Make: Manhattan Arms Co.
Model: Series III .36 Caliber Revolver
Serial Number: 17472
Year of Manufacture: 1861-1864
Caliber: .36 Caliber Ball
Action Type: Single Action Cap and Ball, Black Powder Revolver
Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “MANHATTAN FIRE ARMS CO. NEWARK N.J.” The underside of the frame, barrel assembly, trigger guard and backstrap are marked “17472”.
Barrel Length: 6 ½” Octagonal
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a curved blade fixed to the barrel. The rear sight is a “U” notch in the hammer, visible when cocked.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The one piece smooth walnut grip has been refinished. Marks are visible under the new finish and a cluster of compression marks are present on the butt. The grips rate in about Very Good overall condition as refinished.
Type of Finish: Blue Barrel and Cylinder, Case Colored Frame, Silver Plated Brass Trigger Guard and Backstrap
Finish Originality: All Original
Bore Condition: The bore is dark and the rifling is very shallow There is erosion in the bore.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 20% of its metal finish. Remnants of bluing remain on the barrel and the bare metal has developed a natural patina. The case coloring has muted to a silver sheen. Hints of silver plating are visible on the brass trigger guard. Holster wear and numerous compression marks are apparent on the front two thirds of the barrel. The edges of the barrel remain fairly sharp. Patches of surface erosion are present at the muzzle and at several spots on the barrel, along with scattered pin prick erosion. The rear third of the barrel and frame are adorned with an intricate scroll engraving, which is shallow but visible on the barrel and sharp on the loading lever hinge, frame and hammer. A fish icon and fish scales design are on the hammer and the cylinder exhibits delicate engraving which features five oval panels with naval and military scenes. The images in the ovals are barely present and difficult to see, however a ship is easily identifiable in one of the panels. The borders and embellishments are visible. Thinned bluing is present on most of the cylinder. The engraving on the rear surface of the back strap is shallow but visible and the art on the sides and top are clear, as is the scrollwork on the butt and bottom of the trigger guard. The screw heads are mildly to moderately deformed and all are serviceable. The front trigger guard screw is a replacement and the butt screw will not bite into the threads of the trigger guard and is loose. The markings are clear. Overall, this handgun rates in about Very Good condition as an antique.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. This is a 5-shot, single action revolver. We did not fire this handgun.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: The pistol comes in a wooden presentation case. It does not display any Manhattan Arms markings, so it is uncertain whether or not the case is original to the pistol, though it appears to be period correct. The surfaces exhibit scratches and marks in the finish, but no major marks. A recessed key hole is present on the front side and a key which fits but does not operate the lock is contained in the case. The brass fittings and hinges show a natural patina. The inside of the lid sports a padded insert covered in purple velvet which is faded with age and displays only shallow compression marks from contact with the pistol. The floor of the box is velvet lined and divided into compartments with velvet lined wooden partitions. The velvet lining shows compression marks and oil stains from contact with the pistol and the partitions are loose at the joints, but secure in the floor. The floor of the upper left compartment is gray, apparently from residue from lead projectiles. The box is in Very Good condition as an antique. The case contains an assortment of typical accessories. A copper plated steel cap box which is round and measures 1 ½” in diameter is included. There is a scrap of a green label on the outer surface, about 30% of the plating remains on the lid and 95% of the plating is present on the body of the box, which rates in about Very Good condition. A blue steel nipple wrench/screwdriver tool is present, in Very Good condition. Also included is a blue steel two cavity bullet mold, with a pivoting sprue cutter which is marked “MANHATTAN ARMS / MANUFG. / CO. / N.Y.” The mold is capable of producing one round ball and one conical projectile. It retains about 40% of its original finish and exhibits scattered spots of surface erosion and handling marks. The mold is in Very Good condition. A small copper powder flask with brass fittings and spout is contained in the case, which displays a quail design and is in Very Good condition. Lastly, there are four round balls and two conical projectiles, which exhibit a shallow layer of oxidation and fit into the mold cavities.
Our Assessment: With the expiration of the 1836 Colt patent on revolving cylinders containing multiple chambers looming on the horizon in the late 1850s, many pistol manufacturers prepared to offer a similar product of their own as soon as they possibly could. The Manhattan Arms Company would produce a wide variety of percussion pistols, culminating in the .36 caliber Manhattan Navy models, of which about 78,000 were manufactured. Manhattan Arms never received a military contract, but their pistols did see service during the Civil War, purchased by affluent soldiers because it was reliable and lighter weight than the Colt Army model. This is a Series III, which was manufactured between 1861 and 1864, does NOT possess the spring plate. The serial numbers on all major parts match, 20% of the original finish remains, and most of the engraving is sharp. The wear patterns indicate that this was a working pistol which was well maintained. The rifling is shallow but there are no signs of traumatic use. The action works correctly and the pistol rates in Very Good condition as an antique. The pistol come in a period correct wooden case with a typical assortment of accessories, including a bullet mold stamped with the Manhattan Arms logo. It is impossible to verify that the box and accessories are original to the gun, but the package appears to have been intact for a long time and exhibits signs of use consistent with the pistol. All in all, this is a fantastic collector’s piece. The Manhattan Arms Navy pistols were popular with civilians, yet their legacy is overshadowed by Colt and Remington. The condition and scarcity of a set such as this one is fascinating and intriguing.