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The Gardner guns were early crank type rapid fire arms which were originally invented in 1874 by William Gardner of Toledo, Ohio, formerly a Civil War Union Army captain. Variants were designed with one, two and five barrels. This incredibly rare serial number 1 example has a single barrel, and follows the design features of U.S. patent number 216,266 originally filed May 24th, 1878 and granted June 10th, 1879. Gardner guns were fed with gravity driven magazines and operated by hand turning a crank which moves the bolt (or bolts on the two-barrel version) back and forth to fire the action as well as extract the spent case. This reciprocating motion system is used in many of today's machine guns. After producing a handmade prototype, Gardner sold the manufacturing rights to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford, Connecticut, who made improvements to Gardner's original design. From the mid-1870s to early 1880s Pratt & Whitney manufactured an estimated 21 guns for U.S. War Department trials. Although the U.S. Navy purchased a limited number, the U.S. Army was not interested and never adapted the Gardner gun, preferring the Gatling gun to fulfill current needs. William Gardner decided to set up his own company and continued to manufacture his guns separately as the Gardner Gun Company starting in 1879. Eventually the Gardner gun gained the attention of the British government who ordered it for all branches of their military and purchased the manufacturing rights. Thousands were produced. The weapons saw action with British forces in a few African wars in Sudan and the Upper Nile. The Nepalese Bira gun chambered in .577/450 Martini-Henry caliber was based on the Gardner gun with two barrels and a drum magazine. Serial number “1” is stamped on the right front of the receiver and on the receiver cover, "GARDNER'S/PATENT" is stamped in two lines on top of the receiver cover, "FIRE" and "SAFE" marked on the left of the receiver with a selector switch that allows a safe mode to be able to cycle the weapon without tripping the firing pin, "P" is stamped on the right front of the receiver and barrel, and the top of the barrel has faint British proofs. Cone front sight and elevation adjustable rear sight both integrally mounted on the top of the receiver cover. Crank handle located on the right side of the receiver. Fitted on a museum quality professionally made modern reproduction tripod. The American Society of Arms Collectors bulletin 89, May 2004, has an article on pages 17-33 titled "Rifle Caliber Artillery: The Gardner Battery Gun" by James W. Alley Jr. with related information. The article pictures Gardner’s second prototype as tested by the U.S. Navy in 1875 and housed at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington; appears very similar to this example offered. The article also has a drawn depiction of a single barrel Gardner gun with a similar type of tripod shown from an 1880s Gardner Gun Company catalog next to the statement "as used by the British Navy, 1880."
Fine, with golden aged patina on the brass of the gun showing some scattered dings and scratches, a mild drag line from the safety selector, a larger restamped serial number "1" over top of the original number, defined markings in the brass, and retains 80% of an old refinished blue finish on the barrel with some light wear to the proof markings and some scattered light pitting visible underneath the finish. The professionally made reproduction tripod assembly is very fine. Mechanically excellent. As the only example of a single barrel Gardner Gun we have ever had the opportunity to offer for sale at Rock Island Auction Company, this is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to acquire this incredibly rare and important serial number 1 example!
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