Pinfire Powerhouse

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About the time America's Samuel Colt was patenting his revolving cylinder handgun in 1835, in Europe, the innovative pinfire ignition system came into being. One of the first self-contained metallic cartridges, pinfires utilized a protruding metal pin, which when struck by the hammer, detonated a fulminate charge that was placed in a cap inside the cartridge. A wide range of pinfire longarms, including both rifles and shotguns, as well as pinfire handguns, were manufactured in Belgium and France. One advantage to the pinfire cartridge was that it was one of the first metallic cartridges that could be easily reloaded at minimal cost and without special tools.

One of the more unique pinfires in the NFM collection is this 7mm caliber Belgian double-action revolver, which incorporates a wide cylinder capable of holding 21 cartridges.

Elaborately engraved and fitted with smooth ebony grip panels, this embellished handgun has two barrels to accomodate the dual levels of chambers set into the cylinder. The hammer of this revolver can engage either the inner or outer row of cartridges and the ejector rod can swivel to remove spent cartridges from the cylinder. For ease of carry in a holster or pocket, the trigger is also hinged to fold compactly against the frame. While unmarked as to maker, this revolver with impressive firepower would have been made around the time of the American Civil War.

This revolver is currently represented in the museum's "Mother of Invention" exhibit case, which displays firearms of unusual design or technology.