RIA: James Reid No.2 Revolver

James Reid was a New York gunsmith best known for his “My Friend” knuckleduster revolvers, but before he devised the idea for those he was working in New York City making traditional style revolvers. This particular one is a Number 2 pattern example, a .32 caliber, 7-shot rimfire revolver.

These were manufactured in violation of the Rollin White patent, but not made in sufficient quantity to attract the attention of Rollin White’s lawyers. Just to be safe, though, Reid only marked the guns with the name of his wholesale distributors. The Reid revolvers have a clever and effective loading gate system, but suffer from a disassembly system which requires unscrewing the barrel in order to remove the cylinder.


  1. Excellent, Ian.

    I noticed the “bar” under the cylinder frame that looks like it’s pivoted on the pin at the very front edge, that goes back to the top end of the sheath trigger. Am I correct in assuming that this is a trigger-return spring?



    • There would be some serious flash and sideblast at such a large gap.

      Also, since cutting the barrel of at the rear like that eliminates the forcing cone, the bullet would probably not enter the barrel completely “straight”, so I’d expect that, plus the loss of velocity due to the powder burn’s pressure largely escaping through the enlarged B/C gap, would lead to keyholing and some serious loss of muzzle velocity, in a weapon that probably didn’t have a lot to begin with.

      The standard .32 S&W Long rimfire of 1861 was loaded with a 90-grain bullet in front of 12-13 grains of black powder, and probably performed about like a .36 Colt Navy cap-and-ball load (81-gr. round ball, 14 grains G-O FFFg, 752 F/S, 102 FPE).

      I’d expect a Reid “mangled” in this way to deliver no more than about 450-500 F/S muzzle velocity, for about 50 FPE at best.

      Assuming, that is, that a bullet entering the bore off-center didn’t jam partway in, or worse a half-inch down the barrel. After which, one or two more shots would almost certainly result in one jamming only partway out of the chamber, very likely bursting it, detonating the rounds left in adjoining chambers (people forget that black powder is a certified “low explosive”), and turning the revolver into a fragmentation bomb in the shooter’s hand.


      Moral; Don’t do it. And if you ever find a Reid “customized” in this way, don’t even try to fire it.



      • Murphy’s law variant: If there is a correct way to perform any procedure and a wrong way to do the same, expect somebody to attempt to do it wrong at least once.

        There is a reason no gun maker of the 19th century in his right mind created a revolver where the bullet must cross a considerable distance between cylinder chamber and the breech end of the barrel: misalignment-induced mechanical failure (AKA “cylinder-goes-boom”). This is basically what killed the Colt Revolving Rifle as a weapon. Reid’s weakness, as stated, is that the barrel must be unscrewed in order to maintain the cylinder. This to me presents another problem: should the threading on the barrel not be in good condition, the barrel may not be removed or reinserted without cutting the frame open, thus the concept seems to be a very questionable one… Or am I wrong?

        • Nope. There’s also the problem of getting it in cross-threaded, and of repeated stripping/assembling wearing the relatively soft steel (or is it iron?) down to the point that the threads strip out altogether. Firing it in that state could launch the barrel downrange along with the bullet.

          BTW, I have removed and re-installed screw-threaded barrels on revolvers, and it’s a huge P-I-T-A. Especially on ones where the front sight was machined-in to the barrel in production and serious force was used at the factory to make sure it “lined up” with the rear sight.

          For instance, you can generally tell if a German M/1879 or M/1883 “Reichsrevolver” has ever had the barrel removed (such as to have the forcing cone recut).

          There will usually be a “groove” around the barrel/frame meetup, because so much force was used to get the front sight lined up “just so” that the barrel steel actually “flowed” under pressure at the join. The “groove” will have been cut with a file or saw by an armorer to relieve the pressure in the joint to “break it loose” so the barrel could be unscrewed.



      • “The standard .32 S&W Long rimfire of 1861 was loaded with a 90-grain bullet in front of 12-13 grains of black powder, and probably performed about like a .36 Colt Navy cap-and-ball load (81-gr. round ball, 14 grains G-O FFFg, 752 F/S, 102 FPE).”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32_rimfire states:
        90gr @ 1080 fps giving 233 energy, but it is from 24″ barrel

        • I know. Most sources today give the statistics from a rifle-length barrel because the last weapons chambered for it, and the ones most likely to be encountered today, were single-shot rifles.



      • “Moral; Don’t do it. And if you ever find a Reid “customized” in this way, don’t even try to fire it.”


        Good luck finding Reid’s proprietary .32 rimfire ammunition!

    • Did he cut the barrel off, or just turned it down to cut off the exposed threads? If he just turned down the exposed threads he wouldn’t have to turn the barrel as many rotations to unscrew it or screw it back in. The exposed threads don’t do anything to retain the barrel. They just make it easier to manufacture the barrel without putting a step in it.

      I suspect it was just the threads were turned down. If the actual barrel was actually cut off, then the gap would be so large that the bullet would not go down the barrel since the gas would simply vent through the gap.

      • As Ian described it, he “fixed” it so the barrel did not have to be removed at all to pull the cylinder.

        So yes, the barrel had to be cut off at the rear end, flush with the front of the frame’s “cylinder window”.

        I imagine his next complaint was about getting his hand burnt by sideflash. Or maybe just it going “BOOM” and him ending up being called “Lefty”.



    • Even smarter would have been having them made in England, France or Belgium, as White’s patent was not recognized in Europe due to the LeFaucheux pinfire patent that preceded it. And there was pretty much nothing White or Smith & Wesson could do about imports.

      I suspect this is at least partly why LeMat had his “grapeshot” revolvers made in France, other than the Confederacy’s lack of manufacturing capability.

      He was probably planning a metallic-cartridge version from the start, considering how quickly first pinfire and then centerfire LeMats appeared commercially in Europe after the Civil War ended, and several years before White’s patent expired.



      • I’d love to see a “mini”.22 LeMat 12 shot with a .45/.410 barrel down the center.. the thought makes me all warm and fuzzy…

      • “made in England, France or Belgium”
        Or maybe in Canada? Just for lower shipping cost (I assume that in these day made in Canada would be considering as made in Great Britain from law point of view or am I mistaken?)

        • About the same, but at that time there were no actual gun-makers in Canada.

          The nearest thing to production facilities were the government arsenals like Long Branch. And they were set up mostly to store, maintain, and repair arms made for the Canadian military in Britain.

          BTW, this was why the RCMP was armed mainly with American-made small arms until the modern day. For instance, in 1885, they adopted the Colt M1878 Double-Action Frontier in .45 Colt (not 0.455″ Webley, note) to replace the Enfield M1876 DA revolver in .476. Yes, the one with the wacky Owen Jones simultaneous extraction system. They considered even the one-at-a-time rod-ejector on the Colt superior to that.

          In 1912, they retired the Colt DA Frontier in favor of… the Colt New Service, still in .45 Colt. It was used until 1960, when it was replaced by… the Colt Official Police .38 Special, and later the Trooper .357.

          When they finally adopted an automatic, in 1990, it was the Beretta M92FS aka M9, in 9 x 19mm, made by Beretta-USA. Because it was the standard U.S. military-issue sidearm. Today, they use the Glock 17 9mm, which it looks like the U.S. Army will be changing too in the near future.

          Yes, the RCMP was initially armed with weapons the British Army wanted desperately to get rid of. In the case of the Enfield revolver, I don’t blame them.

          In 1878, the RCMP replaced the Snider-Enfield “musketoon” in 0.577″ with the Winchester M1876 Centennial carbine in .45-75, with the distinctive full-length forearm covering the entire magazine tube.

          If you’ve ever seen the TNT Original TV movie Louis L’Amour’s Crossfire Trail, with Tom Selleck, the Winchester Selleck uses is apparently one of these RCMP .45-75s.

          Great movie, BTW. Especially look for Wilford Brimley with the (no kidding) Evans repeating carbine and Brad Johnson with the (equally no kidding) scoped Winchester-Hotchkiss bolt action.




  2. Completely unrelated to the video but can anyone identify the wooden stocked gun in the Rock Island Auction Co. banner add?

  3. I rather like this little piece. I imagine the problem people had with cleaning it stemmed from the fact that at the time people were used to being able to take a revolver apart and cleaning the barrel and cylinder in boiling water. Obviously, you can’t do this with a Reid, and the idea of unscrewing the barrel avery time you want to clean it doesn’t work for me. However, if Reid had sold it with a bore brush and some sort of cleaning solution there would have been no need to go to such extremes. A failure of the imagination perhaps?

    • No JohnK, the problem is the sticky black powder fouling that accumulates inside the cylinder or in this case between the cylinder and the frame. The stuff gets everywhere and often has to be scrubbed off or at least dissolved in hot water. That might have been my solution : boil the empty revolver in a stockpot or kettle sans grips. Fish it out with tongs. The still hot gun metal would dry thoroughly and quickly. Oil or grease well ( tallow or lard might be a good idea. So it would boil off well next cleaning) re assemble grips, carry on.

  4. Since you state that Reid had a proprietary cartridge it may be that he had a lube wafer under the bullet. If so he conceivably had a system that would shoot 100 rds without excessive fouling. Some 44 Colt’s cartridges were loaded this way and I have replicated this system in a Navy Colt cartridge conversion with great success. I would recommend researching the Reid cartridge and determine how it was made.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.