Savage .36 Revolver

Al Sumrall

This article was written by Al Sumrall. I have kept his formatting and description of the handgun intact.I find this a very interesting handgun. Kerry

This very unique military revolver was especially produced for Civil War use. It was designed from the pre-war Savage "figure eight" revolver. Instead of being thumb cocked, the middle finger of the hand was used to draw back the lever and then push it forward which cocked the hammer and rotated the cylinder. Clumsy in appearance, it is not that difficult to get the "hang of" with just a little practice.

Approximately 12,000 of the 20,000 made were sold to the U.S. government early in the war and although in .36 Caliber (.44 was the desired standard of the U.S. army) it was issued to Cavalry Troopers in the Western Theater, mostly but not exclusively to Missouri troopers. The remaining 8,000 saw service as private-purchase weapons by officers.

As this was an early war production weapon, there is some evidence that quite a few were smuggled South and used in the Central Confederacy. As always, Confederate officers and Cavalry, chronically short of handguns, made use of all the captured guns they could obtain, regardless of make or appearance. Several period image show Confederates with this weapon.

The awkward appearance of the Savage and its light caliber clearly worked against its popularity. However, it was mechanically reliable, not prone to excessive fouling, and was durable.

The pictured example in my collection is original except for a hand-made replacement loading lever. I shoot blanks in it at reinactments and it operates quite well. I am looking for an original loading lever or a "parts gun" with the loading lever for purchase.

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