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Old March 29, 2011, 01:20 PM   #1
Rachen
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It is 1865 and the Civil War has just ended...

Western expansion has began again and even though the smoke has not faded from the eastern battlefields yet, enterprising men are hitching up their horses and heading to the highlands.

Now, we all know that Smith and Wesson held the rights to the Rollin White Patent until 1869, so while cartridge longarms developed at an astonishing rate, the percussion revolver remained state of the art.

Now, imagine that the Rollin White Patent expired in February of 1865. Arms makers like Colt and Remington/Beals have been watching the patent for years and are just waiting for that exact moment. So now, metallic cartridge development has 4 extra years to work with.

Would this have any noticeable/tangible impact on the development of firearms technology? Assuming that the year for the invention of smokeless powder remains 1886. Remember, FOUR years is an EXTREMELY LONG amount of time.
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Old March 29, 2011, 01:40 PM   #2
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Ultimately?

No. It just ratchets up the introduction of cartridge handguns by several years and kills of some of the odder patent ignition systems somewhat earlier.

Remember, the White Patent didn't apply to shotguns or rifles, so that was a driving force in cartridge development right there.

Consider this...

Metallic cartridge development was evolving EXCEPTIONALLY rapidly at this time on multiple fronts.

Rimfire ammunition was already flourishing in calibers from .22 Short to .58 Gardiner.

Advances in metal working technology during the war was driving adoption of deep draw forming techniques that were necessary for forming longer rifle cases like the .45-70 out of the stronger brass, not just the more malleable, but much weaker, copper. This factor alone was absolutely crucial with the advent of the far more powerful smokeless powders.

Adoption of brass cartridge cases made both the Boxer and Berdan centerfire priming systems viable, and within in a short period of time, dominant over the internal primed centerfire systems by Benet, Martin, and others.

Specifically to handguns, the second the White patent expired, manufacturers rolled out designs (such as the Model of 1872 Colt Open Top) for cartridge revolvers that they had been preparing for several years in anticipation of the White patent expiration.

Ultimately, I don't think 4 years made a bit of difference in the development of cartridge firearms.


I think, though, a far more interesting avenue of speculation would be...

What would have happened had Smith & Wesson been granted the 25-year patent extension that they requested?

That's where things get really interesting.
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Old March 29, 2011, 02:47 PM   #3
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And the White patent was never valid in Europe so it wasn't holding them back there. The European makers might have come on a little quicker with the prospect of US sales, but not much.
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Old March 29, 2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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Don't forget that Remington was paying S&W something $1.25 each, for every big bore (.46 rimfire) cartridge conversion handgun they made starting in 1868.
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Old March 29, 2011, 03:09 PM   #5
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Good point, Bishop Creek. I wonder why other manufacturers didn't jump on that opportunity earlier. Well...I guess I know why Colt didn't, but they weren't the only game in town. Was the deal with Smith and Wesson exclusive?
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Old March 29, 2011, 03:16 PM   #6
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Colt probably didn't want to pay Smith & Wesson a penny over the patent issue because Rollin White was originally a Colt employee when he came up with the concept of the bored through cylinder.

He offered it to Colt, and they rejected it out of hand, so he took it to Smith & Wesson.

Colt later sued Smith & Wesson and White over patent ownership, but the courts ruled against the company.

Rollin White also never made out from his patent because in the contract he signed with Smith & Wesson, they made him responsible for the full cost of suing patent infringers, and there were a LOT of patent infringers. So many, in fact, that I think White was pretty much bankrupt by the time the patent ran out.
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Old March 29, 2011, 03:22 PM   #7
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Here is a very interesting Civil War Rollin White patent infringer, and he got away with it.

http://antiquearmsinc.com/james-reid...ith-wesson.htm
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Old March 29, 2011, 05:02 PM   #8
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Quote:
I think, though, a far more interesting avenue of speculation would be...

What would have happened had Smith & Wesson been granted the 25-year patent extension that they requested?

That's where things get really interesting.
In that case, Smith and Wesson would still be turning out their regular break-top cartridge revolvers, but new, 1880-edition percussion revolvers from Colt and Remington might feature electrical ignition instead of a percussion cap.

With the advances in battery and capacitor technology in the 1880s, it is perfectly reasonable that someone will replace a percussion nipple with a single metal pin, and using the hammer as the actual electrode. Pulling the trigger drops the hammer, and at the same time discharges a capacitor. Voltage flows through hammer into nipple pin, and sets off the round.

In this case, development of the current electrically-operated Gatling gun might have been boosted by a good half-century.
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Old March 29, 2011, 05:20 PM   #9
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That's an interesting proposition, but the first successful dry cell batters of any capability weren't developed until 1888, in Germany, and a feasible dry cell battery of any real capacity wasn't available in the United States until 1896, and they were quite large.

The D cell wasn't introduced until 1898, and those were only 1.5 volts.

The 9 volt battery wasn't available until the late 1950s. That would have made something like what you're talking about feasible.
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Old March 29, 2011, 05:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
The 9 volt battery wasn't available until the late 1950s. That would have made something like what you're talking about feasible.
Can you say CVA Electra?

When I first saw that in the Cabelas catalog I was like
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Old March 29, 2011, 05:49 PM   #11
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Great question.
I recently had the question of how the Civil War weapons would have developed differently if the Rollin White patent wouldn't have existed.

The South could NOT have competed with an all Union Army armed with cartidge rifles and revolvers. That terrible wasteful war might have come to a quicker end, if it happened at all. Both armies went into the conflict with essentially the same weapons. Perhaps the South would have realized they would be too far outgunned, but probably not. It certainly wasn't logic that started that mess.

We also don't know how fast cartridge development would have happened if there wasn't a Rollin White patent, but we certainly know it couldn't have been any slower.

I saw we blame the Civil War on them.
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Old March 29, 2011, 06:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Both armies went into the conflict with essentially the same weapons.
A lot of Southern soldiers went into battle with shotguns and flintlocks because thats all they had. They got better guns from Union dead.
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Old March 29, 2011, 08:51 PM   #13
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Hello, Remember Colt wasn't completly out of the metalic cartridge picture just because of the Rollin White patent...They were manufacturing the Thuer conversions, with the added benifit of being able to fall back on the tried and true percussion system if cartridges were unavailable, with no major changes to the basic revolver.
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Old March 29, 2011, 09:07 PM   #14
Mike Irwin
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No, Colt wasn't out of the picture.

Belatedly they realized that the metallic cartridge was very likely the wave of the future. That's when they tried to sue S&W over the patent rights, and lost.

That resulted in a LOT of very inventive, but ultimately unworkable, attempts to circumvent the White patent... Crispin, Moore, Plante, and others developed interesting cartridges that ultimately flopped because they were either inconvenient as hell, or they were quickly ignored once the White patent expired, or both.
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Old April 3, 2011, 09:24 PM   #15
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nothing would have changed. really NOTHING would have changed. the main buyer was the military. when the war ended they stopped buying new guns because they had good usable guns that were now out of date.
the most technological handguns we had were teh starr revolvers, and only a few were made and few were ever used in war time.

as far as cartridge ammo goes, rimfire was found to SUCK. its why even the henry rimfire was converterted to centerfire just to get the chamber pressure up a bit. and then lengthened out and increased againto create 44 colt.

the thuer is good and cool. however the ammuntion is a pain to make. the cartridge is two or 3 pieces depending on what company actually made it. that increased cost and production time, resultint in less cartridges made. reloading the cartridge was still going to put the same stress and wear and tear in the users gun, increase the cost considerably because the seperate cylinder, loading sytem, etc was EXPENSIVE to machine. then the emptying of the fired cases and inserting of new ones, which still mandates the loading lever makes reloading the peacemaker seem like swapping magazines on your 1911.

the high volume of the breach loading revolver delayed mass introduction in america. it even delayed the henry rifle until lincoln himself said "i want it in the military this week".
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