Hopkins & Allen XL-6 Revolver with a Surprising Swing-Out Cylinder

Lot 1104 in the September 2020 RIA Premier auction.

“XL” was a brand name used by Hopkins & Allen to cover several different styles of revolver, but the first were a series of rimfire, spur-hammer pocket guns made in the 1870s and 1880. These were mostly very simple, chambered for a range of cartridges from .22 rimfire to .41 rimfire. Some examples of the .41 caliber XL-6 have a quite interesting feature, however. When the cylinder axis pin is removed, the cylinder swings out about 45 degrees to the right, propelled by a captive spring. This makes the chambers easily accessible for reloading.

This system was originally patented by Samuel Hopkins in 1862 and 1864 while working for the Bacon Firearms Company. Bacon made about 300 revolvers using this system, but they were shut down by a patent infringement lawsuit from Smith & Wesson, as their revolver used bored-through chambers without having a license from Rollin White or S&W. When the Bacon Firearms Company lapsed into bankruptcy its remains formed the start of Hopkins & Allen. Having acquired both the legal patent rights and the employment of the original inventor (both Samuel Hopkins and his brother Charles were partners in the new firm), it should be no surprise that Hopkins & Allen would use the system once the Rollin White patent expired. What is a bit surprising is that they did not use it more extensively…


  1. “(…)surprising is that they did not use it more extensively…”
    How did Hopkins & Allen XL-6 Revolver compared price-wise to other pocket revolvers of that era? Was quicker reload was highly sought after by users wanting pocket revolver in 1870s or they rather were believed that everything will be over anyway before need for reload arise?

    • “This sort of thing was selling for about two dollars and fifty cents when it would cost you four times that to get a Colt.”

    • True. In that era they still thought a firearm that would give you SIX shots without reloading was a pretty slick newfangled invention, and the idea that you’d want to be able to reload quickly in any situation outside of combat was pretty much unknown. Even in combat, for people not far removed from single shot muzzleloaders, they were used to relying on mutual fire support protecting them while they reloaded. Which is why I think all the hoopla made about the Remington revolver being able to “speed reload” by carrying a spare cylinder is mostly rubbish. Yes, perhaps you CAN do that, but I seriously doubt the vast majority of users ever knew it, or cared. I think that’s a modern notion cooked up by people used to being able to carry 17 shot 9mms and accustomed to being able to swap magazines in less than a second. For most purposes, then and today, a six shot revolver gives you more than enough firepower to deter an assailant (the primary purpose), or to shoot them and neutralize the treat if forced to do so.

  2. It is unlikely that someone will carry a revolver in one pocket, and a handful of cartridges in the second.Unless going to shoot them all.

    And this is not for plinking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.