This is a wonderful example of an early Massachusetts Arms Company Wesson & Leavitt Belt sized Revolver. Although much better known for their later production Adams Patent revolvers and various military carbines like the Greene, Maynard, Smith and Warner, their early production pistols are by far some of the most interesting guns that they produced. The Mass Arms Company was formed in Chicopee Falls, MA in 1849 and was incorporated in 1850. It counted among its incorporators such later luminaries in firearms history as Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson (who would later founded Smith & Wesson), Joshua Stevens (later to start the J. Stevens Arms Company), gun designers Edwin Wesson and Benjamin F Warner (of Warner Carbine fame). James T. Ames of the famous Ames Manufacturing Company was also one of the original incorporators and served as the Chairman of the Massachusetts Arms Company board of directors, as well as providing factory space at Ames for the initial production of Massachusetts Arms firearms. The first arms produced by Mass Arms were percussion revolvers designed by Edwin Wesson, brother of Daniel Wesson, and Thomas Warner, who was the factory superintendent. The revolvers were produced under patents held by Edwin Wesson and Daniel Leavitt. On April 29, 1837, Leavitt had received US Patent #182 for a revolving pistol design. It is worth noting that this was the second revolving handgun design to receive a US patent, the first being Samuel Colt’s 1836 patent for what would become the Paterson revolver. The first guns produced in 1850 were the larger “Dragoon” sized revolvers in .40 caliber. Later in 1850, the firm introduced a “Belt” size revolver in .31 caliber. Both revolvers utilized side-mounted, back action locks that operated in a “single action” fashion. They had a hinged top strap that connected the barrel to the rear portion of the frame, which contained the lockwork. The barrel was held in a stationary and locked position by a swinging latch that secured the topstrap to the forward portion of the cylinder arbor pin. The guns had six-shot cylinders with convex beveled fronts. This beveled cylinder face was one of the key features in Leavitt’s patent application, as he claimed the design would reduce the potential for the “chain fire” of adjacent cylinder chambers when the gun was fired. The cylinders also had oval recesses for the percussion cones, which entered the chambers at about a 30-degree angle. The cocking action of the hammer rotated a back plate in the frame of the revolver. This back plate rotated the cylinder by way of a pin, which extended from the plate and engaged an index hole on the rear face of the cylinder. A second, smaller pin would move in and out of the frame, engaging smaller holes on the rear of the cylinder that corresponded to each chamber, allowing for accurate indexing and lock up of the cylinder. The guns were manufactured with round blued barrels, case hardened frames and brass back straps and trigger guards, which were silver-plated. During the brief production run (1850-1851) of Wesson & Leavitt revolvers, Mass Arms produced about 800 of the larger Dragoon revolvers and approximately 1,000 of the Belt revolvers. Production was ended during 1851 due to a successful patent infringement lawsuit that was filed by Samuel Colt. Colt’s suit noted that the Mass Arms revolver violated his patent on a mechanism that revolved the cylinder when the hammer was cocked. In order to stay in business, Mass Arms redesigned their revolvers to use a manually revolved cylinder and Dr. Edwin Maynard’s automatic tape priming system. The new guns did not sell well, and Massachusetts Arms teetered on the brink of disaster until the expiration of the Colt patent in 1857. It was at that time that Massachusetts Arms introduced their licensed version of the Adams patent revolver. This was quickly followed up by the introduction of Dr. Maynard’s “1stModel” carbine, which was a successful product as well. Despite a fire that temporarily closed the company in January of 1861, by 1863 a reorganized version of the Massachusetts Arms Company was back in business, under the direction by Dr. Maynard. This company would remain in the firearms business through the end of the American Civil War and going out of business in 1866. This one has a matching serial numbers of 825. It has lots of engraving on it but I wasn’t sure whether I should clean it or not so I have not cleaned it. All of the Patent dates are on there. .31 cal percussion
It came from my father‘s side of my family but I am not sure who ever had this pistol because I only found out about it after my father died. I could give you as much family history as I have that I don’t know who actually owned this gun originally. I think it’s in great overall condition and the only thing I see on it at all is one screw that is chipped which you can see in the pictures. Besides that I would not have a problem firing this gun although I don’t know how to do it and I think it is safe but I would have an expert look at it, it looks solid.
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The presented object appears to be a Massachusetts Arms Company Wesson & Leavitt percussion revolver. This belt sized is also known as "Pocket Model" and was made by the Massachusetts Arms Company of Chicopee Falls Massachusetts between 1850-1851. It has a 6-shot cylinder, etched with a floral design, and is chambered in .31 caliber.
Comparable objects were recently offered and sold on the international auction market.
This piece is in medium to good condition and no severe damage is visible in the images provided.
A fair market estimation would be between 1.000 to 2.000 USD.
This estimate is based on actual recent past recorded auction sales of comparable items. Retail "asking prices" can be higher and may vary.
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