AB Griswold Marked Tranter Treble Action Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2026-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 Tranterrevolvers 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 and very rare 3rd Model "Treble Action" Tranter Revolver in VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The revolver is the less commonly encountered 80-Bore, which is approximately .387 caliber. The mid-sized revolver measures about 10 1/8" in overall length, making small enough for discreet, overcoat pocket carry and yet substantial enough for holster or belt carry as well. The pistol is serial numbered No 35864 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 and on the left side of the double trigger, partially obscured by the triggerguard. The revolver is clearly retailer marked on the top strap in a single line:
MADE BY W. TRANTER FOR A.B. GRISWOLD & CO NEW ORLEANS
A.B. Griswold & Company was the last incarnation of the famous New Orleans based merchant, importer, retailer and jeweler Hyde & Goodrich. The firm was established in 1819 at the corner of Canal & Royal streets in New Orleans. The firm became Thomas, Griswold & Company in 1861 and by 1865 was doing business as A.B. Griswold & Co. Apparently, the fall of New Orleans to US forces in June of 1862 eventually caused the company to fail at least temporarily, but it soon rose from the ashes without Henry Thomas as one of the partners and continued with the name of Arthur Breese Griswold only. The company apparently was only out of business for a very short time, as in New Orleans & The New South author Andrew Morton sites a local New Orleans newspaper article from 1888 that says in part about the company:
AB Griswold & Co Retail and Manufacturing Jewelers of the corner of Canal and Royal streets is one of the oldest houses of the city. It was established in 1819 and is consequently now in its sixty ninth-year. Mr. Hyde its founder and Mr. Griswold, who was for many years in partnership with him, have long since passed away and the house has for many years been managed by Mr. Henry Ginder. A.B. Griswold & Co have traded all over the South. They have about twenty employees, among them expert jewelers, diamond setters and engravers. They occupy four floors of the corner of the old Touro buildings, in which, by the way, they were the first tenants and have numerous valuable agencies among them that for the Vacheron and Constantin watches. They are direct importers of clocks, bronzes, Geneva watches, etc. and they can repair the finest and most complicated works. In fine jewelry they have repeatedly distanced all rivals at competitions in the fairs of this and adjacent states.
This indicates that the company was essentially in business, uninterrupted from 1819 through the post-Civil War era. The company, in doing business under all of those names, had a long-term relationship with Birmingham England gunmaker William Tranter and examples of Tranter's revolvers exist with all three retailers marks: Hyde & Goodrich, Thomas, Griswold & Co and AB Griswold & Co. In fact, some pre-Civil War examples are noted with the additional legend, in addition to the Hyde & Goodrich mark, as "Agents for the United States South". It appears that during the pre-war years the firm was the primary importer and distributor of Tranter's revolvers. These high-end pistols were imported for the New Orleans elites and militia officers who could afford these fine quality English pistols. This particular pistol is certainly a post-Civil War gun, as the Griswold incarnation of the firm cannot be established as being in business prior to 1865. The serial number also post-dates the Civil War by about 15,000 guns, suggesting this revolver was made at the very end of the percussion era, during the late 1860s.
As noted above, the revolver is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The gun is in relatively crisp condition with strong edges and lines throughout. The gun retains about 20%-30% of its original blued finish, with some moderate flaking and finish loss from handling and wear. The 4 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 15% coverage, with the balance being a mostly plum-brown patina. The cylinder retains all of its original cone (nipples), and they are all in very good condition with fairly sharp edges and no significant battering or damage. The buttcap and backstrap are blued as well, and both retain strong traces of their blue, with an attractive plumb-brown patina as well. The triggerguard shows the most finish loss, and retains no real finish, but shows the same attractive plum-brown patina found on much of the gun. The bore of the revolver rates about VERY GOOD as well, with strong five-groove rifling. The bore is partly bright and shows moderate oxidation and pinpricking scattered along its length, with some lightly scattered pitting as well. The metal of the pistol is mostly smooth and is essentially free of any serious pitting. The pistol shows some scattered areas of light to moderate pinpricking, mostly around the chamber mouths, on the face of the cylinder, forward of the mouths, on the topstrap and on the face of the muzzle. There is also some scattered light pitting present on the frame, barrel and cylinder, but nothing major or substantial. There are also scattered flecks of surface oxidation present shot through remnants of the aging blue 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 fairly 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 left side of the frame retains the original Tranter's patent "Y-spring" safety, that also allows the revolver to be placed in a "half-cock" position to rotate the cylinder 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 traces of their original blued finish. 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, but the "peppercorn" bead is broken off. The checkered walnut grip is in about VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE 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 fairly sharp but does show some light wear from handling and use. 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 that at least some 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 FINE. 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 dark 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 VERY GOOD 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 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 lightly pitted and functions smoothly but retains none of its original blue. The mold appears completely original to the set and fits the casing perfectly. Its used condition also matches the level of use of the revolver quite well.
2) Powder Flask in about FINE overall condition. The small bag shaped flask is of copper with a fixed brass charger spout and top. The body of the flask retains traces of its original protective varnish and shows only a few minor bumps and dings. The body also has a set of crossed canons applied to it for decoration. The polished brass top is unmarked. The original fire blued closure spring is in place on the top of the flask and retains most of its original finish. The charging lever of the flask functions smoothly and correctly. The flask appears to be a contemporary item and does not fit the compartment correctly, so it is clearly a replacement.
3) Cap Tin in VERY GOOD condition. The tin is jappaned and has a retains much of that brown finish. The body of the tine has a very good dark green paper label that indicates that it contains "Percussion Caps", "E.B. Quality", and "No. 10". The label indicates that the caps were produced by the ELEY BROS, and the top is embossed with their name as well. The tin is original and period and fits the casing well. There is no way to determine if it is original to the set.
4) Pewter Oiler in VERY GOOD+ 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 marked on the bottom in four lines: JAMES DIXON / & SONS / SHEFFIELD / 202P. 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+ to NEAR FINE condition. This tin is not jappaned and has a dull pewter gray patina. It retains a fine original green paper label which is marked with Tranter's typical patent and product information about his bullets. The tin also contains several original and correct Tranter pattern bullets. Again, the tin is correct and original and fits perfectly, but could be a replacement.
6) Tin of Lubrication in VERY GOOD condition. This tin is jappaned and remains in very good condition. The tin is mostly full of lubricant and it retains a very good original paper label on the top and around the body of the tin, which are marked with the usual Tranter patent and product information. While original and period it does not fit the case correctly and is a later replacement.
7) Cleaning & Loading Rod in EXCELLENT condition. The wooden cleaning rod is period, original and in very nice condition and shows only light handling marks and little use. The rod appears to be of polished rosewood. It has a removable brass jag that reveals an iron ball puller. The rod fits both the revolver and the casing very well and is potentially original to the case.
8) Cone Wrench in VERY FINE condition. The wrench has an ebony handle but is not the