Saturday, Tam, the Data Viking and I trundled off to the Tri-State Gun Show
at Stout Field National Guard Armory in my SUVesque vehicle. It was my first time taking it on the freeway. As I am no fan of freeway driving and the route slithers through the downtown "spaghetti bowl," this was slightly white-knuckly, but it went okay. (The RX300 has just a little bit more vroom than my Accents had!) I'm still working out where the corners of the plush truckwagon are.
It was the usual interesting show. I think Tri-State's shows lean to more collectorish sellers than does the Indy 1500; you don't see the big aisle of mostly not-for-sale shinies and tables crowded with new guns from the big dealers ending in a line of buyers filling out 4473s. Instead, interesting and obscure stuff abounds, offered by smaller dealers, collectors, pawnshops. This is not to say you won't find pink-and-white Taurus revolvers ("for her!"
fits some stereotype on the Donna Reed-to-Vargas-model line) and brightly-colored derringers (please, don't buy derringers. You'd be better off with a pastel Brazilian wheelgun), but there are a lot unusual and/or old firearms and the better-known classic manufacturers are well-represented.
Tam found herself some kind of Miami Vice
S&W wondernine -- 12 +1 shots and a grip that's only moderately 2x4ish. The Data Viking looked at High Standards, as is his wont, but the semi-autos were too new for his taste and the very clean Sentinel (R-101) .22 revolver is something he's still thinking about. (I love 'em, but that's just me. .22 plinkers grow on you. Or not.)
And me? I hadn't planned to buy anything. Hey, I just bought a car! Looked at some knives but I've got just about any kind of knife I might ever want, from practical work/general purpose knives to carpenter's marking knives to razor-sharp scalpel knives for removing wire insulation to knives for eating, "fruit testers" like folding steak knives and hobo knives with fork and spoon.
And then....then.... Well, there was this guy, see? With a few very old revolvers, see? Both are some variety of .32.* One was a missing-parts velocipedist's revolver from the late 19th Century, short barrel, folding trigger, the holes where a safety used to be and a short, rounded grip. The hammer-spur shape and safety make it likely to be European. Belgian proofmarks confirm it. There was a near-twin a few tables over, intact and complete, for something over $225. One nice touch to the design is that with the hammer down, the (fixed) firing pin is held well away from the chamber unless the trigger is held all the way back; it's a "rebounding hammer." As late-1800s designs go, this would have been considered pocket-safe with every chamber loaded. This one's missing the loading gate and ejector rod as well as the hammer-locking safety, so it's a curiousity.
|Okay, they're upside down to the text describing them. I fought the "properties" for twenty minutes to get this far.|
The other one was shiny and appears to be chromed rather than nickled. A top-break, it has many of the features of a Hopkins and Allen...except for the interesting lockwork that keeps the firing pin blocked from the cartridges until the trigger is pulled. Instead, it has a rebounding hammer...and an ornate "F&W" on the well-preserved grips. It's got ratchet issues and a line of sock-drawer corrosion along the barrel on the side away from the camera in the photo above.
Looking at the rib atop the barrel tells the tale:
---FOREHAND MODEL 1901.---
HOPKINS AND ALLEN ARMS COMPANY, NORWICH CT. U.S.A.
(Yes, "CT." Coincidence, not anachronism.)
The story of Hopkins and Allen
is somewhat star-crossed and not for any lack of quality; in 1874, Charles A. Converse (the silent name in H&A) sold his half-share to the Hulbert brothers and H&A became the sole manufacturer of the delightfully strange
, well-made Merwin Hulbert
revolvers. Hulbert went bankrupt in 1896 and H&A did the same two years later, but reformed as Hopkins and Allen Arms Company and then lost all their machinery in a fire in 1900. Through all this, they'd been making revolvers under contract for a long list of names, including Forehand and Wadsworth
. In 1902, F&W was bought by H&A, and this little gun probably dates to about that time period.
Trouble persisted for Hopkins and Allen: in 1905, their warehouse was emptied by thieves. They staggered on and even won a contract to build Mauser rifles for Belgium's military at the beginning of WW I. For obvious reasons, that contact was never completed. H&A went bankrupt in 1916 and in 1917, Marlin Rockwell Corporation
bought the remaining assets. Finis
, H&A. (Marlin has been collecting and being collected by New England firearms makers ever since; in 2000, they picked up Harrington and Richardson and in 2007, Remington bought Marlin.) If all this buying, building, patenting and bankruptcy is reminiscent of the semiconductor/computer industry, there's good reason. Quality mass-production machine work started with firearms, spread rapidly to engines and bicycles, and mushroomed from there along Moore's Law lines, technology spreading and morphing, companies forming, merging and going under.
That's some entertainment, from a pair of not-fireable guns offered at $50 each and bought for $85 for the pair.
* Pop quiz: how many .32 cartridges can you name off the top of your head? .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32-20, .32 ACP (7.65 Browning).... The neighborhood of .32 is thickly populated, though .38/9mm may have it beat.