Very Light Magazine is a magazine of The Antique & Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria, Inc                                                                         No 69 January 2014

Monday Night Themes for 2014

January 27 - Talk by Dr Ben Thomas on the Conservation and Preservation of Arms and a supper will be provided.

February 24 - Pocket Pistols and Deringers. (Noel Hall Award night).

March 31Naval and Nautical. (Noel Hall Award night).

April 28Australian Armed Forces - from the colonial period to the present day. (Noel Hall Award night).

May 26Ammunition, cartridges, caps, primers, reloading tools and projectiles. (Noel Hall Award night).

June 30Accoutrements, uniforms, helmets, medals, cartridge boxes, buttons and badges. (Noel Hall Award night).

July 28 – Annual General Meeting, Display nights awards presentation. A supper will be served.
August 25Books, parts, odds and ends, anything except firearms . (This is not a Noel Hall Award night.)

29 SeptemberEdged Weapons, swords, knives, bayonets, daggers, pole arms, axes, etc. (Noel Hall Award night).

27 October General unthemed night plus buy and sell. This is not a Noel Hall Award night.

24 November - Combined Guild/Vintagers night. Theme to be announced and a supper will be served. (This is not a Major Noel Hall Award night)


Melbourne Arms & Militaria Fairs

Jeff Pannan advises that there will be three this year at the Westgate Sports & Leisure Centre, Corner Grieve and Dohertys Rd., Altona North. Scheduled dates are 22/23 March, 5/6 July and 11/12 October. Please see the enclosed flyer for details of the March show.



A Prescott .32 Calibre RF Revolver       by Dr Malcolm McKay

Edwin A. Prescott of Worcester Massachusetts was responsible for a string of pistol designs in the 1860s and 70s. The subject of this article is his first cartridge revolver design which began production in 1861 and ceased by late 1862. It is known as the “Smith & Wesson Style” because of its similarity in shape to the Smith & Wesson tip-up barrel revolvers. Like all the cartridge revolvers of the period that infringed the Smith & Wesson controlled Rollin White patent production didn’t last long and less than two hundred were produced.

Prescott received US Patent Number 30,245 dated October 2nd 1860 for several of the revolver’s features. First was a V shaped notch cut into the rear of the frame’s front section beneath the aperture for the arbor which he claimed acted as a scraper to remove any debris created by firing that might impede cylinder rotation The second feature of the patent was a complexly described but relatively simple revolving and latching system for the cylinder. It must be said this seems to add no improvement over other methods used by competitors like Ethan Allen, although the locking is quite positive – certainly more so than the rather weak top spring system used by Smith & Wesson.

These revolvers were available in two calibres - .22RF and .32RF and apart from size they are identical in construction. The revolver has a solid brass frame with a cut out for the cylinder. On either side behind the cylinder are recoil shields. The 5¾ inch rifled octagonal barrel that screws into the frame is made of iron with a rib running along the top and a German silver blade front sight. So despite the resemblance to the Smith & Wesson it is a completely different design. The rear sight is a notch cut into a raised section near the front of the frame.

The cylinder is removed to load and eject cases. This is done by depressing a catch on the underside of the arbor and drawing it forward – the cylinder then drops out to the right side. Because there is no need for the cylinder to revolve freely as in most revolvers with either rear cartridge loading or placing of caps on percussion cylinders there is no half cock. This lack of half-cock means that there is no safety position – however it is possible to gently pull the hammer back and allow the nose to rest between each cartridge. Not ideal but better than nothing.

Access to the action is accomplished by removing a side plate. This is retained by a screw which attaches to the hammer pin and there are two smaller screws at the top corners of the plate to further lock the plate in position, but given its shape these are unnecessary. Grips are rosewood, attached with a lateral screw and are aligned to the frame by thin tongues at the top. The hammer is crisply knurled and offers a positive grip for the thumb, but the spur trigger has no knurling.

There is a rectangular raised section on the face of frame where the hammer nose enters to hit the cartridge. This was intended to restrain the bulging rear of a fired case from jamming against the receiver and thus freezing the cylinder. It works by allowing the cocking of the hammer to rotate the bulged case of a fired cartridge around to the section of the recoil shield where there is greater clearance for the cartridge head.

There is no decoration and there seem to be no engraved examples. The left side of the barrel is marked E.A.PRESCOTT. WORCESTER. MASS. over PAT’D. OCT.2. 1860. The serial number of the pistol is 6 and appears under the barrel, on the inside of the grips, on the frame inside the bottom of the grips and on the hammer. Recent research suggests that there are two variations of this revolver. The first has a 5 inch barrel and does not have the patent number and date stamping while this example is of the second type. Currently the highest serial number noted for the first type is 80 while for the second (which this is) is 26 (Wild West.org). It is suggested that the serial numbers were recommenced with the second type but this is by no means certain nor for that matter is the existence of two distinct models. The patent date is found on the earlier and rare Prescott percussion revolver which could mean that its absence on some cartridge revolvers might be an oversight.

These are certainly amongst the very rarest of the early American cartridge revolvers and like the other .32 calibre revolvers of the period they would have been a popular sidearm for Civil War soldiers, but quantity production was quickly stopped by Smith &Wesson. The pistol is more strongly made than the Smith & Wesson tip-up barrel design, although tinkering with the internals is not for the faint-hearted as the parts are easily got out of order. Edwin Prescott went on to make a series of more conventionally framed rimfire cartridge revolvers in various calibres from .22 through to .44 and many saw service, but all fell victim in the end to Smith & Wesson’s enforcement of the Rollin White patent.


Flayderman, N., Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values, 8th Edition, Krause
      Publications, Iola, 2001.

McKay, M., “Smith & Wesson Evasions – A Survey” Caps & Flints March 2003, p. 291 ff.

Macewicz, J. J., American Handgun Patents 1802 – 1924, Museum Restoration Service,
     Bloomfield, 1977.

Sellars, F.M. and Smith, S.E., American Percussion Revolvers, Museum Restoration Service,
     Ottawa, Ontario, 1971.

US Patent Number 30,245, October 2nd 1860.

Wild West Treasures.org.


Last Word



A small number of you will have received a letter from the Guild advising you that your 2013-2014 annual subscription is overdue. Please either pay the overdue amount or contact the Guild Secretary on (03) 9584 2907 and advise him if you wish to cancel your membership.

The Guild is required by the Firearms Act to notify Licensing and Registration Division and the Department of Justice if members cease to be current and the Secretary is reluctant to do so because a member may simply have overlooked their payment. This reluctance is because failure to keep your membership current will result in the cancellation of any licence you possess that is relying on Guild membership to meet the requirement that you are a current member of an approved organization. This condition also applies to collection of swords. The Secretary does not wish to cause unnecessary problems for Guild members. So please either pay your subscription or notify the Secretary of your wish to resign your membership of the Guild.

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