Allen & Thurber Pepperbox


September 1, 2013, 05:43 PM
Ever since I bought a S&W baby Russian earlier in the summer I've been thinking about this Pepperbox that was next to it. And ever since I was a kid and played the game "Clue" I've wanted one. This is what I once thought a "revolver" was and I guess technically it is.
Anyway, I happened by the gun shop today and it was still there. Most Pepperboxes I see are in pretty rough shape but this one is really nice and seemed like a pretty decent deal. The shop owner knocked about $90 off of it since it had been sitting there a while. Not a lot of demand in these parts for these things. The only thing that is missing is the mainspring strain screw but doesn't seem to be necessary for the gun to operate properly. From what I read it is just to adjust the spring tension anyway. But if anyone out there knows who would have one of these screws please let me know.
All I know about it is that it is .32 caliber, the barrel is about 4" long, "Allen & Thurber" and "Worcester" puts the date of manufacture between 1847-1854. Every part that has a number is stamped "13" so this is either the serial number or just an assembly number. I don't know if these were serial numbered or not.
So I took it apart as far as I dared and flushed it out with Rem oil and brushed it out wherever I could get to with a tooth brush. This thing hasn't been apart in loooong time by the looks of it. I brushed the surface rust out of the barrels oiled it up and it seems to work perfectly. Oil was bubbling out of all of the nipples so I know those aren't plugged which is good.
Below are my after clean up pics and before clean up when I had it disassembled.
If anyone has any further information they could share regarding this gun please share.
Thank you. ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( ( (

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September 1, 2013, 07:56 PM
Since you've always wanted one, I think you are/will be pleased with your acquisition.

Thanks for posting it.

September 1, 2013, 08:34 PM
Cool! I wonder what accuracy will be like when you shoot it. These were known to have poor accuracy historically. You will be in position to test that. Again, cool!

September 1, 2013, 10:00 PM
I have always wondered if these things would be effective with shot pellets for things like snakes and other.

I see that this works like a double action revolver. I once handled a cheap replica and was dissappointed that you had to manually turn the barrels by hand which also caused the hammer to fall lightly unto the nipple.

I suppose there is a slight possibility that the replica could discharge when rotating by hand. I happen to like pepper box pistols and this one you have is a gem.

The barrels are longer on this than the ones on the replica I handled which is a big plus in my eyes.

Do they make any replicas like the one you have (true double action) or are they all cheap imitations made by those who won't bother to at least make their replicas half way correct ?

This is proof that old technology is not always that far from modern technology (a full double action revolver) and that folks from the past were not as primitive and ignorant as some would assume.

I can say this one looks (and functions) way better than the so called modern replica of a "pepper box."

September 1, 2013, 10:42 PM
I had looked at replica kits of pepperbox guns on line and thinking of getting one. After seeing the pics you posted I may go ahead. Better yet run across one such as yours.
Very Nice Find.

Jim K
September 2, 2013, 01:03 AM
That gun has a couple of anomalies that I don't understand but I don't know all that much about them. One is that the 1837 patent (according the Flayderman) uses a flat mainspring, not the heavy "U" shape one.

Also, the inside of those grips look different from the ones I have seen, including one I have, and the lockwork screws appear to be modern, not the ones with hand filed slots like those on my Worcester gun and others I have seen.

I am not sure what all this means. I don't know of any pepperbox repros that are that close to the originals, so I think a repro can be ruled out. Perhaps the gun is an assembly of an 1837 barrel cluster on an 1845 patent gun, which could have been done at the factory, and maybe the lockwork was rebuilt.

One thing, it is certainly a nice gun and a great example of a pepperbox,


September 2, 2013, 01:32 AM
That's pretty cool. Being educated about stuff like this is part of the reason I check the BP discussion out every day or so.
Were these things expensive to make? And were they expensive to buy in their day? Looks like a lot of complex machining and like it would take some skill to assemble it.

DoubleDeuce 1
September 2, 2013, 02:45 AM
Very cool pepper box! I have always liked those. I think they are very interesting. Great find!:cool:

September 2, 2013, 07:43 AM
Interesting piece! Their are some contemporary articles about the pepperbox and the accuracy one can expect from them. Mark Twain reported the only safe place to be when one of them fired was to be in front of it!

September 2, 2013, 08:33 AM
Here's a picture of mine, a little later model with shorter barrel. I have shot it in the past with patched #0 shot. Accuracy was barely adequate to hit the barn from the inside but would have been OK for handshake distances. Cap fit seemed critical. Mine appears to need something in between a #11 which it too big and #10 which is too small and won't let the barrel rotate. Multiple discharges were all too common using the #11 caps. Not exactly like Twain wrote in "Roughing It" but close.

September 2, 2013, 11:33 AM
Jim K.

I'm not sure. This one looks exactly like the innards of the one shown in the NRA book of firearms disassembly. I assumed that all of these have a patent date on the barrels of 1837 even when they were made later. This one according to what I have read would have been made between 1847-1854. In 1854 there was a fire at the factory and they built a new factory which later became the home of Forehand & Wadsworth. Pepperboxes built after 1854 are marked Allen & Thurber & Co. I think.

September 2, 2013, 11:34 AM
Also here's a video of the action working

September 2, 2013, 09:58 PM
If you haven't seen this it give a little history

Jim K
September 2, 2013, 10:32 PM
To answer one question, Serven* says that an A&T pepperbox was one fourth the cost of a Colt revolver, so that might be one reason they hung around so long. But the revolver had whetted the appetite of the public for multi-shot pistols, so A&T also profited by Colt's initiative. He also says that in 1847, the year they moved to Worcester (and in spite of the move), Allen & Thurber made 8000 pepperboxes and 1500 single shot pistols. (Colt had managed to make only some 2000 revolvers in six years at Paterson.)

*The Collecting of Guns, by James E. Serven

Here is a pic of part of the inside of my gun. Note the spring support is reversed and also note the inside of the grip, much rougher than the one on yours. Others I have seen looked like mine.


September 2, 2013, 11:52 PM
Wow... I'd have thought the expense would have been a reason for their decline. OTOH, making the barrels is about the same thing as making a cylinder and it only has DAO lockwork. Thanks for the info though. Again, this is why I keep hanging around here.

Malachi Leviticus Blue
September 3, 2013, 05:26 AM
... Do they make any replicas like the one you have (true double action) or are they all cheap imitations made by those who won't bother to at least make their replicas half way correct ?..."

Hoppe's offered a 3 different Black Powder pistols back in the '70s & '80s one of which was labeled an Ethan Allen Pepperbox. I'm not sure how accurate it was to history, but it was a 36 Caliber single action and made in the USA, It was Model 200. I don't see them around that often but they are the best looking Pepperbox replicas I've seen.

FYI, Hoppe's Model 100 was a small 36 cal side by side and Model 300 was a 45 Cal single shot Target Pistol.

September 3, 2013, 09:23 AM
Jim K, I'm not seeing any difference other than I took my picture from the other side and I am missing my strain screw. They both look the same to me.

Jim K
September 3, 2013, 11:02 AM
Yep, my eyeballs got reversed.


September 3, 2013, 04:36 PM
From what I know Classic Arms makes an Ethan Allen Pepperbox. The ones from the 70s and 80s, I don't know who made them or where, but the ones I saw in catalogues are the same as the current Classic Arms ones.

These things (Ethan Allen Pepperbox) are not true double action revolvers. You have to grab the barrels and rotate it to the next barrel with your hand after every shot. I have doubts as to whether it is a true reproduction of any antique pepper box .

From what I have seen here and on other youtube videos most of the authentic pepper box pistols are true double action like the one in this post.

I don't know and would not be surprised if they made crude pepper boxes like the Ethan Allen in the old days but if they did it would not interest me.

I just did a google search and it looks like the Hoppes Ethan Allen Pepper Box is quite different from the Classic Arms but it also looks like a single action because the trigger is at rest all the way to the rear like a single action and it has a thumb rest on the hammer I guess it is a single action. It is interesting however I can't find anyone that wants to sell theirs not that I am looking to buy but it is interesting and supposed to be high quality. Thanks I will consider it.

September 3, 2013, 06:12 PM
Regarding the Hoppes pepperbox:

Unless they made more than one version, the one Johnnycremains got isn't like a Hoppes. I've got two, one factory-assembled and one kit gun that's never been taken out of the packaging, much less put together and as grter figured, they're single action only.

Malachi Leviticus Blue
September 3, 2013, 09:21 PM
Regarding the Hoppes pepperbox:

Unless they made more than one version, the one Johnnycremains got isn't like a Hoppes. I've got two, one factory-assembled and one kit gun that's never been taken out of the packaging, much less put together and as grter figured, they're single action only.

Sorry, must have been too early when I posted that the Hoppe's was Double action.
What I meant or was thinking of was that it is a true single action revolver where cocking the hammer does advance the cylinder/ barrels as opposed to ones like Classic Arms replicas which must be have the barrel rotated by hand.

September 4, 2013, 06:36 PM
grter, I have two of those Classic Arms Pepperboxes that I have had since I was a kid. One has a round barrel with long flutes and the other has a square barrel cluster. Neither one is a reproduction of anything that was actually made in the old days. They are crap but sort of satisfied my pepperbox fascination as a kid. They were extremely unreliable and I could throw a lead ball more accurately and harder than I could shoot one out of one of those things :) They make good paperweights though. I'm probably going to throw them both on Gunbroker and get rid of them.

Jim K
September 4, 2013, 07:31 PM
The more I look at the OP's pepperbox and check sources, the more I begin to think that it was made from two guns, with an older and refinished barrel cluster fitted to a newer model frame with possibly replaced grips. IF and I say, IF, that is the case the work could well have been done decades ago, giving a genuine aged look.


September 5, 2013, 07:21 AM
Jim, I don't think it has. The barrel cluster is also stamped with the same number "13" as the rest of it. Unless the barrel cluster came from another gun that also just happened to have the same assembly numbers. Pretty much every part that is big enough to have a number on it is stamped "13" including the grips.
I'm of course no expert on these things but don't the markings "Allen & Thurber" and "Worcester" on the barrel cluster date this to 1847-1854? After 1854 they are marked "Allen & Thurber & Co."
And I've seen later guns and there is another date under "allens patent" on the hammer of 1845. Mine is lacking that later date.

September 5, 2013, 10:54 AM
never paid them much mind, now this thread has me thinking "maybe?":D
Does anybody know who besides hoppes made reproductions?
The OP's pistol is beautiful the repro that Dixie sells looks nothing like this

September 5, 2013, 09:53 PM
never paid them much mind, now this thread has me thinking "maybe?":D
Does anybody know who besides hoppes made reproductions?
The OP's pistol is beautiful the repro that Dixie sells looks nothing like this
Dixie Gun works used to sell a repro made in Spain by Astra*. It was scaled down to .22 and had an all-metal gripframe (no separate grip panels) and was a true DAO pepperbox like the Allen & Thurber this thread is about. However, I've got no idea if DGW still has 'em for sale. I didn't bring it up earlier because there was no way on earth I could see mistaking one of them for or stamping over or whatever to make it appear to be like the OP's A&T.

*Astra, IIRC; I've got one and I'm too lazy to go downstairs and check right now

September 6, 2013, 07:00 AM
I saw one of the 22 caliber repros at a flea market a while ago. I think those went off the market a long time ago.
I knew that to satisfy my pepperbox fascination I needed an old original. It's too bad nobody makes a faithfull replica of one. I would really like to have one to shoot.
I'm pretty sure I could shoot this one if the nipples or hammer aren't worn too badly, but I don't think I'd want to risk shooting it much.
I'm not sure if the hammer comes close enough to the nipples for it to fire. There is definitely a little space between the face of the hammer and the nipples. The hammer rests on the frame.
I'll have to put some caps on it and see if it will set them off.

September 6, 2013, 09:08 AM
Maybe a good gun (hideout) for a bar fight when your opponent(s) only had a knife? And it looks more concealable then other multi barrel pistols of the period, like a duckfoot.

Here is an expensive one, English made by Nock;

September 7, 2013, 08:53 AM
Wow! .49 caliber. That's one crazy Pepperbox.

September 7, 2013, 10:17 AM
shame nobody currently makes one similar to the OP's cause its a nice looking pistol, probably be fun too

September 7, 2013, 09:49 PM
I just bought this book on amazon. But here's an online version. Very interesting with great pepperbox history and information:;view=1up;seq=2

Jim K
September 7, 2013, 10:22 PM
Hi, Johnny,

Mine has the date 1845 on the hammer, which is consistent with the U type mainspring. There is no date on the barrel cluster, which does not have ribs, and is marked "Allen & Thurber Worcester" in one line with the markings apparently done with two separate stamps. Yours, with the two dates on the same gun would seem inconsistent, but would not necessarily mean two different guns. If A&T was like other companies, it is quite possible that they assembled those parts that would work, without worrying about the details. If they did a FILO on their parts bins, that would lead to many of the odd and inconsistent guns we see reported.


September 7, 2013, 10:38 PM
Hey Jim. Mine doesn't have two dates on it. Just the 1837 date on the barrel cluster.

September 8, 2013, 12:59 AM
Johnny C, correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like you're getting into collecting these type of firearms? It seems like there are a lot of originals out there in great shape like yours. If you get into collecting these let me know and I'll keep an eye out for some goods ones up for sale.

September 8, 2013, 09:12 AM
Not sure if I'm going to start collecting them or not. I've been collecting mainly Colts and S&Ws for years but thought I'd try something a little different.

Jim K
September 8, 2013, 08:27 PM
Sorry about the 1845 date, I misread your earlier post.


Coyote Bob
January 31, 2014, 11:46 AM
I know that this is an old thread, but I'm working on an old Allen & Thurber Pepperbox. I appears to be a .31 caliber (6 shot) with barrels slightly more than 3".

Looks like the client has "cleaned" up the outside, but the barrels have rust inside. The action worked when we took it apart, but we've noticed that the nipples are smashed and flared a bit. I've not been able to find any information on what size percussion caps are supposed to fit on the nipples. They are too flared for a Rem #10 or Rem #11, they don't appear to be deep enough or wide enough relief for an old top hat style.

Can anyone confirm what size nipple/cap this is supposed to be? Been through all the books in the shop, searched online and read lots of posts. Pretty sure we have an authentic pistol but cannot find anything to identify the cap size.

Thanks for your help.

January 31, 2014, 05:19 PM
I have a pepper box. It was a kit, 36 cal and in the white. I have shot it a few times and accurate out to 50 feet. The right cap was a hassle I had to trim number 10s shorter as they were to long for the short nipples. I found cap gun caps worked the best for reliable fireing.

January 31, 2014, 07:23 PM
This is what I once thought a "revolver" was and I guess technically it is.

Twain called the one on his stagecoach- an "Allen's Revolver."..."It was a cheerful weapon..."

February 1, 2014, 01:22 AM
Actually when Capt. Sam Walker was in Washington trying to get support from the govt.and the army for an order for Colts new .44 cal revolver, everyone thought he was trying to sell them this multi barrel pistol design. He corrected them saying the Colt was totally different revolutionary design, not a mere ".popgun" as he derisively called the multi barrel pistols.
Around that same time period A&T was making a large .36 cal "dragoon size" belt pistol. These , I believe are the "popguns" Walker was referring to.
I've had a strange affinity for pepperboxes ever since I sent off a couple of bucks and box tops from Kelloggs Corn Pops (with Guy Madison as Wild Bill Hickock and Andy Devine as Jingles on the box) to get a full scale plastic model of one. I think Pyro Plastics made it and other full size firearms models.
I recently picked up an Spanish made Astra six shot .22 cal cb that uses 5-10 grains bp and a .22 cal airgun pellet. Not very accurate, but a hoot to shoot.

February 1, 2014, 05:43 AM
I had one of those plastic Allen and thurbers and probably got it the exact same way. seems like mine was a kit thought and it looked pretty good. (We are friggin' OLD, aren't we?)

February 1, 2014, 02:13 PM
As Indiana Jones so aptly put it, its not the years. It's the mileage.
I had a bunch of those Pyro model arms. They were all 1:1 scale including the Winchester saddle carbine and the kentucky long rifle. Sorry not my intent to hijack the thread Mr.. Moderator

February 2, 2014, 09:11 AM
Coyote Bob,

Not sure what size they are. I couldn't find any of my number 11s percussion caps kicking around to try on it. My suspicion is that it wouldn't fire at all because the nipples are so worn down that the hammer doesn't even make contact with them before it hits the frame. The problem with the Allen design is that the nipples are machined right into the barrel cluster and not removable. Probably not worth going through all the trouble but a good gunsmith could probably cut them out and drill and tap them for conventional nipples. But that would probably ruin any collector value the gun has.

February 2, 2014, 03:20 PM
I wonder what accuracy will be like when you shoot it.

I had the chance to actually fire an original Allen & Thurber .31 cal. Pepperbox a couple of years ago. Can't remember what size caps we were using but the spent caps were problematic.

As to accuracy....I had all I could do to hit a man size paper target at 7 yards. The trigger was heavy and with no sights, it's a chore to hit anything farther away than across a card table.

Was a GREAT experience though!

February 2, 2014, 04:43 PM
You may or may not know that the "nipples" on the A&T pepperboxes were machined in place and not removable. You might be able to "dress" the mushroomed tops to get a cap to fit over them. Modern caps are mostly too long and get jammed inside the nipple shroud after firing, if they actually do go off. Usually when these guns are found in someone's attic after a century or more of neglect, the nipple directly under the hammer is totally eaten away from rust. There is not enough metal at the barrel/chamber's breech to thread and install another.

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