Massachusetts Arms Model 1850 Dragoon (Wesson & Leavitt)
Six-Shot, Percussion Cap Cavalry Revolver
Fewer than 1,000 Wesson and Leavitt revolvers were furnished by the Massachusetts Arms Company from 1850 until 1851.
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Massachusetts Arms Company was founded in 1849 by a collection of talent that included famous gunsmiths Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson (Smith & Wesson). The company began operations by fashioning pistols and rifles as well as swords from existing patents under license. From this exposure arrived the "Wesson & Leavitt" Dragoon percussion revolver - a design by Daniel Leavitt of Cabotsville originally produced by Wesson, Stevens & Miller from their Hartford, Connecticut location. The gun was also produced by the Massachusetts Arms Company and saw service in the American Civil War (1861-1865).
For historical perspective, the "Dragoon" was an armed cavalry unit that operated as "mounted infantry". The soldier, trained in horseback riding as well as shooting, could dismount his horse and operate as a standard trooper when needed but it was the power of his steed, as well as his sword or gun, that stoked fear in the hearts of enemy foot soldiers. Some firearms, particularly carbines (shortened rifles), were deliberately developed for horse-mounted troopers like Dragoons and therefore went on to be either generically or purposely referred to by the "Dragoon" name.
The Massachusetts Arms / Wesson & Leavitt revolver - also referred to as the "Army Revolver" - was a percussion-based firearm involving a cocked hammer and percussion cap set upon a nipple. An elegantly shaped grip formed the handle and there was an underslung trigger loop in its traditional place under the receiver. The cylinder was smooth-sided and offered six chambers for .40 ammunition. The barrel assembly was rounded and smooth typically measuring 7.1 inches long. Unlike contemporary revolvers, there was no loading lever installed which slowed reloading of the weapon.
The Massachusetts Arms Dragoon revolver was produced from 1850 to 1851 and some early forms included a 6.25" barrel while other, later models, introduced 8" long barrels. About 800 of the pistols were manufactured in all and the Massachusetts Arms Company, operating out of Chicopee Falls in Massachusetts, ended their stay in 1876.