Pistol / Hand GunsMuzzleloaderUsed£ 900
Now this is an interesting piece and is a copy of a Volcanic pistol manufactured for collectors in the past purely for display. The purpose of the pistol is to illustrate the toggle loading mechanism which works and was the mechanism that evolved into the famous Winchester underlever rifle. This is purely for display and is non- functioning. The loading lever moves the toggle mechanism as it should, and you can see how the tubular spring magazine works and eventually evolved into the Winchester tube magazine feed and of course that of other rifles and carbines.
This is a solid piece and heavy pistol that must have taken a huge amount of time to manufacture. The top strap is crudely stamped with the New Haven Arms Company and the patent date.
The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company was an American company formed in 1855 by partners Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson to develop Walter Hunt's Rocket Ball ammunition and lever action mechanism. Volcanic made an improved version of the Rocket Ball ammunition, and a carbine and pistol version of the lever action gun to fire it. While the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company was short-lived, its descendants, Smith & Wesson and Winchester Repeating Arms Company, became major firearms manufactures.
The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company began producing rifles and pistols in early 1856. These weapons used the “Rocket-ball” cartridge that consisted of a bullet with a hollow cavity in the base which contained the powder charge. A priming cap held the powder in place and provided ignition. The ammunition was made in either .31 or .41 calibre and was grossly underpowered as muzzle energy was an unimpressive 56 foot pounds. Nevertheless this was an intimidating looking weapon and the precursor to many modern weapons and one of the first self-contained cartridge systems, the type of which is still being experimented with today.
The frame of the Volcanic rifle was made of gunmetal, which is an early form of bronze. Softer than iron, gunmetal was easier to work with and would not rust. Pistols in .31 calibre were made in either 4 or 6 inch barrels holding 6 or 10 rounds, respectively. This example has a 6” barrel. The .41 calibre pistol came with either a 6” or 8” barrel carrying 8 or 10 rounds. A Carbine was produced in 3 barrel lengths–16” holding 20 rounds, 20” holding 25 rounds and 24” holding 30 rounds. The ammunition was held in a tubular magazine beneath the barrel that was loaded from the muzzle end by pivoting the loading sleeve.
Two advantages the Volcanic had was a rapid rate of fire and its ammunition was waterproof. However the “Rocket-ball” ammunition was too underpowered to be considered a hunting weapon or a man stopper except at very close quarter. In addition, the Volcanic design suffered from problems such as gas leakage from around the breech, multiple charges going off at the same time, and misfires. Misfired rounds would have to be tapped out with a cleaning rod as the gun had no means of extraction as there was no case to extract.
Less than 2000 Volcanic pistols were made, and the low survival rate of this iconic weapon puts it into a price category that is beyond most people. This is an opportunity to acquire the next best thing, a copy, and a curiosity at a price 1/20th of what a real Volcanic would cost.
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