4th Model Tranter Pocket Revolver - Fully Cased
- Product Code: FHG-2025-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The revolvers produced by English gunmaker William Tranter were some of the most advanced and modern handgun designs to see use by the Confederacy during the course of the American Civil War. Tranter was born in 1816 and died in 1890, and during his working life he was one of the most prominent Gun, Rifle & Pistol Makers in the Birmingham (England) gun trade. He went into business for himself circa 1840, after completing his apprenticeship with Hollis Brothers & Co, which he had begun in 1830. Tranter continued in the trade until 1885, just five years before his death. In 1840, after spending a decade learning the gun trade at Hollis Bros & Co (later Hollis & Sheath), Tranter bought the established gun making business of Robert Dugard at 29 “ Whitehall Street. Over the next decade he worked for himself and was also involved in joint ventures with his old employers John & Isaac Hollis as well as with Isaac Sheath. By 1850 he had located his primary business at 50 Loveday Street, where he was listed in a period directory as having "shops, sheds, steam machinery, yard & premises". Tranter secured his first British patent related to firearms in October of 1849 when he registered a "pepperbox mechanism and lever catch for pistol locks". In January 1853 he registered British Patent Number 212 (1853) for a pair of "self-cocking" pistol mechanisms and a safety mechanism. In December of the same year he registered designs for a double-action revolver mechanism, lubricated bullets and wadding, and a breech loading mechanism, all of which were covered by Patent Number 2921 (1853). In August of 1856 he registered the designs for a "double trigger revolver mechanism", along with several other designs, all of which were covered by British Patent Number 1913 (1856). Tranter continued patenting firearm designs as late as 1887, even though he was no longer directly active in the gun trade.
Tranter's most successful series of arms were his "self-cocking" revolvers, which were initially introduced in 1853. The earliest revolvers utilized Robert Adams' patent for a solid, one-piece frame and barrel that were machined from a single forging. Tranter's initial production run of revolvers included both Adams 1851 Patent lock works, and Tranter's own patented lock works. The original "Tranter" type revolvers, known to collectors as 1st Model Tranter revolvers had no provision for a fixed loading lever. The lever swiveled on a stud that projected from the left side of the frame, which had no provision to retain the lever when it was mounted on the revolver. The lever was intended to be stored in a case or carried in the pocket; hardly a practical solution if the user actually had to reload the revolver in the field. Most of these guns were manufactured on Adams Patent frames and have Adams Patent serial numbers (really patent tracking numbers to pay royalties to Adams) and these numbers are followed by a Y suffix. The 2nd Model Tranter revolvers also had a pin on the frame that allowed the attachment of a removable loading lever, but the pin had a small projection that allowed the lever to remain attached to the gun unless a keyway notch in the lever was aligned with the stud projection to remove it. The later examples of these guns, manufactured after about 1856, have Tranter Patent serial numbers and end with a T suffix. These guns not only include Tranter Patent lock works, but also a newly improved version of the Adams solid frame, which was patented by Tranter in 1856. At this point Tranter revolvers rarely have Adams serial numbers. The 3rd Model Tranter revolvers had a more permanently attached loading lever, which was secured by a screw. The 3rd Models appear to have all been produced in the T suffix Tranter serial number range. All three of these models were based on his "double-trigger" system (initially referred to as his "hesitating mechanism" on the early production guns), which utilized a second "trigger" under the trigger guard to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer. The trigger inside the triggerguard was used to trip the sear and release the hammer to fire the revolver. A rarely encountered sub-variation of the 3rd Model Tranter was known as the Treble Action, and which many collectors refer to as his "Export Model", as many of the handful of known examples have American retailer marks on them. According to Tranter historian and collector Jim Hallam of the UK, less than fifty of these scarce "Treble Action" guns are known. These revolvers featured an altered lock work, added a hammer spur to the normally spurless hammer, and added a cocking notch on the bottom of the hammer body to engage the sear. This allowed the revolvers to be fired in the traditional 3rd Model fashions by pulling the lower trigger to cock the gun and then the upper one to fire, or by pulling both triggers simultaneously to fire it. However, it added a third firing method in that the hammer could now be cocked manually, and then fired with the upper trigger with a light, "single action" pull. It was this feature that was common on American revolvers that probably made the US the best market for this variant of the 3rd Model Tranter pistols. The 4th Model Tranter revolvers (which were introduced in 1856 and are all in the Tranter T-suffix serial number range) used a single trigger and utilized a lock work that would be referred to today as a conventional "double action" mechanism today. All of the Tranter revolver patterns were produced in a variety of calibers, with 54-Bore (.442) "Holster Size" and 120-Bore (.338) "Pocket Size" revolvers being the most commonly encountered calibers and frame sizes, and the mid-sized 80-Bore (.387) "Belt Size" being less often encountered. Some of the guns were also produced in the exceptionally large and powerful 36 and 38 bore sizes, which were larger versions of the holster size guns, and were about .50 caliber! Barrel lengths varied as well, with the larger caliber arms typically having longer barrels, and the smaller caliber guns having shorter barrel. All of the guns were 5-shot percussion revolvers, and typically featured checkered one-piece walnut grips, although smooth wooden grips and other grip materials are known to have been used on a special-order basis.
The Tranter patent revolver was the primary competitor with the Adams and Adams-Beaumont patent revolvers in England and was also exported widely. Pre-Civil War Tranter revolvers are known with US retailer marks, indicating that his designs were at least somewhat successful in the United States. The majority of the retailer marked guns are from the southern states, with the largest majority of them being marked by New Orleans retailers. Based upon extant examples, the firm of Hyde & Goodrich (later Thomas, Griswold & Co) appears to have been the primary importer of Tranter Patent revolvers into the southern United States. Most of these retailers marked guns were sold cased with accessories, although some guns were certainly sold without the expensive casings and accouterments. During the course of the American Civil War, it appears that the importation of Tranter revolvers was somewhat limited, at least in terms of Confederate central government purchases. However, period advertisements in the south and extant examples with southern provenance make it clear that the guns were imported by blockade-runners as speculative items for sale in the south. Such famous Confederates as General John Hunt Morgan (3rd Model #3758T), General J.E.B. Stuart (4th Model #8673T), General John Magruder and Colonel Dabney H. Maury (3rd Model #7993T), who served on the staff of General Earl Van Dorn, all owned documented 54-Bore Tranter revolvers. The famous "Pratt Roll", which lists the revolvers in the possession of Lt. Julian Pratt's squad of troopers in Company H of the 18th Virginia Cavalry in July of 1864, lists two Tranter revolvers, with the serial numbers 15,465 and 15,476. This indicates that Tranter revolvers in the mid 15,XXX serial number range were in use by southern forces, and in the field by that time. While models are not listed in the list, it is generally assumed that these guns were either 3rd of 4th model revolvers and were likely 54-Bore. Other Tranter revolvers with southern provenance include guns which are retailer marked by T.W. Radcliffe of Columbia, SC. Additionally, a March 10, 1863 advertisement in the Richmond Times Dispatch for H. E. Nichols of Columbia, SC read in part:"Fine English Revolvers. Just received from England, six Tranter's fine revolving pistols, 80 and 120 bore. Price $220 each". All of this evidence indicates that at least some of the Tranter revolvers produced during (as well as prior to) the Civil War, saw Confederate use. Dating Tranter revolvers based upon their serial numbers is somewhat problematic, as frames were sometime produced in advance and the guns completed at a later date. What we do know is that the "T" serial number suffix came into use around serial number 2200, sometime between 1854 and 1856. We also know that Tranter produced revolvers using Adams patent serial numbers and a "Y" suffix from about 1853 through about 1856. These guns appear in several serial number ranges, as assigned by Adams, including the 2X,XXX range. All "Y" suffix guns predate the Civil War by at least four or five years. From extant examples of Tranters with specific presentations, dated invoices and dates of usage associated with them, it appears that those Tranter revolvers with serial numbers through about the 20,XXX range (and possibly some of the early guns in the 21,XXX range) with T suffixes appear to have been produced prior to the end of 1865, making them "Civil War era". Post-Civil War southern retailer marks begin to appear in the 21,XXX range, suggesting that these guns are likely 1865 production, or possibly slightly later.
Offered here is a fully cased 4th Model Tranter Pocket Revolver in VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The revolver is 120-Bore, which is approximately .338 caliber. The pocket-sized revolver measures about 8 “" in overall length, making small enough for discreet, pocket carry. The pistol is serial numbered No 15659 T on the right sides of the frame. The left side of the frame of the gun is marked with the typical arched two-line cartouche that: W. TRANTER'S / PATENT. This mark is also present on the screw mounted loading lever. The revolver is not retailer marked on the top strap. In many cases these guns with blank top straps found their way to southern ports during the American Civil War. The lack of markings making them "sterile" similar to unmarked arms used in clandestine operations during later wars. Interestingly, this revolver's serial number is 194 and 180 numbers respectively from the two Tranter's on the Pratt Roll, suggesting that it was produced during the same general time frame and may have been a speculative import to southern shores during the war.
As noted above, the revolver is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The gun is in extremely crisp condition with sharp edges and lines throughout. The gun retains about 80%+ of its original blued finish, with some minor flaking and finish loss from wear along the sharp edges and on the frame from the hook safety. The 3 5/8" octagonal barrel bears the expected Birmingham commercial view and proof marks on the left angled flat, just in front of the frame juncture. These marks are somewhat obscured by the light foliate engraving that decorates the barrel at the frame junction, as well as the rear portion of the frame. The cylinder is also marked with the usual Birmingham commercial proof and view marks, alternating between the chambers. The cylinder is blued, not cased hardened as many of the earlier Tranter and Adams cylinders were and retains about closer to 90% coverage. The cylinder retains all of its original cone (nipples), and they are all in very crisp and fine condition with sharp edges and no significant battering or damage. The buttcap and backstrap are blued as well, and both retain about 60%+ of their blue, with some fading and dulling from age and handling. The triggerguard shows the most loss, and retains only traces of finish, with some lightly oxidized brown discoloration over pewter gray metal. The bore of the revolver rates about VERY FINE as well, with sharp five-groove rifling. The bore is mostly bright and shows only some very light frosting, minor oxidation and some light to moderate pinpricking scattered along its length. The metal of the pistol is nearly all smooth and is essentially free of any pitting. The pistol shows some very lightly scattered areas of minute pinpricking, mostly around the chamber mouths on the face of the cylinder and on the face of the muzzle. There are some small, scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation present shot through the aging blue finish, but these are nearly invisible except under strong light and magnification. There is one spot of minor surface oxidation, about the size of a pinkie fingernail on the right barrel flat, near the muzzle. The cylinder also shows some minor flecks of lightly oxidized discoloration flecked through the blued finish. The frame, rear of the barrel, backstrap, triggerguard and butt cap are engraved with loose foliate patterns, with about 20%-30% overall coverage. The engraving remains extremely crisp and well defined throughout the pistol and is well executed. Some of the screw heads are lightly embellished with engraving as well. The cylinder shows a beaded boarder line engraving at its front and simple outlining at its rear, which is also crisp and sharp. The muzzle and the loading lever show lightly engraved embellishments as well. The right side of the frame retains the original Tranter's patent hook safety, which engages holes at the rear of the cylinder to lock the revolver's action. The original arbor pin retaining spring catch is also present on the forward right side of the frame. Both the safety and the arbor catch are in perfect mechanical condition and both retain strong traces of their original blued finish with dulled purple tones on the arbor catch. The original, Tranter "3rd Model" type loading lever is attached to the right side of the frame with an engraved screw. The loading lever is marked with a two-line cartouche that reads: W. TRANTER'S / PATENT. The lever functions smoothly and locks securely into place when not in use. As was often the case, the lever was left in the white and has dulled slightly with age and shows some lightly oxidized discoloration. The original peppercorn style front sight is dovetailed in place near the muzzle as well. The checkered walnut grip is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well and matches the condition of the pistol perfectly. The grip is solid and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The checkering remains extremely sharp but does show some very light wear. The action of pistol work very well and the revolver times, indexes and locks up, exactly as it should.
The pistol is contained within its original English casing and is complete with a full complement of accessories. While it is often impossible to be sure if the accessories with any cased pistol set are original to the casing, in this instance I believe that many of them are. The casing is typical varnished English Tranter made mahogany design with "Bible" hinges, brass closure hooks and a brass lock escutcheon on the front. The case is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition and were it not for an old drying crack that runs the length of the case lid, would rate at least "fine". Other than the crack, the case shows some wear and finish loss on the exterior, as well as the expected scattered bumps, dings, minor surface mars and light scratches. The brass lock escutcheon is present in the front of the case, but the original key is missing. The interior compartments are lined with a slightly faded green baize that shows good age and wear and appears to be absolutely original to the case. The case is in solid condition with no serious weakness to the structure itself or the interior compartment dividers. The case is loaded with a full array of Tranter revolver accessories, all of which are contained in compartments. The casing includes the following accouterments:
1) Tranter Bullet Mould, in EXCELLENT condition. The mold is the typical 2-cavity brass mold found in many English casings, but casts two Tranter's patent round nosed bullets with a single grease groove and shallow heel. The mold is marked 120 on the top of the sprue cutter, indicating 120-Bore. The left side of the mold is stamped with Tranter's two-line patent cartouche. The brass body has a rich ocher patina that is untouched and uncleaned, and the mold cavities remain bright and clean with excellent edges. The blued sprue cutter is in wonderful condition, functions smoothly and retains about 80%+ of its original blue, which is fading and turning a plum-brown color. The mold appears completely original to the set and fits the casing perfectly.
2) Powder Flask in about FINE overall condition. The small bag shaped flask is of copper with an adjustable brass spout and top. The body of the flask retains some of its original protective varnish and shows only a few minor bumps and dings. The polished brass top is clearly marked in two lines DIXON & SONS / SHEFFIELD. The original fire blued closure spring is in place on the top of the flask and retains most of its original finish. The adjustable spout is marked to throw charges of 3/16, 4/16 or 5/16 of a dram. The spout and the charging lever of the flask both function smoothly and correctly. Again, the size, shape and style of the flask is exactly right, and it fits the casing perfectly, suggesting that it too is original to the set.
3) Cap Tin in VERY GOOD condition. The tin is jappaned and has a retains much of that brown finish. The top has a very good green paper label that indicates that it contains "Waterproof Pistol Caps" and that the caps were produced by the ELEY BROS . The tin is original and period and fits the casing perfectly. There is no way to determine if it is original to the set.
4) Pewter Oiler in VERY FINE condition. The oiler is complete with the detail oiler attached to the inside of the lid. The oiler has a dull pewter patina and is unmarked. It fits the casing perfectly and is period original and correct. It may or may not be original to the casing.
5) Tin of Bullets in VERY GOOD condition. This tin is not jappaned and has a dull pewter gray patina. It retains a very good to near fine original green paper label which is marked with Tranter's typical patent and product information about his bullets. Again, the tin is correct and original and fits perfectly, but may be a later replacement.
6) Tin of Lubrication in FINE condition. This tin is jappaned and remains in fine condition. The tin is mostly full of lubricant and it retains a very fine original paper label which is marked with the usual Tranter patent and product information.
7) Cleaning & Loading Rod in EXCELLENT condition. The wooden cleaning rod is period, original and in fabulous condition and shows only light handling marks and little use. The rod appears to be of polished rosewood. It fits both the revolver and the casing perfectly and is potentially original to the case.
8) Cone Wrench in VERY GOOD condition. The wrench has an ebony handle and is the correct size for the cones in the revolver. It has a removable cone (nipple) pick in the base of the handle. This might be the original cone wrench for the casing.
9) Turn Screw in FINE condition. The screwdriver has an ebony handle as well and matches the cone wrench perfectly. However, the turnscrew appears to be a later addition and is probably a reproduction.
All of the accessories fit the casing and generally have condition that is commensurate with the balance of the revolver, adding nicely to the overall display of the piece.
Overall this is an extremely attractive example of a 4th Model Tranter percussion pocket revolver in 120-Bore. The lovely little pistol is in a wonderful and essentially complete original Tranter casing. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original in every way and functions well. The accessories and the casing are very nice and most of the accoutrements appear to be original to the casing. For any collector of fine 19th century handguns, this would be a wonderful addition to your collection and will certainly display wonderfully.
Provenance: ex-Jim Hallam collection. SOLD