Gun Deductions II

A little while back, I got another of those interesting emails with a handful of photos and a note saying:

I have a friend that has a gun I can not identify. I asked Grant thinking with it being some type of revolver he would know. He told me to ask you.

Well, the photos showed something I had definitely not seen before:





The last one of these emails I posted turned out to be a sporterized Finnish-American Mosin Nagant – this one is almost certainly the product of an amateur gunsmith’s shop. I say that for a bunch of reasons:

That certainly is an unusual piece! I have not seen one of them before, but I think I can make a decent educated guess at what it is: a relatively recent home gunsmith’s project. I come to that conclusion because of the combination of several elements:

  • No markings. Factory guns will virtually always have markings of some sort, ever experimental factory guns.
  • The front grip appears to have very nice sharp edges on its grip ridges. If the gun were old or had seen much use, those would be worn and rounded off at least a bit.
  • The fairly crude workmanship – look at the hammer pin and the fit of the stock to the receiver in particular. The pin is too close to the edge of the receiver to be a factory product. And any vintage factory would have had a woodworker capable of a much better stock fit.
  • The lever style. That cocking lever is clearly based on the Henry/Winchester line of rifles, which all came about after the development of self-contained cartridges. There would have been no good reason to go to the effort of making a new type of muzzle-loading revolving rifle after 1860, especially considering that pretty much every revolving rifle ever was a commercial failure and the whole concept has some pretty fundamental flaws.
  • The rear sight looks like something taken off a 20th century .22LR plinking rifle.
  • What appears to be a roofing screw with waterproof sealing gasket on the tang – not exactly a factory standard fitting. 🙂

The two fundamental flaws endemic to revolver rifles are the risk of a chainfire injuring the shooter’s support hand (on muzzle-loading designs), and the cylinder gap spitting gas and/or lead shavings into the shooter’s forearm. The first issue can be resolved by using self-contained cartridges, and the second can be addressed by using a mechanism that seals the chamber to the barrel. For example, the very rare Pieper revolving carbine (used by Mexican police forces in the 1890s) did this, for example, using the same mechanism as the much more common M1895 Nagant revolver used by Russia and the USSR. It is a bit difficult to tell, but the top photo appears to show recessed chambers on the front of the cylinder, and the cylinder appears to cam forward against the barrel when ready to fire. The use of the ramrod as a front handgrip is also a creative idea, and not one I’ve seen on any historical designs.


  1. I wonder if it was built late but in a country with unregulated black powder gun laws. We in the US aren’t used to it, but in many European countries the need to avoid certain combinations of gun and cartridges can sometimes lead to odd guns. If all I’m allowed is non-automatic and black powder only long weapons, this concept with its full gas seal would make a lot of sense.

  2. When part of the project shows at least some skill, and part of it (and probably a later part of it) is crude, it probably means one person started it and another person finished it. Anyone who could have done the machine work on the metal parts could have done better than a roofing screw to hold the stock on and would have done better on the wood.

    Since it is not a reproduction, it must have been intended as a shooter. It was started by someone with access to machine tools and by someone who knew a little but about them, but who was not a great machinist. It was also designed for black powder, when it could have as easily used cartridges.

    A scenario that would cover the bases would be that it was made by someone who worked in a factory in WWII. A lot of people went to the factories then and a joke was that while it used to take ten years to train a machinist, during the war they tried to make machinists in one job interview. During the war civilian / hunting ammunition all but disappeared, hence the black powder. Guess is that someone was working on it in their spare time but then the war ended and real guns became available, etc. Sat in the back of a garage until 20 or 30 years ago when someone with less skill finished it. Maybe it went to the person’s grandson or was in a box of parts at an estate sale. The rubber seal screws are on the newer side (within last 30 years?) used to nails, with lead covering the heads, were used for sheetmetal roofing.

  3. Reminds me a lot of something a steampunk cosplayer would throw together. It’s just missing a steam valve or a tesla coil.

  4. Lever Action Revolver. Lever Action Revolver. No matter how many times I say it, it still sounds wrong!

    Wonder if you’re supposed to pivot that rammer lever down at firing to get your hand farther away?

    Too many things that make you wonder “Why?” on this one.

    • The 1881-vintage British Needham was also a “lever-action revolver” rifle;

      It worked rather like a Winchester with a tubular magazine, but with a beech action rather like a “bar pistol”;

      It used cartridges rather like those in the Colt Thuer conversion revolvers, that were inserted into the front of the breechblock by the tubular magazine, and ejected forward every time the lever was operated and the block “flipped over”. As W.H.B Smith describes it;

      This weird specimen utilized a tube below the barrel for a magazine, plus a revolving cylinder. Special cartridges were used which were in two pieces, the base being rimless and tapering to the rear; a collared cap at the forward end fitting the exterior of the cap and projecting into the case proper. When the percussion cap in the base of the cartridge was detonated, and the powder charge ignited, the collar about the case was supposed to drive forward and expand to seal the joint between cylinder and barrel. When the magazine was loaded a spiral spring forced the cartridges back.

      Operating a finger lever trigger guard carried the cylinder through a one-quarter rotation, partly raised and then dropped the hammer to eject the fired case forward out of a chamber, lined up the chamber to receive a loaded cartridge, lined up the chamber with the barrel, and then cocked the hammer.

      -Smith, Small Arms of the World, 9th ed., p.40.

      The resemblance of the action of the cylinder, and the cartridge structure, to the Thuer conversion is obvious, even to the hammer being used as the ejector. But the forward-moving cartridge “collar” to create a gas seal between the cylinder and the barrel may be unique.

      BTW, most modern sources state that the Needham is a “gravity feed” rifle. This may be due to the magazine spring losing strength over time, as some Spencer repeating rifles have been known to do.



    • I think that is an important point TN, why?

      Moving the cylinder back is pointless, it has a groove for capping and retains the normal loading mechanism for a percussion revolver.

      I don’t think it’s that new, why would anyone make something like that in the modern age it looks like something someone would think of in the age of revolving rifles.

      It might have had parts replaced.

      • It’s a long winded way of going about simply cocking the hammer, the cylinder must detach surely or it’s like someone else said I think, a sort of Nagant gas seal lark the cylinder fits over the barrel when the lever is closed then to rotate it you have to pull it off again via the lever simultaneously. You could simply attach the lever to to the hammer…

  5. I think the idea was, trying to have a cylinder as a “magazine” if you will. For quick reloads with another loaded cylinder, the lever action was essentially a magazine release. Only they didn’t finish it, or it’s broke. The cylinder should drop out when then lever is actioned down, and the axis pin should be attached to the cylinder in order for it to slot into the frame when the lever is actioned up. In percussion Colts you could knock out the pin and whip the barrel off, in order to drop a loaded cylinder onto it’s fixed axis pin which is attached to the frame. This is an attempt to replicate this feature, without removing the barrel perhaps. Then they either thought about a break top, or swing out design and left it.
    Who knows maybe this was the origin of the swing out cylinder, as without a speed loader/moon clip the break top design is quicker and a loading gate was adequate.

  6. Now! If whoever made this, had just extended it a wee bit more, and put a box underneath it holding a spring, on top of which sat multiple loaded cylinders… Who knows, how history may have been different he he.

    “With a top strap, and a cylinder outta knocker rod”

    • One would thumb the hammer, between cylinder changes to fire.

      You could use a similar mechanism for a revolver firing those Soviet silent cartridges, in order for the protruding piston to clear the barrel allowing revolution of the cylinder again.

    • Something like the Enouy revolver, perhaps?

      The inventor, Joseph Enouy of Middlesex, England, obtained British patent # 1359 in 1855 for this gadget. As can be seen in the side view, it is a “transitional revolver” (i.e., one with the grip, frame, and action of the older “pepperbox”), with a ferris-wheel like arrangement to allow eight loaded six-shot cylinders to be mounted at once, giving 48 rounds without actually having to reload. Another version reportedly had seven cylinders, with 42 rounds on tap. The cylinders were apparently turned into lockup for normal firing by hand.

      Note the brass “guard plate” in front of the cylinders, probably to either prevent gangfires (in fact, it would probably have made them more likely), or at least to protect the shooter’s off hand (which would clearly be needed to support the weight of this beast) from being mangled and/or amputated by same.

      It virtually qualifies as a percussion “submachine gun”.

      (Imagine one with a clockwork drive to rotate everything.”ClickBANGclickBANGclickBANGclickBANG
      clickBANGclickBANG, ClickClickCLICK, clickBANG
      clickBANGclickBANG”, etc.)

      I’m surprised this monster didn’t show up on the old “The Wild, Wild West” TV show back in the 1960s. It’s the sort of thing I’d have expected Dr. Loveless to unload on Jim West with.

      Missing every time, of course, since Miguelito was not a particularly good shot with anything but a blowgun.




  7. Did you know bore diameter of this gun? It is rifled or smooth? If it is rifled how big are grooves and how many grooves?
    Note the brass cylinder behind the true (powder-holding) cylinder and that stock and a “pump” is done from others type of woods.

      • It might be because brass is easier to work with Daweo make even, so for prototypes if you had actual gun parts you could use it for other bits that didn’t need to be so strong etc. The Confederacy used brass in actual guns, on frames etc because it looks pretty, cough.

        • Well, sort of. The main reason was a shortage of good-quality steel in the South. Not only did Southern copies of the Colt 1851 Navy .36 percussion revolver have brass frames, most of them had wrought-iron barrels.

          Some, like the Dance Brothers Colt copies, were made with cast-iron frames that didn’t even have recoil shields. The Dance Brothers’ outfit was apparently staffed by people who left the more “fiddly bits” off their revolvers, because they didn’t have enough technical background in gun-making to realize why those “fiddly bits” were on the weapon to begin with.

          By comparison, I notice that this arm has a recoil-shield assembly made of good-quality brass (I suspect a lost-wax casting), with a “capping trough” on the right side that is actually big enough to allow reasonable access to the cap nipples.

          The arm somewhat reminds me of a William Billinghurst revolving rifle of the 1850s;

          The cylinders on Billinghurst’s rifles (he made no handguns, AFAIK) were turned by hand. Some of his rifles had a gas-seal cylinder that was pushed forward into “lockup” by a coil spring behind the cylinder. He also made at least a few with a second shotgun barrel at the center of the cylinder, like the LeMat carbine Ian posted last week;

          Note the second “underhammer” to fire the shot barrel.

          All of Billinghurst’s weapons were noted for the fine workmanship he put into them.

          He also made heavy-barreled, single-shot muzzle-loading target rifles, often with telescopic sights. During the American Civil War, more than a few of his target rifles were used by snipers on both sides. (The Confederate ones being pre-war sales, that is.)

          He is probably best known today for the “Billinghurst Requa Battery”, an “organ gun” he built for the Union Army;

          The fact that Dr. Josephus Requa, its inventor, was granted a patent on it seems a bit odd, as it wasn’t fundamentally different from such weapons dating back to the 15th century, including one illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci in the Codex Atlanticus. I’ve long suspected that that was where Dr. Requa got the idea from to begin with.



  8. Gas seal success of 1895 Nagant or former Pieper comes not only cylnder forwarding action, but enlarging the cartridge case and in fact, especially on a black powder revolver, simply pushing the chamber into the counterfitting barrel recess would only work for a few shots. Leverage and brass backup should have been provided to get maximum performance free from oxidation, fouling and flame cut.

    • The cylinder does kinda appear to have recesses at the front of each chamber, chambers which also sort of resemble tubes in my opinion. Further to this, the cylinders top appears to be inline with the top of the barrels rear protrusion yet the “recesses” are in from the edge of the cylinder by some distance, a distance I am not sure corresponds with the barrels protrusion i.e. to fit in it, in order to create some degree of seal. Therefore if the design is to achieve said “seal” I don’t see how, because the cylinder recesses don’t fit over the barrel. So perhaps the chambers are tubes, and somehow extend from the cylinder into the barrels protrusion. Which would again require the unusual rearward movement of the cylinder in order to disengage the “tube” from the barrel to facilitate rotation of the chamber. It might not be a mechanical function this, it could happen upon firing via gas. The chambers front could be smaller than it’s rear i.e. the chamber in the cylinder is drilled out from the front to the diameter of the tube insert, however from the back the chamber is drilled at diameter wider than the tube. So the charge goes in the rear portion of the chamber, and the bullet in the insert upon firing the insert is essentially blown into the recess for it inside the barrels protrusion.

      • Sliding chamber tubes good idea. The cylindrical tubes may have slight stroke distances and retained therein at back screwed in capping nipples and when fired, pressure in the
        chamber pushes the element against to the strike on firing pin to go and stick to the barrel’s back powerfully sealing the gap. Powerfull backup can only be obtained by a stong leverage and taking back the cylinder also needs some power for a considerable distance.

        But all also needs clean gas.

    • Apparently a number of early percussion revolvers “the ones that look sort of like ye olde dwelling pistols, but with a cylinder popped in front of the lock which sticks out of the bottom of stock” operated with a Lang gas seal patent idea which essentially appears to have been recessed chambers, into which the barrel slotted in via a mechanism actuated by cocking the hammer.

      However this design moves the cylinder much further rearward than the Lang, or indeed the Nagant and uses a lever not a hammer to operate the slidey forwardy backwardy cylinder lark.

      So there must be a reason for it…

      • Maybe a camming action? Some of the early gas-seal systems tended to “leak” with wear due to whatever was holding the cylinder forward loosening.

        The lever gives a very good mechanical advantage to force everything into lockup, and also since the shooter’s hand is clamped around the wrist of the stock and the lever, he is in effect holding the cylinder “shut”, rather like squeezing the handles of a pair of pliers.



        • The brass piece acts as the… Oh no, well yes… In a cartridge version of this “the brass piece would require to lock, wouldn’t it or it would cock your hand upon firing” but in a percussion the rear of the chamber is the rear of cylinder were the nipple is.

  9. So much of this firearm seems like “the long way around”. Of course, if you’ve ever been present at a “chainfire” then it might not seem too bad of an idea to go to great trouble to prevent it.

    I was present at one involving a replica Remington 1858-fortunately this gent only had blank loads installed (historical event).

    The greater part of the damage was to his dignity but he was going to have a serious cleaning job to do on that revolver.Sometimes, it is best to leave one’s balls at home…

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