RIA: Merwin & Hulbert Revolvers

The Merwin & Hulbert company was a short-lived firearms manufacturing partnership between designer Joseph Merwin and the Hulbert brothers as financiers. Merwin wanted to design a particularly strong and high-quality revolver, and he succeeded – his guns are arguably some of the best revolvers of the frontier era. The company made a wide variety of designs, but in this video I will be sticking to just the Frontier and Pocket Army models. Of particular note is the very clever unloading mechanism!

Featured here:
1st Model Frontier
2nd Model Pocket Army
3rd Model DA Frontier
3rd Model Pocket Army

19 Comments

  1. Often, just for fun I work on mentally designing my ‘ideal revolver’, which has proved harder than I thought because every time I think I’ve got it another mechanism comes along, but I reckon this comes pretty close.
    Only changes I’d make are to copy the Mateba and fire from the ‘6 o clock’ cylinder and add the gas seal mechanism from the Nagant (or Savage Navy to preserve single action trigger pull) but that second requirement is just because I can’t get over the idea of a silenced revolver.
    But then the whole exercise is kinda dominated by rule of cool.

  2. Interesting to see how revolvers can be a ‘living field’ even now. It is apparently for the variety of detail solutions in them. This around the spindle opening reminds me of Devisme. Again, an excellent presentation!

  3. Wow! Ian, you continue to amaze me and tap into my inner love for firearms, especially those of the Old West.
    A fantastic presentation and so clear, detailed, but concise. Thank you.
    Just a couple of ancillary comments now–
    I have wanted one of these guns for about a decade however they are extremely scarce, as you know.
    I’d love to show up at Winter Range (SASS shooting) with a Merwin & Hulbert in my holster (it would be too much to ask for a match brace of nickles).
    About a couple (maybe longer) there was a rather secretive company that claimed to be manufacturing the M&H pistols but they didn’t respond to my emails nor to a letter from me. They have since disappeared.
    So….now is the time, and opportunity, for someone to start duplicating those pistols. There is a demand. I can see the Italians doing so– such as Pedersoli. What say you out there–I believe there is a demand for a .45LC as the smaller ones would be excellent for concealed carry.
    A long barreled M&H was feature in the stage coach robbery in the movie by Ted Turner– The Rough Riders (lots of firearms in that excellent film!!!
    Regards
    Pat

  4. Pat,

    Definitely keep an eye out on Rock Island Auction Company’s auctions. I have seen a number of high condition Pocket Army revolvers go through there over the year including some in near new condition that sold for modest prices considering the relative rarity. I seem to remember a double action in .44-40 (I think) going for something like $1,500 which is pretty cheap considering how high other revolvers from the era often sell in high condition.

    Best,
    J.S.

  5. From an engineering standpoint, why would one NOT want the shaft of a revolver not be securely mounted to the frame, instead of those odd-ball carriages that will get bent by use?
    Le Mat had the right idea, although we may not want a shotgun through the cylinder pin.

    • Good point, but some dimwit will say that having the cylinder pin permanently fixed in that manner will make disassembly a pain in the rear end. And if that shaft breaks, you are doomed. I’m not embracing either argument, but a strong cylinder pin fixed to the frame of a revolver would necessitate a loading gate or a swing-out portion to allow half-moon clips for a rapid reload…

      Am I wrong in any of this content? If so, please address it.

  6. A friend has one, 3rd model DA pocket army with 7″ barrel. It is in .44 Russian (and marked so – “Russian model”), and most strangely has Russian commercial import marking and Montenegro official marking “NI” under the crown.Probably someone got it/purchased it in Russia, then brought it to Montenegro.

    It’s finish is almost all gone, grips are replacement rosewood (but now very dark), grip screws were crude replacement, some of markings and serials were filed off, but it was in excellent shape internally, only broken thing was hammer rebound spring.
    It also had warnant/galand type action (feature of late production Merwins) with single V-shaped spring acting as both main and trigger return spring and featuring rebounding hammer.

    One thing Ian did not note is how crisp trigger pull is on those – way better than most period revolvers. Even DA is decent, not on level of Colt Python or MR-73, but better than most modern revolvers, even if it is a bit long.
    It is also a good shooter, and boresighted to about 25m/yards – it is capable of better groups than I am able to pull.

  7. Awesome guns! Thank you Ian very much for this video!

    Hopefully there is another video planned about the not now featured M&H revolvers..? Because now, I am really curious about them. 🙂

  8. I knew about the Merwin-Hulbert revolvers because my dad had one in caliber 44-40. It was nickel plated and he had two barrels for it of different lengths. It was a very remarkable gun for it’s time period!

  9. Loads one by one and ejects all at once. May be first revolver having primary extraction feature. Revolvers still survive because no other system even catch their simplicity and safeness. Load the rotating magazine and close. Gun is ready. Most succesfull pistols are the ones nearing closest in their concept.

  10. One of the really neat features of the later “solid frame” Merwin&Hulbert revolvers was some came with two barrels that were interchangeable. If memory serves you could install the 7″ barrel for belt holster carry or the 3″ barrel for “pocket” carry.
    My understanding is that the extremely well machined, tight fight of these revolvers could actually be a bit of a problem. Black powder fouling was said to sometimes cause problems. I don’t know if this was true, but I do know that some lever action rifles tend to get “sticky” actions due to black powder residue.

  11. Privately purchased by Spanish officers, albeit smaller numbers by far than Smith and Wessons, and Basque/Eibar copies.

    Basque copies of Merwin & Hulbert too?

  12. Have seen several of the double actions for sale at Maine Gun shows over the past few years.Sadly all the examples in 44-40 were in poor pitted condition. I have seen many of the 38 sw smaller varietyin the $175-$300 range. I collect Hopkin & Allen and Otis Smith,both of which had high nickel content in their finish and many survived without pitting in the bp ammo era. Did MH have a high nickel content in their finish. Thanks

    • Wasn’t Hopkins & Allen a subsidiary of M&H at some point or another? I was always under the impression that H&A was the budget line of the more expensive M&H. Incidentally I was homeported out of New London CT in the late 70s and had several off-base house-full-of-sailors residences about a dozen miles up river in Norwich, which was home to H&A but I never bothered to find out which of the many abandoned factories along the river had been their plant.

  13. Compare the M-H to the Enfield .476 of the 1880s. It’s loading and extraction works the same way, although it’s a sort of top-break. And it’s a forgotten weapon!
    There’s a nice story here as well: the Brits uprated from the .450 boxer to this .476 as the former would not stop a charging Zulu. Very similar reasoning propelled the development of the .45ACP, after American forces found they couldn’t stop Mori tribesmen with the .38 long colt. You could even link these with the process that resulted in the .40 S&W, after FBI agents in Florida found they couldn’t stop one highly motivated bank robber with their current sidearms. It’s interesting that when the handgun’s limitations are encountered, the bureaucratic response is always to justify a switch to larger guns. One could reflect on the persistent myth of the “one shot stop”, and the belief that the handgun should be capable of it.

    • It’s interesting that when the handgun’s limitations are encountered, the bureaucratic response is always to justify a switch to larger guns.

      I HAVE CONTEMPLATED THAT THE SWITCH FROM THE WONDERFUL 1911s .45ACPs TO THE BERETTA M9 9mm WAS A POLITICALLY CORRECT MOVE FOR FEMALE SERVICE USE OF PISTOLS. HOWEVER, NOW WE ARE SEEING, IN THE MIDDLE EAST, OUR ELITE FORCES RETURNING TO THE KNOCK THE SHIT OUT OF THEM AGAIN .45 MODEL 1911 CONFIGURATIONS.

      SOLO MIS DOS PESOS.

      PAT

  14. I realize it’s been some time since this review/video was posted. I was curious, however, if the demand for the Merwin-Hulberts was still strong. I only recently found this video, and have looked at other sources, print and electronic, discussing the extremely fine tolerances and machinations of the revolvers.

    I am aware that one company, somewhat or possibly directly affiliated with the Sharps Rifle Company (http://srcarms.com/) were in some stages of production around 2011 to 2012. However, due to circumstances that are still unclear, the company folded and little more than images of a frame and grip with some of the mechanism was available. *My apologies, but I cannot currently find the image*

    I’m an individual that would enjoy seeing these return to offer another option of revolver collection and target shooting, even if they are reproductions. Is there any information out there concerning further attempts to produce reproductions of the Merwin-Hulbert models?

    Thank you.

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