Rupertus Pepperbox: A Sophisticated 8-Shot Rimfire Pocket Gun

The Rupertus Patent Pistol Manufacturing Company was founded in Philadelphia by Bavarian-born Jacob Rupertus. The company made a variety of derringers, pepperboxes, and revolvers and today we are looking at an 8-shot, .22 rimfire pepperbox patented by Rupertus in 1864. It’s a tiny civilian pocket gun, and one that seems to be well made and cleverly designed. The loading port is a rotary piece that prevents any accidental firing during the loading process and also ensures that the loading port cannot come open and let a loose cartridge jam the action when in use. About 3,000 of these guns were made in the mid to late 1860s.


  1. “(…)Patent(…)”
    This weapon is covered by US43606A Improvement in revolving fire-arms
    granted and published in 1864. My cursory search unveiled that he also was able to secure non-fire-arms-related patents, namely Improvement in sewing-machines (US97233A, granted 1869) and Improvement in gas-burning furnaces (US115193A, granted 1871)

  2. Might be, ok with a silencer; sheath like, over the rotating barrels. One barrel hole at the top; if that is sub-optimal; baffle wise, could make it a rectangle, with the cylinder inside 8 shot not very big.

    • Are you proposing to use suppressor with black-powder fire-arm? Would not cause problems with clogging of said device?

  3. As far as I know, his name was pronounced roo-PURT-us; accent on the second syllable.

    He also designed an automatic priming mechanism not unlike the Lawrence pellet primer system used on Sharps rifles;

    This pepperbox is best defined as yet another “Smith & Wesson evasion”. The idea being to be able to use the self-contained rimfire metallic cartridge, without running afoul of Rollin White’s patent and Smith & Wesson’s legal department.

    Like James Reid’s “My Friend” pocket pistol, this one does not have a “bored through cylinder”, but rather a set of full-length barrels that “just happen” to be breechloaded.

    Another example is the “Ladies Companion” made by the Continental Arms Company of Norwich, CT in 1867.

    Note that other than having a five-shot pepperbox barrel cluster, it is almost an exact duplicate of the S&W No. 1 .22 single-action cartridge revolver.

    (Also note the Rupertus pistol above it in the lineup.)

    Note the gouge mark on the pistol’s “breech ring” at 8 o’clock from the firing-pin notch. This probably shows how the original owner carried the pistol fully loaded, with the hammer down on the ring, counting on the knurling to keep the firing pin away from the notch. It would of course have to be rotated into the correct position by hand, so I guess you could say it counts as a (primitive) “manual safety”.

    clear ether


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.