I Have This Old Gun: Spiller & Burr Revolver

posted on September 21, 2022

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederacy had a difficult time manufacturing enough arms for its troops. Despite this, the Confederacy still found means to produce its own arms for the war effort, with one of the more common pistols produced being the Spiller & Burr revolver. It was a single-action, percussion-fired, six-shot, .36-cal. revolver manufactured by a firm formed between two wealthy Virginia businessmen, Edward N. Spiller and David J. Burr. Both men were also partners with James H. Burton, a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army who was responsible for assigning manufacturing contracts for the Confederacy.

Through Burton, Spiller & Burr received a contract in 1861 for 15,000 Colt-style Navy revolvers. However, instead of producing the desired Colt Navy revolvers as contracted, Spiller & Burr instead copied the design of the Whitey revolver for its production. This was likely due to the more readily available Whitney tooling needed to produce components. The firm experienced difficulty sourcing both skilled workmen and production materials, and as a result, design changes and cost-cutting measures were made throughout production. As an example, a shortage of iron frames led to the use of brass frames in production, which were prone to stretching.

A shortage of steel for cylinders led to the use of an innovative technique of heating iron rods and twisting them, which in turn twisted and compressed the grains of the iron and made it less prone to cracking under stress. Despite the firm's efforts to ease production constraints, it was never able to deliver the 15,000 revolvers contracted. It is believed that in total, some 1,000 to 1,500 were produced. They can still be found today on the collectors market, ranging in price, depending on condition.

To watch complete segments of past episodes of American Rifleman TV, go to americanrifleman.org/artv. For all-new episodes of ARTV, tune in Wednesday nights to Outdoor Channel 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST.


Streamlight BearTrap
Streamlight BearTrap

Preview: Streamlight BearTrap

The BearTrap from Streamlight is a rechargeable work light with a unique design that allows it to be used hands-free almost anywhere.

This Old Gun: Model 1907 Savage Automatic

Following many European militaries’ trend toward the adoption of semi-automatic pistols, in 1907, the United States Army held a series of trials with the aim of selecting a self-loader for its own forces.

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 3, 2022

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Federal's Big Celebration Between Friends

This summer, Federal Ammunition celebrated its 100th anniversary. John Zent, editor emeritus, had a chance to connect with two long-time employees and talk about their part of the journey.

Springfield Armory’s XD 45: The Wiley Clapp Review

Springfield’s 13-plus-one .45 ACP XD may prove to be the most popular offering in the company’s evolutionary polymer pistol line.

Preview: Black Ops | The Life Of A CIA Shadow Warrior

After finding himself in the middle of a firefight at the age of seven, Enrique “Ric” Prado and his middle-class family fled the horrors of the Cuban Revolution with the hope of finding a better life in America.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.