This is a VERY FINE example of one of the most recognizable pocket pistols of the “old west” era, the James Reid “My Friend” Knuckler. Known colloquially to today’s collectors as “Knuckledusters”, the My Friend series of pocket pistols epitomized the combination handgun/brass knuckle concept. The pistol is probably best known to the general public as the small handgun that Sharon Stone’s character considers shooting Gene Hackman’s character with under the dinner table in the movie “The Quick and the Dead”. James Reid was born in Ireland in 1827 and immigrated to America in 1857. He probably learned the gun trade while working in Belfast as a teenager, and later in Glasgow, Scotland as an adult. One in New York, Reid quickly established himself in the gun trade and was manufacturing arms in New York City no later than 1861. While working in New York City from 1861 to 1865, he manufactured a variety of small, personal protection pistols ranging from a breechloading single shot percussion pistol to cartridge revolvers in .22 and .32 rimfire calibers. During his time in New York City it is also believed that Reid produced guns on contract for the W.W. Marston Company. Sometime during 1865 Reid moved his family from New York City to Catskill, NY due to health issues. It took him some three years to get his company up and running again, but in 1868 Reid was back in the gun business producing his every varying line of self-protection pocket pistols. His most famous and best selling model was his My Friend Knuckler, which he produced in three calibers between 1868 and 1882. The .22 rimfire variant was the most successful of the three versions, and some 10,690 and were produced over the 14 years they were manufactured. That represents more than half of all Reid firearms ever built. Reid serial numbered all of the guns consecutively, regardless of model, and the highest serial number recorded by the factory was 18,600. Reid also produced the “My Friend” knuckler in .32 rimfire (3,100 produced from 1870-1882) and .41 rimfire (150 produced 1870-1872). Most researchers credit the demise of Reid’s company to the financial slumps of the 1870s and 1880s that made it difficult for small manufacturers to survive. Reid’s company closed in 1883 and he found work as a machinist to keep his family fed. While Reid never attained the success of the major American gunmakers like Colt or Remington, he did produce a line of handguns for the personal protection market that were moderately successful in their time and have become interesting and desirable collectibles in today’s market. His My Friend knuckledusters, in particular, have attained almost iconic status in the field of firearms curiosa collecting, along with other unique post-Civil War handguns like the “Palm Protector”, the “Apache” the numerous combination knife (and/or brass knuckle) guns that appeared during the 1870s and 1880s.
This example of a James Reid My Friend Knuckler is in about VERY FINE condition, and is one of the much less often encountered .32 rimfire models, manufactured between 1870 and 1882. Only 3,100 of these combination revolvers were produced, while more than 3 times as many of the .22rf versions were manufactured. Almost all of the “My Friend” combination revolver and brass knuckle guns were produced with brass frames, but a small handful of the guns were made with iron frames. This is one of brass framed .32rf guns. The diminutive revolver measures about 4 ““ in overall length (including the wing of the cylinder pin), with a 1 11/16” long cylinder a 1 1/8” round triggerguard. This solid, all metal pistol weighs in at about 13 ounces, and would no doubt pack a substantial punch when wielded as a blackjack. The pistol retains about 85%-90% of its original silver plated finish. The finish has worn away or thinned in the usual areas, along contact points, high edges and where the gun was regularly handled. The frame of the revolver shows the typical Reid light scroll engraving with open floral motifs on the sides of the frame, a checkered shield on the back strap and lightly flowing geometric lines on the top strap, recoil shield and face of the revolver. The pistol is serial numbered on the grip strap, and is marked 12869. The cylinder pin and the rear of the cylinder are both marked with the last two digits of the serial number 69. The left side of the topstrap is marked: MY FRIEND PATD. DEC 26, 1865, although the “1” and the “5” in year mark are light. The revolver functions well mechanically, and cocking the single action hammer advances the cylinder as it should. The revolver times and locks up well, and the hammer drops as it should, when the spur trigger is pulled. As previously noted, the pistol retains nearly all of its original silver plated finish on the brass frame. The cylinder appears to have been left “in the white” when manufactured and has no finish. It now has a mottled brownish patina that is developing over the entire cylinder that shows even pinpricking and some lightly peppered oxidation, along with some lightly scattered pitting. The trigger and cylinder pin are both blued, and both retain much of their original finish, with the trigger showing about 50%+ faded and thinned blue and the cylinder pin showing about 70% thinned and faded blue. The cylinder pin is removed by turning it clockwise, as it has reversed (or left handed) threads. Removing the pin allows the cylinder to be removed from the pistol’s frame for loading and unloading. The five shot cylinder has extended chambers that function as abbreviated barrels. The chambers are not rifled, and the pistol was clearly intended for close up and personal use, and would likely have little utility beyond a few feet. The chambers remain crisp and clean with only some light surface oxidation and lightly scattered pinpricking present in them.
Overall this is a very crisp example of a fairly scarce and desirable American made “knuckleduster” with all matching numbers. The “My Friend” trademark is well known and very collectible, but is not often encountered in the .32RF variation, when compared to the more common .22RF version. This would be a nice addition to any collection of 19th century pocket pistols, firearms curiosa or old west firearms. I have no doubt that this little guns were quite popular with the gamblers, snake oil salesmen and “soiled doves’ that populated the underbelly of many western cattle towns, and that many of these revolvers lead lives as tawdry as their owners. If this little pistol could talk, it could probably tell some great tales about life on the American frontier during the 1870s and 1880s.
Please note that most of the pictures below are larger than the actual pistol. Only the very first picture below the description is close to actual size, the remaining images are typically about 2/3 larger than the actual pistol!SOLD