Better than Smith & Wesson: Mervyn & Hubert’s revolver

There were revolvers very similar to each other in appearance, but very different in design. For example, the Mervyn and Hubert revolvers could easily be confused from a distance with the Smith and Wesson revolvers. Nevertheless, these were samples of weapons completely different in design.

An impeccable sample of the “Mervyn and Hubert” revolver “Pocket army chambered for 44-40” Winchester “cartridges manufactured by” Hopkins & Allen “, which nickel-plated it so well that it looks like new even after so many years!
(Photo courtesy of Alain Daubresse website
Forget about a thousand comrades,
And hundreds of other chimeras
You will never find a friend,
Than your combat revolver!

He was only lying in his pocket,
In the final decisive hour
You will never be deceived
He will never betray you!
(Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet and politician)

Weapons and firms. We continue our cycle “Arms and Firms”.

And today we will talk about a completely unusual revolver, which, however, has become widespread in the United States – the revolver of Mervyn and Hubert. And outwardly, these revolvers almost one to one copied the revolvers “Smith and Wesson”, so from a distance, for example, they could not be distinguished.

Instructive story

And let us note that this story is very instructive. It shows once again that no matter how perfect the design of this or that device is, there is always a way to improve it even more, although it would seem that everything imaginable has already been achieved.

What, for example, were the claims to the Smith & Wesson revolver, besides its great weight?

For example, when unloading it, the extractor does not disassemble – where are the spent cartridges, and where are the loaded cartridges, and throws out everything. This is the first thing.

The second is that the upper barrel mount with the drum is gradually loosened up. Well, and the fact that this revolver has a very long barrel. It should be shorter.

But how is that? You go into battle with one, but in everyday life, so to speak, do you use the other? Do you want to buy two revolvers? Expensive and impractical! Now, if you could change a long barrel for a short one?

So, the company “Smith and Wesson” did not manage to eliminate all these remarks in the metal. But “Mervyn and Hubert” did it!

And it so happened that Joseph Mervyn worked as chief designer for Mervyn Hubert, who, incidentally, got involved in the production of firearms back in 1856 in partnership with a certain man named Bray.

In 1874, Joseph Mervyn turned the company down and began to cooperate with brothers William and Milan Hubert – half co-owners of the arms business of the Hopkins & Allen company. This is how the company “Mervyn Hubert & Co” was born, which began the production of revolvers under the brand name “Hopkins & Allen”. By the way, this is the reason why the legendary American criminal Jesse James is called the “Hopkins and Allen” revolver, although in fact he had a “Mervyn Hubert and K” revolver.

Advertisement for Mervyn & Bray.

At first, the name “Hopkins and Allen” (well, they were not very good weapons before that) did not contribute to good sales of new images, although the revolvers “Mervyn and Hubert” were excellent in quality. However, Hopkins & Allen were excellent nickel plating craftsmen, which made their weapons quite attractive. So over time, nickel-plated revolvers also, as they say, “went”.

“Mervyn and Hubert” “Pocket Army” chambered for 44-40 “Winchester” cartridges manufactured by “Hopkins & Allen”. In the photo in the position with the barrel and drum pulled forward. The handle is “bird’s beak”.
(Photo courtesy of Alain Daubresse website

Revolvers “Mervyn and Hubert”, produced several images: “Frontier” with a large frame, “Army Pocket”, “Pocket”, “Pocket with a small frame” and a clone “Smith and Wesson” model 1 called “Baby Merlin”.

Advertising for the “Mervyn & Hubert” company. Please note that the revolver is named automatic for promotional purposes. Simple people were then, to be sure! By the way, the figure clearly shows how spent cartridges fall out of it.

Model “Frontier” was born in 1876 as a revolver with an open frame and a single action trigger, designed to compete directly with the “Colt” 1873. This model was made for the .44 “Russian” cartridge. In the hope of concluding a contract with the Russian government and taking it away from the Smith & Wesson firm.

The second model appeared in 1878 (produced from 1878 to 1882). It is similar to the first, but was designed to use the 44-40 Winchester cartridge (known as the Winchester 1873).

In 1883, a third model appeared, produced between 1883 and 1887. This version had a plate in the upper part of the barrel with a mount, which closed on the frame. That is, the barrel with the drum was attached to this revolver no longer at two points, as before, but at three. In addition, it was produced in both single and double acting.

In 1887 the 4th model also received a top-barrel mount and was offered with three barrels of 3½, 5½ and 7 inches. Since the barrels of this revolver were interchangeable, many buyers purchased the revolver with two barrels: a longer barrel and a 3½-inch.

Frontier revolvers were chambered for .44 “Mervin and Hubert”, .44 “Russian” and 44-40WCF. They featured a “bird’s beak” handle known as the “Skull Crusher” with a steel shoulder underneath that could be used in hand-to-hand combat.

The small-bezel pocket model was a scaled-down version of the .32 “Mervyn & Hubert” pocket model with a five-shooter and a three-inch barrel.

Engraved revolver with mother-of-pearl handle and open bezel in .44 caliber
(Photo Milestone Auctions)

The firm produced the Baby Mervyn in vain, since it was, in fact, a copy of the Smith & Wesson No. 1 revolver chambered in .22 Short with a seven-shooter.

The firm “Smith & Wesson” considered this a violation of their rights and filed a lawsuit. She won the trial. So the losing side had to pay royalties for each revolver sold earlier. The remaining revolvers had the Mervyn and Hubert marks removed. And they were all transferred to Smith & Wesson for disposal.

Complete disassembly of the “Pocket Model” revolver “Mervyn and Hubert”.
Photo from the instruction manual.


Well, now let’s take a closer look at the very design of this revolver. Let’s figure out what exactly allows us to speak of it as a weapon more perfect than the Smith and Wesson revolver.

The key innovation of all revolvers of this system, without exception, was the barrel rotating on the axis. This allowed the owner of the revolver to turn it 90 degrees, pull it forward with the drum and thus remove the spent cartridges. But only shot. Unused cartridges remained in the drum.

The fact is that in the Smith and Wesson revolver, the extractor was under the barrel, pushed forward by the force of the spring, then moved inward when the revolver was closed. In this case, all cartridges in the drum were extracted simultaneously.

Not so in the Mervyn & Hubert revolver. On it, the extractor disk was on the axis of the drum at its very breech. The cartridges, when loading, lay down on it with their rims. And then, when the drum slid off them, they just fell out. But the cartridges with bullets remained in the drum, since the drum was extended exactly to the length of the empty sleeve.

This photo clearly shows the lower locking assembly of the frame and the button with which it could be opened.
(Photo courtesy of Alain Daubresse website

The tight tolerances on the surface finish created a vacuum inside the axis. So, when the barrel and cylinder were pulled forward, it literally made the assembly retract backward and snap into place as soon as the barrel and drum were released.

In addition to this unique unloading system, pressing the barrel latch lever on the left side allowed the wearer to fully remove the barrel. This not only made cleaning easier, but also allowed the owner to swap barrels. In other words, use shorter barrels for concealed carry and longer combat barrels on the same revolver.

By the way, it was also much easier to care for this revolver than for the same Smith & Wesson. After all, he understood only three details. Of course, this precision required tight manufacturing tolerances – unbelievable for the tools of the day. But, nevertheless, we managed to get them!

Jesse James’ Revolver, 1873, with a Skullcrusher grip. The locking button for attaching the barrel and the drum is clearly visible (it had to be moved to the trigger bracket) and the key located above, by pressing which the barrel was removed.

True, you have to pay for everything in life.

So the revolvers of this company also had a certain, although not too significant (again, at that time) drawback: they were slowly loaded. That is, the sleeves of them were thrown out all at once, but the cartridges had to be inserted one at a time, for this, moving the latch on the body to the right. It was impossible otherwise, because even if someone had contrived and inserted the cartridges from the open drum, their caps would still rest against the extractor disk, and the revolver would have been impossible to close.

Downward sliding striker plate. As you can see, the “Abadi’s door” is not used here!
(Photo courtesy of Alain Daubresse website

But since at that time almost all revolvers were loaded in the same way, no one paid much attention to this. For example, the police of different states armed with revolvers “Mervyn and Hubert” in the USA and were very pleased with them. They were also loved by gunfighters – both positive and negative characters of the Wild West, sheriffs and marshals who did not hesitate to pay a hundred dollars for them (while the same “Colt Peacemaker” cost only 12).

Another advertisement for a double-action Mervyn & Hubert revolver with a folding trigger spoke and two interchangeable barrels.

By the way, the release of small-caliber pocket samples at that time was fully justified: this was the demand of the market.

The fact is that people then washed much less often than now. And very rarely changed clothes. Therefore, bullets (even of small caliber), passing through the body, captured its fibers with a bunch of bacteria. Therefore, in combination with primitive, and often even completely absent medical care, death from infection was then more than real. So, even the modest .22 caliber was by no means as useless in those days as it is considered today.

This photo clearly shows how the cartridges are retained in the drum. Once the drum is fully pushed forward, the extractor ring can no longer hold the empty casings and they fall out. But the bullet cartridges remain in the drum. The bullets remaining in the chambers do not allow them to fall out.
(Photo courtesy of Alain Daubresse website

P. S.
The author and administration of the VO website would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to Alain Daubresse for the information and photographs provided.

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