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CONFEDERATE
SPILLER & BURR
SERIAL NUMBER 77

 

This is a very early Atlanta production Spiller & Burr.  It is quite likely this gun was in the first batch of second model guns that were submitted to ordnance inspection.  Only seven of the first forty or fifty guns passed inspection.  The rest had to be returned to be repaired or refitted in some manner.  Knowing this, I have examined this gun in detail looking for signs of this retrofit process.  The basic gun has matching serial numbers.  The number 77 is found on the bottom of the barrel, the loading lever, the cylinder, the trigger guard and on the frame beneath the trigger guard.  The barrel was initially stamped 73 but the three was over stamped with the 7.  The top of the barrel bears the Spiller & Burr mark.  The marking is very light and my eyes are so dim today, I have to use a magnifying glass to see it but it is in fact there.  We can't get a good image of it so look closely.  The brass has a nice light patination and does not appear to be polished.  The barrel, lever and cylinder are smooth with nice patination and no disfiguring pitting.  The bore has rusted but still has very distinct lands and grooves.  The action is nice.  There is some wear on the hammer sear and trigger.  However, it cocks, rotates and locks up very nicely.  There is a small crack in the loading lever below the latch.  It has not moved, is not loose and the latch works fine.

The cylinder is made of steel, not wrought iron.  The wrought iron cylinders are the ones that have the twist.  This cylinder does not have twist as it was not necessary.  Spiller had a sizeable quantity of good, solid steel.  Probably produced by Firth & Sons in England when production began.  He retained enough steel to make all the barrels but sold off the rest with a high profit at the very beginning of production.  This cylinder is from that original stock of steel and should not have twist.  Burton chaffed at this sale and later bought Firth & Sons steel on his trip to England to replace it.  The interim production relied on wrought iron cylinders with twist.  Later, steel cylinders were re-introduced to the Macon production when his Firth & Sons purchase was received.

The gun is early Atlanta production and it does have a few anomalies which are probably the result of poor workmanship being rejected and the guns being reworked to pass inspection.  While the loading lever is clearly numbered, the cylinder pin it is attached to bears no serial number.  It is absolutely original Spiller & Burr production.  The most interesting anomaly is the fact that the grip frame has two pins to stabilize the grips instead of one.  Standard production placed one pin in the grip frame at the heel of the grip.  This gun has a pin at the toe of the grip underneath the mainspring as well as the heel.  It is pretty obvious that the workmen initially placed the pin at the toe of the grip.  This does not stabilize the grip.  The grip will rotate backwards on the frame.  Somebody had to take the gun back and place the pin at the heel of the grip and the grips are then locked in perfectly.  Another odd characteristic of this gun is that there are three plugged holes on the bottom of the grip frame.  They measure about 1/8 of an inch in diameter and are not obvious at first glance.  Somebody, at some time, attached a shoulder stock to this gun. This is not unprecedented, there are at least one or two of these guns that have turned up with shoulder stocks and the attachment point is always the butt of the grip frame.  Whether this is some experiment at the factory or was done at a later time, I don't know.  If it was done after the gun left the factory, I'm not sure I understand why the holes would have been plugged. 

In summary, this is a solid, honest, strong very good condition, early production Spiller & Burr, which does demonstrate some of the difficulties that the company encountered in getting it's guns to pass inspection.  I think it may be the only two digit Spiller & Burr I have ever owned.  P.O.R. SOLD!!