development of cartridge revolvers and the Rollin White patent. Allen & Wheelock, for example, decided to simply ignore the patent and make revolvers for their proprietary lipfire cartridges (fairly similar to rimfire) while relying on their lawyers to delay the anticipated patent infringement suit for as long as possible. Ultimately it took 4 years for Rollin White and S&W to gain a legal injunction against them, and when that did happen they were ready and converted their production to percussion revolvers of the same basic type. This particular piece is a .36 caliber (”Navy”) version for the lipfire round, which have been since converted to use either lipfire or more common rimfire ammunition.


Hi guys thanks for tuning into another Video episode on Forgotten weapons comm I’m in I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction house taking a look at some of The guns that are coming up for sale in Their April 2015 premier auction Something we’ve kind of been taking a Look at on and off for quite some time Here are the profusion of innovative and Interesting designs of revolvers around The time of the American Civil War this Is when muzzleloading revolvers or Muzzleloading firearms in general were Generally being replaced by a wide Variety of new cartridges and a lot of This innovation was inspired or pushed By Rollins Patton of the board through Cylinder so Rolla might actually Patented the very concept of drilling a Hole clear through the cylinder for a Cartridge now he did that as an Industrial efficiency improvement but Just a year or two later it turned out People started developing rimfire Cartridges that had to be loaded from The back of a cylinder which required You to have the cylinder drilled all the Way through unlike percussion revolvers Where the back of the cylinder was left Intact with just a little hole drilled For the percussion cap well Smith & Wesson bought an exclusive license to Use this patent which meant that anyone Else who wanted to come up with a

Cartridge firing revolver had to come up With some workaround that didn’t require Drilling a hole clear through the Cylinder or they could violate the Patent anyway and just see how long they Could get away with it before they the Law caught up with them so one of the Companies manufacturing revolvers around This time period was allen & wheel lock It was a cooperative joint venture Between Ethan Allen and his Brother-in-law Thomas wheel lock and They made a wide variety of pistols the Company actually survived through a Number of different name changes for Quite some time it’s not as well known As cult or Winchester but is certainly a Very big significant name in American Firearms development one of the designs That they did was called the lip fire This was one of the many different types Of cartridge that were available before The centerfire cartridge became Standardized and a lip fire think of it As basically a rimfire cartridge but There’s only a rim on about 1/8 of the Circumference of the cartridge so this Had some manufacturing Namely you only needed a small fraction As much priming compound in each case it Wasn’t that big of a problem for them to Manufacture compared to rimfire and Actually it was a pretty good idea Especially compared to many of the

Wackier ideas that came out around this Time now the problem was making a lip Fire cylinder required drilling a hole All the way through it which certainly Did violate Rowland white patent well Ellen and wheelock just decided to do it Anyway and because they had some good Lawyers and because the legal system was Kind of clogged up at the time the Patent infringement case against them Actually took a full four years to take Effect so they started making lip fire Guns in 1858 or 1859 and a suit followed Very quickly but the suit didn’t Actually get resolved until 1863 So Eleanor Wheelock were making some of These guns for about four years before The law caught up with them now with the Lip fire guns they made both an army and A navy version this is a navy one which In suggested is a 36 caliber army was Typically 44 maybe as 36 and they were Hoping to get military contracts Unfortunately ultimately they didn’t Only about 500 of the lip fire Navy Models were made and so why don’t why Don’t I bring the camera back at this Point and let’s take a closer look at What makes these kind of interesting and Different revolver they have some neat Features to them so one would normally Assume that a percussion version of a Gun would come first and a cartridge Version would come later in the case of

The lip fire guns that’s actually not The case they started making the lip Fire first and when it became obvious That they were going to be shut down by The patent case they actually converted The tooling over and started making Percussion guns of the same design Instead the whole mechanism works just Fine it’s easily adapted to to muzzle Loading with percussion caps and so That’s what they did this one however is A lip fire gun so we can take a look at The way that it works it’s single action So we have a half [ __ ] notch and full [ __ ] for loading put the gun at half [ __ ] and then we have A cylinder loading gate right here with A little locking lever so push this down And then we can swing the loading gate Open this allows us access to the Cylinder which spins freely at half [ __ ] And you can see these little Indentations in the outside of the Cylinder that is where the lip of the Lip fire cartridges would sit then our Hammer kinda looks like a rimfire hammer It’s got this big surface that would Strike against the lip of the cartridge Set off the primer and fire the Cartridge now because these guns were Only manufactured for a few years of Course they only made about 500 of these The lip fire ammunition later on became Rather hard to get you can obviously

Went out of production so what happened To a lot of these guns including this One is they were converted to use Rimfire ammunition as well the way that Was done was by milling out a cylinder Each each head of each chamber there we Go you can see it there so that a Complete rim can fit in there this Allows you to use the original lip fire Ammunition where the lip extends out Here it also allows you to chamber Rimfire cartridges of the same size Which is a very handy ability once you Can’t by lip fire ammo ammo anymore So that’s done that’s relatively a Relatively common conversion on these Guns it’s a little more difficult to Find ones that haven’t been converted Now case ejection on this you’ll notice The cylinder doesn’t swing out doesn’t Come out easily we have an ejector rod Right here this is the end of the Ejector rod and it’s head right there so What we would do is line that up with a Cylinder and then we have a little Locking latch on the bottom of the Trigger guard pull that down and then Our trigger guard actually has a big Rack and pinion gear system you can see Gear teeth right here and you can see Where they match into the ejector rod Right up there so this is a very strong System allows you to punch out the empty Cases

When they change their manufacturing Over to percussion guns they kept this System intact and this became a loading Lever instead of an ejector rod they Used the same rack and pinion style System and the strength of that system Worked very well for ramrods in Percussion guns this particular example Is a rather fancy one this was presented To General Daniel white of Maine there Is he was a fairly noted Civil War Figure had some interesting exploits and His whole story you can find on Rock Island website well thanks for watching Guys I hope you enjoyed the video got a Chance to take a look at another unusual Civil war your cartridge development so This particular gun has a definite story To it if you’d like to see more details On that or if you want to own this gun Yourself take a look at the link below That will take you to rock island’s Catalog page on it and check out their High res pictures their description and The background material about the fellow Who owned this particular gun and if You’d like to own it place a bid online Great encounter come down here in person And join you join in on the auction know Thanks for watching good luck

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