A rather unusual gun, the Whitmore 4-barrel swivel-breech rifle answers the question, “Why didn’t they make more of these multi-barrel black powder guns?”
This is a beautiful firearm, there’s no question of that. With inlays and engraving throughout, the M.J. Whitmore 4-barrel swivel-breech rifle is as much a work of art as it is a functional firearm.
With four barrels – three barrels are .40 caliber and one barrel that is a .410 shotgun – this is a double barrel times two. You simply rotate the two barrels and replace them with two other barrels.
Most repeatable flintlock or percussion weapons utilized a two barrel system, which speaks to the the answer of the question, “Why didn’t they produce more of these?” The answer is that four barrels is extremely heavy and cumbersome for a personal carry gun. The weight alone would have made it impractical.
So, we’ve got four barrels and one double-trigger assembly. The ramrod is also ingeniously located in the center of all four barrels, and is protected and hidden by a springed cover mechanism.
M.J. Whitmore was a prolific firearm maker working out of Potsdam, New York, and was known for making mostly two-barrel swivel guns. Two-barrel swivel guns were over/under type of affairs, with the barrels swiveling one over the other. This mid-19th century four-barrel model is somewhat unique in that regard.
Whitmore was believed to have been the gunsmith who trained Lewis L. Hepburn, later of Remington fame. A relative, N.G. Whitmore, was also an accomplished gunsmith and made a rifle for General Ulysses S. Grant. That rifle was exhibited in the Smithsonian. He was also the master armorer for the Springfield Armory.
This particular gun is up for auction on the Rock Island Auction Company site for later this month.