In the upcoming Fall 2014 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST, author Dennis Adler discusses the only Paterson No. 5 Holster Model revolver in Old West history to be converted to fire .41-caliber ammo.
Adler writes, “Sometime around 1874, a gun- smith in Oklahoma Territory looked up from his workbench into the eyes of a customer and asked him flat out, ‘Why do want to do this?’ Whatever the reason, it seemed reason- able enough for the gunsmith to look at his catalog of Colt pistols from 1872 and find a description and illustration of the Richards-Mason 1851 Navy conversion. Only the gun he had been handed wasn’t an old 1851 Navy, it was an 1841 Paterson No. 5 Holster Model. Back in the day it may well have seemed a fool’s errand to modify a 30-year-old, five-shot, .36-caliber Paterson percussion pistol to fire .41-caliber metallic cartridges, but 140 odd years later, this singular Paterson remains unique in the world. Was it the revolver of an eccentric gunman or an old pistol that had some sentimental value? We’ll never know. But eccentricity has many moods, lest we forget that Wild Bill Hickok was still carrying a brace of 1851 Navy revolvers in the 1870s. What we do know about this Paterson is that it may well be the only one ever converted to chamber self-contained metallic cartridges. And that makes it rare by anyone’s standard. And while there are many ways to define ‘rare,’ there is no question that ‘one’ is the rarest of all.
“William Mason’s 1872 patent for ‘Improvement in Revolving Fire-Arms’ was intended first for the 1851 Navy, then the 1860 Army and Colt’s smaller Pocket Model revolvers. One gun for which the conversion was never intended was the old Patent Arms Manufacturing Company Paterson No. 5 Holster Model. Not that the basics of the Mason conversion couldn’t be applied.”
To learn more, check out the Fall 2014 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST, available now on newsstands and digitally. To learn more, check out the Fall 2014 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST, available now on newsstands and digitally. Click here to subscribe.