This is an antique very fine condition, near mint and probably unissued, Civil War Starr Arms Double Action Model 1858 Army Revolver in .44 Caliber that is also all matching. This revolver was manufactured in December 1862.
The Starr revolver was designed by Ebanezer “Eban” Townsend Starr, son of Nathan Starr and the grandson of Nathan Starr, both of whom manufactured edged weapons for the U.S. Government and who designed firearms in the early 19th century out of Middletown, Connecticut.
Eban Starr was born on August 16, 1816, and apprenticed under his father, Nathan Starr, who was manufacturing flintlock firearms for the United States and select states in the 1830s and 1840s. Young Starr began to experiment with his own designs and on January 15, 1856, he was granted a US Patent for improvements to percussion pepperbox revolving firearm, which incorporated a separate cocking lever and separate trigger. During this same time, Eban Starr began working on breech loading carbine designs. Both of these designs were tested by the U.S. Navy in January 1858.
Simultaneously with the testing of these designs, Starr also finalized his design of the double action .36 caliber Starr Revolver and this was tested at the Washington Arsenal in 1858. The testing of Starr’s .36 caliber double action revolver was very satisfactory to the Ordnance Department and Starr was notified of a contract for the purchase of 500 revolvers at $20 each on November 24, 1858.
Eban Starr quickly turned over his patents to a group of New York City businessmen who formed the Starr Arms Company with corporate and sales offices at 267 Broadway in New York City. Although Eban Starr was the designer, his involvement in day-t0-day operations was nominal with the title of vice president. The President and driving force of Starr Arms was H. H. Wolcott. By 1862, the Starr Arms Company had paid Eban Starr $200,000 for his carbine and revolver patents and an additional $90,000 in salary as vice president. Despite the promising start, the Starr Arms Company struggled with its initial contract.
In mid-December 1860, the Starr Arms Company requested that the Ordnance Department send an Ordnance inspector to inspect the 500 revolvers contracted for in 1858. Ordnance Inspector John Taylor inspected the revolvers, and his report was not good.
On December 15, 1860, Taylor reported that the revolvers could not stand a proof charge of 25 grains of black powder and could only last with the service charge of 20 grains of black powder for a limited number of firings. Taylor explained that about 1,000 Starr revolvers had been manufactured as of his visit in December 1860 and that he was shocked the company had not done any proof testing of its own prior to requesting Ordnance Department inspection. As a result, Taylor stopped his inspection and awaited instructions for the Ordnance Department. Fortunately for Starr Arms, the Civil War then intervened.
After the war broke out in 1861, the Ordnance Department frantically began to search for small arms to outfit the growing Union Army. With 500 Starr Revolvers waiting in the wings, the Ordnance Department quickly accepted them on August 8, 1861, without any further inspections. By early 1862, the US. Government purchased approximately 1,902 .36 caliber Star double action revolvers.
At the same time Starr Arms was contracting with the Ordnance Department, the Navy contacted Starr Arms about the procurement of .36 caliber revolvers. On October 7, 1861, the Navy formally inquired into how soon Starr could produce and deliver 100 revolvers. On November 25, 1861, the Starr factory in Binghamton, New York delivered 60 revolvers to the New York Navy Yard for testing and 40 were delivered to the Washington Navy Yard on December 4, 1861. The earlier problems with proof firing reared its head again and all 40 revolvers delivered to the Washington Naval Yard, originally intended to equip the steamer USS Pensacola, were returned to the Starr company after proof test failure.
Meanwhile, the Starr Arms Company was developing a .44 caliber design that could compete with the Colt Model 1860 Army, also in .44 caliber. On August 31, 1861, the Starr Arms Company Treasurer, Everett Clapp, wrote to the Ordnance Department with an offer to sell 12,000 double action revolvers in .44 caliber at $25 each. The Ordnance Department quickly accepted on September 23, 1861 with the condition that the $25 per revolver would also include a bullet mold, screwdriver, and cone-wrench. The final contract stipulated that deliveries were to be made at the rate of 500 per month for the months of October, November, and December 1861, and then 1,000 per month. In June 1862, the order was increased to 2,000 revolvers per month. The final contract was increased by the Ordnance Department to 20,000 revolvers on January 11, 1862.
The .36 caliber Starr double action revolver was manufactured at the Starr factory in Binghamton, New York and the plant began to tool up for production of the .44 caliber revolver by adding a night shift. This led to a slight delay in production and the initial delivery of 1,000 Army revolvers in .44 caliber did not occur until January 31, 1862. By March 1862, total deliveries of .44 caliber Army revolvers stood at 3,000.
As noted earlier, the Ordnance Department was frantic to procure small arms from numerous sources in the summer and fall of 1861 and, in the process, placed orders that not only exceeded expected demand, but that overpaid for what was delivered. This led to the famous Holt and Owen Commission in early 1862, which began a systematic review and revision of existing Ordnance Department small arms contracts. As a result, in the spring of 1862, Starr’s January 11, 1862 contract for 20,000 revolvers at $25 each was reduced to 15,000 Army models in .44 caliber at $20 per revolver. This led to a new contract dated June 12, 1862, for the delivery of 15,000 Army revolvers in .44 caliber with 1,200 delivered in June 1862 and 1,200 each month thereafter until 15,000 were delivered. Starr met the terms of this new contract and delivered its first 1,200 revolvers on June 25, 1862. Eventually, approximately 23,000 Starr Double Action Army revolvers in .44 caliber were manufactured at Starr’s Binghamton factory between late 1861 and mid-1863, with about 21,050 purchased by the US Government.
Starr also constructed a new factory in Yonkers, New York in late 1861 for the production of the Starr Carbine. Prior to this, Eban Starr developed and patented a new design, which was a .44 caliber single action revolver. This single action design was simpler, easier, and cheaper to manufacture and, because of its relative simplicity, considered to be more reliable than the double action design. The Starr Arms Company persuaded the Ordnance Department to enter into a package deal involving the new Starr Carbine and the new Starr single action revolver. The first 1,000 of the single action revolvers were delivered on December 19, 1863, and by December 22, 1864, when the last 1,000 single action revolvers were delivered, a total of 25,002 single action revolvers were manufactured.
Starr Arms revolvers were the third largest procurement of revolvers by the Union Army during the Civil War. The vast majority of these revolvers were issued to Union cavalry regiments during the war.
This particular revolver is the Model 1858 double action Army in .44 caliber and is martially marked with serial number 7515. Since Starr only manufactured 23,000 double action revolvers in .44 caliber, and since only 21,050 were purchased by the US Government, this particular revolver is one of the early-contract double action .44 Starr revolvers manufactured and purchased by the United States and based on contract deliveries, this revolver was manufactured in December 1862.
This revolver is in antique very fine and near mint condition. Given the extremely high condition of this revolver, it is highly likely that this revolver was never issued. The Upper Frame and Lower Frame retain 95% of the beautiful and original polished blued finish with wear on the sharp points and more pronounced wear on the lower, sides of the frame from handling. The Frame Hinge Screw slot is unmarred, and the frame hinge action is smooth.
On the nose of the Upper Frame, just above the pivot point and just below the plunger recess, is the matching serial number “7515,” above a serif “G” inspection stamp. The internal surfaces of the frame, to include the cylinder rotating mechanism and cylinder dogs (there are two that protrude from the bottom of the frame) also retain virtually all of the original blued finish. Starr described the threaded screw that secures the upper and lower frame to the rear of the recoil shield as the receiver “Pin” and this pin is in very fine plus condition. There is no wear to the checkering on the outer edge and the slot is unmarred. The right side of the frame, below the cylinder recess, has the patent information, “STARR’S PATENT JAN. 15. 1856.” On the left side of the frame is the “STARR ARSM. Co. NEW. YORK.” stamp, all of which remain crisply struck. The rear grip strap retains considerable original blued finish on the edges with the balance along the centerline exhibiting a pewter patina from handling and, there is a serif “W” inspection stamp towards the top. The back of the rear grip strap has the matching serial number stamp “7515.” The front grip strap also retains considerable original blued finish on the edges with the balance along the centerline exhibiting a pewter patina from handling, and the main spring and spring retaining screw retain all of their original blued finish. The left side of the front grip strap has the matching serial number stamp “7515.”
The operation of the Starr double action revolver is unique. The large trigger shaped mechanism is actually the “Cocking Lever,” not the trigger. The Cocking Lever is in mint condition and retains the majority of its original blued finish on the front and back side. The Trigger Extension, which goes up into the frame to operate the mechanism, retains the vast majority of its original color case-hardened finish.
Secured to the rear of the cocking lever is what Starr described as the Cocking Lever Stop. With the stop in the uppermost position (which moves via slight tension from a single-slot stop screw, the cocking lever can be pulled to the rear, which revolves the cylinder while simultaneously moving the hammer to the rear under spring tension, and if the cocking lever is carried through its full movement, the cylinder is locked and the hammer is released firing a round. If the Cocking Lever Stop is slid to the down position, the cocking lever moves to the rear only far enough to rotate the cylinder and lock the hammer to the rear. To fire in this configuration, the trigger finger moves to the actual Trigger, which protrudes only slightly from the rear of the frame and the rear of the trigger guard bow. The trigger retains the vast majority of its original blued finish on the exposed portion. This revolver functions crisply in both modes.
The original Hammer is present, and it retains 95% plus of its original color case-hardened finish. The serrations on the thumb portion remain crisp. The forward-facing portion of the hammer has the matching serial number stamp “7515.” The frame, under the hammer, has the matching serial number “7515.”
The Trigger Guard retains approximately 95% of its original blued finish with small areas that are now exhibiting a pewter patina. The front Trigger Guard Screw has an unmarred slot and just below this screw is a sans serif “W” inspection stamp.
The Barrel retains 95% plus of its original and beautiful blued finish with only minor wear and scratches in a few isolated locations. There is a sans serif “W” inspection stamp on the left, rear of the barrel, just forward of the frame, and a sans serif “H.II.” stamp forward of the “W” stamp. The original Front Sight remains tightly dovetailed to the barrel and it retains 99% of its original blued finish. The crown retains its original flat surface. The bore is in mint, unfired condition with a mirror finish and strong rifling.
The loading mechanism was referred to by Starr in his patent application as the Rammer mechanism and is in mint condition. The Loading Lever retains 98% of the original and still vibrant color case hardened finish. The Loading Lever Latch retains all of its original blued finish, and it works correctly with a strong latch spring. The Latch Stud is still solidly secured to the barrel, and it retains 98% plus of its original blued finish. The Latch Screw has an unmarred slot, and the screw face retains the majority of its original blued finish. The Plunger Screw has an unmarred slot, and the face retains all of its original blued finish. The Plunger retains 95% of its original color case-hardened finish with minimal wear noted on the barrel at the frame friction point. The rammer mechanism functions perfectly.
The original Cylinder is in very fine condition and retains 95% of its original blued finish with a few isolated areas of scratches and minor finish thinning. The Cylinder has the matching serial number “7515” stamped on the outer surface. There are also two sans serif “W” stamps and a serif “H” stamp. All six chambers immaculate with no evidence of having ever been fired. All of the six nipples are also very clean, and the nipples are clear to the chamber. The integrated cylinder arbor is secured by its original single-slot screw that retains all of its original bright blue finish, and all of the teeth of the mechanism remain crisp.
The original one-piece grip is present, and it remains in mint condition with only a few slight scratches in the surface. The grip is very solid and retains its original oil finish. The top of the grip is serial number matching with “7515” and a serif “K” stamped into the wood. The single slot grip Screw retains 95% plus of its original blued finish, and the slot is unmarred. The grip is very tightly secured to the frame and does not wiggle or move when installed.
The lower left and lower right portion of the grip have the boxed cartouche with script “BH,” which is the cartouche of Benjamin “Bing” Hannis, who was an Ordnance officer beginning in the early 1850s. By August 1861, Hannis began working as an inspector of contract arms. During the war he inspected arms at Colt, Savage, Remington, and Starr, and he also inspected Ames sabers. It is known that Hannis traveled on June 15, 1862 to Binghamton, New York to assist A.D. King in inspecting Starr revolvers. Hannis remained at Starr’s factory until sometime in December 1862, shortly after he inspected this revolver, when he left to inspect rifles at Sarson & Roberts and Savage. After the Civil War, Hannis went to work for Smith & Wesson where he remained for the rest of life, dying of Bright’s Disease at the age of 54 on March 20, 1884.
This is an antique very fine condition, nearly mint, and all original and matching Civil War Starr Arms Model 1858 Double Action Army Revolver in .44 caliber. Given the condition of the barrel and, particularly, the chambers, it is unlikely that this revolver was ever issued. This is a true museum quality Starr Double Action Revolver and would be impossible to upgrade. This revolver functions perfectly.