Fine Cased & Engraved 2nd Model Tranter by Dougall of Glasgow
- Product Code: FHG-2139-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 had to actually reload the revolver in the field. Most of these guns were manufactured on Adams Patent frames and have Adams Patent serial numbers (actually 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 notched keyway 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.
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 and engraved 2nd Model Tranter Revolver in VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The revolver is in the very desirable 54-Bore, which is approximately .442 caliber. The large frame evolver measures about 12” in overall length, and has a 6 5/8” octagonal barrel. The pistol is serial numbered No 2310 T on the right sides of the frame, within an engraved ribbon. The left side of the frame of the gun is not marked with the typical arced two-line cartouche that: W. TRANTER’s / PATENT, which is commonly encountered on later production revolvers. However, this mark is present on the removable loading lever and on the left side of the trigger. The revolver is retailer marked on the top strap, again within a flowing engraved ribbon:
J.D. DOUGALL GORDON ST GLASGLOW.
James Dalziel Dougall was the son of John Dougall, who had established himself as a “fishing tackle and rod maker” at 88 Trongate in Glasgow (Scotland) circa 1816. By 1830 the firm had moved to 52 Argyle Arcade, and were listed as J & J Dougall “Fishing & Fowling Tackle Makers”, with son James entering into the business with his father John. By 1841 James was listed as a “gunmaker” and in 1850 the firm moved to 23 Gordon Street where it would remain until the early part of the 20th century. The firm also maintained a London retail establishment from 1864 to 1893. It seems probable that the motivation to open a shop in London in 1864 was an attempt to capitalize on the opportunity to sell arms to the northern and southern combatants in the American Civil War. However, by July of 1863 northern buyers were cancelling foreign arms contracts and by 1864 the eventual loss of the Confederacy was only a matter of time. In 1897 the firm became James Dougall & Sons, and in 1904 it relocated to 3 West Nile Street. The company subsequently moved again in 1912, and in 1920, and finally ceased to exist in 1923.
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 75%+ of its original blued finish, with some minor flaking and finish loss from wear along the sharp edges and around the muzzle of the barrel, and simple wear on the frame. The 6 5/8” octagonal barrel retains about 85%+ of its original bright blued finish, while the frame retains about 50% of the original blue, with the cylinder retaining slightly more, around 60%. The frame is fully engraved with extremely well executed tight foliate scrolls that cover both sides and the top strap. The cylinder is engraved with a game scene of a pack of hunting dogs attacking a charging wild boar. The triggerguard bow is engraved en-suite as is the butt cap, and a smaller, simpler foliate motif is present on the backstrap. The usual Tranter style looping petals are engraved around the muzzle of the pistol. All of the engraving remains very sharp and crisp throughout and the photographs do not really do the quality of the engraving or the condition of the pistol justice. The barrel bears the expected London commercial view and proof marks of crowned GP and a crowned V the left angled flat, just in front of the frame juncture, and the cylinder is also marked with the usual London commercial proof and view marks, alternating between the chambers. 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 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, in the cone recesses at the rear 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 blued 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, with more finish loss on one quarter than the others, suggesting that this is the part of the cylinder that was in contact with the case lining for most of the last century. 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 some of their original brilliant fire blued finish with purple tones. The original, removable Tranter “2nd Model” loading lever is attached to the right side of the frame, resting on the mounting stud with keyway that prevents the lever from being rotated to the position that removes it without removing the cylinder first. The loading lever is marked with a two-line cartouche that reads: W. TRANTER’s / PATENT. The lever has been left “in the white”, with some scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation present. The lever functions smoothly and locks securely into place when not in use. The same W. TRANTER’s / PATENT mark is present on the web of the upper portion of the trigger as well. The original 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 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 design with “Bible” hinges and a brass disc on the top, reinforced brass corners and a brass lock escutcheon on the front. The casing is probably one of Dougall’s manufacture as it is not the type normally associated with those retailed by Tranter himself, which had a pair of pivoting hook-shaped clasps on the face of the case. 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 lock mechanism, as well as the key, are missing. The interior compartments are lined with a slightly faded dark blue 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 primary structure itself and only some minor looseness noted in some of the interior compartment dividers. 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 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 54 on the top of the sprue cutter, indicating 54-Bore. The left side of the mold is stamped with the expected 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 70%+ of its original blue, which is fading and turning a plum-brown color.
2) Powder Flask in about FINE overall condition. The medium sized geometric shaped flask is of copper with a fixed brass spout and top. The body of the flask retains some of its original protective varnish and shows only a few small bumps and dings. The body of the flask is clearly marked SYKES. The original fire blued closure spring is in place on the top of the flask and retains most of its original finish.
3) Cap Tin in VERY GOOD condition. The jappaned tin is empty, but retains a fine paper label on the top. The orange paper label that indicates that it contains is marked by Eley Brothers and the bottom of the tin indicates that it contained 100 No 11 caps..
4) Pewter Oiler in EXCELLENT condition. The oiler is complete with the detail oiler attached to the inside of the lid. The oiler is unmarked.
5) 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 label which is marked by Tranter.
6) Cleaning Rod in EXCELLENT condition. The rosewood cleaning rod has a bulbous ebony tip and is in fabulous condition 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.
7) 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. The ebony shows some minor surface grain cracks due to age.
8) Leather accessory bag in NEAR FINE condition. These bags were commonly used to hold bullets or other accessories and in some cases were used instead of tins to hold percussion caps. The bag is solid and pliable with some fading due to age and old staining.
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 wonderful example of a fairly scarce, early production 2nd Model Tranter percussion revolver, in the desirable 54-bore caliber. It is beautifully engraved on the frame and cylinder and remains in a wonderful and very complete retailer casing. The gun is 100% complete, correct and original in every way and functions well. The accessories and the casing are very fine and most (if not all) of the accoutrements appear to be original to the casing. For any collector of fine 19th century handguns, particularly English revolvers, this would be a wonderful addition to your collection and will certainly display wonderfully. This is a lot of gun for the money in terms of the condition, engraving and the casing with accessories. By comparison, a similar condition cased and engraved Colt Navy would probably cost between $20,000 and $30,000. This gun displays just as well, is from the same period, is actually rarer and will cost you about 25% of that price!