The Firearms Technology Museum
Tranter percussion models
Although the current system of models used to designate the various patterns and variations of
Tranter's percussion revolvers is not entirely adequate or correct, it is what
most collectors understand so I have stayed with it for the time being.
Several limited production patterns were clearly part of the general production series but are not accounted for.
The model designation tends to indicate that the various patterns followed each other in time which is not correct as several models were marketed concurrently for several years at a time, and also that different features including loading rods, sights and safety catches can be found on one so called model.
The data sheet is used to identify the variations found on different model Tranter percussion weapons. The original sheet was compiled by the late Doug Nie while researching a book on the life and weapons of William Tranter. Unfortunately the work was never published.
To view the data sheet click here.
1851 Adams self cocking revolver
Robert Adams self cocking revolver was covered by British Patent No. 13527 dated 24th February 1851, a major claim being for a one piece barrel and frame which caused Tranter and other gunmakers to pay royalties on each frame they manufactured until 1865 when the patent expired. It appears that the 1851 Adams was only available in five shot and normally a rammer was not fitted to or supplied with the weapon.
The lock mechanism consisted of seven major parts which were housed in an "L" shaped slot machined into the rear and bottom faces of the frame. At rest the hammer which has the main spring swivel attached to it is pivoted fully forward by the main spring. The trigger is held forward by the trigger spring and the pawl is forced forward against the ratchet on the rear of the cylinder by the pawl spring. The sear is forced back against a bent cut into the hammer breast.
Pressure on the trigger raises both the pawl which rotates the cylinder and the sear which starts to cock the hammer. When a chamber in the cylinder is lined up with the barrel, the cylinder bolt, which is a lump on the top of the trigger, engages a notch and locks the cylinder with the chamber in position. At the same time the belly of the hammer pushes the sear forward out of engagement with the hammer bent so that the hammer is forced forward onto the percussion cap by the main spring causing the weapon to discharge. When the trigger is released the mechanism reverts to it's at rest position.
The Adams safety device was at first a flat spring and later a "J" shaped spring attached to the frame which had to be manually set by slightly depressing the trigger to lift the hammer, then pushing the safety in and releasing the trigger. When the trigger was depressed to discharge the weapon the safety would spring back out of the way.
These revolvers were manufactured by various Birmingham gun manufacturers but the majority, over 8000, were made by Tranter. Starting in late 1851 Tranter began producing both frames and complete revolvers for Adams, they were marked externally with Adam's trade mark and serial number without any suffix or with an "R" suffix, and they were marked internally with "WT" on one side of the hammer slot and a Tranter serial number on the other side.
To see Adams revolver images click here To see a diagram of the Adams lock click here
First model double trigger revolver
First model double trigger revolvers were basically Adams revolvers fitted with Tranter's double trigger mechanism which was covered by Patent No.212 dated 28th January 1853. Most had a separate one piece rammer that would be carried in the pocket and fitted onto a straight round peg attached to the frame below the cylinder when it needed to be used. It pivoted around the peg so that the ram pushed on the bullet and forced it into the chamber. The rammer was covered by Patent No.2921 of 16th December 1853.
Three sets of serial numbers can be found on these revolvers, the first is the external Adams serial number, this number being part of a block of numbers in the 20,000 range with a "Y" suffix that was assigned to Tranter by Robert Adams for frames sold by Tranter for his own profit. The second number is an internal "WT" on one side of the hammer slot and a Tranter serial number on the other side. The third number represents the number of the double trigger assembly, it is on the blade of the trigger and consists of a number in an oval "W Tranter's Patent No." mark.
The trigger mechanism included the lower or cocking trigger, the upper or firing trigger, the hammer lifter/sear and cylinder pawl bolt, the hammer being completely separate. The lifter was a sear pivoted at its midpoint and acted on at its lower end by the rear face of the upper or firing trigger. As the lower or cocking trigger was pulled the upper end of the sear acted on the bent in the hammer and pivoted it to the full cock position. At full cock the lifter remained in engagement, holding the hammer until pressure on the upper trigger tripped the sear and allowed the hammer to fall. If both triggers were pulled together the lifter/sear was forced out of engagement by the upper trigger and the hammer fell, discharging the weapon as soon as it reached the full cock position. Cylinder rotation was by the pawl on the lower trigger which pushed the cylinder round until the partition wall of the lowest nipple contacted a stud formed on the top of the lower trigger body that protruded through the frame floor when the trigger was pulled.
In order to carry a loaded revolver some form of safety is required. The Tranter safety consisted an inverted "Y" shaped spring attached to the left hand side of the frame. When the hammer was raised slightly a lug on the inside of the top of the spring was interposed between the hammer and the nipples, it remained in this position until the lower trigger brought the hammer to full cock when it was disengaged. Unlike the 1851 Adams it did not have to be set manually.
To see first model images click here To see a diagram of the double trigger lock click here
Second model double trigger revolver
Second model revolvers were made on both Adams and early Tranter frames. They had the same safety and trigger mechanism as the first models. The second model rammer was one piece and had a keyhole for mounting. It would normally be attached to the weapon and held in the rest position by a hook on the barrel. It could only be removed from its anchor peg by turning it to the appropriate position and lifting it off the peg. This peg had a lug or key formed on it.
To see second model images click here
Third model double trigger revolver
Third model was built on Tranter's improved frame with a more raked butt grip and had the same safety as the first models. The rammer was a two piece assembly with the actual rammer being pivoted on the lever and held by a screw, the lever was permanently attached to the frame with a large headed screw and held in the rest position by a hook on the barrel when not in use.
To see third model images click here
Fourth model double action revolver
Fourth model was built on Tranter's improved frame with a more raked butt grip. The rammer was a two piece assembly with the actual rammer being pivoted on the lever and held by a screw, the lever was permanently attached to the frame with a large headed screw and held in the rest position by a hook on the barrel when not in use. The trigger had a large lug on the rear to disengage the sear and drop the hammer. The trigger guard had a slot cut in it to accommodate it. Two different types of cylinder locking safety were used, both manually operated by the user. The first was a pivoted hammer shaped arm attached to the frame and second a horizontal sliding catch. Both operated on the rear face of the cylinder.
In Tranter's single trigger design, the lock could be operated either single or double action. In single action where the hammer is cocked by the thumb the sear engages bents in the hammer to hold it at either full or half cock. A hook on the top of the lifter engages a round slot in the hammer breast and pivots the trigger back to the firing position. Pressure on the trigger causes the horn on the rear of the trigger to pivot the sear and disengage it from the hammer, this causes the hammer to fall and discharge the weapon. In double or self cocking action the lifter lifts the hammer to full cock position, it then disengages and the hammer falls to discharge the weapon. During this operation the horn on the rear of the trigger has pivoted the sear so that it can not engage in the hammer bents. In both modes of operation the pawl pivots on the trigger to rotate the cylinder until it is locked in position by a lump formed on the upper part of the trigger which engages the nipple partitions in the cylinder.
To see fourth model images click here To see a diagram of the fourth model lock click here
Triple action double trigger revolver
Triple action model is sometimes called the export model although there is no real reason to suppose that they were only made for export. Covered by Patent No.1913 of 16th August 1856 it was a combination of the double trigger and forth model. It could be cocked and fired like the double trigger by first pulling the lower cocking trigger back to raise the hammer and rotate the cylinder, then press the upper trigger to discharge the weapon for controlled or aimed fire. Both triggers could be pulled together for rapid fire. The spur on the rear of the hammer could also be used to thumb cock the weapon like a single action. The double trigger mechanism had an additional lug on the rear to disengage the sear when the weapon was used single action.
Tranter Adams Kerr revolver
This was Tranter's version of the Beaumont Adams and although similar in looks to the Adams it is a completely different weapon. They had a separate barrel screwed into the frame and had a horizontal seesaw arbor latch. The frame and lock work designed by Tranter were the forerunner of the later large frame rim fire revolvers. They were available in both single trigger double action and double trigger. They were fitted with a two piece rammer assembly with the rammer traveling along a groove in the frame and being slotted to allow it to slide along the lever. The lever was screwed to a large lump protruding from the front of the frame. This rammer was covered by James Kerr's British Patent No. 1722 of July 28th 1855. Kerr was factory foreman for Deane, Adams and Deane's gun factory. There are at least two distinct models, an early version with a lug on the rear of the trigger and fitted with a sliding safety and a later version without the lug similar to the later house defense revolvers. This later version did not have a safety fitted.
To see Tranter Adams Kerr images click here
Transitional or dual ignition revolver
Transitional or dual ignition revolvers were developed during the change over period from percussion to self contained cartridge. Although many percussion weapons were permanently converted to cartridge operation, other weapons were designed to operate on either form of ammunition and Patent No.1889 of 20th July 1865 describes such a system. The cartridge cylinder was shorter than the percussion one and fitted with a separate breech piece incorporating a hollow tube over which the cylinder fitted. The cylinder was indexed to the breech plate by a single pin and the plate was fitted with individual strikers for each chamber. The cartridge cylinder could be replaced by the normal percussion cylinder at any time.
Patent breech loading or swivel breech rifle
These single shot rifles are known as either patent breech loading or oscillating or swivel breech rifles. They were covered by British Patent no.2921 of 1853 and fitted with a cylinder or breech plug incorporating the percussion nipple and a chamber for a combustible cartridge or loose charge. This plug fitted into a large hole in the frame and pivoted on an arbor in the frame, it had two notches machined into it so that a spring loaded catch could hold it in either the open loading or closed firing position and it was operated manually by a handle which was an extension of the plug. The spring loaded arbor release catch was fitted to the bottom of the frame just in front of the trigger guard.
At the rear of the frame a locking lever which rotated 180 degrees was fitted to lock the plug in the firing position and also improve the gas seal. The action had both half and full cock positions and the hammer was fitted externally with the striking face running in a groove in the frame. The trigger mechanism was internal and could be inspected by removing a round inspection plate fitted into the frame. This plate was held in position by two small screws. A small screw on flash shield was also fitted to the frame behind the breech plug
The example shown has sling eyes fitted to the barrel and stock. It is in 38 bore with a 24" hexagonal barrel. It has a fixed rear sight graduated to 100 yards and three additional hinged leaves for ranges of 200, 300 and 400 yards.
To see patent breech loading rifle images click here
Double trigger rifles and carbine
The double trigger rifles and carbines were based on the same actions as the double trigger revolvers. Most appear to have had a screw on safety shield fitted to the frame behind the cylinder and a cover of shroud fitted over the hammer, both to protect the user from the flash and pieces of broken percussion cap.
Examples have been noted fitted with 2nd and 3rd model rammers. Stocks with a pronounced pistol grip as well as the more normal straight comb can be encountered. Most have full hexagonal bsrrels but half hexagonal, half round barrels have been noted. Some weapons were fitted with sling eyes on the barrel and stock. One example was smooth bored with a longer than normal cylinder presumably to take shot. They appear to have been available in 38 and 54 bore and some were cased with accessories.
One problem associated with all percussion revolving longarms was the danger of a multible discharge when more than one chamber discharged simultanously. Another problem was that when the projectile left the cylinder and entered the barrel shavings of lead could be sliced off and projected forward along the outside of the barrel. To lessen the danger of having the hand holding the barrel wounded by either of these occurrances the weapons were not fitted with a forewood and the normal practice when firing the weapon was to hold the knob or projection at the bottom of the trigger guard with the hand that normally would hold the forewood. The hand that operated the trigger would wrap around the comb of the stock.
To see double trigger rifle images click here
Single trigger rifles
I have only seen one example of the single trigger rifle and at the present time I don't know if it was a special order for a customer or part of the normal model line up. The example seen has the normal 4th model revolver features including the hammer shaped safety and has no retailers markings. It has a straight hand stock and is fitted with sling eyes, it has an hexagonal barrel and is in 54 bore.
To see single trigger rifle images click here