The Merwin Humbert’s .32 and .38 Caliber Double Actions

Unique double actions that served as backup guns in the late 1800s!

Joseph Merwin was one of the most innovative gun-makers of the late 19th century. He not only had some very original ideas about how a revolver should be designed and built, but also the capacity to oversee every step in the process, from tooling to manufacturing. He was a man possessed with seeing everything through to the end.

The same could be said of Samuel Colt, Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. Each, however, envisioned the design of handguns in a different way.

Certainly Colt was the indisputable pioneer, patenting the first percussion revolvers in the 1830s; Smith & Wesson were the first to take the American handgun in an entirely new direction, initially with their small .22 Short and .32 caliber rimfire Tip-Up cartridge revolvers produced during the Civil War, and then in the early 1870s with the innovative top-break No. 3 American (the first true challenger to Colt’s dominance of the U.S. military market).

In the midst of these two giants of industry—not to mention E. Remington & Sons—Joseph Merwin emerged as probably the most eccentric of all with his unusual single- and double-action revolvers.

Merwin was well financed by partners William and M.H. Hulbert, who joined him in 1868 to form Merwin, Hulbert & Co. of Norwich, Conn., a very well diversified company not only invested in manufacturing, but wholesale and retail businesses.

Merwin (Click Here to read about the Third Model .44-.40) and his associates held interests in, or outright ownership of, several competitive and well-established brands, including Connecticut arms-maker Hopkins & Allen, the American Cartridge Company, Phoenix Rifle and Cartridge Co., a substantial investment in the Evans Rifle Co., as well as retail distributorships for Ballard, Marlin, Winchester Repeating Arms, L.C. Smith, Remington, Ithaca, Parker, Spencer and Colt.

Needless to say, many superb firearms passed through Joseph Merwin’s hands, and he observed a flawed commonality of design in all of them, even with the new S&W top-break revolver. Every one either had to have spent cartridges expelled one at a time, or, as in the case of the S&W, spent cases (as well as remaining loaded cartridges) all ejected at once whenever the gun was broken open.

Merwin wanted to design a revolver that could be opened easily and would expel only empty cases, leaving any live rounds still chambered. Even by modern-day standards, Merwin Hulbert revolvers were feats of engineering that would make them the finest-built precision sidearms of their time.

Precision, however, also has its downside; the guns were complicated, manufactured to tolerances that, oddly enough, cannot be (affordably) duplicated even today.

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