Butterfield Revolver
Butterfield Revolver
Country of origin

United States


Krider & Company[1]


Jesse Butterfield

Year(s) designed


Production began


Production ended


Weapon type





Percussion lock

Overall length

13.8in (350mm)[1]

Barrel length

7.0in (178mm)


41oz (1.15kg)[1]

Magazine/Cylinder capacity


Used by

United States

The Butterfield Revolver was an American Civil War era revolver patented in Philadelphia, US. It's creator, Jesse Butterfield, received a contract from the US government to produce 2,250 Butterfields in 1861, although the contract was cancelled within a year, with only 640 produced.[2]


The Butterfield was patented by Jesse Butterfield on the 11th of December 1855, before he received a contract to construct 2,250 Butterfields in 1861.[2][3] However, within a year, the US Government, whom ordered the Butterfields for the Ira Harris Guards (later named the 5th and 6th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments[3]), cancelled the contract with only 640 Butterfields delivered.[3]

Despite the fact that 640 Butterfields were made, there is no evidence that they were issued to the Regiments (although there are records of several private purchases by members of the regiment).[3] Further sales records also suggest that a few Butterfields were sold in Carolina, which may imply that the Confederate States may have also used the Butterfield (although there is no verification of this).[3]

The Butterfield has become a largely forgotten firearm of the Civil War, with its unusual design and the fact that the contract issued to Jesse Butterfield only resulted in 640. As such, very few Butterfields are known to exist, and those that are known of are either in museums, or sold to private collectors. Even Butterfields that are in poor condition can reach $5,000 in auction, with better condition Butterfields reaching in excess of $12,000.[3]

Design DetailsEdit

The Butterfield is designated as a percussion lock revolver, a term which means that it should be fired using percussion caps. However, Jesse Butterfield's unique design for the Butterfield came in his invention of priming pellets.[3] These pellets were located in a spring loaded tube (in a similar way to a modern day magazine) and were pushed through in to a feeder bar, which would then push the primer into position on the percussion cone as the hammer was cocked.[3]

A further aspect of the Butterfield is the barrel, which, on the exterior, is octagonal in shape and measures 7in in length.[2] The barrel was also given seven rifling grooves and was made from steel, along with the cylinder and hammer.[1][2] The frame, meanwhile, was made from brass while the grips were made from walnut.[2]


The Butterfield used an unusual .41in calibre round, which was fired using Butterfield's unique loading system. In the event that the primers couldn't be obtained, percussion caps could be used instead.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Walter, John, The Guns That Won the West: Firearms on the American Frontier, 1848-1898, (MBI Publishing Company: 2005)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7