Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 129: Cased Henry Harrington Patent Seven-Shot Volley Pistol

Auction Date: December 4, 2020

Outstanding Henry Harrington Patented Breech Loading Percussion Seven-Shot Volley Pistol with Presentation Case and Accessories Including Three Additional Breechblocks

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $27,500 - $42,500

Outstanding Henry Harrington Patented Breech Loading Percussion Seven-Shot Volley Pistol with Presentation Case and Accessories Including Three Additional Breechblocks

Manufacturer: American
Model: Percussion
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 12
Barrel: 4 3/8 inch round
Finish: German silver/blue
Grip: highly figured walnut
Item Views: 1461
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 137
Class: Antique

Henry Harrington (1796-1876) of Southbridge, Massachusetts, patented his "volley gun" design in 1837 and intended to manufacture or license the production of long guns, handguns, and cannons based on his design. He is actually best remembered outside of gun collecting as a manufacturer of cutlery. In fact, his company, founded in 1818, is credited as the first U.S. cutlery manufacturer and remains the largest manufacturer of cutlery within the country today. He produced a limited number of long guns and handguns of various patterns based on this "volley" design, including some with an incredible number individual chambers. All of these firearms are incredibly rare and desirable, and most are fairly unique given the variety of calibers, single versus double hammer varieties, barrel lengths, different materials, etc. Norm Flayderman indicated a three-shot was the norm, if a norm could really be established among the extant examples, and this seven-shot pistol is believed to be the finest Henry Harrington patent volley pistol extant. It is certainly made especially desirable by the inclusion of three additional breechblocks and other accessories. While the individual .12 caliber conical bullets from this pistol don't sound like they would pack much of a punch, a cluster of seven of them at short range would certainly be unpleasant to say the least. Reloading on this single hammer example is very easy. You slide the lever ahead of the trigger guard to the right, pull the hammer back, and lift the breechblock out. Then, you place another loaded breechblock in its place and slide the lever to the left to lock it in place. There is no half-cock, so the hammer is either going to be left resting on a live cap if the gun is primed or left with the hammer back over a live cap. This would certainly be rather risky. Reloading the breechblocks involves first seating the seven individual bullets in their respective chambers and then filling the powder chamber from the rear. The back of each breechblock has a screw-on cover that can be removed using the included loading tool. Unscrewing the cover reveals the shared powder chamber that propels all of the bullets. This pistol has a German silver wrapped iron barrel, but others are known with brass barrels. The exterior has beaded girdles and a tall blade front sight. The frame is blued steel and has "HENRY HARRINGTONS/PATENT./1837/SOUTHBRIDGE/MASS" along with floral engraving. The top strap is bright and has a notch rear sight and additional floral engraving. The trigger guard is German silver, and the lower strap is brass. The nicely figured grip has a German silver band and pearl cap. The case contains the pistol, three additional breechblocks, multi-tool, rods, dual cavity mold, cap tin, eagle pattern powder flask, and bullets.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine with attractively aged patina on the German silver and brass, bright upper strap, 80% plus bright original blue on the frame, strong original blue on the nipples, mostly bright breechblocks with some patination, and generally only minor age and storage related wear overall. The grip is excellent and has beautiful figure, smooth finish, a few light dings and scratches, and some flaws in the pearl cap. Mechanically fine. The case and remaining accessories are all fine and have minor storage wear overall including some rubbing of the lining at the top of the dividers, cracks in the bottom of the case and the mold handles, and some light oxidation. This is an incredibly rare and incredibly high condition Henry Harrington Volley Pistol. Very few of these fascinating and innovative pistols are known today, and this pistol is, without doubt, the finest example known.

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