North & Skinner Revolving Rifle

The North & Skinner was an early 6-shot percussion-fired revolving rifle design. Its design was patented in 1852 by Henry North and Chauncy Skinner (US Patent #8982), and the guns were manufactured from 1856 to 1859 by the Savage & North company (which was Henry North and Edward Savage – not the Arthur Savage who developed the Savage 99). About 600 of these guns were made in total, with roughly 20% being .60-caliber shotguns and the remainder .44 caliber rifles. Unlike many revolving rifle designs, the North & Skinner functioned as a lever action, with the trigger guard serving as lever.

North & Skinner revolving rifle with action open
North & Skinner revolving rifle with action open – note locking wedge at rear of cylinder (image from milpas.cc)

The North & Skinner design also included several features intended to protect the shooter from the cylinder gap blast (which was a significant problem with all such revolving rifle designs). It used recessed chambers and a locking wedge that would push the cylinder forward to achieve a semblance of a gas seal (a bit like the 1895 Nagant revolver). How well this worked, I have not been able to determine – perhaps one of these days I will find an example of the gun that I can shoot and find out.

There was a North & Skinner at the September 2013 Rock Island Auction, and I took some video footage of it:

11 Comments

  1. Well, that’s one way to solve cylinder gap blast in a revolving rifle… though I have a feeling that the receiver itself here would take care of the problem on its own.

  2. While the gun might not blow itself to bits in the event of a chain fire, I would hate to imagine the state of the user’s forehand on the stock should the barrel have been grasped…

    To quote (or paraphrase a quote by) R. Lee. Ermey,
    “This is my hand, I like my hand. I don’t wanna shoot my hand!”

    Even worse: If a chain fire happened on the first shot, the camming rammer would be lost…

    • if a chain fire happened on the first shot i can imagine that it’s going to be an unpleasant experience
      but how much energy would the projectiles have , they didn’t go thru the barrel so it can’t be an enormous amount

      • In theory yes, but the seal isn’t perfect. Plus there’s the chance of loose gunpowder in the mechanism if you’re not careful when loading it.

    • Chainfires are bad no matter what they’re in…when you bottom centre goes, you will have a bad day. Cap tightly and grease liberally, though all the old timers I talk to say that chainfires happen through the back, which makes a lot of sense. Given that, looking at the nipple arrangement, this thing ought to be nearly immune.

  3. One of the very few Internet references I’ve been able to find to White’s Union 76 truck stop in Virginia – the best public-display collection of firearms I’ve ever seen in a truck stop, if not anywhere – was a YouTube narrated by a tour guide who obviously had no idea what most of the thousands of weapons in the cases on the walls were. I recall that he was particularly “what the heck is that?” non-pulsed by the Savage Civil War pistol. Apparently the video was made not long before White’s closed. I wonder what happened to that incredible collection? There were dozens of equally odd vintage motorcycles in Lexan cubes outside. That must have been quite an auction.

    I read somewhere – think it was in one of Bernard Cornwell’s “Starbuck Chronicles” Civil War novels – a warning that the user needed to disengage his middle finger from the lever before firing the revolver, as the recoil was a finger-breaker. If so, that would have cut down on rapid fire. Wasn’t aware it was a gas-sealer as well… what, 30 years before the Nagant?

  4. Nice item. not many revolving rifles around. the rumer here is that itwas invented by a Peter Rasmussen from Langeland, and that S Colt visited him on his trip with Korvo, prior to the Pattersons

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