The Tranter Revolver was an early British double action revolver designed by William Tranter. First introduced in around 1854, the Tranter was similar (in a number of ways) to the Beaumont-Adams Revolver, although the first versions of the Tranter featured a unique dual trigger.
The Tranter Revolver was, initially, recognised by its destinctive dual trigger mechanism to produce a double action mechanism. The main trigger (the larger trigger within the trigger guard) would fire the Tranter, while the second trigger (located slightly lower in the guard) would turn the cylinder and cock the hammer (as the first Tranter hammers lacked a spur, meaning cocking it by hand was difficult at best). This made the Tranter capable of firing in single action (pulling the lower trigger and then the main trigger) and double action (by pulling both triggers together).
Eventually the dual trigger was replaced by a single trigger (while the mechanism became not do dissimilar to the Beaumont-Adams Revolver). The other distinguishing feature of the Tranter was the ramrod, whose design was changed frequently. The very first Tranters were fitted with detachable ramrods, while the second models had their ramrods fitted via a hook on the frame (underneath the barrel). The third model of the Tranter had its ramrod screwed onto the barrel.
Otherwise the Tranter could be classified as what is now considered a conventional revolver design, being solid framed with a swing-out cylinder. Its appearance was also influenced by the various Robert Adams revolver designs (the Beaumont-Adams in particular), a fact which is not suprising considering William Tranter had previously produced an estimated 8,000 Adams Revolvers at his factory.
The Tranter was a cap & ball revolver, meaning that it used a percussion cap with a musket ball. Various calibre balls were made for the Tranter, although the most popular calibres were .36in, .44in and .50in. Later Tranters were adapted to fire the .450 Adams cartridge.
The Tranter Revolver was a popular revolver during the American Civil War (where the Confederate States in particular had to rely on imported firearms to support their campaign). William Tranter, prior to the conflict, had a contract with Hyde & Goodrich in New Orleans to sell firearms in America. Hyde & Goodrich disolved this contract at the beginning of the Civil War, although Tranter managed to agree contracts with its successors and, as a result, set up a strong basis for his future sales.
The Tranter, in cap & ball format, remained popular as many thought the percussion cap was safer than a cartridge. Despite this Tranter obtained a patent for a centrefire version of his design (which entered production in 1868) and later (1878) obtained a contract from the British Army to produce revolvers for the Zulu War (the last recorded use of the Tranter as an official sidearm of the British Army).
Various famous names (both fictional and real) are said to have owned, and wielded, a Tranter Revolver. Perhaps the most standout of these names is Sherlock Holmes from Arthur Conan Doyle's books, although other wielders include Allan Pinkerton (founder of Pinkerton Government Services in the US), Dr Richard Jordan Gatling (of Gatling Gun fame), Confederate General James Ewell Brown Stuart and Australian bushranger Ben Hall. The Tranter was also used by Raquel Welch in Hannie Caulder (a Western).
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