Confederate Cofer Revolver

T.W. Cofer was a Virginian gunsmith who made revolvers for the Confederate cause during the Civil War – although he never had a formal contract with the CSA. His pistols were sold privately to individual soldiers, and in at least one case bought in bulk by a unit commander.

One thing that makes Cofer stand out is that he tried to develop newer and better designs rather than simply copying the existing technology – although the demands of the war forced him to abandon his new ideas. Just a few weeks after the opening of the CSA’s formal patent office, Cofer submitted a patent for a two-part revolver cylinder using self-contained cartridges.

Hi guys thanks for tuning in to another Video on Forgotten weapons comm I’m Ian I am here today at the James D Giulia Auction house up in rural beautiful Maine taking a look at some of the guns That they are going to be selling their Upcoming March of 2016 Auction now what I have here in front of Me right now is actually one of really One of the scarcest Confederate Civil War revolvers out there this is a TWU Cofer patent revolver there are I Believe 13 of these known to exist right Now and this is probably the best Condition one of them it’s also happens To be serial number one of them so Really quite a significant gun now What’s interesting about the Cofer is That it’s not just a copy of colt a lot Of Confederate handguns were and all of Them but a lot this one is actually a Copy of a Whitney revolver so a couple Of distinctive features to it first off It has a solid frame instead of being Open at the top and the frame is made Out of brass and you’ll notice it also Has a sheath trigger or a spur trigger Rather than a typical trigger and Trigger guard which is unusual now Cofer Manufactured these the guys name Actually was Thomas W Cofer and he Manufactured these guns in Portsmouth Virginia he was born in Virginia in 1828 And at a relatively young age all

They’re doing we don’t know exactly when He apprenticed himself to a cousin by The name of by the name of Pembroke Decatur Walton II which is by the way a Fantastically excellent name Gwaltney Was a gunsmith at the time actually in Norfolk just across the river in Virginia and young Thomas seems to have Really taken to gunsmithing At some point between 1859 and 1861 he Set up his own shop just across the River in Portsmouth and started making His own guns there’s from some records That have been found and some other guns That have been found in addition to Manufacturing his guns he also worked as A gunsmith repairing guns for other People and he also imported guns there Are some British guns they had been Found with his name added to them as an Importer so you know full service gun Shop there in Portsmouth and of course When the civil war breaks out there’s Quite a significant demand for arms in Virginia and everywhere in the Confederacy What makes Coe for a little bit unusual Is that he doesn’t appear to have gone Out and tried to get a huge contract With a Confederate government for Thousands of revolvers you know build a Big factory hire a bunch of people it Seems that he was actually reasonably Content with the shop that he had at the

Time and and the money he was making and The success that he had because these Were never formally adopted by the Confederate government he simply sold Them commercially now there are some Records of at least one purchase of 82 Revolvers to us a company of infantry Now it’s not actually known if those Were all his guns or if he was reselling Another manufacturer you know another Make of pistol that he was able to Purchase that’s not clear but you know That’s the biggest single purchase that Anyone’s found attributed to Cofer most Of these guns just as he made them ones And twos and threes they’d be sold to Soldiers who were looking to arm Themselves in addition to whatever their Issue rifle would be they wanted to have A revolver and a bowie knife too because Everybody needed those so after the war Well let me step back a moment he’s Making these guns in 1861 in early 1862 In May of 1862 the Union occupies Portsmouth Cofer loses everything he has To flee he flees to Richmond and there Rather than try and establish a new Business of his own he goes to work for A Confederate Arsenal Depot as a Technician as a gunsmith and that’s what He does for the rest of the war in fact I mentioned he lost everything well of Course he fled his house and property And tools and everything were actually

Confiscated by the US Marshal Service And on account of him being a traitor to The federal government and they were Sold off at auction his house was sold For $500 and what’s interesting is after The war he came back to Portsmouth and And reopened a gunsmith shop at that Point and it didn’t take him long within A year he was able to raise enough money To buy his house back he actually bought It back for six hundred and fifty Dollars quite a significant profit to The guy who had the money available to Buy it at auction in the first place an Example of why there was some bitterness After the civil war among many other Things At any rate Cofer ended up being a Successful gunsmith after the war as Well and lived until 1885 now an Interesting side note here his cousin Pembroke Decatur Gwaltney is actually Far better known as the peanut king of Smithfield Virginia peanuts being an Essential staple in hog farming because There used to feed hogs who are then Turned into hams for example Smithfield Hams one of the biggest now it’s a Single brand but originally a gigantic a City that supplied pork products to the Entire country Walt Lee actually went on to be very Notable in the development of Smithfield So just one of those weird side notes

Where someone gets has has influence in One industry and then becomes well-known And something totally different So anyway well I bring the camera back Here and let’s take a closer look at the Details of this gun interesting markings And how how it’s different from others Unfortunately we don’t know exactly how Many of these were made alas the the Records from Cofer shop existed for a Long time and were ultimately destroyed In the 1950s in hurricane so that Knowledge is lost however it is not all That many now what’s really interesting Here and you don’t we can’t really see It in this pistol but in 1861 in fact Just 49 days after the Confederate Patent office first opened thomas Cofer Registered a patent in the Confederate States of America for a rear-loading Revolver cylinder and what he had come Up with was a solution that’s actually Kind of fairly similar to some of the Northern solutions for turning Percussion guns into cartridge guns he Actually came up with the idea for a Split cylinder so it’d have two parts Split in half right about here and he Developed a cartridge that was brass on The front so he had kind of like a the Idea of a regular brass case up here and That had a steel rear section with a Percussion cap nipple so actually also Fairly similar to early Gatling gun

Cartridges where you would preload the Cartridges and then you’d put percussion Caps on the back of each cartridge and Then you’d have the cylinder out of the Gun you can load all six cartridges into The cylinder put the cylinder in the gun And then you’d have six shots of of Cartridge and then the cylinders were of Course reloadable or you could carry Extras now only I think three of those Guns are known to still exist the rest Of the the Cofer revolvers out there are Like this one this is in fact the latest Variation if you look here you can see That the cylinder is actually Substantially shorter than the frame is I’ve got this open gap right here and on Some of the intermediate pattern Revolvers this gap extends up here and You can see that the barrel has actually Been threaded through the frame all the Way back to fill this space that’s Because the cartridge version had a Longer cylinder to it so when he went to Just a percussion gun because while his Cartridges were interesting and novel And technologically advanced they they Were not the right answer to the problem Of were in a war right now and people Want to buy guns they can go use right Now so he went back to standard Percussion mechanisms and when you did That at first he used his original frame And just screwed the barrel farther in

And then he eventually developed a new Start of making frames on a new pattern Where the the frame comes back you can See that there’s a step in it here so That it matches up with the cylinder now See we have a loading lever standard With a muzzleloading revolver what I Have read is that these loading levers Were not really properly hardened and They are often found bent the the end Would swell and then you’d really have To crank on it to load the other problem With these is that the brass frame was Not strong enough there’s not enough Material up here in fact Cofer patent Model which exists in a museum somewhere Has blown apart right here on the top Strap so some issues with these guns That may have prevented them from Becoming super successful even if Cofer Had tried to get a major military Contract All right if we look at some of the Markings we have TW Co furs patent pect It’s kind of interesting to note that he Didn’t apparently didn’t have an Apostrophe stamp so where there should Be an apostrophe he just used a period Again the rear sight of these guns is Built into the frame to notch cut in the Frame typically on a Colt you’d have the Rear sight notched into the hammer but Not here there are a couple serial Numbers still in existence you can see a

Number one right there on the loading Lever and then and there is a number one On that screw which you can just barely Make out one other marking we’ve got Here is on the barrel its little a Little hard to read but you can see it There Portsmouth VA these were all Manufactured in Portsmouth Virginia now I know someone is going to ask if this Is serial number one why is it a late Pattern gun the answer I suspect is Because the serial numbers range started Over with a new pattern of frames so it Really is quite remarkable to have a gun Like this that is still in such Fantastic condition it does still Operate pretty positively in fact it’s In fantastic shape for a Confederate Handgun most most of the times when you Find Confederate pistols they’re rusty Relics and that’s part of what makes the Nice ones or even the ones that are Simply functional so desirable today Thank you for watching I hope you’ve Enjoyed the video this is a fantastic Pistol to take a look at not quite One-of-a-kind but really awfully close To it If you would like to add this to your Own collection of Confederate revolvers Or even if you’d like to start a Collection of Confederate revolvers be Hard-pressed to find a better one to Start with than this take a look at the

Link in the description text below that Will take you to the Julia catalog page On this pistol where you can read their Complete description and see all of Their high-res photographs and contact Them to place a bid online or you could Come up here to Maine and participate in The auction live thanks for watching You

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