James Reid was a Catskills gunsmith who emigrated from Ireland by way of Scotland. He made a number of different revolvers, but is best known for his line of ”My Friend” knuckleduster pepperboxes (or ”knucklers”, as he called them). At the height of their popularity, Reid had 17 employees, and made a total of about 23,000 of these guns. They were available in .22, .32, and .41 caliber rimfire cartridges, with both brass and iron frames. A revolver version with a single longer fixed barrel was available by special order.
In this video, we will take a look at each of the major variants, as well as a special-order revolver model.
Hi guys thanks for tuning in to another Video on Forgotten weapons comm I’m Ian I am here today at the James Giulia Auction house up in Maine I’m taking a Look at some of the guns that they are Going to be selling in their upcoming March of 2016 auction and while I looked At I did a video once previously on a James Reed my friend knuckleduster but They actually have a significant Collection of them here in this upcoming Auction and it gave me an opportunity to Take a look at a whole bunch of Different models side-by-side that’s Something I really enjoy doing when Presented with the opportunity because I Think there are always interesting Things you can discover about a gun by Looking at a whole bunch of different Versions together it makes it much Easier to notice differences and changes In variations so specifically what I Have here is a small frame 22 a larger Frame 32 a really remarkably large 41 And a special-order model that’s Actually a revolver instead of a pepper Box so so a little bit of background These were both invented and Manufactured by a guy named James Reed He was born in Belfast Ireland in 1827 Lived there for a while moved to Glasgow And Scotland and then when he turned 30 He emigrated to the United States to New York in specific and he had begun his
Apprenticeship in Ireland as a gunsmith And continued that trade in New York was By all accounts a pretty successful one He manufactured he hadn’t he didn’t do These at first he manufactured all Manner of typical firearms single-shot Pistols and revolvers it seems mostly he Appears to have had a significant Contract at least one significant Contract during the Civil War made a Couple of thousand guns revolvers on Contract obviously the Civil War was a Period with a lot of demand for small Arms and while he’s making guns of Existing designs he’s also thinking About his own ideas and he comes up with The idea for this knuckle duster sort of Derringer pistol these were intended to Be concealable guns they were in fact Very concealable guns and in 1865 he Patents this idea this also Coincidentally happens to be the year When an illness and the family forces Him to move out New York City up into the Catskill Mountains and so he moves his business Up there he opens a mill at the same Time this this guy was kind of on the Ball he was he always had things going On it seems well by 18 1865 he moves up Into the Catskills sets up his factory And starts manufacturing my friend Knuckledusters my friend by the way is The trade name that he sold these under
That’s what’s marked on the guns and Apparently in his own usage he didn’t Use the word knuckleduster he tended to Call them either my friend or nook lers Interesting term to use they are all Single action guns they’re all rimfire 22 32 and 41 caliber rimfire and you Know what they’re actually not that bad If you were to put one of these Side-by-side with like one of those Little tiny North American Arms 22 short Mini revolvers the kind of thing they Made mounted in belt buckles you might Actually be better off with one of these There they’re certainly still Competitive in that sort of realm so That’s pretty cool and I thought it was Neat to get a chance to look at a bunch Of them so why don’t we take a closer Look and see how some of these compare To each other so you can pretty easily See the size changes in these guns from The 22 to the 32 to the 41 the 32 and The 41 here appear to be built on the Same basic frame size the the cylinder Is a different size on them obviously But the back of the frame here is pretty Darn close where the 22 is a smaller Frame definitely we’ll get to this guy In just a minute I want to concentrate On these three for a moment the primary Attribute of the my friend was its Compactness and its concealability it Was the sort of thing you could easily
Drop into a pocket and carry for Personal protection and of course in Addition to being a firearm it was Designed to be a hand hand weapon or Hand hand weapon really kind of makes it Sound a little too dramatic it was Intended to be think of it as a less Lethal option for the 1870s the idea was You can hold it like this and you have Basically a boxing knuckle so definitely A useful What happen I suppose if you don’t Actually want to shoot somebody or if You run out of ammunition or if the gun Misfires because this was relatively Early rimfire ammunition so all of them Work the same way grab it in the hand Like this and you have a pretty stout Impact weapon these frames are all made Of brass there were some made of iron But primarily brass now you have seven Shots in the 22 you have five shots in The 31 or the 41 caliber guns this 41 is A pretty chunky pistol what’s Interesting is you kind of you don’t Really gain much in the way of handling With the larger guns this is still a bit Awkward to use I can see why the 22 was The most popular of the bunch And by the way when I say most popular Was significantly so there are about 20,000 of the 22 guns made 22 caliber Compared to about 3,000 of the 32s and Apparently only about 150 of the 41
Caliber so this is actually quite the Rare piece Now it I should note that the serial Numbers on these were all done in a Single sequential series so for example Actually let’s take this one this They’re only 150 or so of these made Although this one is serial number 62 58 Because he didn’t make them in batches Sir or he may made them in small batches But he made them as they were ordered And sold and so the next gun may have Been a 22 that would have been numbered 6 to 5 9 so there are distinct serial Numbers for the different models now Because James Reed had been a general Gunsmith you know he wasn’t a one-shot Wonder with these things this was just His most successful single product Because he’d made revolvers before he Figured why not make them again if you Wanted a an actual revolver namely one Barrel and multiple cylinders you could Certainly order that from him so this is An example there of a 32 caliber Revolver this to me is kind of I kind of Wonder what the point is to this because That barrel does make it definitely Harder to stick in a pocket and if You’re going to do any real shoot Why not get something with a proper grip To it but well and apparently read Shared that idea these were not standard Items this was a specific custom order
Piece so there’s actually a second one Of the use in the julia catalog you can I’ll let you take a look and find that One yourself these differ a little bit In takedown in that they have a more Typical cylinder pin pull this locking Lever down and then you can pull the pin And then there is your cylinder on the Regular guns you have this cylinder axis Pin with a nice handle shape to it and So you unscrew this slip right there Unscrew that and then the cylinder comes Out here is our seven shot 22 cylinder And then the guy the access pin here Doubles as an ejector rod so you would Use that to punch out all of your empty Cases reload the gun reload the cylinder And then you can drop the cylinder back Into the frame here like so there is no Way to load these pistols without Disassembling the cylinder so this isn’t A combat gun this is a you load it up And you stick it in your pocket and Hopefully you’ll never actually need it But if you do it’s there for you hence The my friend designation so Reed Ultimately manufactured these guns until 1883 he did he ran into some trouble at His height apparently he had 17 Employees and was you know doing quite Good business on these guns but there Was a bit of an economic depression in The 1870s and then double-action guns Started to become readily available and
Popular and he didn’t update this design To keep up with some of those trends by 1883 he shut down and I expect moved on To doing other things probably kept his Gun smithing business just not his Manufacturing ultimately he died in 1898 Up in the Catskills and left a pretty Cool legacy in these guns well thanks For watching guys I hope you enjoyed the Video There were like 23 Thousand of these made in total but it’s Really cool having this particular Collection here you can see a lot of the Different variations and and there’s More than just these four these are just Kind of the most basic and obvious Different types so if you are interested In any one of these four of course they Are all coming out for sale Take a look in the description text Below you’ll find links to the catalog Pages for each of them and if you’re Interested in this sort of firearm in General by all means take a browse Through the catalog because there’s a Whole bunch more for you to take a look At thanks for watching