The Volcanic was not the first repeating pistol, but it was an early one of the first in a line of firearms that would develop into the iconic lever action rifles of the American West. Patented in 1854, the Volcanic used a toggle-action lock operated by a finger lever – simply a smaller version of the hand lever used in the later rifles. The Volcanic had a tube magazine beneath its barrel to hold 7 rounds, and fired a conical bullet in which the powder and primer were both contained within the hollow base of the bullet.
The Volcanic never really caught on very well primarily because of its ammunition. The limited powder capacity of the design meant that the cartridge was fairly weak (in the .41 caliber, it pushed a 106gr bullet at about 500-600 fps), and it was not particularly reliable either. The Volcanic Arms Company went bankrupt in 1857, and was bought up by Winchester. Winchester would continue to produce Volcanic pistols for several more years, and in 1860 put into the market the Henry rifle, which used the basic Volcanic mechanism but with the much more potent (although still relatively weak) .44 rimfire cartridge.
For everything you could want to know about the Volcanic rifles and pistols, check out Lewis & Rutter’s Volcanic Firearms!