November 28, 2018 10:00 AM EST Cincinnati


U.S. Artemus Wheeler Revolving Flintlock Rifle

.50 caliber, 32.625" round barrel, microgroove rifling with a twist. Seven shot with an automatic priming magazine, hammer engraved with a border design.  The barrel has front blade sight no rear barrel sight but a shallow flat on the top of the barrel was used as a sighting groove. Dark walnut straight grip stock with checkering in the wrist with small cheek piece on the left side.  steel buttplate and triggerguard. Marked inside the lock mortise "3", meaning this was gun number 3. Matting mark on the top.

This the first revolving rifle with automatic priming system made in America; a total of four were made consisting of two rifles and two pepperbox carbines. All models were subsequently purchased by the U.S. Navy for trials.  Of the four known to exist, three are currently in the Smithsonian and VMI museums, making this example the only one in private hands, and therefore the only one available for purchase anywhere.  It was purchased by Mark Aziz from Colonel Berkley Lewis, long time collector author of many books and articles.

While Willard Cousin's four-part April through July 1978 article in "The Gun Report" magazine on Captain Wheeler claims that two muskets were manufactured, the standards for musket barrel length at the time was 42".  As both Wheeler rifles have 32.5" barrels, such a classification would be inconsistent using the nomenclature of the time.  The "musket" classification also fails to take into account the Wheeler's rifled barrels, which would also place them well without the "musket" classification in the military parlance of the period, where "musket" and "rifle" were clearly distinct terms.

The Wheeler rifle is the rarest and most desirable Revolving American flintlock rifle as well as the rarest American martial flintlock arm.  After its development, Elisha Collier reworked Wheeler's patent and took his design to England where he patented and manufactured his famous Collier revolving arms.  The historical importance of Wheeler's four revolvers to Collier and the later Samuel Colt cannot be overstated.  For years gun collectors have been giving Collier, an American, credit for inventing the revolving guns he devised.  Poor Captain Wheeler!

Provenance:Lt Col Berkeley Lewis to Mark Aziz


The barrel, cylinder and frame display a smooth even light brown patina throughout as does recoil shield.  All edges are sharp and crisp showing no appreciable wear.  Mechanically excellent with excellent bright bore.  Figured walnut butt-stock is full dimension with age darkened patina and the minor marks expected on a martial trials rifle but no significant mars or dents. The rifle overall rates excellent for a U.S. Martial arm from 1818.

Estimate: $100,000 - $200,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium

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