Excellent Cased 3rd Model Tranter 80-Bore Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2224-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 ½ 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 notch in the lever was aligned with the stud projection to remove it. The later example 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. The 4th Model Tranter revolvers (which were introduced in 1856 and are all in the Tranter T-suffix series) used a single trigger and utilized a lock work that would be referred to 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.</p><p align="justify">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 retailer-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 scarce fully cased 3rd Model Tranter 80-Bore Percussion Revolver in about EXCELLENT condition. The revolver is in the very desirable, and less commonly encountered 80-Bore, which is approximately .386 caliber. The mid-sized revolver measures about 9 ½” in overall length, making is large enough for belt carry and yet small enough for pocket carry. The pistol is serial numbered No 17589 T on the right sides of the frame. This serial number suggests late 1863 or 1864 production, although dating Tranter revolvers by serial number is problematic and no factory serial number records exist. The left side of the frame of the gun is additionally marked with the typical arced two-line W. TRANTER’S / PATENT cartouche. This mark is also present on the screw-retained loading lever and on the left side of the trigger. The revolver has no retailer on the top strap and is blank in that location. Many of these “blank” guns were intended to be engraved by the retailer and during the Civil War a large number of these unmarked guns appear to have been imported to the South where they were rarely marked prior to their sale.
As noted above, the revolver is in about EXCELLENT condition. The gun is in extremely crisp condition with sharp edges and lines throughout. The gun retains about 90%+ of its original blued finish, with some minor flaking and finish loss from wear along the sharp edges and around the muzzle. The 4 ¼” octagonal barrel bears the expected Birmingham commercial view and proof marks on the left angled flat, in front of the frame juncture. The cylinder is also marked with the usual Birmingham commercial proof and view marks, alternating between the chambers. The cylinder is case hardened, as were many Tranter and Adams cylinders, and retains about 70%+ coverage of the case coloring. The case coloring has dulled and faded with age and is starting to “silver out”, but the mottled shapes and some coloration remain. Although the coloring is not as vivid as when new, the blues, browns and purples remain in muted tones. 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 case hardened as well, and both retain about 30%+ of their dulled case coloring with some traces of vivid color remaining. The bore of the revolver rates about EXCELLENT as well, with sharp five-groove rifling. The bore is brilliantly bright and shows only some very light frosting and 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. The cylinder also shows flecks of lightly oxidized discoloration as well as a little bit of light surface oxidation and flecks of minor surface roughness, mostly noticeably in a thin line where the cylinder touched the fabric of the casing for many years. 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. The cylinder shows boarder beaded line engraving at its front and rear, which is also crisp and sharp, as does the muzzle and the loading lever. The left side of the frame retains the original Tranter’s patent spring safety that prevents the hammer from contacting the cones unless the trigger is pulled. Using the safety also allows the cylinder to be turned freely for loading. 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 large amount of their original brilliant fire blued finish with purple tones. The original, screw-retained Tranter “3rd Model” loading lever is attached to the right side of the frame. 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. The original front sight is dovetailed in place near the muzzle as well. The checkered walnut grip is in about 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 all of the correct 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 most of them are. The casing is typical varnished English mahogany veneer design with “Bible” hinges and a brass lock escutcheon on the front. The case is in about FINE condition and shows some wear and finish loss on the exterior. The case shows some minor warping to the lid, 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 dark green baize that shows good age and some 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. There is no retailer . The case is loaded with wonderful Tranter revolver accessories, all of which are contained in compartments. Included in the casing are the following original accouterments:
1) Tranter Bullet Mould, in FINE 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 80 on the top of the sprue cutter, indicating 80-Bore. The left side of the mold is stamped with the two line TRANTER’S/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 85%+ of its original blue, which is fading and turning a plum-brown color.
2) Powder Flask in about VERY FINE overall condition. The small bag shaped flask is of copper with an adjustable brass spout and top. The body of the flask retains most of its original protective silvered finish and shows only a few tiny dings and some light surface scuffs, along with some oxidized freckling. The polished brass top is clearly marked in three lines: JAMES 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 2/8, 3/8 or 4/8 of a dram. The charging lever of the flask functions smoothly and correctly.
3) Cap Tin in VERY GOOD condition. The tin retains some traces of jappaned finish and has a mostly dull gray patina. The top has a good red paper label that indicates that it was produced by the Successors to F. Joyce & Co.
4) Pewter Oiler in VERY FINE condition. The oiler is complete with the detail oiler attached to the inside of the lid. The oiler is marked on the bottom in three lines: JAMES DIXON / & SONS / SHEFFIELD.
5) Tin of Bullets in FINE condition. The tin is jappaned and retains most of that finish. It retains a very nice condition green Tranter’s Patent label on the lid and a couple of lead bullets on the interior.
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 fine original green paper Tranter’s Patent label.
7) Cleaning Rod in FINE condition. The wooden cleaning rod is in very nice shape and shows only light handling marks and little use. The rod has a removable brass jag for cleaning the bore, and a brass mounted steel ball extractor (concealed by the jag) for unloading the cylinder. The rod appears to be of polished rosewood and the brass has a thick, uncleaned patina.
8) Cone Wrench in FINE 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.
9) Turn Screw in FINE condition. The screwdriver has an ebony handle as well and matches the cone wrench perfectly.
All of the accessories fit the casing perfectly and all have condition that is commensurate with the balance of the revolver.
Overall this is a really attractive example of a fairly scarce 3rd Model Tranter Percussion Revolver, in the uncommon 80-bore caliber, complete in a wonderful 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 all 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.