Savage Navy Revolver: Almost Double Action!

The Savage is one of the many revolvers that saw purchase and martial use during the US Civil War – and in this case, martial use on both sides. About 13,000 Savages were bought by the Union army and navy, and another 11,000 were sold commercially. Many of those commercially-sold guns were later smuggled through the lines and used by Confederate troops.

Ultimately production of the Savage ended after 1863, because the Union opted to standardize on .44 caliber instead of the .36 caliber that Savage was tooled up to produce. The retooling costs were too high for the company to change over, so they dropped the gun from production (it was already a tough sell to the military, at 35%-50% more expensive than competing Colt and Remington revolvers).

Mechanically, the Savage has several forward-looking features – most notably its quasi-double-action system. It has a traditional trigger, and also a ring trigger just below. The ring trigger is actually a cocking lever, which both cocks the hammer and rotates the cylinder. The top trigger is then used to fire. This allows easy rapid fire without changing one’s grip to cock the action, although it requires some practice to operate smoothly and feels quite odd to someone not used to working two separate ”triggers” in sequence.

[ Savage Navy Revolver ] Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on I’m Ian, I am here today at the Rock Island Auction Company Taking a look at some of the guns, like this one, that they’re going to be selling In their upcoming June of 2016 Regional Auction. Now this is one of the more interesting and Definitely one of the more distinctive looking revolvers of the American Civil War. This is a secondary military revolver, it’s a Savage & North Navy revolver. These were purchased by the Union military. So … pretty much everything being produced in the Civil War got used in the Civil War. But there’s a distinction between the guns that actually got military contracts, And the guns that were privately purchased and used. These did get military contracts. Now this design evolved from an earlier late 1850s design called the ”Figure 8” revolver, For its figure 8 style trigger guard. And this was the better version really. In total about 23,000 of these guns were produced, and just over half of those went to the military. So the US Navy ordered about 1,100 of them, The US Army ordered 12,000, I think they had … about 11,300 [delivered]. And they are .36 calibre guns, Which is part of the reason that they weren’t ordered in larger numbers. All of the purchases of these were early in the war, 1861 and ’62. .44 calibre was chosen to be the standard size for the Union Army, And at that point it wasn’t worth it to Savage to redo all their tooling to make these in .44. So at that point they stopped getting military orders. The other main reason that these didn’t see greater military service was cost. One of these would cost the US government $19 to $20, depending on which contract you look at. While at the same time they could buy Remington or Colt revolvers for a lot less, $10 to $14 apiece. So when you look at that, yes, this has some really cool features, But when the government is in the middle of a Civil War It has to pay attention to how much money it’s spending. And some of those features maybe aren’t worth the extra price For something as basic as a handgun, so. … Speaking of those cool features, let’s go ahead and take a closer look at them. Because this is technologically a really neat revolver, and it’s got a lot of stuff going for it.

You know it’s funny, I mentioned that Only a little over half of these guns were actually produced for the military. Well, the ones that sold on the civilian market Actually turned out to be fairly popular with the Confederacy. A substantial number of these showed up in private service with Confederate troops, Being bought up north, and one way or another smuggled down south, and used there. Anyway, it is a pretty huge revolver, as you can see from my hand here. This weighs in at 3 pounds 6 ounces, which is just over 1.5 kilos, it’s a pretty chunky gun. The grip is something unusual for us today. You’ve got one finger on the trigger, one finger on the cocking lever, One finger on the bottom of the grip, and one finger under the bottom of the grip. So it looks pretty awkward, … actually I think with a little practice it would be reasonably nice. One of the advantages of this grip, the bore is pretty darn close to being in line with your hand, Which makes it a little bit nicer to shoot. … I don’t think you would get it rolling in your hand as much as, say, a Colt revolver. In fact, you’ll notice that there’s a bump in the back strap here To help hold it in place in your hand. Now what really obviously makes this gun stand out Is that it is almost a double action revolver. It has a cocking lever and a firing trigger, and they do two separate things. The bottom … lever here, this ring, which is actually a cocking lever, Cocks the gun, rotates the cylinder, cocks the hammer. This trigger simply drops the hammer and fires the pistol. Like so. This is going to re-cock the action. So your firing procedure is to cock the gun, fire the gun. And then use the bottom trigger again to re-cock it, fire again, and so on. Now if you’re watching closely, you’ll notice that The cylinder is actually moving back and forth when I do this. The face of the barrel and the ends of the chambers are actually machined to fit together. There’s a little bit of a countersink on these chamber mouths. And the idea is that those seat over the face of the barrel, And that’s going to … some extent seal the chamber against the barrel. Now that seal is not in any way actually gas tight,

But it definitely does reduce the amount of particulate matter that’s going to spray out here, And potentially reduce the likelihood of a chain fire. Now, kind of along that similar vein, the nipples on here Are not set up the same way as you would find on, say, a Colt or Remington. … They’re not facing straight out the back of the … cylinder, Instead they’re angled up at about a 70 degree angle. This does two things, one good, and one bad. The bad thing is that these are a little more exposed to being Bumped, knocked off, potentially damaged I suppose. They are a little more exposed than you would get if they were mounted on the back face of the cylinder. However they are also, as a result of being more exposed, They give the fragments of spent caps easy access to just fall free of the gun. On Colts in particular, you can get those spent caps falling into the action Back here and jamming up the cylinder. That’s much less likely to happen on the Savage because of that nipple placement. Of course you can see there’s a hole in the top of the frame For the hammer to go through to hit the one that you’re firing at the moment. It’s also worth pointing out that this does have a solid frame. As a result your sights are both fixed in position, there’s nothing to come loose here. This makes this revolver stronger than … say, an open framed Colt. That’s a nice benefit right there. Now this top-mounted hammer looks kind of awkward, and I think it kind of is. It gives you an interesting sight picture where, yes, you can see your sights, But that big hammer is right next to your rear sight. And of course when you have fired the gun, it blocks your sight picture. Now let’s take a look at the inside and the actual mechanism. First thing we’re going to do is remove the loading lever assembly. What’s kind of cool is I only actually have to rotate that screw partway, Because it has a hemispherical cut in it So that this assembly can slide out just by loosening that. I don’t have to take it out, so I’m not going to lose it. Here is our little coil spring. That’s what provides the pressure to move the cylinder back and forth. Other than that, a typical loading lever.

Now we can cock the hammer, And remove the cylinder, and then the other bit of the cylinder. So what’s going on here is another really clever element of this design. The cylinder, well, there are two parts to the cylinder, there’s the cylinder itself here, Which has all of your powder charges, it’s got the percussion caps, all of that. And then it’s got this locating peg on the back. That peg locks it into position on this, which is the actual ratchet. This is the assembly that is pushed forward and backward by the cocking mechanism. And … these are locking into the cylinder stops To keep the cylinder in position when it’s being fired. And then these are the … teeth that are being moved by the hand to actually rotate the cylinder. Now this is clever, because what it allows you to do Is put the entire cocking mechanism inside the frame of the gun. With the side plate off the action we can see what’s actually going on in here. And what we’ve got, this is our hand. This is massive compared to most revolvers, and very unlikely to break. You can see that that is lifting against the ratchet surfaces there. Then we have a toggle link in here actually. It’s got a little concave centre on the front that holds this ratchet assembly. And when I pull the trigger it breaks the toggle link, which allows it to move backwards. That allows the spring here to push the cylinder backwards while it’s being rotated. And then when I let the trigger forward that toggle link lines up again, And forces the cylinder forward. And because it’s a toggle, like a knee joint, when it’s in this straight position Recoil backwards when the gun is fired will simply be … moved into the frame, It will not cause this to break open. Which means that it won’t allow the cylinder to move backwards. … You can see it a little bit better right here. This element of the trigger itself, when I pull the trigger back, breaks that toggle joint upward. And now the cylinder can push backwards. At the same time of course we have a standard hammer/sear trigger mechanism Which allows the gun to fire. You can see that there are several positions to the hammer here. We actually have fired of course, all the way down.

And then if you look closely at this little notch, You can see that with just a slight movement, there is a safety position. This lifts the hammer just off of contact with the percussion cap, Prevents it from firing if you accidentally hit the hammer on something. … That allows you to have this fully loaded with 6 rounds and still carry it safely. Then there is a half-cock notch, so that if you are cocking the hammer and your thumb slips, It’ll catch in that instead of dropping all the way. And then we have the full-cock position, ready to fire. You can see all three of those engagement notches in the hammer. Thank you for watching guys, I hope you enjoyed the video. I’ve been planning to do a video on one of these for a little while, and just never had the chance. Well, this is a pretty cool example, it is of course coming up for sale here. If you’re interested, check out the description text below. You’ll find a link to Rock Island’s catalogue page on this pistol. And if you like what you see, you can place a bid for it right there on Rock Island’s website. Thanks for watching.

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