Imitation is a sincere form of flattery, so the saying goes, but in the case of the Confederacy it was also due to necessity. Faced with a shortage of weapons when the war began, Southern arms manufacturers, including some 1861 start-ups (no pistol factories existed in the South when the war began) made copies of firearms that had been manufactured in Northern factories, including pistols.
Revolvers produced by the Colt Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Conn.—particularly the .44-caliber Model 1860 “Army” and the .36-caliber Model 1851 “Navy”—were the most frequently copied. At least 11 firms in Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, and Tennessee made handguns of sound, albeit rough, quality for Confederate troops.
One thing, however, that these firms could not copy compared to Northern gun producers was quantity. It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 Southern revolvers were made during the conflict by all Confederate firms combined. Just a drop in the bucket of what was needed.
In contrast, Samuel Colt’s armory cranked out 121,757 revolvers from 1861 to 1865, including nearly 60,000 Army revolvers in 1863 alone. Three Southern manufacturers—Griswold & Gunnison, Leech & Rigdon, and Spiller & Burr—made 70 percent of all Confederate revolvers. Pistols produced by those firms are featured here.
this article first appeared in civil war times magazine