View Full Version : Question about Hopkins & Allen revolver

December 2, 2012, 10:17 AM
A friend showed me a gun that was passed down through the family. It is a Hopkins & Allen XL-3 .32 cal revolver that showed no serial number, but I did not take the grips off. My question is: On the right side of the frame, at the loading port, there is nothing to cover the rear of the cylinder- my old Ruger Single Six has a similar loading gate, but it is covered by a swing-out cover. The pix I've seen of the H&R appear to be the same, sans door. Also, the cylinder spins freely, and does not engage with the hammer movement. Any guess as to how much work might be required to make the gun functional? Thanks for any info.

James K
December 2, 2012, 01:29 PM
That gun is in the category often called "suicide specials", though the H&A guns were of better quality than most of that type. The loading port has no gate. They were made so that when the cylinder was positioned with a round under the hammer, a cartridge could not fall out. They were normally carried on half-cock; have no hammer block safety or transfer bar.

The failure of the cylinder stop indicates a broken part in the gun.

Those were inexpensive guns, selling new for $2-3. No parts are available and I doubt you could find any gunsmith to work on that gun since the cost of repairs would exceed the value of the gun. I'm afraid it is a wall hanger, but regardless, it is made for the .32 rimfire, which is very hard to get and expensive.


December 2, 2012, 02:34 PM
Thanks Jim- You're telling me what I expected to hear. I don't think anyone actually planned on shooting it, just thought I'd ask. Have a good day!

Mike Irwin
December 2, 2012, 04:36 PM
On a lot of the older, cheaper guns of this class the cylinder would free wheel, either intentionally through design or by quick wear of the parts.

The cylinder generally was only "locked" when the hammer was cocked.

December 2, 2012, 07:00 PM
On the Hopkins and Allen, the cylinder will only lock up when the hammer is in the full cock position in single action or at a certain point when the trigger is pulled in trigger/double action. Other wise as Mike Irwin posted, it is free wheeling. These were not Colts or S&W and only sold for about $1.78 through catalogs. To recap, if the hammer is cocked and the cylinder is free spining, yes it it is broken. if the hammer is down at rest and the cylinder is free spining, no it is not broken:)


James K
December 2, 2012, 09:23 PM
The gun in question, the H&A XL 3, is a spur trigger solid frame single action, not a DA break top, and IIRC the cylinder does not free wheel when the hammer is down (if the gun is working right). I will of course, stand corrected if anyone has one that works right and can check.


December 2, 2012, 09:49 PM
Thanks gentlemen!

December 2, 2012, 11:05 PM
Well, don't know Jim, Flayderman's shows something different in it's illustrations other than a spur trigger. They are labeled XL's, am I looking on the wrong page???

Mike Irwin
December 3, 2012, 09:20 AM
IIRC H&A used the "XL" model designation liberally on a wide variety of revolvers, sort of like S&W is now doing with the once-proud Chief's Special name. It used to be a revolver. Now it's also a series of semi-autos, a rifle, a toilet plunger, a bicycle, a mechanical adding machine, etc...
This is an XL3 single action spur trigger:


And here is an XL model double action:


XL was even used on a series of large frame revolvers chambered for cartridges like the .44-40.

So, don't get too hung up on the model designation.

Mike Irwin
December 3, 2012, 01:46 PM
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering why H&A used those letters?

My guess the answer can be found when you pronounce both of them quickly...

X.... L...



December 3, 2012, 04:37 PM

James K
December 3, 2012, 05:18 PM
The years c. 1875-1900 were the heyday of those "suicide special" spur trigger revolvers, and H&A and others made millions of them. The makers gave the guns interesting names, but often didn't have enough pride in the product to put their own names on them.

H&A used Blue Jacket, Ranger, Dictator, Smoker, Kitemaug (?), Defender, Pioneer, Capt. Jack, Tramps Terror, Bang-Up, Czar, and probably others. Other makers used other fancy names; typing a list would take all day.

The origin of the term "suicide special" is not clear. Most folks say it indicates a cheap revolver that probably would be good only for one shot; others say it indicates the result if someone armed with one of those revolvers challenged anyone with a better gun.


December 5, 2012, 08:34 PM
In view of the follow up posts in reference to the H&A, on the advise of my lawyer, disregard any thing I posted, if anyone asks, you don't know me. I don't own a computer, don't know how to use one, and I wasn't even in town that night , That's my story and I'm sticking to it. BTW, I read and was told that the term suicide special is from the 1930's and the Great Depression, hard times and the suicide rate was very high. a very inexpensive revolver that is able to fire one close shot was all that was needed, a " Suicide Special ".

James K
December 7, 2012, 10:59 PM
OK, as long as I can join the "you don't know me" club when I write something really dumb. (I used to own an XL 3, so I thought it was what I said.) Incidentally, the term "XL" is not in the past. It crops up from time to time, used by someone or some company that probably thinks "XL" is new and just clever as all getout.


Magnum Wheel Man
December 11, 2012, 08:55 AM
so many "gun things" are thought of as new, but were 1st thought of or invented in the late 1800's, or early 1900's... I have several old Iver Johnson revolvers with a trigger type safety, similar to what the Glocks have...

that era had a huge growth of inventions & creativity...

BTW... I have a spur trigger XL, like MIKE posted, that was in like unfired condition, probably because it was in 30 rim fire... I had my machinist buddy make me a set of rifled chamber inserts, from an old 22 barrel, so the gun can be fired with 22 Colibri's ( trying to carry on that creativity ;) )

Hopkins & Allen made some really nice guns, I hate to see them listed as "suicide specials", though as business people they also made some pretty crappy guns... however, they were one of the only "inexpensive gun producer" to regularly offer loading gates on their solid frames, folding hammer spurs, etc... & they built most all of the Merwin & Hubert guns, which were highly prizede because of their unique unloading mechanism

May 27, 2016, 10:51 PM
Magnum Wheel Man . I'm actually trying to do what your friend did for you. which is making some inserts out of a .22 barrel liner. How did yours work out?Can you elaborate more on your story? Thanks.

T. O'Heir
May 28, 2016, 02:08 PM
Rumblefrost, my son. The OP is 4 years old. Contact Magnum Wheel Man via PM.

June 26, 2016, 10:53 AM
I have an old H & A topbreak .32. It is actually a pretty good quality gun, although info about H & A models is almost impossible to find. The example I have has a rebounding hammer. It still shoots great, I load bp cartridges for it, and it's a fun little gun to plink with.