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~ The Allen & Wheelock Centre Hammer Army Revolver

    The Allen & Wheelock Centre Hammer Army is my  personal favourite of my American Civil War framed revolvers.
    It doesn't silt up like the Remington and stop the cylinder turning every six shots or so. 
    The Rogers is fine until it's time to clean it and then it's a right pain to get apart - so many screws holding the frames together. 
    The Starr, Single action - who would want the double?, doesn't really have anywhere to rest your thumb, I like it, but . .

 So let me tell you about my Allen, Number 211, since they are relatively rare. Some 700 are said to have been made by the brothers-in-law Ethan Allen and Thomas P. Wheelock (who died in 1863 & the firm reverted to Allen & Co), but Flayderman suggested that the high numbers sold was indicative of a greater quantity being  manufactured.

    The recorded survivors' numbers mainly lie in the range of 1 to 653 which could be the derivation of the suggested total of about 700; Within my 90 odd recorded six numbers are duplicated, 47, 124, 151, 156, 208 & 219. #485 is the highest Version 1 number (nipples from the inside)

    I am drawn to the conclusion that the three variants each had their own numbering sequence, Variants 1 & 2 starting at 1, variant 3 starting at 2001, however there is a fly in the ointment - #1251. I would dismiss this Poulin's attributed number as an anomaly, possibly a false strike, but for Version 3 starting at 2004. If no guns had been produced in the 1000 range why start Version 3 in the 2000s.

    Why, you may ask, are there no recorded numbers between 653 and 1251? Is the answer the same as that to "Why are there only 4 Version 3s" (numbered 2001 to 2347) while there are 87 Version 1s & 2s (numbered 1 to 653)? How can 600 guns go missing when the survival rate of known guns approaches (87 out of 653 + 485 = 1137) 7.6%?
    If you have any guns outside my known numbers please eMail me, rac.b@virgin.net, or even if you just have an Army and can confirm it's version.

    I tentatively suspect the first variant (nipples inserted internally) numbered two batches about 500 each, the second about 750 and the third at least 350; however there may be two batches within the second variant. If one studies the photos below some have the cylinder stop cut out in the centre of the 'flat' part of the cylinder and some have it 2 or 3 mm forward of the centre. If true there are only two explanations : either the 'flat' section to the rear of the cylinder was extended (but that would mean the back portion was compressed, and it doesn't appear to be) or the stop head was relocated 2 or 3 mm further forward, thus a longer/repositioned lever and a change in the frame to accomodate. This could pressage a fourth variant, which would still be within the 'probability window ' of four number duplications if one considers the progressive drop in survivors in the later variants.

    It is impossible to segregate Variants 1 & 2 from Auction photos if one tries to see which type of nipples they use but I have noted that my 211 (version1above left ) and 177 (version 2-2 above right) have different curtain cut outs. Based on this  I have 'batched' the survivors as follows:
Variant 1:      7,  8, 10, 26, 47, 57, 61, 84, 93, 98,  101, 124, 130, 131, 145, 151, 156, 174, 179, 191, 195, 204, 208, 208,  211, 222, 228, 233, 240, 258, 261, 265, 277, 283, 307, 315, 331, 345, 426, 438, 460, 473, 485
Variant 2:1    50, 117,  277, 282, 318, 369, 346, 653 - 1251
Variant 2:2    19, 29, 47, 59, 86, 88, 89, 101, 120, 124, 128, 151, 198, 219, 251, 258, 303, 355, 441, 503, 519
Variant 3:     2004, 2165, (2)191, 2334, (2)347
    If the deeper curtain cut out is only a MO of individual finishers the scenario above could be entirely false, it can only be verified by current owners telling me.
    Records show that 198 (serial numbers unknown) were purchased from William Read & Sons of Boston on December 31, 1861 for $22 each by the U.S. Ordnance Dept.  who are said to have bought a further 338 direct from the factory, however Paul Henry in  "Ethan Allen and Allen & Wheelock: Their Guns and Their Legacy" : ~ The government did purchase 338 Allen & Wheelock .36 side hammer percussion revolvers on the open market for $14.13 each, but their purpose is unknown.
    Number 129,  according the Springfield Research Service serial number reference books was issued to Company 1 of the 3rd Michigan Cavalry but despite claims that some survivors are martially marked not one of the auctioned guns above make any such claim. "Listening" to the guns we have left I have see no evidence that they have beeh holstered over any length of time, as I assume issued guns would be carried.

     Allen was the ultimate “cheap skate” it was not uncommon for the company to use the same dies to mark different models of guns, even if the die did not quite fit on the area that markings were to be placed. This results in Allen revolvers that often have letters and/or numbers missing from the name and patent information stampings, since the die simply did not fit in the area where it was stamped. Centre Hammer Army's were normally marked in two lines on the left side of the octagon portion of the barrel with the name, address and patent information about the gun:
ALLEN & WHEELOCK . WORCHESTER, MASS . U (the SA of USA has been cut off the end of the die so the rest fits on the flat)
ALLEN’S PT’S . JAN . 13. DEC . 15 . 1857 . SEPT. 7. (and the year from the last patent date was omitted as well), 
Allen & Wheelock pistols are notorious for being weakly marked, and as a result are usually only partially legible. Mine is totally devoid of even a scratch in that area.
Described:  a six-shot revolver having a 7½” half-octagon/half-round barrel, weighs approximately 2 lbs. 11 oz., somewhat lighter than its competitors. The hold is appears slightly more 'upright' than them but it comes naturally to the aim. It balances well despite the heavy looking fore-end holding the arbour and loading lever. 
The shrouded cylinder is mounted on a long, front inserted, arbour, which is secured by a simple thumb catch. It is cut with two flats which offer two positions - fully home and partially extracted. Strangely the latter does not permit cylinder removal because some 0.040" of arbour protrude from the frame into the cylinder shroud;  a further release of the arbour is needed. I can't see the logic in this because it sets up a dangerous possibility of the arbour falling out. The tail of the arbour fits properly into the frame behind the cylinder, so perhaps my second flat was cut just too short. Unlike, for example, the Remington there is no facility for 'parking' the nose of the hammer in a safe position between capped nipples. To be carried safely the pistol needs to be at half cock, with a free floating cylinder, its stop retracted. Since the half-cock position is with the hammer only minimally lifted this was obviously the designer's MO for six capped cylinders.
 The chambers have a diameter of .458" to 459", the bore is .443" and eight .457" grooves (50/50 land /groove ratio), with a surprising 1:20 lefthand twist.   
    Two bullet moulds are known to exist and these are said to cast a round ball of 48 to the lb, about .464" and an ogival bullet weighing some 28 to the lb.  The latter would leave space for a charge of up to 30 grains.

As with its predecessor, the sidehammer Navy, loading is aided
by a ratchet toothed lever, working as the later Colt's do, but also acting as a trigger guard, secured by a sprung loaded catch at the rear. The rammer head is shaped, uncompromisingly, for a pointed bullet.
 The Frame, hammer, trigger, cylinder (rear), rammer, rammer lever, arbour, mechanism cover and grips all bear the gun’s individual production assembly number.
These earliest guns are said to use a complicated and fragile “hinged pawl” action which produces a smooth action, but was expensive and time consuming to produce and  difficult to repair. The hammer is mounted on the screw that enters through the right side of the frame and then secures the side plate. The pawl ensemble is secured with two screws and is easily extracted; thereafter hammer removal calls for a .350" block placed between the mainspring and the pawl rod 's rear screw 'hump'; failing which the arbour rod will do to keep the mainspring under control whilst the link is unhooked. The centre screw drops out readily and 'voila' one hammer - for cleaning. Note: the profile which controls the action of the cylinder stop, click the picture and look below the 211 .

    If you have some circlip pliers controlling the mainspring is even easier. Allow it  to be relaxed until it is resting on the rear of the hammer aperture at which time it may be lifted straight out of the frame, with only light thumb pressure.
The 2nd variant revolvers retained all of the mechanical

features and designs of the 1st variant, but had nipples
that were inserted in the conventional fashion, from the
rear of the cylinder. Bearing in mind the close distance
between the walls surrounding the nipple necks the cylinder
is consequently modified as well, to provide clearance for
the nipple wrench.


    The very rare 3rd variant revolvers use a pin that is cast into the right side plate to provide a pivot for it to rotate on, and have a screw that enters from the left  side of the frame that secure the side plates. This is said to make the revolver easier to disassemble and repair.

These guns also utilize a simplified internal  action that was cheaper and easier to produce.

    The majority of Allen & Wheelock Army revolvers appear to have been issued to the 2nd & 3rd Michigan. The 3rd Michigan Cavalry was organized in Grand Rapids  between late August and November of 1860. The regiment mustered into service in November of 1861 and departed for St. Louis on November 28. They proceeded to see service in many of the early Western Theatre operations including the capture of Island #10 and the Siege of Corinth in early 1862, and subsequently the battles of Iuka and Corinthin the fall of 1862.
    Over the next two years, the regiment operated primarily in Western Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, fighting against Forrest’s cavalry and operating against Confederate communications and supply lines. In the spring of 1865 the regiment proceeded to Alabama, where it took part in the sieges of Fort Blakely and Spanish Fort, and subsequently took part in the capture of Mobile, AL. The regiment then moved through Louisiana to Texas and was placed on garrison duty in San Antonio through February of 1866. The regiment was mustered out of service on March 15, 1866 in Jackson, Michigan.
    During their service the 3rd Michigan Cavalry had 3 officers and 27 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, and lost an additional 4 officers and 380 enlisted men to disease.