Savage Revolving Firearms Company "Navy" Model .36 Percussion Revolver
The history of the Savage RFA goes back to 1790, when Simeon North of Berlin, CT established his first firearms manufacturing business. Lacking the financial means to go on his own, he took Josiah Savage on as a partner, a relationship which would last twenty years. The firm moved to Middletown, CT in 1811 to a larger manufacturing facility. Josiah died in 1831 and his son Edward took over his place in the partnership. Together with North, Savage would manufacture a variety of rifles and carbines, and after North's death in 1856, became sole proprietor of the firm. James' son Henry continued to work for Savage, but was never a partner in the business. In 1856, the same year as his father's passing, Henry North was granted a patent for a unique revolving pistol which would become known as the Savage "Figure 8". The improved version, with a revised patent of 1860 became a standard side arm for many soldiers during the civil war. It is one of the most unusual percussion revolver designs of the era: the gun has a lever behind the trigger by which the shooter cocks the hammer and rotates the cylinder. The chambers of the cylinder are fluted at the front and fit over the opening of the breech, creating an excellent seal between the chamber and barrel. However, in order to be able to rotate, the cylinder has to be moved backwards in the frame to release it from its interlock with the barrel. With the cocking of the lever, the cylinder first moves back, rotates by one stop and then moves forward to overlap the breech and seal the gap between the cylinder and barrel. The hammer cocks at the same time. The trigger can now be pulled, and the charge ignited.
This specimen dates from the civil war, as none were purchased by the government after June of 1862. It bears a faint inspector's cartouche on the left grip, and "SAVAGE RFA MIDDLETOWN CT / H.S. NORTH PATENTED JUNE 17 1856 / JANUARY 10 1859 / MAY 15 1860" in three lines on the top strap. It is in fine condition, with a properly working, strong action, and 7-inch barrel. The original finish has turned into a brown patina, but there is not pitting or corrosion. The grips are free of cracks and missing chips, and show moderate handling marks. SN 7985, rated Very Good to Fine overall.

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