Volcanic-branded guns were the brainchild of Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson (of Smith & Wesson) fame and founded in 1855 to produce the Volcanic line of "magazine" pistols and rifles - sidearms and longarms feeding from a stock of ammunition greater than one or two rounds, giving the shooter a considerable advantage by 1850 standards. These firearms were the further evolution of designs drawn up by the pair during the early part of the 1850s and were predominantly chambered in .30 and .38 caliber. Unlike other weapons of the period, relying on the percussion method of firing, these guns utilized a cartridge solution making them rather unique.
The major failing of the line was in the very cartridge itself which were self-contained bullets housing propellant in the hollowed-out base (the so-called "Rocket-Ball" cartridge developed by one Walter Hunt). A priming cap was affixed for the needed ignition. The cartridges, while having the excellent quality of being protected from the elements (mainly moisture), ultimately proved underpowered in most roles (including hunting) and generally unreliable due to their complexity. Misfires also proved common due to gas leaking out into and around the breech - setting off other rounds.
In time, this cartridge approach gave way to an improved "rimfire" form but Volcanic Repeating Arms was purchased as soon as 1855-1856 (including production rights) by Oliver Winchester (of Winchester Arms fame) and reformed to become the "New Haven Arms Company". With Benjamin Tyler Henry as its manager, the gun's basic principles were evolved further to produce the storied "Henry Rifle" line detailed elsewhere on this site. The New Haven Arms Company brand label then became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company while Smith & Wesson went on to forge their own brand down another path.
One of the Volcanic offerings of the time arrived in "pistol-carbine" formed, named as such due to its length: considered greater than that of a traditional pistol and more in line with that of a short-barreled rifle, despite its one-handed management. The body was completed in brass with wooden handle and metal barrel assembly. Over the frame was positioned a sighting component and the hammer protruded noticeably from the rear. The trigger was of unique design and hinged to manage the feed (by way of lever-action). A thick half-ring sat ahead of the trigger finger/trigger unit while a finger loop was provided under the trigger for the second finger of the firing hand. The magazine contained up to ten ready-to-fire cartridges with the gun chambered in .38.
Many of the Volcanic pistol offerings relied on this same layout with ammunition counts varying between eight and ten shots. All followed the same form and function and were made available to frontiersmen, outlaws, lawmen and others seeking a unique sidearm. Rifle forms were also made including a .38 caliber 30-shot carbine with lever-action system and a similar 20-shot offshoot.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Pistol / Sidearm
Compact design for close-quarters work or general self-defense.
Manually-Actuated Lever-Action System
System popularized in the latter half of the 1800s; involves manual actuation of a lever handle to clear the chamber and introduce a fresh cartridge form the magazine - typically of tube form under the barrel.
(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)
Rounds / Feed
10-shot tubular magazine.
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources. **Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Model 1855 - Pistol-Carbine Form.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns / operations.
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