Tranter (revolver)

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Tranter Revolver
Tranter revolver (Second Model with single trigger), from the collection of General JEB Stuart
Type Cap & Ball revolver
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1855–1878
Used by United Kingdom & Colonies, British Commonwealth, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Confederate States, United States
Wars American Civil War, Anglo-Zulu War, Fenian raids, Red River Rebellion, various British colonial conflicts
Production history
Designer William Tranter & Robert Adams
Designed 1853
Manufacturer Tranter
Produced c.1854-c.1880
Number built approx
Weight approx 2.4lb (1.1 kg), unloaded

Cartridge Cap & Ball
Action Double Action revolver
Rate of fire c.12 rounds/minute (percussion)
Muzzle velocity 620ft/s (190m/s)
Effective firing range 35yds
Maximum firing range 100yds
Feed system 5 or 6-round cylinder
Sights fixed front post and rear notch
Tranter .230 Revolver

The Tranter revolver was a double-action cap & ball revolver invented around 1856 by English firearms designer William Tranter (1816–1890). Originally operated with a special dual-trigger mechanism (one to rotate the cylinder and cock the gun, a second to fire it) later models employed a single-trigger mechanism much the same as that found in the contemporary Beaumont–Adams revolver.

Early Tranter revolvers were generally versions of the various Robert Adams-designed revolver models, of which Tranter had produced in excess of 8000 revolvers by 1853. The first model of his own design used the frame of an Adams-type revolver, with a modification in the mechanism which he had jointly developed with James Kerr. The first model was sold under the name Tranter-Adams-Kerr.[1]

Design and operation[edit]

The Tranter revolver was a "solid-frame" design, very similar in appearance to the Beaumont–Adams revolver. Over the course of the 3 models Tranter developed, the only significant change was to the attachment of the ramrod- In the first model it was detachable, on the second model it was attached to the frame by a hook on the fixed barrel, and in the third model (1856) it was attached to the barrel by a screw.

On the double-trigger Tranter revolvers, a second trigger below the trigger guard served to cock the gun. The hammer on this model had no spur and therefore could not be cocked with the thumb. To fire the weapon in the single-action mode, one had to first press the lower trigger, which would pull the hammer back and rotate the cylinder; at this point one could fire the gun with a light pull on the upper trigger. To fire more rapidly, one could pull both triggers simultaneously, making it a double-action weapon.[2]


With the beginning of the American Civil War, the demands for foreign weapons in the Confederate States of America increased, as the Confederacy no longer had access to the weapons factories in the North and had almost no local small-arms manufacturing capability of their own. At the outbreak of the war, Tranter had a contract with the importing firm Hyde & Goodrich in New Orleans to import and distribute his revolvers commercially. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Hyde and Goodrich dissolved their partnership, and its successors, Thomas, Griswold & Company, and A. B. Griswold & Company, continued to distribute Tranter's guns.[3]

As a reliable, functional, and proven design, Tranter revolvers soon enjoyed a great popularity among the Confederate military. The Tranter was originally produced in six calibres, with .36, .44, and .50 being the most popular, with Tranter developed an Army model (.44 calibre) and a Navy model (.36 calibre) for the American market.[3]

After the American Civil War, production continued of the Tranter percussion revolver (despite the increasingly availability of cartridge-firing designs) because many people thought percussion firearms were safer and cheaper than the "new-fangled" cartridge-based designs of the time. In 1863, Tranter secured the patent for rimfire cartridges in England, and started production using the same frame as his existing models. As early as 1868, Tranter had also begun the manufacture of centrefire cartridge revolvers.[3]

By 1867, his company expanded its production with a new factory in Aston Cross (England) under the name "The Tranter Gun and Pistol Factory" and, in 1878, he received a contract from the British Army for the supply of revolvers for use in the Zulu War. This was the last official use of Tranter revolvers by the British military, and Tranter retired in 1885, with his patent rights -Between 1849 and 1888 Tranter secured 24 patents firearms design patents and 19 cartridge patents- as well as the Tranter factory later being acquired by munitions manufacturer George Kynoch.[4]

Notable users[edit]

Famous users of Tranter revolvers included Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, the Confederate General James Ewell Brown Stuart, and Ben Hall, the Australian bushranger, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.[5][6] It is also known that Dr Richard Jordan Gatling, inventor of the Gatling Gun owned a Tranter First Model (Pocket 109mm barrel) 80 bore retailed by Cogswell London in 1857.

Popular Culture[edit]

A Tranter revolver was used by Lord John Clayton (played by Paul Geoffrey) in the 1984 feature film Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan.


  1. ^ Rosa, Joseph G. (1 October 1979). The Gunfighter: Man Or Myth?. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8061-1561-0. 
  2. ^ Davis, William C.; Pritchard, Russ A. (1998). Fighting Men of the Civil War. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8061-3060-6. 
  3. ^ a b c Hogg, Ian V.; Walter, John (29 August 2004). Pistols of the World. David & Charles. p. 348. ISBN 0-87349-460-1. 
  4. ^ Maze, Robert (20 August 2012). The Webley Service Revolver. Osprey Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-78096-886-5. 
  5. ^ Flatnes, Oyvind (30 November 2013). From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms. Crowood Press, Limited. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-84797-594-2. 
  6. ^ Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan; Chui, Patricia J. (2005). The new annotated Sherlock Holmes: The adventures of Sherlock Holmes ; The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. W.W. Norton. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-393-05916-8.