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Rare Y-Suffix 2nd Model Tranter Revolver

Rare Y-Suffix 2nd Model Tranter Revolver

  • Product Code: FHG-J125-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $2,995.00

This is a VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition, Tranter’s Patent 2nd Model Double Trigger Percussion Revolver. William Tranter was born in 1816 and died in 1890. He was one of the more prominent Gun, Rifle & Pistol Makers in the Birmingham trade, going into business in 1840 and continuing in the trade until 1885. He learned the trade working for Hollis Bros & Co (later Hollis & Sheath) and in 1840 bought the established gun making business of Robert Dugard at 29 ½ Whitehall Street. Over the next decade he worked for himself and 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 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). This same patent also covered his new developed, frame mounted loading rammer for pistols. In August of 1856 he registered the designs for a “double trigger revolver mechanisms”, 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, after he had actually left the trade. Tranter’s most successful series of arms were his “self-cocking” revolvers, which were initially introduced in 1853. The revolvers utilized Robert Adams patent for a solid frame, and Tranter's own patented lock works. The original revolvers, known to collectors as 1st Model Tranters had no provision for a loading lever. The 2nd Model Tranters had a pin on the frame which allowed the attachment of a removable loading lever (the one covered in the December 1853 patent). The 3rd Model Tranters had a permanently attached loading lever, secured by a screw. All of these models were based on his “double-trigger” system, 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. The 4th Model Tranter revolvers (which were introduced in 1856) used a single trigger, and what we would call a conventional double action lock work. 


All of these revolver patterns were produced in a variety of calibers, with 54-Bore (.442), 80-Bore (.387) and 120-Bore (.338) being the most common. Barrel lengths varied as well, with larger caliber arms typically having longer barrels. All of the guns were 5-shot percussion revolvers, and typically featured checkered 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 to the Adams and Beaumont-Adams patent revolvers in England, and was also exported widely. Pre-Civil War retailer marked 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 south, with the large majority of them New Orleans retailer marked. The firm of Hyde & Goodrich (later Thomas, Griswold & Co) appears to have been the primary importer of Tranter Patent revolvers, based upon extant examples. Most of these retailer-marked guns were sold cased, complete with accessories. During the course of the 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 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 (5th Model – unknown number – see Albaugh) and Colonel Dabney H. Maury (3rd Model #7993T), who served on the staff of General Earl Van Dorn, all owned documented 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, lists two Tranter revolvers, with the serial numbers 15465 and 15476. The squad roll is from July of 1864. This indicates that Tranter revolvers in the mid 15,XXXT serial number range were in use, in the field by that time. Other Tranter revolvers with southern provenance include guns in the 12,360T-12,375T range, which are retailer marked by T.W. Radcliff of Columbia, SC. Additionally, a 10 March 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 is evidence indicates that at least some of the Tranter revolvers produced during (as well as prior to) the Civil War, saw Confederate use. At least one Tranter that I previously owned was most likely imported by Schuyler, Hartley & Graham of New York. The gun was an engraved, nickel-plated 4th Model 54-Bore revolver with relief carved ivory grips. The gun was serial number 13619T. Dating Tranter revolvers based upon their serial numbers is somewhat problematic, as frames were sometimes 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 in 1854. From extant examples of Tranter’s with specific dates associated with them, it appears that those revolvers with serial numbers under 20,000T were produced prior to the end of 1865, and it is possible some of the early 21,XXXT guns were made before the end of that year as well. Tranter also produced some earlier revolvers with a “Y” suffix serial number. These guns were serial numbered in the 20,000Y range, and went into production in late 1852 or early 1853. In this case, the serial number was really a patent tracking number for the use of Robert Adams solid frame patent, and he assigned the 20,XXX range to Tranter with the “Y” suffix. Tranter produced both raw frames and complete guns in this serial number range. Often the frames were sold to Deane, Adams & Deane, or other London makers to assemble completed revolvers from. “Y” suffix frames found with London proof marks are almost certainly the result of Tranter frames being completed by London makers, as Tranter produced arms would have been proved at the Birmingham proof house.


This particular 2nd Model Tranter’s Self-Cocking, Double-Trigger Revolver is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The top strap of the revolver is crisply engraved in a single line: 




Charles Reeves & Company was a gunmaker and retailer located at 8 Air Street in Piccadilly from 1859 through 1863. The lower right side of the frame is marked: 




The “Y” suffix indicates that Tranter manufactured the frame, and the serial number suggests the frame was forged circa 1854-1855. However, it appears that Reeves assembled the gun circa 1859-1860. The gun bears London commercial proofs on the barrel, a {CROWN}/V and a {CROWN}/GP, and between the chambers of the cylinder; the same proof marks as above, alternating. These marks indicate that the gun was assembled and proved in London, not Birmingham as a Tranter manufactured revolver would have been. The reverse of the double trigger is marked in an arc: W TRANTER’S PAT over the number 1794, obviously a tracking number from which to pay royalties to Tranter on his design. The lower, forward portion of the frame is marked with the caliber: 54 / BORE and the face of the cylinder arbor pin is marked with the assembly number 5. The only other markings noted are the assembly number 150 on the rear face of the cylinder. It has to be assumed that other internal numbers match with the “5” and “150” markings. Another interesting feature is the action of the gun is not that of a typical Tranter made “double-trigger” revolver. In most cases, pulling the lower trigger to the rear indexes the cylinder and cocks the gun, and the smaller trigger inside the trigger guard releases the sear, letting the hammer fall, to fire the pistol. This revolver is a strict “double action only”, with the lower trigger performing all functions and firing the gun, making the smaller almost trigger superfluous. Pulling the lower trigger to the rear completes the entire firing process and does not set the hammer for release by the other trigger. Initially I thought that this indicated a mechanical issue, and I sent the revolver to a restoration gunsmith for examination. He reported that the interior of the revolver was unlike any other double trigger Tranter he had examined. He said the action functioned exactly as designed, and that additional machining and parts necessary for conventional Tranter operation had never been completed or installed. This suggests the gun may have been a special-order piece, or that Reeves was not capable of manufacturing and/or assembling the necessary Tranter internal parts. It is worth noting that if the shooter can hold the lower trigger in the correct position that the gun can be fired with the upper trigger, but that is a dicey proposition that was not likely the intended way to operate the gun. The action of the revolver works well, and it indexes and times correctly, but it is strictly a double action only revolver. The original frame mounted safety mechanism is in place and functions as it should. Lightly pulling the trigger and pushing in the safety allows the hammer to be blocked and frees the cylinder to rotate for loading, etc. Pulling the trigger releases the safety, as it should as well. The frame of the revolver shows attractive, loose foliate engraving to the rear of the cylinder, with some additional engraved elements on the butt cap, trigger guard and at the muzzle of the pistol. The revolver retains about 50% of its original bright blue finish on the frame, and about 10% of the original finish on the 6 ½” octagon barrel. The remaining finish is present in streaky sections and has blended with a medium bluish-gray patina. The same patina appears on the frame where the finish has flaked, and on the cylinder, which retains only the most minor traces of its original color casehardened finish. The 2nd Model, removable loading lever with fixed rammer is unmarked, and retains about 40% faded case coloring, which has mixed with a smooth, smoky gray patina. The color casehardened butt cap retains about 50% vivid, mottled case coloring, which is strongest around the rim of the cap. The metal of the gun is smooth and free of any pitting, with only some very lightly scattered pinpricking present. The cylinder shows some lightly scattered impact mark as well as some lightly oxidized surface freckling. The cylinder retains all of its original cones (nipples), which are in very good, crisp condition. The loading lever functions smoothly and works exactly as it should and can be easily removed from the revolver by lining up the keyway in the arm with the key in the frame mounted stud. The bore of the revolver is in about VERY GOOD condition. It has a dark, seasoned appearance, but retains crisp rifling. The bore does show some scattered light pitting along its length. The original front sight is in place in the dovetail near the muzzle. The checkered walnut grips are in about FINE condition as well. The grips are solid and free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The checkering remains mostly crisp and sharp throughout, with only some minor handling marks and dings, and some very small areas of lightly flattened checkering points.


Overall, this is a really lovely example of one of the harder to find Tranter models, the 2nd Model “Double-Trigger” Self-Cocking Revolver. The revolver is in lovely condition and displays very well. It is in Tranter’s earlier serial number range, with the less often encountered “Y” suffix, and was probably manufactured and retailed right before the Civil War by a prominent London gun maker. Whether this revolver could have seen Civil War service or not is hard to know. However, the fact that it was assembled and retailed in London not long before the arrival of Confederate purchasing agents, who purchased hundreds of guns out of gun shops in 1861, makes it quite possible. One way or the other, it is a great example of a large bore 2nd Model Tranter with the removable loading lever, in very nice condition.


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Tags: Rare, Y-Suffix, 2nd, Model, Tranter, Revolver