Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver – Antique

LSB#: 13010602

Make: Merwin & Bray Fire Arms Company

Model: .30 Caliber Cup-Primed Cartridge Revolver

Serial Number: 2763

Year of Manufacture: 1863 – 1873?

Caliber: .30 Cup-Primed Cartridge

Action Type: Single Action, Front Loading and Unloading Revolver

Markings: The rib atop the barrel is marked “MERWIN & BRAY. FIRE- ARMS. CO. N.Y.” and the bottom barrel flat is marked “2763”. The circumference of the cylinder is marked “PATENTED. JULY 12. 1859 & JULY 21. 1863”, the front face of the cylinder is stamped with a “2” while the rear face of the cylinder is marked “2763” twice. The cylinder pin is marked with a “27” followed by a space and then “63”. The serial number “2763” is also found on the undersides of the grip frame and left sideplate, the hammer as visible with the sideplate removed and the inside of the right grip panel.

Barrel Length: 3 ½”

Sights / Optics: The front sight is silver colored blade. The rear sight is a tiny “V” notch groove in the top strap.

Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are smooth varnished wood, likely walnut. The grips have numerous handling and compression marks, but no chips, cracks or scratches. The grips rate in about Excellent overall condition for an antique.

Type of Finish: Silver Plated and Blue

Finish Originality: All Original

Bore Condition: The bore is light gray and the rifling is surprisingly sharp. There is light scattered erosion in the bore, but none of the pitting often seen on black powder arms of this era.

Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 75% of its metal finish. Most of the sharp and leading edges show thinning to loss. Three of the barrel flats show almost complete loss of bluing and the top right flat has some scratches into the metal. The cylinder shows bluing loss turning to patina, a drag line and some light nicks at the rear edge. The frame’s silver plating shows some thinning and has tarnished somewhat, with brass showing at the hard edges. There is a scratch that can be felt with a fingernail on the left sideplate. The hammer is checkered, the spur trigger is smooth and both show very faded case coloring. The sideplate and strain screw heads are sharp; the grip screw is mildly distressed. The markings are clear. Overall, this handgun rates in about Fine to Excellent condition for an antique pocket pistol.

Mechanics: The action functions correctly. This is a cartridge revolver designed to load and unload from the front. The ejector rod is mounted on the right side of the frame, pushing the cartridge from the rear out through the front. The chambers do have a hole all the way through, but the rear opening is smaller than the actual chamber, needing only to admit the ejector rod, since the chamber is loaded and unloaded from the front. The revolver can only be loaded and unloaded with the hammer in the half cock position; otherwise the chamber openings are partially blocked by a portion of the frame. The cylinder pin has a button that extends up through the bottom. We believe it was originally threaded, capable of exerting pressure against the barrel, thus keeping the cylinder in position. If that was indeed the case, the threads have worn to the point they can no longer be seen. We did not fire this handgun.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None

Our Assessment: This revolver was produced by the Plant’s Manufacturing Company utilizing patents by Willard C. Ellis and John H. Wood. It was designed as a front loading cartridge revolver in an effort to circumvent the Rollin White patent held by Smith & Wesson which allowed for chambers bored completely through the cylinder and loaded from the rear. Unlike the rim fire cartridges used by S&W and familiar to all of us, the cartridges used in this revolver had a priming compound in the cup shaped base of the cartridge. The hammer swung through the smaller ejector hole in the rear of the cylinder, then through the hollowed out center of the “cup” and struck the compound from the side, pinching it against the inside of the cartridge wall. For an interesting discussion of attempts to get around the Rollin White patent and excellent photographs of the cup-primer cartridges, please see: http://armscollectors.com/mgs/rollins.htm. According to “Handguns Americana” by De Witt Sell, Ph.D. “Specimens marked ‘Merwin & Bray’ are in actuality Plant revolvers – Merwin & Bray having been New York distributors of firearms.” Later, these same revolvers were made by Eagle Arms under license.

CA Legal or CA Private Party Transferable: This antique handgun can be sold in California.

This revolver was produced by the Plant’s Manufacturing Company utilizing patents by Willard C. Ellis and John H. Wood. It was designed as a front loading cartridge revolver in an effort to circumvent the Rollin White patent held by Smith & Wesson which allowed for chambers bored completely through the cylinder and loaded from the rear. Unlike the rim fire cartridges used by S&W and familiar to all of us, the cartridges used in this revolver had a priming compound in the cup shaped base of the cartridge. The hammer swung through the smaller ejector hole in the rear of the cylinder, then through the hollowed out center of the “cup” and struck the compound from the side, pinching it against the inside of the cartridge wall. For an interesting discussion of attempts to get around the Rollin White patent and excellent photographs of the cup-primer cartridges, please see: http://armscollectors.com/mgs/rollins.htm. According to “Handguns Americana” by De Witt Sell, Ph.D. “Specimens marked ‘Merwin & Bray’ are in actuality Plant revolvers – Merwin & Bray having been New York distributors of firearms.” Later, these same revolvers were made by Eagle Arms under license.

This revolver loads its special cartridges from the front, and extracts them with a very distinctive ejector on the frame’s right side. The extractor pushes through the same small hole in the cylinder that the hammer uses to strike the primer. The revolver can only be loaded and unloaded with the hammer in the half cock position; otherwise the chamber openings are partially blocked by a portion of the frame. This design prohibits the unrimmed cartridges from falling back out through the chamber’s front opening.

This is a parts complete pocket pistol with matching serial numbers on the frame’s butt, right grip panel, barrel, cylinder, cylinder pin, hammer and sideplate. Perhaps 75% of the total original silver plating and bluing remain on this interesting and unique front loading single action revolver from the 1860s.

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver - Antique

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver – Antique

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver - Antique 2

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver – Antique 2

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver - Antique 3

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver – Antique 3

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver - Antique 4

Plant / Merwin & Bray Front Loading .30 Caliber Cup-Primer Cartridge Single Action Revolver – Antique 4