New Haven Arms No. 1 Pocket Volcanic .31 Cal Lever Pistol 1857-1862 Antique

SOLD FOR: $6,691.99

LSB#: 231108DM022

Make: New Haven Arms Company

Model: No. 1 Pocket Pistol, “Volcanic”

Serial Number: 148

Year of Manufacture: 1857-1862

Caliber: .31 Caliber Smith & Wesson No. 1 “Volcanic” Cartridge

Action Type: Lever-Action, Tubular Magazine Fed, Cartridge Firing Handgun

Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “NEW HAVEN CONN. / PATENT FEB. 14. 1854”. The left of the frame under the left grip panel is marked “148”. The inside of each grip panel is stamped “148”.  The frame has factory engraving.

Barrel Length: 3 1/2”

Sights / Optics: The front sight is a blade fixed to the top-front of the magazine sleeve’s front band. The rear sight is a “V”-notch dovetailed to the top-rear of the frame.

Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are two-piece smooth wood. The grips have light handling wear with some scattered minor nicks and scratches. Each panel has a couple of more notable dings at the bottom edge. The left panel has a crack in the bottom face. The finish is thinning at the bottom edges. There are no chips. Overall, the grips are in about Very Good-plus condition as Antique

Type of Finish: Blue & Silver-Plated Brass

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is is semi-bright with well defined rifling. There is scattered light erosion and pitting in the bore, most in the grooves. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates 5 or 6 out of 10.

Most antique firearms have bores that will show erosion. This is not only due to age but to the use of black powder. When fired, black powder reacts corrosively. NRA Antique Firearm Conditions Standards are quite lenient for bores. In some cases, the NRA standards disregarded the bore’s condition for collectors’ firearms.

Overall Condition: This pistol retains about 75% of its metal finish. The barrel assembly has some remaining finish, strongest in the flute under the fore on each side. Other surfaces show scattered surface oxidation. The frame retains the great majority of its silver plate with some thinning at edges. There are some scattered light nicksk, mostly clustered around the hammer screw, and there is some scuffing. The lever ring has handling wear and there are light grind marks at the top of the trigger guard on the inside in front of the trigger spring, more visible with the action open. The hammer has some surface oxidation and operational wear. The screw heads are tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this pistol is in about Excellent condition as Antique.

Mechanics: Please note, this pistol is designed to be operated by first cocking the hammer, then operating the lever. The design is not intended to be operated using only the lever. The follower has some play at its top position, able to drop far enough to interfere with the bolt coming forward unless the pistol is pointed up or otherwise such that the lifter does not fall too far down. Otherwise, the action functions correctly. The hammer spring is strong, the trigger is crisp. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None.

Our Assessment: The Volcanic pistols and carbines are an incredibly important piece of American firearms history, being a part of the beginnings of both Smith & Wesson as well as Winchester. The original 1848 “Volition Repeating Rifle” design by Walter Hunt was revolutionary, introducing an early iteration of the lever action repeating mechanism and the tubular magazine still common today. However, Hunt’s design was far from perfect, and only a couple of prototypes were developed. Lewis Jennings patented an improved version of Hunt’s design in 1849, and versions of the Jenning’s patent design were built by Robbins & Lawrence Co. (under the direction of shop foreman Benjamin Tyler Henry) and sold by C. P. Dixon. Horace Smith was also hired by Courtlandt Palmer to improve the Jennings Rifle, patenting the Smith-Jennings in 1851. By 1854, partners Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson along with Courtlandt Palmer and B. Tyler Henry, continued to further improve on the operating mechanism, developing the Smith & Wesson Lever pistol, and a new Volcanic cartridge.

The new cartridge improved upon the Hunt Rocket Ball with the addition of a primer. Originally using the name “Smith & Wesson Company”, the name was changed to “Volcanic Repeating Arms Company” in 1855, with the addition of new investors, one of whom was Oliver Winchester. The Volcanic Repeating Arms Company obtained all rights for the Volcanic designs (both rifle and pistol versions were in production by this time) as well as the ammunition, from the Smith and Wesson Company. Wesson remained as plant manager for 8 months before rejoining Smith to found the “Smith & Wesson Revolver Company” upon obtaining the licensing of the Rollin White rear loading cylinder patent. Winchester forced the insolvency of the Volcanic Arms Company in late 1856, took over ownership and moved the plant to New Haven, Connecticut, where it was reorganized as the New Haven Arms Company in April 1857. B. Tyler Henry was hired as plant superintendent when Robbins & Lawrence suffered financial difficulties and Henry left their employ. While continuing to make the Volcanic rifle and pistol, Henry began to experiment with the new rimfire ammunition, and modified the Volcanic lever action design to use it. The result was the 1860 Henry rifle. By 1866, the company once again reorganized, this time as the Winchester Repeating Arms company, and the name of Winchester became synonymous with lever action rifles.

This is a great example of a scarce New Haven No. 1 Pocket Pistol, a 3 1/2? .31 Caliber Volcanic Pistol. Approximately 850 of this variant were produced by New Haven Arms and this is a quite early piece at serial 148. The pistol is factory engraved and retains the great majority of its original blue and silver plate finish. The bore shows erosion consistent with the ammunition it was designed for, but the mechanics are still quite good and the pistol retains its original grips. This is a wonderful opportunity for fans of the Volcanic specifically, but also for those interested in early repeating firearms. Please see our photos and good luck!

Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California -Bud

New Haven Arms No. 1 Pocket Volcanic .31 Cal Lever Pistol 1857-1862 Antique
New Haven Arms No. 1 Pocket Volcanic .31 Cal Lever Pistol 1857-1862 Antique