Union Auto-Revolver Addition

I forgot to post this with the video last week on the Union automatic revolver – it’s a scan of a vintage catalog page from the Union Firearms Company, listing both their automatic revolver and a more conventional semiauto pistol (which I don’t have any information on at this time). I don’t know the date of the catalog, but the auto-revolver is listed at $10.

If we assume this was from about 1913 (given that the gun was patented in 1909 and 1913 is as far back as the BLS’ inflation calculator goes) and trust the government inflation numbers, this would be the equivalent of $235.96 today. Not too bad, really – about the same price as a Keltec pocket auto today, which is the market point they were going for. I expect the production costs were very close to, or possibly greater than, that price and that’s why so few were made. It’s a nasty problem when your widget costs more to make than the market is willing to pay for it…

Union Firearms Company catalog
Union Firearms Company catalog (click to enlarge)


  1. Nice. I like vintage gun advertisements, and it could be a nice idea if we have a “vintage ad day” like our beloved “vintage saturday”. What do you think, Ian? Are out there more old-ad-lovers?

  2. Their automatic pistol used .32 S&W (unknown if short or long) cartridge and there was also version in .38 S&W. Those were apparently gas operated making them one of first such handguns. Less then 100 were made.

  3. Interesting that the pistol portion of the ad seems to make reference to the Luger. They state no moving parts on top to obscure the sights. I will take one of each, please.

  4. Don’t look for another gun, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to find a better one!

    I also am amused by the 32 auto going from a super penetrating round of awesomeness and even military service in 1913 to a mouse gun 100 years later… Reminds of a coworker, who not knowing my history with firearms, told me that the 300 Win Mag was the MINIMUM needed… To hunt deer…

    Anyway, I love these old ads. Its nice to see the art of applied hyperbole is nothing new.

    • Observant and telling comments, Cyrus. I often hear the same thing about deer hunting, or the hunting of any other game animal for that matter. The trend seems to be toward more and more powerful cartridges, usually far in excess of what is actually needed. Perhaps this is part and parcel of the marketing strategy to boost sales and profit margins, and also due to “feature creep”, whereby one party gets the ball rolling by erring on the side of recommending a slightly more powerful round than necessary for a given scenario, to be followed by others who do the same. Combine this with the firearms media hype and word-of-mouth advice from supposedly knowledgeable sources, and it is not too difficult to see how the whole situation can snowball into its present form.

    • Back in the Victorian era, and the early years of the twentieth century, laudanum, heroin and cocaine could be bought over the counter in many parts of the world, and chloroform provided a cheap route to inebriation for those who wanted it but couldn’t afford cheap gin…

      For little rounds like .32 S&W and .25 ACP to be popular defensive rounds, suggests that no one – not even a drug fueled sailor on shore leave, wanted to be shot.

      Perhaps even more so in the days before antibiotics and cheap vaccines, when any wound could potentially mean death from septicemia or tetanus.

  5. Pistols for rimmed (revolver) cartridge are rare, but I know another gas-operated pistol for rimmed revolver. – “пистолет системы Ознобищева образца 1925–1926 гг.” – “pistol Oznobishchev-system pattern 1925-1926”:
    It was made for 7,62x38R Nagant cartridge. Additionally this pistol has swinging slide (it moves like revolver hammer)

  6. Note also that pistol is described as “REIFGRABER PATENT”. Here: http://www.google.com/patents/US1418021 is Reifgraber’s patent titled “Automatic Firearm” from 1922, but it’s as improvement of patent No.929,491 (1909) and patent No.729,413 (1903) and patent No. 834753 (1906). The shape of pistol on attached drawing is different from pistol from advert, but they may be inside similar.

    • Thanks Daweo, you should be a hidden tressure.
      Please continue your valuable sharing.

      Joseph Joachim Reifgraber’s pistol, as seen in
      related patents, is an interesting combination
      of “Short Recoil” and “Gas Operation” systems in
      which the former used for locking engagements, and
      latter for the action cycling which prooved as
      unnecessary by further developments using gained
      momentum and residual gas pressure for this purpose.

  7. Reifgraber patent from 1906 is here: https://www.google.com/patents/US834753?dq=ininventor:%22Reifgraber+Joseph+Joachim%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-5AtUve4G8nR7Ab2uID4CA&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAQ
    Pistol from attached drawing to this patent is more similar to pistol from advert. Note that cartridges in pistol are rimmed & bottlenecked, so they are not .32 S&W or .32 S&W Long.
    IMHO The lack of moving parts interfering with sights isn’t Luger-inspired, because Luger in 1900’s in USA was a exotic. This is revolver-inspired; we must remember 1900’s were revolvers heydays.

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