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 one of the mid-production “Second Model” Revolvers, with the serial number 1308. The 1st Model guns and the very end of the production run of 2nd Model guns had an iron butt cap on the bottom of the grips. This feature was not present on the majority of the production run. 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 often a small anchor mark on the bottom barrel flat, hidden by the loading lever. This latter mark was a post-Civil War naval inspection mark. 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 with 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 patent carbines at their Worcester, MA factory. However, 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-Owens Commission (which investigated US governments arms contracts that had been let early in the war) nullified the Freeman contract for Joslyn revolvers. The commission also 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 VERY GOOD+ condition. It is one of the mid-production guns and does not have the iron butt cap on the bottom of the checkered walnut grips, which is found on the earliest and latest production guns. The revolver is serial number 1390. The serial number is found on the bottom of the grip strap, as well as on the bottom of the barrel, on the loading lever and on the rear of the cylinder. The last two digits of the serial number, 90, is found on the cylinder arbor pin and on the loading lever linkage. The loading lever lock catch, under the muzzle, is numbered 74. This is either a period replacement or a simple factory error that occurred during assembly. The catch matches the balance of the pistol perfectly in terms of condition and patina and has clearly been with the gun since the period of use. The bottom of the loading lever is marked with three punch dot assembly marks near the pivot and the bottom of the frame is stamped with a C, which appears to be some sort of inspection mark. 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 some very minor traces of blued finish in the nooks and crannies around the rear portion of the frame, and under the side mounted hammer. The balance of the frame shows a thickly oxidized plum brown patina. The barrel has a matching patina, as does the cylinder. As previously noted, the metal is fairly crisp with clear markings and good edges. The metal is almost entirely smooth, with only some lightly scattered patches of light pinpricking, some lightly scattered minor pitting and some scattered surface oxidation. The pistol has a VERY GOOD+ bore that remains with partly bright with crisp rifling. The gun is mechanically FINE and times, indexes, and locks up exactly as it should the majority of the time. However, as these revolvers often do, it shows some minor mechanical issues. While the gun may operate correctly for as many as ten or twelve pulls of the hammer, it will then lock up, which can be relieved by jiggling the cylinder. It will then work correctly again for several rotations with no issues. This issue is likely related to the cylinder arbor pin that is threaded into the rear of the frame. These same types of mechanical issues are also common on Colt Root pattern revolvers and long arms, which use the same style of side mounted hammer with an indexed cylinder arbor pin that enters through the rear of the cylinder. Those mechanical issues were what caused the pistols developed such a bad reputation for during the Civil War. As such, it is very nice to find a Joslyn revolver that only shows minor mechanical hiccups in the action, as more major ones are often encountered. 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 GOOD+ to NEAR FINE. They are solid and complete with no breaks or repairs. There is a small surface hairline crack on the bottom of the right grip panel and the sharp trailing and leading edges of the grips show some tiny chipping and wear. The coarse checkering remains fairly sharp but the grips do show light to moderate wear and handling marks, with some 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 revolver patterns), they seem to be encountered for sale much more rarely. Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to offer several Butterfield revolvers for sale on this site, but this is only the fourth 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, correct and period. More importantly, it is mechanically functional the majority of the time, which is a rarely encountered feature. This is a really attractive and unmolested gun that has no remarkable 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 example that is solid displays very well. It is a gun that deserves to be added to an advanced Civil War revolver collection.SOLD