Original RARE U.S. Civil War IXL Navy Double Action Percussion Revolver – Serial Number 5 – Only Three Known to Exist
Original Item: Only One Available. For a brief period circa 1857 a series of double action percussion revolvers were produced that are known to collectors as the IXL Percussion Revolvers. To date, the actual manufacturer of these guns is unknown, but some evidence points to IXL being a trade name of Benjamin J. Hart, a New York City based gun and sporting goods retailer who operated circa 1848-1865. At least a few of the Pocket Model IXL Revolvers are known with the B.J. HART / BROADWAY retailer marking, so Hart was at the very least a seller of the guns and may have actually contracted for their manufacture, along the lines of modern day OEM manufacturing.
Like most percussion revolvers of the mid-19th century, the guns were produced in two basic frame sizes; a .31 caliber “pocket” size and a .36 caliber “navy” size. Both versions were produced in two design variants. All models were five-shot, double action revolvers with Colt-style under-barrel loading levers. The lever catch was a uniquely machined piece that engaged mirror image machining on the face of the lever. This was a simple and artistic way to lock the lever in place without relying upon any kind of spring loaded catch or mechanism; the catch was based entirely upon geometry and friction. It appears that blued finishes with color casehardened hammers and loading
levers were standard. Most known examples have frames engraved with New York style foliate arabesque scrolls and the two-piece smooth walnut grips were varnished. One of the more interesting features of the larger, “navy” sized revolver was a removable circular sideplate on the left side of the frame that allowed access to the revolver’s mechanism.
The smaller, IXL Pocket Model was nominally .31 caliber with 4” octagonal barrels being standard. The most common variant was a double-action-only revolver with a center-mounted spurless hammer. It is believed that about seven hundred and fifty of these revolvers were produced. These guns are marked IXL N. YORK on the top barrel flat, which is how the series of guns had been identified as IXL revolvers. Some of these guns are also found with the B.J. Hart retailer marking. The IXL marking is likely a reference to the trademark of Sheffield knife maker George Wostenholm who produced bowie knives marked I*XL, which literally means “I excel.” A second, much rarer version of the pocket revolver was produced with a side-mounted spurred hammer and a “conventional double action” mechanism, which meant it could be manually cocked and used like a single action revolver or the trigger could be pulled with the hammer down for double action use. According to Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms, only one hundred and fifty of these revolvers were produced and they were unmarked other than with their serial numbers.
The larger version of the IXL handgun was the IXL Navy, a nominally .36 caliber revolver with a 7” octagonal barrel being standard according to Flayderman’s. However, it appears that 5” was also a standard barrel length. Again, the guns were produced in two variations, a spurless, center-mounted hammer double action only version and a side hammer, conventional single/double action version. According to Flayderman’s neither variant is marked except for serial numbers and both versions are believed to have been produced in very small quantities with fifty being the estimated production for each one. I have a feeling that most of the guns are found unmarked due to quality control issues which rendered at least some of the IXL Navy revolvers dangerous to the user.
Other than Flayderman’s, very little is available in print about these rare revolvers and a serious scouring of the internet has revealed very little additional material about them. In particular we searched for anything about the rare, sidehammer single action/double action IXL Navy Revolver, as that is the very rare handgun that we are offering for sale here. We could only come up with sales records for and references to three examples over the past 10-15 years, and two of these guns sold twice during that time. The guns were IXL Navy Revolvers serial numbers 5, 17 and 38.
This example, IXL Navy #5, is probably the most famous of the guns known. It was part of the famous Al Cali Collection of percussion revolvers that was sold by Sotheby’s in 2014. The gun has a 7” barrel and to date is the only example of a side hammer IXL Navy I can find that does have a 7” barrel! This gun had experienced a catastrophic failure during the period of use and the frame was blown apart at the upper rear behind the cylinder and at the lower front near the loading lever. The repair apparently resulted in the frame being re-machined removing all of the typical frame engraving. The large circular access panel on the left side of the frame to be able to access and work on the mechanism appears to be a replacement on #5, as are the screws that secure it. Despite all of the repair work, in 2014 the revolver sold at Sotheby’s for $9,375.00 including the buyer’s premium.
Our expert gunsmith team has improved upon the old repairs making it mechanically sound (though we do not recommend firing it) and aesthetically pleasing. This example has no visible markings aside from the serial number 5 on the barrel, loading lever, inside of the trigger guard, left side of the toe, and inside of the grips and an “F” on the right side at the toe. The hammer and trigger guard bow are scroll engraved, but the rest of the gun is plain.
Overall condition is very good. Evidence of a repaired frame on the front lower edge and rear of the top strap, 75% original blue on the barrel, original case colors remaining primarily on the lever and hammer, mostly gray patina on the balance, some very light oxidation/pitting, and general mild overall wear. The grips are very good and have minor edge wear and a few small dings. The revolver is mechanically sound and functional.
This is an incredibly rare revolver, with only three other examples known to exist.
Serial Number: 5
Type: Percussion Revolver
Gauge: .36″ cal.
Barrel: 6 3/4 inch octagon
Overall length: 11 1/2 inches
Action: Single / Double Action
Feed System: 5 Shot Revolver
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