World’s Oldest Known Revolver

Stopler revolver is arguably the world’s oldest revolver known and existing today. It was made in 1597 by a German gunsmith named Hans Stopler. He made the gun in his shop in Nuremberg.

Hans Stopler Revolver 1597 (2)

Although the first owner of the gun is unknown, it is clear that the gun at some point was acquired by a Norwegian general George von Reichwein. The silver tag on the bottom of the grip has the general’s name on it and date of 1636. Also, there is a horse spur stamp on the side of the gun, which is the gunsmith’s mark.

Hans Stopler Revolver 1597 (3)

So, it is an eight shot black powder flintlock revolver. Each chamber has a sort of a shutter designed to hold the priming charge. Presumably, they were driven open either upon hammer strike or manually.

It was a very advanced design for the era, but it was also extremely hard and expensive to manufacture. Because of that, the revolver concept wasn’t wide spread until the advances in manufacturing technology made it possible to produce them in larger scale and at a reasonable cost. Just imagine what it took to make this gun more than 400 years ago, in late 16th century.

Today this revolver is kept in Maihaugen Museum, which is located in Lillehammer, Norway. Here is a video telling about this revolver’s history:

Although it looks like a nice little gun, it is in fact a massive one.

Hans Stopler Revolver 1597 6

If you want to learn more about the further development of flintlock revolvers, you may like to watch one of the recent videos of :

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at


  • Giolli Joker

    Uhm… it should have taken some trials and re-designing steps prevent the igniting charge from falling from the chambers at 5-6-7 hours.

    • Slab Rankle

      That’s what those brass flaps are for.

      I think Uberti should take a crack at this one.

  • BattleshipGrey

    Hey Ruger, get the hint, you’re only 400 years behind on giving us an 8 shot Redhawk.

    • roguetechie

      An eight shot Redhawk with integral trench mace….

      Must not forget the integral trench mace…

      After that ruger,

      Please enclose one factory Maurice aka Space Cowboy aka The Gangster of Love aka The FRANKENRUGER with extra reload tubes in brass and nitrided versions in a presentation box to the following addresses…

      • iksnilol

        Anything Ruger is by default a trench mace.

        • Nicks87

          I love Ruger revolvers but they are tanks for sure.

        • roguetechie

          Yup my ruger security six agrees with you from it’s position in my gun safe…

          It resides in the ye olde family guns section of the safe, neatly book ended by boxes of cheap .38 practice ammo and a much smaller selection of full up 357 magnum ammo.

    • Blake
      • BattleshipGrey

        I’d prefer a DA/SA Redhawk though, and in .357 mag. I know I’m not the only one. I don’t really have anything against the .327 fed, but I’m not willing to expand my caliber “footprint” at this time.

        • Blake

          an 8-shot 357 mag revolver cylinder would be huge…

  • A Fascist Corgi

    Very cool. And yet another reminder that the art of craftsmanship has largely been lost in our era of mass production. Walking through restorations of even early 20th century European life showed me how much quality has diminished over the last few decades.

    • roguetechie

      Craftsmanship hasn’t died so much as taken on new forms in response to new and better tools, literacy, the cost of man hours from highly trained specialists, and a refreshing paucity of people calling themselves royalty who can have you killed or enslaved at a nod without any sort of public outcry!!

      All in all, I’d say it’s a better world even if distinctly less items like this are commissioned.

      Remember, in the world that this revolver was created in most of us would have lived and died within a 3 mile radius and never had a chance to view such astonishing and beautiful items unless some inbred noble decided to kill us with it.

      • Giolli Joker

        Party pooper, GTFO out with your historical facts!
        We want to dream peacefully, here.
        🙂 🙂 🙂

        • roguetechie

          The sarc tags are missing on this keyboard…

          Honestly who hasn’t dreamed of being that lord of all he surveys including the equivalent of a bespoke armory and the armorer’s that came with the property?

          These old guns really are awesome.

      • El Duderino

        Nothing quite like dying at the hands of a man with Habsburg jaw and double cousins for parents.

        • roguetechie

          It does make blood feuds simpler though.

    • Edeco

      There are different ways to define quality. Long story short, these things are neat to look at but I’m an unsentimental contemporist, do not pine for a lost paradise.

      • roguetechie

        Agreed completely,

        However your profile picture has made me wish we actually lived in a world where a lovely Sunday evening apache flight through the outback just might result in you scaring a herd of roving stinger missile equipped kangaroos who just might put down a blistering barrage of MANPAD fire in response…

        Sadly this exciting world that would actually justify all civilian built jet ranger helicopters to be built more like Airwolf with the addition of ka-52 hokum deep countermeasures pods…

        Sadly this world only exists in poorly programmed milspec flight Sims.

        Incidentally my grandpa worked for that company, and got pulled into the office every weekend for several months after that incident happened in order to help fix the simulators. So I got to hear an unabridged version of the story live from someone who had to come in for 3 months worth of marathon work weeks shortly after the kangaroo death squad incident occurred.

        • Edeco


          Wow, had to google that. OK, well, to be honest, if I let myself, and I wouldn’t where manufacturing and technology is concerned because there’s no point, it’s hard science and the golden age is now… But with like history, anthropology, I can be a little romantic about what, in a limited frame, could appear to be lost paradises. Oh to have been one of the 10K Greeks or the New Model Army.

          • roguetechie

            I get it man, everybody’s got their “thing”…

            If there’s not a little bit of romance, passion, and imagination / yearning for something deep in your soul then life isn’t really worth living.

            For me it’s a sorta cyberpunk semidystopian high tech future where everyone needs a >2000 rpm >20mm autocannon, gast gun, or etc equipped commuter vehicle.

          • Edeco

            Interesting. I’d just like to be at the dawn of the Enlightenment, rouse surrendered Royalist civilians out of a church on Christmas day, go inside with hat and spurs on, let my destrier drink out of the fountain, light my pipe with a votive candle, and maybe wreck the pipe organ.

          • roguetechie

            Lol fair enough,

            I grew up on heavy doses of William Gibson, other cyberpunk, Snow Crash / the diamond age, and etc while having parents who worked in the heart of the American computer industry.

            Also watched lots of stuff like Hackers & Johnny Mnemonic in junior high…

            Definitely predisposed me towards hoping for a bright, shiny high tech future with smudges of ash and cordite smoke in the air.

    • Francisco Machado

      If you want it hand made to your specifications by a skilled machinist/gunsmith, you can still get it. There are specialists who make guns to order. Now, as then, it will cost you a lot of money. The difference is that you can now buy an off-the-shelf gun that will be at least very nearly as good as the hand made one and replacement parts will be available. I don’t know if they still do, but Krupp used to make barrels to individual specifications.

    • TomG

      Really? You can still custom order a Purdey over-under, or a JP Sauer Drilling, or a H&H double rifle. Each of those have just as much craftsmanship and tradition behind them, and you can have the full royal experience, if you pay for it.

      Heck, Benelli the company is almost as old as this pistol, and you can order shotguns from them that cost more than my house. In fact, if you went to their craftsmen and asked for an exact copy of this pistol, made only with methods available in the 1500s, they’d do it, and probably better than whatever person made it back then.

      There were many things associated with medieval Europe that have died off. The production of absurdly sophisticated and expensive toys for the fabulously wealthy is still a thriving business.

  • Major Tom

    That’s either the world’s largest handgun, or the world’s smallest rifle. Either way, that’s way cool.

  • TechnoTriticale

    To save the readership a click, the video is mostly about the gun’s history, and tells us nothing about how it works (other than being a flintlock). Caliber?

    I’m guessing that the cylinder is rotated by hand, and not a pawl. No clue how it might index. The chamber shutters also appear to be hand-operated. Because two are open in the photo, they are pretty clearly not interlocked to prevent multiple ignition. The gun would have to be held open-shutter-up to prevent the primer charge from falling out.

    This might be more of a parlour pistol than a practical and effective weapon.

    • Edeco

      I’m wondering if that little spring screwed to the barrel across from the frizzen is for indexing…

      • Jonathan Ferguson

        Correct. The cylinder is manually advanced, & the spribg-clip retains it in place for firing. Not a true revolver in the modern sense; though designs from less than 100 years later indexed on cocking & threw open each pan on firing with a pushrod; true single action except for having to lower the steel (frizzen) back into position before each shot.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Im guessing open carry was the preferred option.

    • Richard

      It would be funny to see someone try to conceal that thing on their hip or appendix style.

      • Eckart Christiansen

        Mind you those immense breeches and dublets and cloaks of that period. Wiliam of Orange ( the first one, who led the Dutch in their revolt against King Philipp of Spain from 1568on) was murdered by an agent of Philipp in 1584. He had managed to work as a messenger in William’s office and William did not distrust him when he knocked at his door at lunchtime. William went down the stairs into the hall and was shot with three bullets from the pistol that the murderer had hidden in his clothing.

    • ostiariusalpha

      “Is that a revolving pistol in your codpiece, or are you just happy to see me?”

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        “Thou imprenteth mightily, sir.”

  • John

    It would be cool if Uberti reproduced some of these.

    • TomG

      Maybe Pedersoli might. They are already close to this time period

  • Twilight sparkle

    I feel like the bludgeony bit on the end is less for bludgeoning and more for balance

  • TomG

    Large? This was an era when an 18 pound arquebus was the base standard for firearms. The average cavalry pistol was almost two feet long, considering it had to penetrate armor with the imprecise powders of the period.

    Looking at the firearms back then, I’d stick with a crossbow. It must have taken brass ones to slowly lower a lit match next to 150 grains of poorly sieved black powder.

    Or to shoot it while riding a horse

    • Major Tom

      The reason why early firearms took off despite being disadvantaged in combat against dang near everything was one of economics and training. Take that 18 pound arquebus, it was dirt cheap for a state to provide 10,000 of those with a tiny bit of training and drilling and issue them to peasants. Compare that to crossbowmen and archers which take years or even entire lifetimes to master and some major investments in bow/crossbow construction on a per soldier basis and the economics of scale proves the long run victor. (You can simply pick up a dropped arquebus from a dead man in battle and hand it to the next one in line who shows up, bows and crossbows are often built specifically for their users rendering them inefficient in terms of interchangeability.)

      • TomG

        I’m aware. I’m just saying I prefer my powder in neat little cases, or at least not near open flames.

        And what you say is true, but not necessarily in the early 1500s. Firearms were still expensive and impractical, but terrifying and capable of penetrating armor.

        After all, as late as 1820 there were proposals to reintroduce the crossbow in the British Army.

        • Major Tom

          However in the early 1500s firearms, expensive though they may be were vastly cheaper and more practical than it took to raise a generation of archers or crossbowmen.

          All the proposals to re-equip armies with bows or crossbows fell on deaf ears because governments realized “Hey, these muskets may be expensive but we don’t have to train someone for a decade just to reach proficiency!”. It’s one of the big reasons why the Conquistadors could beat off the Mesoamerican tribes when they got rowdy. Firearms and cannon proved much less expensive, quicker to equip and more effective in the long run than the bows and spears of say the Inca. (That and biological warfare…)

  • Kalash

    “Norwegian” General? No, he was not Norwegian, not with a name like that. He was a German serving in Norway.

    • Bjørn Vermo

      He was an immigrant. A lot of Norwegian families descend from immigrants.

  • Jim_Macklin

    At today’s prices, the gold and silver would make a Ruger very expensive. Considering that 41ears ago the self-contained metallic cartridge was still 275 years into the future, the utility of even a clumsy revolver was comforting in the commanders tent.
    Colt obviously did not invent the revolver, but certainly he invented the first practical handgun. S&W created the first cartridge firing revolver with the No. 1 which fired the new .22 short cartridge. It was very popular with officers during the Civil War.

  • LCON

    so when you run out of ammo can you use that pommel to pummel? looks like it could do some damnage

  • valorius

    Did the German monarchy try to ban that sinister assault pistol?