Revolvers made in the Confederacy, however not on military contract
THOMAS W. COFER
Thomas W. Cofer was a gunmaker in the city of Portsmouth, Virginia. He was born in Smithfield, in the same state, on March 22nd, 1826. He established himself a gunmaker at a quite young age and founded a company together with his cousin P.D. Gwaltney, himself a gunmaker in Norfolk, Virginia.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the company is known by the name T.W. Cofer & Co of Portsmouth.
The remaining Confederate archives mention that on August 12, 1861, the Confederate Patent Office granted Cofer patent n° 9 (one of the first patents delivered by the Confederate States of America) covering a revolver that could be used not only as a conventional percussion arm but as a metallic cartridge gun as well, by using a specially designed two-pieces cylinder.
Very few Cofer cartridge revolvers made upon that patent have survived. Most of the remaining pieces are standard caps&ball revolvers.
Until recently it was generally believed that since Cofer never had any contract from the Confederate Army, his whole production was sold on the civilian market.
However according to recent discoveries in the Confederate achives, Cofer has at least received and achieved one order from the Southern Government for 82 revolvers, which were all issued to the 5th VA Cavalry Rgt.
Of course, a number of Confederate officers and soldiers of other regiments bought probably Cofer revolvers at their own expenses, which explains the presence
of these guns on the battlefields.
THE COFER REVOLVER
The general shape of the gun is based on the Whitney pattern, except for the spur trigger. It is a .36 caliber revolver featuring a plain bright brass frame and a blued steel barrel and cylinder. The barrel is octagonal on its full length and the cylinder has six chambers. The guns are not serial numbered; the figures or letters that appear on various places are probably shop or mounting marks. There are some minor variations.
The maker's name "T.W. COFER'S PATENT" is stamped in 2 lines on the topstrap, while the mention "PORTSMOUTH, VA" appears on top of the barrel. Those markings were stamped with individual die stamps for each letter.
Only 13 Cofer revolvers are known in existence today and little is known about them, which renders any attempt to determine the total production purely speculative.
They are among the most sought after Confederate guns. They are very rarely offered for sale but when they do, their prices always reach higher levels than any other Confederate gun.
The Cofer revolvers are equipped either with a conventional percussion cylinder or a 2-pieces bored through one. The 2-piece construction of these bored-through cylinders clearly indicate they are transformed percussion cylinders. Only one revolver has been found equipped with a bored-through cylinder in one piece. On basis of that unique specimen, it is impossible to establish wether it was a prototype or an upgrade during production.
Of course those bored-through cylinders infringed on the Rollin White patent; but to the Confederates, that was the less of their concerns.
Cofer also created specific metallic cartridges for his revolvers; the first type had a protruding nipple at its back and proved dangerous when dropped or hit while a cap was on the nipple. So the maker changed the shape of the cartridge making its back hollow like a cup, with the nipple now protected by the sides of the shell.
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