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Spiller & Burr Model 1861

Percussion Cap Revolver [ 1861 ]

The Spiller and Burr Model 1861 revolver was a modernized Confederate copy of the earlier Whitney Revolver design.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/14/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), James H. Burton took on a commission as Lieutenant Colonel for the Confederate Army with a role of ensuring forces had the tools to see a Southern victory through. This entailed getting all manner of capable firearms into the hands of fighting forces so he joined Virginia businessmen Edward N. Spiller and David J. Burr in founding the arms concern of "Spiller & Burr" to produce as many as 15,000 revolver pistols for the Army - these to be based on the Colt Navy Model 1836 revolver firing the .36 caliber ball.

Burton, however, elected to pursue the still-in-production Whitney Revolver which he felt was the better choice and, after convincing authorities, the deal was put in place to produce a modernized form of the Whitney type in .36 caliber. Like the original, this would entail a percussion cap firing action and all other qualities of the gun would be comparable including its solid frame. One advantage in the new design was lower production costs. An octagonal barrel was featured that incorporated blued steel and measured 7 5/8" long.

Early models (about 37% of the stock of the 52 submitted) suffered various defects which resulted in examples being shipped back to Spiller & Burr for reworking. At this point, two production types were identified: the "First Model, First Type" (12 examples) and the "First Model, Second Type" (40 examples). Due to the Union Blockade, brass was used in place of the much-needed steel but production was destined to never meet expectations due to external circumstances.

Before the end of 1861, the Spiller & Burr Richmond, Virginia-based plant was relocated further south to better protect its output from encroaching Union forces. It first ended at Macon, Georgia but - after General Sherman's surprising takeover of Atlanta - tooling was moved again, this time to Savannah, Georgia. With the demand and restrictions of war, just 1,451 of the 15,000 contracted pistols were made (about 9.7%) and quality accordingly deteriorated as the conflict went on - material substitutions were commonplace throughout its production run.

Its history, coupled with its low production run totals, make the Spiller & Burr revolver one of the more pricey arms to emerge from the American Civil War - proving something of a rarity in today's gun collector's market.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Spiller & Burr - Confederate States
Service Year
Confederate States
National Origin

Compact design for close-quarters work or general self-defense.

330 mm
(12.99 inches)
Overall Length
193 mm
(7.60 inches)
Barrel Length
2.00 lb
(0.91 kg)
Empty Weight
Percussion Cap
Utilizes the percussion cap system of operation to actuate ignition of propellant; much like a child's cap gun, small explosive caps are set upon nipples and these are actuated by a falling hammer previously cocked.
.36 Ball
May not represent an exhuastive list; Calibers may be model-specific dependent; Always consult official manufacturer sources.
Six-round revolving cylinder.

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.

150 feet
(46 meters | 50 yards)
Max Effective Range

Model 1861 (First Model, First Type) - Initial production batch numbering just twelve examples.
Model 1861 (First Model, Second Type) - Second production batch numbering forty examples.

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