Many-Chambered Revolving Rifle

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One of the most unusual long arms in the National Firearms Museum collection is a .40-cal., 12-shot repeater made by Epenetus Bennett and Frederick Haviland of Waterville, Maine. Built circa 1840, this revolving rifle consists of a series of rectangular chambers joined in a linked belt that are manually revolved into firing position with the aid of a rotating handle underneath the action. While a most innovative design, Bennett's patented wonder had less than a dozen examples manufactured. Like other controversial revolving arms of the time, any multiple discharges might have meant the rifle could direct fire on both sides as well as potentially to the front and back.

Donated by E.J. and Edith Owens as part of their endowment of the National Firearms Museum, this special rifle rests in an exhibit case representing the "Mother of Invention," illustrating with other arms the ingenuity of many American gun makers. Visitors to the galleries can daily see over 2,200 firearms that cover history and technology from the age of Columbus to the present day.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, December 2009.