This is a fine condition Civil War Starr Arms Double Action Model 1858 Army Revolver in .44 Caliber that is also all matching.
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 those 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 22950. 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 very last double action .44 Starr revolvers manufactured and purchased by the United States in mid-1863.
This revolver is in antique fine/excellent condition. The Upper Frame and Lower Frame retain 95% of the original blued finish with wear on the sharp points. 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 “22950,” 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 the majority of their 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 fine condition. There is minimal 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 left side upper and lower frame, where they meet to the rear of the left side recoil shield has serif “T” and “W” stamps.
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 fine condition and retains the majority of its original blued 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 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 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 90% plus of its original color case-hardened finish. The serrations on the thumb portion remain crisp. The interior edge of the hammer has the matching serial number “22950” stamp.
The Backstrap, which is secured by a screw at the rear of the lower frame, is a plum patina with a serif “W” inspection stamp towards the top.
The Barrel retains 15-20% of its original blued finish with mixed plum and pewter patina. The original Front Sight remains tightly dovetailed to the barrel and it retains the majority of its original blued finish. The crown retains its original flat surface. The bore is in very fine condition with a mirror finish, strong rifling, and only minor frosting in the grooves.
The loading mechanism was referred to by Starr in his patent application as the Rammer mechanism and is in very fine condition. The Loading Lever retains 95% of the beautiful and original color case-hardened finish. The Loading Lever Latch also retains the vast majority 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 50% 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 also has an unmarred slot, and the face retains 95% of its original blued finish. The Plunger retains traces of its original blued finish with wear noted on the barrel at the frame friction point. The rammer mechanism functions perfectly.
The Trigger Guard retains approximately 80% of its original blued finish with the balance exhibiting a pewter patina. The front Trigger Guard Screw has an unmarred slot and just below this screw is a serif “W” inspection stamp.
The original Cylinder is present, and it retains 10-15% of its original blued finish with the balance exhibiting a pewter patina. The Cylinder has the matching serial number “22950” stamped on the outer surface along with serif “W” and “T” inspection stamps. All six chambers are very clean. 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 and all of the teeth of the mechanism remain crisp.
The original one-piece grip is present, and it remains in fine condition. There are a few very minor dings, but no cracks are noted. The grip is very solid and retains its original oil finish. The single slot grip Screw is now generally a pewter patina, but the slot is unmarred. The grip is very tightly secured to the frame and does not wiggle or move when installed.
The upper left portion of the grip has the boxed cartouche with script “RKW,” which is the cartouche of Robert K. Whiteley. Whiteley was an Ordnance Department sub-inspector as early as February 1862. On March 24, 1862, Whiteley was ordered to go to Binghamton, New York as soon as he finished inspecting items At Emerson Gaylord and to work alongside Andrew D. King to inspect Starr revolvers. Whiteley is listed as having inspected 4,950 double action Starr revolvers in April or May 1864, so this is one of those he inspected that month. The left grip panel has a serif “D” inspection stamp at the top and a boxed cartouche with script “JSD” on the bottom, which is the cartouche of civilian inspector John S. Duston. Duston was a sailor in the US Navy when he began work as a civilian inspector at the beginning of the Civil War. Few of his cartouches have been observed on Starr Revolvers and he is listed as having been in New York on inspection duties in November 1863. It is Duston’s cartouche that confirms this revolver was one of the 4,950 Starr Double Action revolvers inspected and accepted by the Ordnance Department in November 1863, but that were not delivered for some reason. This resulted in Whiteley traveling to the Starr Binghamton factory in early spring 1864 to re-inspect those revolvers, after which they were delivered to the Ordnance Department. (Only a handful of Duston inspected Starr Double Action Model Revolvers in .44 caliber are known.).
This is a fine condition, all original, all matching, and desirable Starr Arms Model 1858 Double Action Army Revolver in .44 caliber. This revolver functions perfectly.