The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: The Revolver Forum

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old June 17, 2017, 05:37 PM   #1
Driftwood Johnson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 3, 2014
Location: Land of the Pilgrims
Posts: 1,413
Something You Don't See Very Often

Howdy

In 1857, when Smith and Wesson first started making revolvers, the guns they made at that time were known as Tip Ups. At least that's the name we know them by today. Unlike the Top Breaks, which came later, and opened by rotating the barrel down, a Tip Up was loaded by releasing a catch at the bottom of the barrel, and then rotating the barrel up. Then the cylinder was pulled forward out of the frame. The cylinder was loaded and it was reinstalled on the frame, then the barrel was rotated down to close the latch and the gun was ready to fire.

This is a Number 2, Old Army. This model was produced from 1861 until 1874. This particular one left the factory in 1870. It is chambered for the 32 Rimfire Long cartridge and the cylinder held six shots.






Here is a photo of the gun broken open for loading. The rod under the barrel was used to poke the spent cartridges out of the cylinder for reloading.






A few weeks ago I came across another one. It was in very nice shape, although it has clearly been refinished. But something about it was a little bit unusual. The 'ejector rod' under the barrel had been partially turned down to a smaller diameter.






When I opened it up I saw that it had been modified to shoot 22 Rimfire ammunition. The chambers and the barrel had been sleeved. A little bit of steel had been welded onto the face of the hammer and shaped so it would fire the smaller 22 RF cartridges. The rifled bore was bright and shiny, like new, as were the sleeved chambers.






I have never wanted to shoot any of my other Tip Ups, even though I have a couple of boxes of the correct ammunition. The guns are too old and I did not want to chance it. But clearly this gun, with it's modern steel sleeves and chambers would be a different story, so it went home with me. The gun functions perfectly, and it locks up almost as tight as when it left the factory. No, I don't know yet exactly when it left the factory, but I suspect from the Serial Number it is a very early one. At some point in time, probably fairly recently, an unknown gunsmith did the conversion.

I did not want to shoot modern 22 Long Rifle ammo out of it, even though the barrel and chambers could probably take it, I did not want to subject the latch and hinge to the force of modern Long Rifle ammo. But then I lucked into a few boxes of CCI 22 CB Longs. Kind of like the old CB Caps, loaded very, very mild.

So I took it to the range and fired a few cylinders full out of it. What fun. The CB Longs recoil about like a BB gun. With its bright shiny new barrel sleeve the gun is very accurate. I didn't want to overdo it so I only fired a few cylinders full.






Here is a photo of the three different sizes of Tip Ups that S&W made, compared to a modern K frame 38. Top to bottom in the photo are a Model 14, No. 2 Old Army, No. 1 1/2 New Model, and a No. 1 Second Issue. The upper two are both 32 RF, the bottom one is chambered for what we eventually came to call the 22 Short.






S&W controlled the Rollin White patent when they were making the Tip Ups, which prevented any other American manufacturer from making cartridge revolvers. When the patent expired in 1869, other manufactures could start making cartridge revolvers too. The No. 2 was popular with Union officers during the Civil War. Not as powerful as the Cap & Ball revolvers built by Colt and Remington, but it could be reloaded much quicker.

S&W never made a Tip Up larger than 32 caliber, although they experimented with a 44 caliber prototype. They concluded the action and lock up of the Tip Ups was not strong enough for anything larger than 32 Rimfire. In 1869, when the White patent expired, S&W introduced their first Top Break, a much stronger design. The first Top Break they built was the 44 caliber American Model.
Driftwood Johnson is offline  
Old June 17, 2017, 05:50 PM   #2
mukwah
Member
 
Join Date: August 30, 2012
Posts: 90
Very interesting, thanks for posting. Enjoyed the read.

Sent from my XT1650 using Tapatalk
mukwah is offline  
Old June 17, 2017, 06:08 PM   #3
B-Shot
Member
 
Join Date: October 25, 2016
Posts: 59
Thank you for sharing the pictures and some history!
B-Shot is offline  
Old June 17, 2017, 08:37 PM   #4
Kreyzhorse
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 12, 2006
Location: NKY
Posts: 11,918
Thank you. Very informative.
__________________
"He who laughs last, laughs dead." Homer Simpson
Kreyzhorse is offline  
Old June 18, 2017, 01:25 AM   #5
PzGren
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 14, 2001
Posts: 1,079
Thanks for sharing!

I want to congratulate you to what I consider a nice "themed collection".
PzGren is offline  
Old June 18, 2017, 05:02 PM   #6
DaleA
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 12, 2002
Location: Twin Cities, MN
Posts: 3,464
Remarkable. Thank you for posting.
DaleA is offline  
Old June 18, 2017, 05:33 PM   #7
Soclosenotnear
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 8, 2016
Location: Summerville, sc
Posts: 144
As always, a great read and a history lesson. Thanks for contributing.
Soclosenotnear is offline  
Old June 18, 2017, 05:41 PM   #8
bedbugbilly
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 19, 2009
Posts: 2,981
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing - great photos and they sure are beautiful!
__________________
If a pair of '51 Navies were good enough for Billy Hickok, then a single Navy on my right hip is good enough for me . . . besides . . . I'm probably only half as good as he was anyways. Hiram's Rangers Badge #63
bedbugbilly is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 07:53 AM   #9
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 38,930
That is a pretty darned neat modification.

Any indication as to when it might have been done?




"S&W controlled the Rollin White patent when they were making the Tip Ups, which prevented any other American manufacturer from making cartridge revolvers."

OK, to be a bit pedantic...

No, the White patent didn't prevent other manufacturers from making cartridge revolvers. It prevented them from making bored through cylinders that loaded from the rear.

There were dozens of attempts to get around the White patent (not to mention TONS of patent infringers), the best know of which is perhaps the Moore Teat Fire cartridge.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 08:07 AM   #10
g.willikers
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 28, 2008
Posts: 10,260
The history of firearms is just fascinating.
Thanks for the story and pictures.
__________________
Walt Kelly, alias Pogo, sez:
“Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.”
g.willikers is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 08:17 AM   #11
Deaf Smith
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 31, 2000
Location: Texican!
Posts: 4,191
Dang good story and photos Driftwood!

Defa
__________________
“To you who call yourselves ‘men of peace,’ I say, you are not safe without men of action by your side” Thucydides
Deaf Smith is online now  
Old June 19, 2017, 09:20 AM   #12
Driftwood Johnson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 3, 2014
Location: Land of the Pilgrims
Posts: 1,413
Quote:
Any indication as to when it might have been done?




"S&W controlled the Rollin White patent when they were making the Tip Ups, which prevented any other American manufacturer from making cartridge revolvers."

OK, to be a bit pedantic...

No, the White patent didn't prevent other manufacturers from making cartridge revolvers. It prevented them from making bored through cylinders that loaded from the rear.
Yeah, I knew all that, but it was simpler to say what I said, even if it was not technically correct. Probably should just have said Bored Through.

Have you ever seen White's original patent drawings? They were bizarre, as was the prototype he showed to Sam Colt while White was working of him. The bored through chambers was almost an afterthought in White's patent. He had come up with an unwieldy kluge that could load it self from a magazine. I'll bet Sam Colt went to his grave kicking himself that he did not pick up on White's idea.

Colt died in 1862, but his company came up with the Thuer Conversion in 1869 to get around White's patent. As I'm sure you know, the Thuer cartridge had a reverse taper to it, inserted from the front of the cylinder. The legal beagles had decided that 'bored through' meant bored through a cylindrical bore of one diameter. The reverse taper of the Thuer conversions was an attempt to get around that. Never sold well.

The most bizarre attempt to get around the White Patent that I have seen was the Cup Fire cartridges. Do to a technicality of loading from the front and the chambers having a step near the rear, they were not 'bored through".

http://freemycollection.com/?page=articles/cupfire




No, no idea when the conversion was done.
Driftwood Johnson is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 10:12 AM   #13
Mike Irwin
Staff
 
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 38,930
"Have you ever seen White's original patent drawings?"

Yep. But, in his patent application in which he describes the workings of his new repeating system, the bored through cylinder was mentioned first in the device description and he also mentioned the bored through cylinder first in the patentability claim section.

https://www.google.com/patents/US12648

The optical character recognition used at the Google site was pretty... poor. But you can get the jist of it.

White originally offered his patent to Colt, and he was turned down. I believe he was working for Colt at the time.

He then left Colt and offered it to Smith & Wesson, who snapped it up.

I believe that Colt later tried to sue White and S&W over the patent, claiming that since he was an employee it was owned by Colt, but the courts found that Colt formally refused ownership, essentially relinquishing control to White to do with it as he pleased.
__________________
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 12:37 PM   #14
Driftwood Johnson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 3, 2014
Location: Land of the Pilgrims
Posts: 1,413
White did offer the idea to Colt. White was contract labor at the time. Colt blew it when he passed on the idea. So White patented the idea himself.

When Smith and Wesson started their new partnership in 1857 Wesson had already dreamed up the idea of boring the chambers completely through the cylinder. Flobert had just perfected a 22 Rimfire cartridge in France, and Wesson designed his revolver around it. When they did a patent search, they found that White had already patented the idea. They met with White, intending to buy the patent outright from him, but he would not sell it. S&W never owned the patent. Instead they worked out an agreement where White licensed S&W to be exclusive manufacturers using his patented idea. S&W paid White a royalty of 25 cents on every revolver they made. But crafty old Daniel Wesson inserted a clause in the contract saying it would be White's responsibility to police the patent against patent infringers. White spent most of his money on lawyers chasing down patent infringements.
Driftwood Johnson is offline  
Old June 19, 2017, 08:53 PM   #15
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 23,924
The "cup fire" cartridge is interesting, but for getting attention there is nothing like a mention of the Moore "teat fire", in which the fulminate is in a small projection at the end of the cartridge. That projection (the "teat") sticks through a small hole in the back of the cylinder and is struck from the top by the falling hammer. Oddly, the guns were fairly successful. There were two versions, the flat teat and the newer round teat. The flat teat held more fulminate but had to be properly oriented in loading.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is online now  
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:18 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2016 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.07664 seconds with 9 queries