An interesting 19th century revolver turned up during a Police raid in Liverpool, UK. The revolver has a tip up break action and appears to be styled similarly to the Webley-Pryse cartridge revolvers of the 1870s-80s with an octagonal barrel.
Sadly, no information about the revolver was given so it’s time for some detective work. The fairly low-resolution photograph of the pistol released by Merseyside Police gives some clues about the revolver’s origins. Firstly, the unusual frame scalloping near the hammer, the distinct trigger guard – with its additional strengthening piece and the large plunger beneath the barrel. These are distinct features of pistols made by the Belgian gunsmith Albert Spirlet – in fact the gunmaker’s name can just be made out stamped on the pistol’s frame as “AL SPIRLET” followed by a serial number below it. Established in the 1860s, the Spirlet family continued to manufacture pistols into the 20th century.
Based in Liege, Spirlet’s tip-up pistols came in a variety of patterns, some of which can be seen at littlegun.be. To load the revolver the frame release catch, just in front of the trigger guard, was disengaged and the barrel and cylinder tipped backwards. To eject any remaining spent cases the plunger beneath the barrel could be struck which pushed a star-shaped ejector upwards. The seized pistol is possibly chambered in an 11mm cartridge, a calibre which were popular at the time, or another ‘obsolete calibre’ which deems the pistol to be an antique and can be owned without a firearms certificate.
The revolver was discovered by a police search team during a raid on a suspected gang member and drug dealer’s home. It was found along with a collection of machetes and swords, as well suspected drugs and an airsoft gun.