A. C. Gould.

The Modern American Pistol and Revolver online

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[Illustration: MR. F. E. BENNETT, Expert Pistol and Revolver Shot.]




_Editor of The Rifle_


Copyright, 1888

Rockwell & Churchill,


For many years the author was among the great number of persons who
believed it was impossible to do fine shooting with a pistol beyond a few
yards, and out of the question to secure much accuracy from a revolver.
With the object of learning the limit of accuracy these arms possessed, a
great many experiments were arranged and exhibitions given by the most
skilful marksmen to be found. The spirit of rivalry soon became apparent,
and, without doubt, has considerably aided in determining the
possibilities of the pistol and revolver.

The author feels that his labors have not been in vain, as he has the
testimony of manufacturers of these arms, as well as cartridge-makers,
that the results obtained within a period of three years are finer than it
was thought possible.

As we close this little volume it is apparent that revolver and pistol
shooting is about to become a very popular sport; the cavalry and
artillery of the National Guard in America are likely soon to be equipped
with and instructed in the use of the revolver. As pistol practice
increases in popularity, events herein recorded will, doubtless, be
equalled and excelled many times.

The author begs to acknowledge courtesies extended to him by Messrs. Smith
& Wesson; Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Co.; Merwin, Hulbert, & Co.; Union
Metallic Cartridge Co.; United States Cartridge Co.; Messrs. Wm. R.
Schaefer & Son; John P. Lovell Arms Co.; as well as the many professional
and amateur shots who have devoted time and money to aid in developing the
American pistol and revolver.



American Pistols and Revolvers 5

Single-Shot Pistols - Description of Various American Patterns 9

American Revolvers - Smith & Wesson's Productions 21

The Merwin, Hulbert, & Co.'s Revolvers 36

The Colt's Revolver 46

Sights for Revolvers and Pistols 56

Ammunition for Pistols and Revolvers 64

Reloading Ammunition for Pistols and Revolvers 75

The Possibilities of the Revolver - Results of Revolver-firing
up to Fifty Yards 90

Pistol and Revolver Shooting at Long Range 116

Rules for Pistol and Revolver Shooting 126



Portrait of Mr. F. E. Bennett _Frontispiece_

Stevens Target Pistol (Lord Model) 11

" " " (Conlin Model) 13

Remington Single-Shot Pistol 15

New 6-inch Barrel Stevens Pistol 16

Colt's National Deringer 17

Remington Vest-Pocket Pistol 19

Smith & Wesson .32-calibre Single-Action Revolver 23

Smith & Wesson Revolver (Russian Model) Single Action 25

Smith & Wesson Revolver (Russian Model) Double Action 27

Smith & Wesson Hammerless Safety Revolver 33

Opening the Merwin, Hulbert, & Co. Revolver 37

Merwin, Hulbert, & Co.'s Revolver - Manner of Ejecting Shells 39

Colt's Revolver, .38-calibre, Double Action 51

" " (Frontier Model) 53

" " (Army Model) 53

Sights for Revolvers and Pistols 58, 59, 61

Chevalier Ira A. Paine 60

Winchester Reloading Tool 76

Ideal Reloading Tool 79

Target made by Mr. F. E. Bennett 84, 100, 114

Target made by Mr. George Bird 92, 96

" " " Mr. Pierre Lorillard, Jr. 94

" " " Mr. J. T. B. Collins 99

" " " Mr. Allen P. Kelly 103

" " " Chevalier Ira A. Paine 105

" " " Mr. W. W. Bennett 108

" " " Mr. D. D. Davis 109

" " " Mr. George Bird 110

Position, Mr. F. E. Bennett 112

" Chevalier Ira A. Paine 115

" Mr. W. W. Bennett 117

" Mr. B. J. Robertson 119

" Mr. Walter Winans 121

" Miss Annie Oakley 127

Standard American Target 125

Holsters 129, 131

Six shots with Colt's Frontier Model Revolver 135



During the years the author has been interested in studying fire-arms, and
endeavoring to learn the greatest amount of accuracy it was possible to
secure from them, his attention has frequently been attracted to the
statements of individuals in relation to pistols and revolvers, which were
mostly in the form of contributions to sportsmen's journals, or in books
chronicling the adventures of living heroes of the plains and
backwoods, - many of the latter passing through the author's hands for
review and criticism. It was noticeable that brief matter in relation to
pistols and revolvers, which was found in print, came from two
classes, - one making the most absurd statements in relation to feats
performed with these arms, which were entirely beyond the possibilities of
both arms and ammunition, and which were immediately recognized as coming
from parties who knew little or nothing about the subject. The statements
which came from the other class - the contributors to sportsmen's
journals - were evidently from parties who had expected to perform the
impossible feats, and, failing to do so, poured out their wrath in print,
condemning the makers of the arms, and making libellous statements in
reference to the arms, which at once indicated that it was lack of skill,
rather than imperfections in the tools.

All skilled marksmen who have handled the modern American pistol and
revolver must be aware that those of standard make are strong, well-made,
safe, and accurate. It is believed that no attempt has ever been made to
learn the possibilities of the various weapons, the greatest accuracy,
range, and power, and record them for comparison in a single volume.
Government tests have been made by the Ordnance Department, but its work
has been almost wholly with revolvers suitable for military purposes. As
there are a number of weapons which possess power, accuracy, and are in
every way equal in effectiveness to those accepted by military
authorities, it is apparent that the reports of government tests do not
fully represent all of the weapons which would properly be classed as
weapons of defence or suitable for military purposes.

Any attempt to record an historical account of the inventions and
improvement in the American pistol and revolver would, doubtless, prove
uninteresting to a majority of the readers of this work, and have but
little practical value; we therefore refrain from any mention of priority
of invention or description of the arms of early manufacture, and confine
our descriptions of the pistol and revolver of to-day. Those in use at the
present time, for extensive and elaborate experiments and investigations,
have impressed the author with the fact that improvements have constantly
been going on, and that the pistol and revolver of the present time are as
much superior to those produced a quarter of a century ago as the modern
rifle is superior to the ancient flint-lock musket. The world moves,
mechanical skill improves, artistic knowledge of form and symmetry is each
year combined with mechanical ingenuity, and at the present time the
American pistol and revolver has reached a degree of perfection previously
unknown; and it is our purpose to describe in this volume the modern
pistol and revolver of American make, those manufactured in quantity known
in trade, and procurable by any one desiring to secure a safe and reliable
weapon. There are a few pistols made in this country by hand, but the
number is so small that they are unknown to the trade; and, although great
stories have occasionally reached us of the accuracy of these arms, we
have never yet found one which would begin to compare with the accuracy of
those constructed by manufacturers who have made the perfection of the arm
a study of years. The standard single-shot pistols of American make at
the present time are the Stevens, Remington, and Wesson. The revolvers,
the Smith & Wesson, Colt's, Merwin & Hulbert, and Remington. The country
is flooded with revolvers of other make, some of them good enough for the
purpose intended, for a very short-range weapon of defence, among them the
products of the Marlin Arms Co., the American Arms Co., and Harrington &
Richardson; but a majority of the revolvers to be found throughout the
country are cheaply made, unreliable, inaccurate, and, above all, unsafe,
and endanger the lives of those who attempt to use them, though they bear
names high-sounding enough to captivate rustics and juvenile purchasers;
and this has always seemed to the author to be the chief cause of so many
condemning the modern revolver. All of the pistols and revolvers described
in the following chapters have been carefully and thoroughly tested by
expert marksmen, a careful comparison made, and the results given, unless
specified, are not the finest results obtainable by the best experts; but
the average results secured, and those it is believed to be within the
reach of ordinary marksmen possessing an average amount of health and



A number of years ago, when gentlemen sought to vindicate their honor by
duels with pistols, it was the custom to provide themselves with a pair of
duelling-pistols. These were generally of large calibre, often .50 or
1/2-inch, generally of smooth bore and flint-lock. These and even larger
calibres were also made for the cavalrymen in the service. Then came the
percussion pistol, many styles of duelling-pistols, both smooth bore and
rifled, and to-day many Southern gentlemen have in their possession a pair
of these ancient arms handed down to them by their parents and
grandparents. They are used chiefly, at the present time, for decorative
purposes, for their days of usefulness are passed; the modern revolver has
superseded them as arms of defence, and the single-shot breech-loading
pistol, possessing much greater accuracy, far more convenient to load, and
more economical to use, has taken the place of the duelling pistol for
target work, stage shooting, and exhibition work. The single-shot pistol
is used almost wholly for short-range target practice, generally in-doors,
at a distance from five to fifty yards, or for small-game shooting.
Therefore, it is unusual to find at the present time these pistols larger
in bore than .32-calibre, and generally in .22 calibre. As the
.22-calibre is perfectly accurate up to fifty yards, and our own
experiments compared with others lead us to believe the small calibre is
fully as accurate as the larger, and beyond a doubt that with good weather
conditions the larger bore possesses no advantages over the small bore up
to fifty yards in point of accuracy, and the fact that the cost of the.
22-calibre ammunition is so much less, is more compact, allowing a large
number of cartridges to be carried about, and the knowledge that the tiny
bore can be shot so many times without cleaning, makes it the favorite
calibre, in single-shot pistols, for target and small-game shooting within
the distance named.

Any shooting at a distance beyond fifty yards with a pistol is almost
unheard of in America; but it is believed that before long the experts who
become so proficient with the pistol at this range will shoot at much
longer distances, and we shall not be surprised to see matches shot up to
200 yards, and, perhaps, at a longer distance, as the officers in the
European armies practise up to 400 paces and secure good results. When the
shooting is done at long distances with a pistol, it will probably be with
a single-shot arm of calibre from .32 to .40; but until then the calibres
will probably be the .22 and .32.


The Stevens single-shot pistols are deservedly very popular; they are
manufactured by the J. Stevens' Arms and Tool Co., at Chicopee Falls,
Mass. They are made in various styles, as follows: -

Conlin model, 10-inch barrel, .22-cal., weight, 2-1/8 pounds. Lord model,
10-inch barrel, .22 cal., weight, 3 pounds. Diamond model, 10-inch barrel,
.22-cal., weight, 11 ounces. Also, the new 6-inch barrel, .22-cal., Target

The barrels are carefully bored and rifled and fitted into a steel frame
in the Lord model, and composition of gun-metal in the Conlin and Diamond
models. A spring is so arranged under the barrel that when a projecting
stud on the side is pressed it releases a catch on the opposite side and
the spring forces the rear part of the barrel up and the forward part
down, this action acting on the shell-ejector, forcing out the shell of
the exploded cartridge; the pistol is then reloaded and barrel closed. The
frame permits of barrels of different calibres being fitted into one
action, in the Lord or Conlin model. There are several varieties of sights
for these pistols to suit the different demands. The triggers are the
side-covered trigger in the smaller models, and the guard-covered trigger
in the Lord model.

The Lord and Conlin models are very popular among professional and expert
pistol-shots. They have been tested and found very reliable, and possess a
degree of accuracy unsurpassed by any arm of its kind in the world, if
properly used.

[Illustration: THE STEVENS SINGLE-SHOT PISTOL (New Model.)]

The Lord model is preferred by persons of herculean frame or possessing
great strength in their arms, it weighing 3 pounds. The Conlin model is
generally selected by those possessing less physical strength; both
pistols have handles of sufficient length to permit of their being grasped

The trigger on the Lord model is preferred by a majority of pistol-shots,
and, to suit those desiring this style of a trigger in the Conlin model,
the manufacturers have commenced making them in that manner, and can now
supply either style of triggers.

The weight of the Lord model is in its favor, for those who can hold it
secure an advantage in less liability to pull the pistol to one side or
upwards when pressing the trigger, - an error one who uses a light pistol
is quite liable to make. Such experts as Chevalier Ira Paine and Frank
Lord, and even some of the gentler sex, who have astonished the shooting
world by their seemingly impossible feats of marksmanship with the pistol,
unhesitatingly select this heavy pistol, and declare it more reliable, for
the reasons mentioned, than the lighter ones, and as some of the
professional shooters perform hazardous feats when inaccuracies with the
arm would peril the lives of those who assist them in their performances,
it is likely that they have given the matter the fullest investigation.
But the person desiring to select a Stevens pistol for fine work should
examine both models, and be governed by his own judgment in the matter.


The other pistols made by this company are intended for pocket-pistols;
they are accurate and reliable, but being more compact, with shorter
barrels and lighter, they are more difficult to shoot accurately than
those fashioned after the shape of the duelling-pistol. One quickly
becomes accustomed to their use, and, if fond of pistol-shooting, they are
a source of great pleasure when carried on a fishing trip or on a tramp
when small-game can be shot.


A gentleman who makes an annual trip into the woods informed the writer
that he never went without his Stevens pistol, and always killed
considerable small-game for the table with it.


The Remington single-action pistol is a much less elegant piece of
workmanship than the Stevens pistol, but there are excellent points about
the arm which will be apparent to the inspector as he examines it. It
possesses great strength and wearing qualities, is accurate, and, although
not particularly symmetrical, it is so well-balanced and has such an
excellent handle, that, when grasped, there is a feeling of firmness and
steadiness which is verified when the shooter attempts to sight it on a
small object. The pistol is made in .22 and .32 calibres; it has a barrel
8 inches long. The action is similar to the old-model Remington rifle. The
hammer is brought to a full-cock, a breech block rolled back, which
permits of the barrel, which is screwed into a solid frame, being
inspected from the rear, and easy to be cleaned. All attempts to procure
discharges from this arm with action improperly closed have been
unsuccessful, and we can see no reason why it is not as safe as it is
accurate. Its unusual strength would make it a desirable arm for
long-range pistol-practice, as it would doubtless stand a much heavier
charge than would ever be required for shooting at any range.

The Wesson single-shot pistol is manufactured by Frank Wesson, at
Worcester, Mass. It is operated as follows: the hammer is slightly raised
and held by a pin pressed in from the side; a projecting stud is pressed
at the bottom of the receiver, and the barrel turned over to one
side, - the shell of the exploded cartridge thrown out by the extractor.
The arm is well-balanced, fitted with good sights of different styles, and


The Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Co. manufactures three styles of
single-shot Deringers, one of which is illustrated. To operate this arm
set the hammer at half-cock, grasp the stock in the right hand and drawing
back the steel button with the forefinger, rotate the barrel toward you
with the left hand. Holding the barrel thus turned aside, introduce the
cartridge and then rotate it to its original position. After firing, the
empty shell may be ejected by rotating the barrel as directed for loading.

The weight of the No. 2 is 10 oz., calibre .41. It is a powerful pistol,
intended for a weapon of defence at short range.



The armory of Messrs. Smith & Wesson is located at Springfield, Mass., and
is said to be the most complete establishment for the manufacture of
revolvers in the world. The work produced at this armory has a world-wide
reputation, and their products are sent to nearly every country on the
globe. The revolvers are beautifully made, as perfect as it seems possible
to construct them; they have a perfect contour, are symmetrical, well
balanced, and possess great accuracy. The arm was formerly constructed in
calibres from .22 to .45; but, a few years ago, this firm discontinued
making the .22 calibre. Formerly the .22 and .32 calibres were opened by
pressing a clutch under the action, and the barrel and cylinder were
pushed upwards; the cylinder was then removed, and the shell extracted
from the cylinder by a fixed post. Later the invention of the automatic
shell-ejector was added, and the revolver opened by a clasp, the barrel
and cylinders tip downward, the action at the same time ejecting the
shells. All of the revolvers now made at the factory of Smith & Wesson are
after this model, and are known as follows: -

New Model Army, No. 3: weight, 2-1/2 pounds; central fire; calibre .44;
six shot; length of barrel, 6-1/2 inches.

New Model Navy, No. 3: double action, central fire; calibre .44; six shot;
weight, 2-3/16 pounds; length of barrel, 4, 5 and 6 inches.

New Model 38, No. 2: weight, 16 ounces; central fire; calibre .38; five
shot; length of barrel, 3-1/4, 4, and 5 inches.

New Model 38, No. 2: double action; central fire; calibre .38; five shot;
weight, 18 ounces; length of barrel, 3-1/4, 4, and 5 inches.

New Model 32, No. 1-1/2: weight, 12-1/2 ounces; central fire; calibre .32;
five shot; length of barrel, 3 and 3-1/2 inches.

New Model 32, No. 1-1/2: double action; central fire; calibre .32; five
shot; weight, 14 ounces; length of barrel, 3 and 3-1/2 inches.

New Model Hammerless Safety Revolver; central fire; calibres .32, .38 and
.44; weight, in .38 calibre, 18-1/2 oz.; with barrels of different

New Target Revolver: single action; central fire; calibre .32; six shots;
weight, 2-12/16 pounds; length of barrel, 6-1/2 inches.

Probably the chief reason why the products of Smith & Wesson are so
excellent, is because, since 1859, this firm has been engaged exclusively
in the manufacture of revolvers. They endeavored to procure and construct
the most complete and perfect machinery for the manufacture of their
revolvers; and, by the system of inspection of parts adopted by this
firm, the slightest imperfection in material and workmanship may be
detected, and, when discovered, is instantly condemned.


The barrels, cylinders, and all the small parts, are made of the best
quality of cast-steel, and the framework of Bessemer steel, made at Troy,

We have closely watched the impressions made upon some of the most skilful
mechanics in America when a Smith & Wesson revolver was submitted for
their inspection, and these severest of critics would invariably seem to
revel in the pleasure they experienced in seeing such a perfect piece of
mechanical work, and unhesitatingly commended the workmanship in the
highest terms. One famous maker of hand-made duelling-pistols in France,
spent days in examining the Smith & Wesson, Russian Model Army pistol,
using a magnifying-glass for the purpose of putting on the finest possible
finish in the mechanism, in order to gain an absolute perfect working of
the parts. He pronounced it the finest work he had ever seen made by

One of the noticeable points of excellence in the Smith & Wesson
revolvers, insured by the perfection of the parts, is the perfect
revolution of the cylinder, which brings the chamber exactly opposite the
barrel when the revolver is cocked, it being absolutely necessary that the
cylinder be opposite the barrel at the moment of the discharge of the
weapon to secure accurate results at a good distance. We have fired shots
from revolvers well known to the trade where the cylinder did not bring

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Online LibraryA. C. GouldThe Modern American Pistol and Revolver → online text (page 1 of 6)