Working on the Rogers & Spencer .44 revolver converted to centerfire from percussion caps and blackpowder.
by Mark R. Hollensen
I’ve had a few of these Civil War era revolvers come into the shop lately, with this one being complete (no missing parts) and it functioned properly. The others were missing the mainspring and other screws and internal parts, and as you well know, parts for these old revolvers are pretty much extinct. The owner of this revolver brought it to me to remove a cleaning patch that had become lodged in the cylinder and barrel, and he asked that it be completely disassembled for a deep cleaning and to determine if it was an all-numbers matching revolver. I say revolver, because often black powder guns are often referred to as “pistols” and I found this terminology used when doing research on this particular “modified” gun.
Going back to the beginning, it was around 1837 when Amos Rogers and Julius Spencer began making farm machinery as their business, reportedly making guns as a sideline. Based on C.S. Pettengill’s patent of 1856, the two began making .31 and .34 caliber revolvers. Later, the two took over the Pettengill patent and formed their own business named the Rogers, Spencer & Company. The early Pettengill revolver was simply a self-cocking revolver with an enclosed hammer. Rogers & Spencer made reportedly 5,000 of these revolvers but they were deemed to be unsuitable for use by the military and the contract was purportedly canceled.
In 1864, Rogers & Spencer began making revolvers to compete against Remington and Colt, making black powder revolvers. A total of 5,000 of their black powder revolvers were produced and sent to Ordnance on September 26, 1865. However, there are no records indicating that these revolvers were ever issued to the troops as the Civil War ended. The guns were reportedly placed into storage and later sold to a merchant named Francis Bannerman. Each percussion gun had 7.5” octagon barrels, held six shots, and offered in .44 caliber (blackpowder). Bannerman reportedly sold them at low prices until all were distributed. There are reports that many of these guns are in pristine condition, however, I have not seen one (in person) as of yet.
Continuing my research on these Civil War era revolvers, I found that many had later been…
Read more in the March 2020 issue.