Welcome back to another installment of our series of articles dedicated to the most obscure firearms seen in the catalogs of major American auction houses. In this article, we’ll take a look at four rare and unusual firearms consigned to the Spring 2020 Poulin Firearms Auction. Poulin’s Antiques and Auctions, Inc. is quite a large American auction company. In fact, as stated on their website, based on annual sales, they are one of the top five specialty firearms auction houses in North America.
The list presented below goes in no particular order. The model names are linked to corresponding Poulin Auction catalog pages where you can find more and higher resolution images as well as more detailed descriptions of the lots.
This particular version of the Confederate Cofer Patent revolver is an extremely rare firearm as there are only two such revolvers known to exist. In addition to the rarity, this wheelgun also has a really unique design. It uses a .36 caliber metallic cased cartridge that instead of a primer has a percussion cap nipple at the base. The cylinder has a two-piece design that allows retaining the cartridges inside it by capturing the cartridge rim between the two halves. When the gun is loaded, the nipples protrude from the rear of the cylinder allowing the hammer to reach and hit the caps and fire the gun. That’s an incredibly interesting hybrid of a percussion and cartridge revolver.
According to Poulin Auction’s description, this is the only Confederate revolver ever patented. Patent #9 was granted to Thomas W. Cofer of Portsmouth, Virginia on August 12, 1861. Presumably, the Confederate government purchased 17 of these revolvers which were issued to the 5th Virginia Cavalry.
Estimated Price: $175,000 – $275,000
This line thrower is based on a Mauser bolt-action rifle that has been converted into a 28 gauge smoothbore firearm. It uses blank shells to propel the muzzle inserted projectiles that while traveling downrange unwind the line stored inside the underbarrel canister. Apparently, besides the solid projectiles, this firearm can also launch rockets. The handle behind the canister should allow to better control the gun because it must be really front heavy and depending on the load and projectile weight it may generate a significant amount of recoil. This line thrower is made by the Brazilian state company IMBEL (Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil). Such guns are mostly used in marine applications such as ship to ship line throwing or rescue operations.
Estimated Price: $2,500 – $4,000
Another obscure Confederate firearm. This five-barrel muzzleloading combination gun is made in the 1860s, in Richmond, Virginia by a company called Smith, Rhodes & Co. The barrels of the gun measure 25″ and are made of brass. The top two barrels are .50 caliber smoothbore, fired by the two top hammers. The three barrels of the bottom row are fired by the underhammer which can be rotated to line up with the nipple of the barrel the shooter wants to fire. The underhammer also doubles as a trigger guard. The middle barrel of the bottom row is 38 caliber smoothbore while the two barrels on its either side are .31 caliber rifled.
As mentioned in the Poulin auction’s description of this lot, this is probably the only 5-barrel American firearm to exist. This was likely a special order firearm but it’s unknown whether it was used as a hunting gun or took part in the American Civil War.
Estimated Price: $17,500 – $27,500
In the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States and other countries, medical sciences were rapidly developing and medical schools had a high demand for human bodies to dissect and study. However, the legal sources of human bodies were very limited. Well, where there is demand there will be supply, and theft of buried human bodies, body snatching, became a serious problem. Body snatchers (often also called “resurrection men”) were digging up the newly interred bodies and selling them to medical universities and surgeons. In order to protect the graves, cemetery guns like this were placed in the vicinity of graves with several trap wires attached to them. Reportedly, the design of the stands of cemetery guns allowed the guns to swivel towards the direction of the tripped wire and then fire thus increasing the chances of actually hitting the criminal instead of only making noise and alarming the cemetery keeper.
Estimated Price: $1,800 – $2,400
The Spring 2020 Poulin Auction will take place on June 12th, 13th and 14th. Its catalog consists of 2,244 lots that include anything from antique muzzleloading flintlocks to modern machine guns. To find out if there is anything interesting to you consigned to this auction, browse their online catalog which you can find HERE. If you just want to see highlights of the catalog, click HERE to proceed to the page dedicated to some of the most significant lots.
Once this auction ends and the list of prices realized is published, we’ll put together an article telling about the most expensive firearms sold during the auction as there are also really interesting firearms among the lots with the highest estimated prices. Stay tuned!
Images courtesy of Poulin’s Antiques and Auctions, Inc., www.poulinauctions.com