Military Gear & Army Surplus Gear Blog

The Butterfield Army Revolver and its Automatic Priming

The Butterfield Army Revolver and its Automatic Priming



hi guys thanks for tuning in to another video on Forgotten weapons comm I'm in McCallum and I'm here today at the James Giulia auction house up in Maine taking a look at some of the guns that they are going to be selling in their upcoming fall of 2017 firearms auction and today we're taking a look at a secondary martial military revolver which is to say a gun that saw service in the Civil War but was not formally adopted by the Union or I suppose Confederate governments this is a Butterfield revolver it is a five shot 41 caliber revolver brass framed as you can see and with a seven and a half inch barrel this was patented by a guy named Jesse predictably Butterfield out of Philadelphia in 1855 and what is unusual about it is that it is actually not designed to use standard percussion caps instead Butterfield set it up with his own patented pellet or wafer primer system and he has a magazine of primers in the frame of the gun and when you cock and fire the gun it automatically feeds those primer pellets out right above the percussion cap nipples hammer hits them detonates and the idea is this saves you the time and effort of having to actually cap each individual cylinder after you've loaded the gun the other advantage here is if you have primer pellets like this you don't have to deal with spent caps sometimes when you fire a cap and ball revolvers the the cap basically just blows off nicely and you never see it again and you don't have to worry about it but sometimes it's possible for that spent cap to get stuck on the nipple or for it to fall down and get lodged in the action somewhere and jam up the gun this is something that revolvers designers had to work around well if you had just a pellet primer there's nothing left it's kind of the cap-and-ball equivalent of caseless ammunition it explodes and then it's just gone the downside is actually kind of like caseless ammunition those primer pellets are a lot more fragile than a percussion cap that's encased in this metal cup so you have to treat them more gently they're not waterproof in any way that sort of thing just right off the bat it's a cool looking revolver the brass frame is nice and it's one of those neat ones that's kind of an inline with the grip behind the cylinder instead of dropping down below the cylinder like a cult pattern revolver that's me and then we have a couple little markings on here the main one is here on the top strap mark Butterfield's patent December 11th 1855 and an abbreviation for Philadelphia Pennsylvania and this particular one is serial number 334 so you'll see that on the the bottom of the grip on the loading lever and on the barrel there it's also inside the gun in a couple places which we'll see in a minute now this is a single-action revolver so you do have to manually cock it and then you can fire now despite the primer pellet system it looks to me like you could use standard percussion caps on this if you wanted to or if you ran out of Butterfield's proprietary patented pellets and that's probably a good idea to make it to make that possible but the cool part is that pellet feeding systems so so we'll start here this is the magazine tube for the pellets which I can unscrew from the bottom of the frame pull that out and there it is we have a little spring in there it's just a tubular magazine you can push that follower down and lock it in place and then load it up with pellets once you've got that full you would then insert it in with the followers still locked and then you can rotate this you may have heard it snap there that will release the spring and it will push the pellets up but they will be contained inside this tube so they won't go flying all over the place and then you just screw this back down nice and tight like so then you're ready for some actual shooting so when we cock the hammer we have a setup like this and then as the hammer drops this little flat bar comes out and that would be holding a primer pellet in it the hammer is going to come down right through the center of that it's going to take that primer pellet and slam it right into the top surface of the nipple there which will then explode and the fire will go through the priming hole into the cylinder and set off your charge the priming system is improved to be quick and easy the rest of the loading procedure is just like any other cap-and-ball revolver put the hammer at half cock and then you have a loading lever line that up like so to load powder and ball into each chamber the sight picture on this is like many guns at the time were remarkably tiny there's our front sight and then the rear sight you actually have to look underneath the hammer so your sight picture is that the rear sight notch is right there it is really tiny right there in front of where the hammer Falls so there you go there's the rear sight notch lines up like so very very tiny sight picture and as with many percussion guns it is completely blocked when the Hammers down so very obvious when the guns not cocked and not ready to fire I can show you the inner workings here I have loosened this grip screw so that will come off gently coax the grip off there I mentioned the serial number of being on the inside there's a 334 there I can take this brass side plate there are two of these obviously one on each side and they're cast of 34 on that as well so there's the boring side of the frame we have the axis for the hammer and then we have this big flat spring that compresses to give the hammer to motivate the hammer as they would say we can't pull off the grip on this side as well so we have some more 334 s and 34 s there's the rest of the internal mechanism this piece right here is the hand that's what's going to reach through the back of the frame there and it's responsible for both turning the cylinder when you cock the hammer and locking the cylinder when the hammer is cocked and then there's one other thing I can take out this screw and show you a little bit more so under this plate is that primer pushing arm right so this cover comes off so that empty hole right there is the percussion cap where the percussion cap magazine goes with it in place you can see the percussion cap follower right there and then we have this metal sheet that is going to take the top cap the top pellet right there and slide it forward when you fire like so that piece is connected via this screw to the hammer so that's what what pulls it back and forth in conjunction with the hammer percussion revolvers are always pretty mechanically simple there's not a whole lot going on and that makes them really interesting to look at in 1861 Jessie Butterfield got himself a contract to make no less than 2300 of these revolvers for the ira Harris guards this was a New York volunteer unit in fact they were later renamed the fifth and sixth New York Volunteer Infantry however something happened probably the money ran out but I don't have any actual data and the contract was terminated early and they only actually made 640 of these the first 590 are just like this one and the last 50 of the guns presumably the ones that they just kind of pushed out the door when the money ran out the last 50 have no markings on them at all so it is a cool and rarely seen example of a secondary US Marshal revolver and a really cool addition to any cap and ball revolvers collection so if that sounds like something that you would like to have take a look at the description text below you'll find a link there to James Julia's catalog page on this guy and you can take a look at their high res pictures their description provenance etc and if you're interested you can place a bit over the phone over the web or come here and participate live in the auction thanks for watching


Reader Comments

  1. As a casual firearms enthusiast, these videos are great fun. As a writer who's been brainstorming a low fantasy / steampunk-style story for years, these are an amazing resource for finding weird, obscure, borderline-fantastical gun designs.

  2. Interesting… curious as to what you need to do to drop the hammer after you cock it without firing… without firing..

  3. Looks like primer pellets have quite a lot of friction while thing is operating, i wonder if there was problems with acidentnal priming inside the tube.

  4. I bet if you only put one or two priming pellets in it would go kaboom when you inserted the magizine.

  5. What a beautiful gun, seriously,imo one of the best looking ones ever seen on your awesome channel. Plus: supercool priming system. And a very low bore axis!

    It's a shame that so few were produced, I read something that a maximum of 800, some say only 640 were made.

  6. Very interesting. The grip positioning might help make the recoil impulse straighter, thus reducing muzzle rise. I'm sure a 41 cal ball or slug at 800-900 fps was decent power in its day. That primer delivery bar sure had to be timed precisely to the hammer. That is craftsmanship there. Too bad they weren't more widely distributed. How about telling us the weight on the guns too, at least a close estimate? I'm sure it's hard to take a scale with you, but if u have a gun of known weight to compare it to, u can estimate by feel. This would give us some perspective as to how it compares with its contemporaries. Great video as always. Thank you

  7. A spring loaded magazine for a non-fixed ammunition component is such a delightful transitional concept.

  8. I just couldn't keep my eyes off the scoped rifle behind you on your right! my left!….. have you done a video of that long sweet heart?

  9. Hi guys,thanks for tuning in to another video on forgotten weapons.com I'm GUN JESUS and today we're taking a look at a revolver

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