Firearm collectors, and particularly those who specialize in hoarding revolvers, will hail the appearance in the United States of two books of British origin which fill in great gaps in the history of the revolving pistol. They are The Revolver 1818-1865, by A.W.F. Taylerson, R.A.N. Andrews and J. Frith, and The Revolver 1865-1888, by Taylerson alone, the first published by Crown Publishers, Inc. ($7.50) and the latter by Bonanza Books ($3.49), a division of Crown.
The emphasis in both books is, naturally, on British patents, but, as Taylerson, an Oxford-educated lawyer who found the bar boring, has said, "This is not an expression of nationalism, but merely the simplest way of viewing the field; most inventors with a good design idea patented their devices in several countries, so listing the British patents gives a pretty fair coverage of the protection secured elsewhere."
The coverage is, indeed, rather more than fair, ranging from hand-rotated flintlock pepperboxes to the seven-shot Chicago Protector pistol, which looks pretty much like a trout reel with a stubby barrel sticking out of it. It includes pistols with the trigger placed on top of the barrel, instead of beneath, together with some ugly, monstrous contraptions capable of firing 20 shots without reloading.
Illustrations are lavish and most of them will prove fascinating to the student. The text in both of these volumes is strictly business, however, with no concession to entertainment.
Entertaining, nevertheless, is Taylerson's blasphemous opinion of frontier America's historically famous Colt Peacemaker, which can be seen flashing out of holsters almost any night on television. "The Colt company," he writes, "produced one weapon known to every reader, whether collector or layman." But he adds, "The Peacemaker was not a particularly well-designed arm.
"The rod-ejector was weak," Taylerson goes on, "and easily disabled by rough handling, and the cylinder-pin sometimes jarred out, in firing, to the embarrassment of the user. However, with all these defects, the arm became a fighter's side-arm, and it is little exaggeration to say that whatever parts broke, or failed, the pistol could still be fired."
As for Colt's double-action Model 1878, which when chambered for a .44 magazine rifle cartridge was known as the Frontier model, Taylerson found it "rather frail."
"It had the advantage, over the single-action pistol, of a butt integral with the frame, but it was a miserable arm," he writes.
Smile when you say that, Taylerson.