Fine Rogers & Spencer Percussion Army Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-JM111-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The Rogers & Spencer “Army” revolver was likely the pinnacle of single-action percussion revolver design, but unfortunately the 5,000 revolvers purchased by the US government never made it into the field before the end of the American Civil War.
The firm of Rogers & Spencer was formed by Amos Rogers and Julius Spencer in 1837 in Willowville, NY, not far from Utica. The company is probably most famous for producing the Pettengill family of revolvers. In 1859, they were hired to manufacture guns of the CS Pettengill design, but when the Pettengill company failed, Rogers & Spencer purchased the rights to the design and continued with production of the revolvers. This led to a contract in 1861 to produce 2,000 .44 caliber “Army” sized Pettengill revolvers, which Rogers & Spencer delivered between October 1862 and January 1863. The firm subsequently managed to secure a contract in November of 1864 for 5,000 revolvers of their own design, at the rate of $12.00 per revolver, with deliveries to be made at the rate of 500 per month, starting in January of 1865.
The new revolver was also a .44 caliber percussion “Army” revolver but used a more conventional single-action lock mechanism, which the Ordnance Department had showed a preference for, rather than the double action mechanism of the Pettengill system, which tended to become difficult to operate when the revolvers were fouled. The new gun used the same barrels, loading levers and some small internal parts from the Pettengill design. The balance of the pistol more closely resembled the Freeman revolver, although there is no indication that Rogers & Spencer ever had any relationship with Freeman or utilized his designs in any way.
Rogers & Spencer delivered the first 500 revolvers from their new contract on January 30, 1865 and continued to deliver 500 pistols approximately every 30 days for the next nine months, with the final delivery made on September 26, 1865. As such, only 1,500 of the revolvers were delivered to the US government prior to the cessation of hostilities between the North and the South. Even those 1,500 guns failed to make it into the field before the end of the war, and the all of the guns remained in storage at the New York Arsenal for the next 35 years. The revolvers were purchased at a US Government surplus auction on 19 June 1901 by the firm of Francis Bannerman. Bannerman purchased roughly 30,000 surplus military revolvers at that auction, including 4,982 Rogers & Spencer revolvers, at the rate of 25.27¢ each, a mere fraction of their original price of $12 each!
The Rogers & Spencer “Army” offered here is in very nice condition, and rates about FINE overall and retains about 30%+ of its original blue. The pistol only retains some strong traces of its original blue on the 7.5” octagonal barrel, which has a mostly smooth plum patina. The gun retains about 60%+ original blue finish on the frame with the balance having a similar smooth plum patina as found on the barrel. The cylinder retains about 40% of its blue, and shows significant flaking, mixed with a smooth plum brown patina. The backstrap and gripstrap show only traces of blue, with the balance a smooth grayish brown patina. The metal is mostly smooth with some very minor, lightly scattered surface oxidation, as well as some scattered bumps, dings, and minor impact marks. The hammer and loading lever both retain faded traces of their original case coloring, which has faded to a smooth silvery gray, with hints of the mottled coloring here and there. The revolver is serial number 358, and that number appears on the left side of the frame, on the side of the cylinder, on the loading lever, under the barrel (concealed by the loading lever) and on the bottom of the grip frame. That places the gun in the first group of revolvers delivered to the Ordnance Department, January of 1865. As such, this is one of the 1,500 guns delivered prior to the cessation of hostilities. The revolver is crisply marked in two lines, on either side of the sighting groove on the topstrap:
ROGERS & SPENCER
The gun is profusely marked with US Ordnance sub-inspector initials, with the letter H being found throughout on most of the parts, small and large parts alike. Additional sub-inspector initials W and B are found as well. The left grip panel is clearly marked with a very crisp script RPB cartouche, the mark of Springfield Armory sub-inspector Robert P Beals, who inspected arms from the decade before the Civil War through most of the 1870s. The action of the pistol is very fine and is as crisp and tight as the day the pistol left the factory. The pistol times, indexes and locks up perfectly. The pistol retains extremely sharp edges throughout and even most of the screw heads remain fairly crisp. The bore remains mostly mirror bright with very sharp rifling. There is some scattered oxidation and a couple of spots of scattered pitting, but otherwise the bore is quite fine and some of the apparent oxidation might clean out. The cylinder chambers remain crisp with some original blue as well as some oxidation from use. The original cones (nipples) are all in place and remain sharp as well. The cone recesses on the rear face of the cylinder show some surface oxidation from use. The two-piece, flared, oil finished grips are in FINE condition as well. The shape of these grips results in easy chipping and damage to the thin lower edges, which are quite sharp. In the case of these grips, they are free of any breaks, cracks, or repairs. However, they do show a few minor dings and some very tiny chips along the sharp edges from handling and storage over the years, as well as one slivered chip from the lower rear edge of the left grip panel.
Overall, the pistol is simply a very nice condition example of one of the last percussion revolves purchased by the US military. For any serious collection of Civil War revolvers, the Rogers & Spencer is a must to include in a collection as the representative of the end of that era of military handguns. This is a very attractive and crisp gun that would be a great addition to your collection. One of the best features is that the serial number places it within the range of Rogers & Spencer revolvers delivered prior to the end of the war. While none of these guns ever saw Civil War field service, it is nice to know that this one was at least delivered to the Ordnance Department before the end of the war.