This is one of the more rarely encountered of US made percussion revolvers used during the American Civil War. The Joslyn Army revolver was a 44-caliber, five-shot, side-hammer, single action percussion revolver. Only about 3,000 Joslyn revolvers were manufactured, approximately 500 “First Models’ and approximately 2,500 “Second Models”. This is likely one of the very last of the revolvers to be produced, as it has the iron butt cap on the bottom of the grips that was only encountered on the First Models and the late production Second Models. The revolver was based upon US Patent #20,160, which was issued to Benjamin F Joslyn on May 4, 1858. With the coming of the Civil War and the US Ordnance Department finding itself woefully short of military style percussion revolvers, the US Government placed an order with Bruff Brothers of New York (Joslyn’s sales agent) for 225 revolvers. This order was placed in November or December of 1861. Over the next few months the government ordered an additional 875 revolvers, bringing official US military purchases to 1,100 revolvers, which were delivered at the rather exorbitant price of $22.50 each! It appears that the initial order of 225 revolvers was delivered to the Navy Department, and some of the additional revolvers were also delivered to them. These naval guns are very scarce, and when encountered have full US military martial markings, inspectors marks and a small anchor mark on the bottom barrel flat, hidden by the loading lever. A handful of Joslyn’s have also been encountered with USN marks on the bottom of the butt strap or butt cap. The majority of the estimated 3,000 revolver production run was offered for sale on the commercial market but many of these still appear to have found their way onto Civil War battlefields as the result of additional government commercial purchases and individual state purchases. Joslyn Army revolvers were issued to the 16th Illinois, 3rd & 7th Iowa, 7th Kansas, 1st Missouri and 5th & 6th Ohio volunteer cavalry units. This indicates that many more than the 1,100 officially purchased revolvers (of which at least 225 went to the Navy) ended up in military service. This theory is further supported by the fact that an early order for Joslyn revolvers had been placed wit the William Freeman Company of New York. Freeman has operated as both an agent for Joslyn and had also contracted to produce both the revolvers and Joslyn’s carbines at their Worcester, MA factory. Freeman was unable to fulfill this order, or manufacture the guns in a timely fashion. As a result Joslyn cancelled their contract to have Freeman produce any guns, and the 1862 Holt-Ownes Commission (which investigated US governments arms contracts that had been let early in the war) nullified the Freeman contract for Joslyn revolvers, and recommended that any additional Joslyn revolvers that were to be acquired be purchased on the open market, at a price not to exceed $15.00 each. The guns that were procured on the open market were not marked with US inspector marks or cartouches. The 5th & 6th Ohio Volunteer cavalry used their Joslyn revolvers at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), where the field reports were not positive. In fact, the report of Lt. Charles Murray of the 5th Ohio Cavalry, Company I read in part: We are in possession of but 28 pistols (Joslyn) and they are long since condemned as wholly unfit for service. They are spurious a weapon, made out of cast iron, and one half of the time will neither cock nor revolve”. As a result, most of the US military purchased pistols were removed from active service by the end of 1862 or beginning of 1863 and were subsequently held in reserve at US arsenals until the end of the war. The US Government began disposing of Joslyn revolvers in October of 1865, and a total of 393 revolvers were sold off over the next 36 years. The guns initially sold for between $3.65 and $4.00 each, and by the time the last guns in inventory were sold on June 19, 1901, they were selling for $.16 each. These guns were sold from the Watervliet, Allegheny, Columbus, Washington & New York Arsenals.
The Joslyn Army Revolver offered here is in NEAR FINE condition. It is one of the later production guns and has the iron butt cap on the checkered walnut grips. The revolver has the serial number 2146 on the bottom of the butt cap, as well as on the bottom of the barrel, on the loading lever, the rear of the cylinder and cylinder arbor pin. The top of the octagon barrel is very clearly marked in two lines:
B. F. JOSLYN
PATD MAY 4 1856
The gun remains in very crisp condition and all of the metal edges are sharp, without any rounding or significant wear. The frame retains about 10% of the original bright blued finish, most of which is around the rear of the frame near the cylinder arbor pin. The balance of the frame shows a mottled brown over gray patina with some additional traces of blue in protected areas. The barrel retains slightly more finish, about 15%, and it is also mixed with a matching mottle brown patina over gray surfaces. The cylinder retains about 25% of its original blued finish, with the same mottled brown over gray patina found on the balance of the pistol. The butt cap and triggerguard also retain about 10% of their blue, mixed with a plum brown over gray patina. As previously noted, the metal is crisp with fine markings and sharp edges. The metal is almost entirely smooth, with only some light scattered patches of minor peppering and some light oxidation and light pinpricking. The pistol has a VERY FINE bright bore with crisp rifling. The gun is mechanically excellent, with perfect timing and lock up and none of the mechanical issues that the pistols developed a bad reputation for during the war. The loading lever works as it should and snaps firmly into place under the barrel when not in use. The two-piece checkered walnut grips rate VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT. They are solid and complete with no cracks, chips or repairs. The coarse checkering remains sharp and the grips show only light handling marks and minor bumps and dings from use.
While more Joslyn revolvers were produced than many other secondary martial percussion revolvers (like the Butterfield or some Allen & Wheelock revolvers), they seem to be encountered for sale much more rarely. Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to offer four Butterfield revolvers for sale on this site, but this is only the second Joslyn that I have had the pleasure to offer for sale. To put it simply, the guns are truly scarce and seem to only occasionally be found for sale. This one is 100% complete and correct and is mechanically excellent. The only other Joslyn that I have offered on the web site was in much rougher condition and had mechanical issues as well. This is a really lovely gun that has no real issues and nothing to apologize for. If you have been looking for an opportunity to add one of these scarce secondary martial US revolvers to your collection, here is a wonderfully complete displaying example with lots of eye appeal. It is a gun that deserves to be placed in an advanced Civil War revolver collection.SOLD