Less Common Guns
in the Civil War
The three models of revolvers made by Starr make it cumulatively the third most
productive pistol manufacturer of the Civil War. Starr made about
one-tenth as many revolvers as Colt, and about one-fifth as many as
The initial Starr model revolvers in both 44 Army and 36 Navy size were double
action. That is, instead of cocking the hammer manually and then
squeezing the trigger to shoot, the hammer is cocked by pulling the
trigger and the gun fires at the end of the trigger pull.
The internal parts of the original Starr are distinctly different
looking upon disassembly then similar parts from a Colt or a Remington (which are very similar
internally). The part that rotates the cylinder (called the "hand")
is noticeably more robust looking in the Starr, but just as susceptible
to the small spring breaking--maybe more so. The part that holds
the cylinder in place for firing (called the "bolt") is a less robust
design in the Starr, and the way the cylinder is caught by the bolt to
stop a vigorously rotating cylinder in rapid fire isn't completely
reliable. A reader asks for
more on this.
Decades later both Colt and Smith & Wesson made double action
revolvers where (with practice) the last movement of the trigger could
be held momentarily to take an aimed shot for accurate shooting. A
gunsmith's private hunch is that the double action Starr never achieved
down range accuracy, may have become unsafe when fired rapidly, and the mechanism proved unreliable in the field.
About half way through the War, the Federal Army called it quits on
the Starr double action. Starr was asked to make its 44 Army
revolver in single action, which they did. More 44 Starrs were
made in single action with an 8" barrel then in double action with a 6"
Eban Starr, also made his revolver for quick changing of the
cylinder. There is no center pin, as there is in a Colt or a
Remington. The Starr's frame is hinged at the bottom front, and the frame opens at the top back. When the frame is
opened, the cylinder is free
to fall out. A new one easily drops into place with a front
projection on the cylinder quickly fitting into a recess in the frame.
Total production of the Starr is about 47,500, of which
only a few thousand were made in 36 "Navy" caliber. About 23,000
of the 44 double action and about 32,000 of the 44 single action were
made by Starr. Like all of the lesser known companies making guns
in the Civil War, the Starr firm failed financially quickly after the
The Starr is loaded with loose
blackpowder and a bare bullet referred to
as "cap and ball," or with paper
cartridges. Loading a cap and ball revolver is from the front of the
cylinder. It is fired with
percussion caps. Misfires in cap and ball revolvers were more common than in the
subsequent metallic cartridge guns.
Both single and double action Starr revolvers are available as a modern made replica, including from
Dixie Gun Works.
For more information, consult "Flayderman's
GuideTo Antique American Firearms" by Norm Flayderman,
Colt Conversions by Bruce McDowell,
and there is a particularly good webpage on the
Starr with more photos.
||11 and 14 Inches
||725 feet per second
||160 foot pounds
More About Civil War Guns