Requiring all manner of firearms during the American Civil War (1861-1865), the United States government commissioned the Starr Arms Company to produce a Single-Action (SA) version of its Double-Action (DA) revolver. Both versions were eventually taken on by the North with at least 47,454 produced in all. These saw service mainly in the west campaigns of the war and three sub-variants of the base design were ultimately seen - the Double-Action Navy model of 1858 in .36 chambering, the Double-Action Army model of 1858 in .44 chambering, and the Single-action Army model of 1863 in .44 chambering with production numbers reaching 3,000, 21,454 and 23,000 respectively. Civilian sales were also had during the period.
Design of the pistol fell to Ebanezar (Eban) Townsend Starr and all of the guns were manufactured out of the Starr Arms Company facility of Binghampton and Yonkers, New York for Federal service. The guns relied on a percussion cap system of operation with each chamber of the six-round cylinder loaded with a charge and a ball. Percussion caps were set upon the awaiting nipples found at each chamber. The hammer then fell on these caps to produce the needed ignition of the propellant charge within each chamber, the resultant forces propelling the ball out of the barrel.
Externally, the revolver was of a conventional design arrangement. The handle was ergonomically curved for a good fit in the hand while being covered in useful grips. A solid frame was featured around the rotating six-shot cylinder which offered strength that open-frame revolvers of the period generall lacked. The hammer protruded from the rear of the frame within reach of the shooting hand's thumb for actuation as necessary. A loading arm was positioned under the barrel to help ram the contents of the chambers to the rear (and thus closer to the percussion cap's port). The barrel sat over this arm in the usual way, the ball projectiles guided into it by way of a proper seal from the cylinder's front face to the barrel's rear end. All in all, a traditional revolver arrangement that was proven to work. Sighting was by way of iron fittings over the top of the gun.
By numbers along (over 47,000), the Starr Double-Action was one of the most widely-available and in-service revolvers of the American Civil War.