Intriguing and thought-provoking, this is one odd wheelgun.
Forget the term “unicorn gun,” this unusual and interesting 20-shot revolver is a curiosity you won’t likely see again.
What we can tell you is that it is big, weighing in at 9-pounds, and has a 10-inch long barrel. What it does have is a 20-shot cylinder, Liege proof house inspector’s marks, and a hinged loading/unloading port. What it does not have is a practical handgrip and seems to have been intended to mount to a fixture and fire utilizing a rope.
Note the trigger lever, complete with a rope hole.
While other 20-round revolvers have popped up in recent years on the collector’s market, they are typically handheld pinfire double-barrels, not this monster.
Note the hinged loading/unloading gate, and lack of sights, which may point to the piece being used as a test gun– for instance for ammunition– akin to a Mann Accuracy Device.
Interestingly, we have only found two other references to wheel guns similar to this unusual piece. One is from the 1927 military surplus catalog of Mr. Francis Bannerman of New York, in which a dead-ringer for this big revolver is shown and described as “20 Shot Revolver found in old shop in Paris, bore is about 3/8, length, 15 inches, weight is about 6 pounds. Rare piece. Sold to collector.”
Bannerman’s catalog page from 93 years ago. Anything seem familiar?
Another, more recent mention is from a German auction house that sold one in 2007 that they described as a “grabenrevolver – privat offizierwaffeo” (trench revolver – private officer’s weapon), with a bore of about 11mm.
The dealer that currently has the piece acquired it years ago from a New Orleans collector, and at the time it was said to be a German trench revolver from WWI, rigged to “peek” over the trench and shoot by pulling a string attached to the trigger.
The revolver carries an ELG in a crowned oval, the post-1893 mark for “Epreuve de Liege” or Proof of Liege. It also has a Liege Proof House controller (inspector) mark of a spangled W.
Belgian proof marks
The caliber is believed to be .455 Eley/Webley (11.5x19mmR) which was introduced in 1891.
One thing is for sure, you won’t bump into someone else with this one in their collection.
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