For Sale: Nichols and Childs Revolving Percussion Rifle

SKU 021222-0201 Category

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We are incredibly pleased to have this very rare revolving percussion rifle come across our doors – the only one of its kind ever to do so. This rifle is beautifully crafted, with much attention to detail and ingenuity – a work of art. Designed and patented in the late 1830s, these revolving rifles are the result of collaborative work between Rufus Nichols and Edwards Childs, based out of Conway Massachusetts. Production estimates place total manufacture between 100 to 150 rifles, making examples extremely difficult so find. The pictures found during our research may only represent 3 or 4 additional specimens (most photographs seem to be repetitions of the same rifles). Sources indicate several variations with the early versions using an external, manually operated cylinder lock, and external indexing system operated by cocking the hammer. It is possible that the earliest rifles did not have the indexing ratchet and were indexed manually by eye. The locking and indexing mechanism became internally located on later models, along with a loading lever attached under the barrel on some. However, sources reference numerous variables including barrel shape and length, caliber, and shot capacity which suggests it is possible that details for each rifle varied due to manufacturing decisions, customization, or slight design evolution during the short production run. Whatever the case, due the presence of a loading lever, the revolving rifle seen here appears to be made towards the end of the early variation but before the cylinder lock and indexing mechanisms became internal. After firing the rifle, the shooter must manually unlock the 6-shot, 36 caliber cylinder by using a lever mounted on the left side of the frame. When the cylinder unlocks, it moves rearward, away from the barrel, where a ratchet arm can then engage the serrated steps or teeth cut into the rear face of the cylinder as the hammer is drawn back from the nipple. Continuing to fully cock the hammer will pull the cylinder around so the next loaded chamber aligns with the barrel. Locking the cylinder moves the cylinder forward, disengaging the serrated teeth from the ratchet and sealing the loaded chamber against a cone mounted on a metal plate that is forward of the cylinder.  This prevents gas leakage during firing. This entire process is a bit cumbersome to say the least, yet for some reason it is one of the endearing facets of this arm. Other features of interest include the rare loading lever that is even more rare on external indexing rifles; “fancy lacey” patch box, butt plate, trigger guard, and animal silhouettes plated in German silver; beautiful wood buttstock with a tiger’s eye pattern that imparts motion and depth; a diagonally mounted hammer, bent to resemble joints in fingerbones, that strikes across the frame from right to center; and a thick metal plate screwed to the frame in front of the cylinder, but behind the barrel. This latter feature appears to be intended to protect the shooter’s hand, extended and supporting the barrel, from a multiple discharge event. The 27-1/8 inch, part octagon/part round barrel unscrews from this plate to reveal a large screw that retains the plate and cylinder. All metal parts (outside of that which is German silver plated mentioned above) are in the white. The overall condition of this arm is fine to very fine, with only minor handling marks. The bore is bright and pristine with sharp rifling throughout. The rifle is an utter beauty; a joy to have in our racks and to take down for study each day – an absolute must for a complete collection of the American revolving rifle. See pictures for overall condition.  Antique.  Shipping fully insured requires additional costs, please contact us at to inquire.

Additional information

Action Type



27-1/8 inch


excellent, clean, bright, well-defined rifling






Nichols and Childs


Revolving Rifle

Overall Length

46 inches


late 1830s-early 1840s