The Firearms Technology Museum

Australian Useage of Tranter Firearms

To many of our ancestors weapons were a part of day to day life. They were regarded as a tool or implement to be available for use whenever they were required. Then, just as now, a sensible person would buy the best possible tools he could afford and the firearms made by William Tranter of Birmingham were among the best available. Many of the better known gunsmiths and ironmongers of the time advertised that they sold Tranters. The inherant dangers associated with travel in this vast land as well as the well deserved reputation of the tranters ensured a ready market and they were much sought after by both gentleman and ruffian alike. 

The inland explorer Robert O'Hara Bourke owned two Tranter revolvers. They were presented to him when he left the police force to explore the inland of Australia with Wills. An extract from the Beechworth newspaper "The Constitution" dated October 30, 1858 reads.
Testimonial to Superintendent Robert O'Hara Bourke. The government officials of the district have presented to this gentleman as a mark of their esteem and regard, a brace of revolvers. They are on the principle of Tranter's double trigger, are handsomely finished weapons and calculated to prove extremely serviceable should their owner unfortunately need to use them. One is a holster pistol and the other is intended to wear on the person. Both bear suitable inscriptions on silver plates covering the butt ends.
The holster pistol was probably a 54 or a 38 bore and may have had a detachable shoulder stock, while the smaller one would have been either 80 or 54 bore.

Part of the armament carried by the Jardine brothers on their expedition from Rockhampton to Cape York in 1864 included Tranter double action percussion revolvers, most likely 4th models. The expedition left on October 10th and composed of Frank Lacelles Jardine, Alexander Jardine, C. Scrutton, R.N. Binney and Government Surveyor Archibold J. Richardson. There were also four black troopers form the districts of Rockhampton and Wide Bay named Aulah, Peter, Sambo and Barney. The supplies were calculated to last the party up to four months and were distributed, together with the tools, ammunition and camp necessaries in 18 packs averaging about 150lbs each.These packs were designed to be carried on horse back. The black troopers were armed with double barrelled police carbines while the whites were armed with Terry's breech loading rifles and Tranter revolvers. On Sunday December 16th, the party was attacked by several hundred hostile natives. When the battle was over some 50 natives lay dead, largely due to the deadly efficiency of the Tranters

The bushranging era also provided its share of incidents. On October 3rd 1863 the bushranger Ben Hall and his four companions rode into the NSW central west town of Bathurst where they went to Bartolomeo Pedrotta's gunshop asking to see the latest revolving rifles and Tranters patent revolvers. The frightened gunsmith had none to show them but offered his stock of Colt handguns, the bushrangers informed him the Tranter revolvers they already had were better and then promptly left.

On December 19th 1864 William Macleay, the local member of parliament for Murrumbidgee was forced to make a stand against members of Ben Hall's gang. He was attacked while travelling on the Sydney to Goulbourn road between Towrang and Shelley's Flat about 10km south of Marulan.He was armed with a double trigger revolver and revolving rifle, both tranters and after an exchange of shots the bushrangers realised they were outclassed and retreated, only to attack him again as he approached Plumb's Inn. Macleay took up a position on the verandah of the inn and once again outclassed the bushrangers causing them to depart the scene, leaving Macleay the hero of the day.

Johnny Gilbert's favorite gun was the Tranter revolving rifle he had taken from a squatter named William Davis on March 4, 1865. Gilbert was eventually killed when he was betrayed by John Dunn's grandfather, a man named Kelly, who reputedly poured water into the breech mechanism of Gilbert's rifle while he slept. When the police attacked in the morning Gilbert held them off with his revolver long enough for Dunn to escape before he was gunned down. The rifle was found with four chambers still loaded and the stock broken lying beside Gilbert's body. It was later returned to its original owner and still has a colonial repair to stock. Ben hall's 3rd model Tranter revolver was found when he was shot dead by a party of police under Inspector Davidson at Billabong Creek between Forbes and Bogan Gate on the 5th of May 1865.

During the 1860's Tranter revolvers and revolving rifles were amongst the firearms on issue to the NSW Police. The special constables sworn in to capture the Clarke gang in 1866 in the Braidwood district were issued with Tranter revolvers and revolving carbines.One patrol that were posing as surveyors was led by John Carroll, a 38 year old senior warder at the Darlinghurst Gaol. The other members of the party were Patrick Kennagh aged 26, Eneas McDonnell aged 50, both prison warders. The other member of the party was John Phegan aged 30, a former associate of the Clarke brothers who knew the Braidwood area well. Unfortunately their Tranters did not help them as they were ambushed by the Clarkes while walking through an area of very dense bush on Jinden Station on the night of January 9th 1867. The following day McDonnell and Phegan were found shot to death in a small clearing, their bodies riddled with bullets. About 800 metres further on Carroll and Kennagh were also found shot to death, probably after they had surrendered. Carroll was found lying on his back, with a neatly folded handkerchief on his chest with a one pound note pinned to it. A large sum of money he was carrying in his pocket had not been touched. The Clarke brothers had two Tranter revolving rifles in their possession when they were finally captured.

The following Tranter firearms were on issue in Braidwood Sub District circa March 1879, Tranter patent rifle issued to Sub Inspector James Keegan stationed at Braidwood, Tranter patent revolver issued to Constable No.2953 John Berry stationed at Nerrigundah, Tranter patent revolver issued to Constable No.1927 Frederick Nelson stationed at Nelligen.
The plain clothed police involved in the pursuit of Ned Kelly carried a great variety of weapons and many were armed with Tranter weapons.
Fred Ward, alias Thunderbolt, also used a Tranter as the following passage reveals:
"Thunderbolts Tranter revolver, with which he fired at police was found in the waterhole where he was shot, having four empty chambers, the fifth was loaded and apparently had misfired. His second revolver, a Colt, was picked up where Walker had persued him."

A bank clerk, Robert Hoddle Dryberg White fought his way into our history with his two Tranter revolvers. In April 1868, whilst working for the Bank of N.S.W., he was required to carry a large bag of cash from Brisbane to Rockhampton by coach and at the end of the first day's journey he put up for the night at Gympie. Five of the locals heard of the money and decided this "bank bloke" would be easy pickings, so when Mr. White left his hotel the next morning he walked into the waiting arms of five armed men. Not to be deterred, he dived back into the foyer of the hotel, pulled out one of his Tranters and started shooting. Everyone expected him to stay safely behind the door until help arrived but he drew his other pistol and burst out through the hotel door in a wild charge straight at the bushrangers. He shot two of them with two shots and turned to face the other three only to see them disappearing in the distance. For his heroic actions he was presented with a silver tea service by the Bank and the Queensland Government presented him with a fine Wesley Richards shotgun.

During the Maori Wars in New Zealand Tranter double trigger revolvers were issued to troops. They were used in the Bay of Plenty campain during the Hau Hau wars (1864-68). It is on record that the double trigger feature was not popular with some soldiers because in the heat of action at close quarters they were inclined to only pull the bottom trigger.

The following reports of stolen firearms were listed in the NSW Police Gazette between 1862 and 1864.
18-3-1863 page 80, Mr John Rutherford, of the Darling River, was stuck up near Wambangalang, on the road between Dubbo and the Lachlan, 20 miles from Dubbo, by two armed men, and robbed of a revolver by Tranter, two tins of Eley's cartridges for revolvers, clothing and a horse.
22-4-1863 page 117, found in the possession of Henry Wilson who was caught passing a note stolen from the Tamworth and Murrurundi mail, a five barreled revolver marked Challinor (sic), 61 King Street, Sydney, No.14129T, along with a watch, various bank notes and a saddle.
28-12-1864 page 415, stolen on the evening of the 19th instant, from the shop of Henry Challinor (sic), gunsmith, King Street, -a six inch Tranter's seven chamber revolver, brass mounted and chased, chambers' brass or gunmetal. Value 5 pound 5 shillings.
7-6-1865 page 415, stolen on the 29th ultimo, from the shop of William John Whitfield, King Street, Sydney, a small size imitation Tranter's revolver, the name supposed "Purday" in bright letters on the barrel. The robbery was committed by two chinamen.