The Savage Navy Model, a six shot .36 caliber revolver, was made from 1861 until 1862 with a total production of only 20,000 guns. Its design was based on the antebellum Savage-North "figure eight" revolver. Beyond its unique action, the gun was revolutionary in that it functioned as a “gas seal” revolver. The cylinder moved forward when the action cocked, and a recess in the chamber mouth engaged a tapered forcing cone at the rear of the barrel. The effect was a gas seal between the chamber and the barrel, which practically eliminated the loss of gas and pressure from the usual gap between the barrel and cylinder. This meant that the gas from power charge was more effectively converted into propulsion for the bullet and increased its velocity for a given powder charge, over convectional revolver designs. These .36, six shot revolvers also had a reputation for being mechanically temperamental and finding one that is in perfect mechanical working order today is quite difficult. This pistol is mechanically excellent and functions exactly as it should in every way. The top strap of the revolver is clearly marked in three lines “SAVAGE R.F.A. Co. MIDDLETOWN, CT/ H.S. NORTH PATENTED JUNE 17 1856/ JANUARY 10 1859. MAY 15 1860. The action of the revolver works perfectly, with a pull of the ring handle beneath the trigger indexing the cylinder to the rear, rotating it and locking it into position and cocking the hammer. A single pull of this lever prepares the revolver, to fire. The cylinder nipples are all in wonderfully crisp condition and show none of the battering that is typically encountered on these pistols. The gun also retains the original tall brass cone shaped front sight, which is still full height. All of the edges of the metal are still very sharp and crisp, and the bore is in good overall condition. All metal parts bear a nicely aged, even chocolate patina. The two-piece grips are in generally good condition, with some wear to the bottom edges and a ding to the left grip.
Despite its ungainly design, the need for revolvers outweighed any misgivings that the military may have had about the Savage, and the coveted contracts were almost immediately forthcoming from $19 to $25 per revolver. Of the approximately 20,000 Savage “Navy” models produced during the Civil War the US Ordnance Department took delivery of 11,384 of the guns, and the Navy took delivery of 1,126. The balance of approximately 8,500 guns were offered for civilian sale, although most those revolvers no doubt ended up seeing action during the war as well. The pistols saw significant field service during the war and were issued to at least 26 US cavalry regiments and were listed among the arms of some half dozen or more Confederate cavalry regiments. This is a very nice example of a unique Civil War sidearm.