Antique William Tranter Firearms
Antique William Tranter Firearms are guns manufactured by British gunmaker William Tranter (1816-1890).
Background & history of production
William Tranter was the eldest son of a blacksmith living near Birmingham, the centre of English arms manufacture. Tranter was apprenticed to gunsmithing company Hollis Bros & Company at the age of 14, and nine years later he bought them out.
By 1853, Tranter had manufactured over 8,000 Robert Adams revolvers under license. With friend James Kerr, he developed modifications to the Adams model, and produced a double trigger, double action revolver that he would make his name on. The Tranter revolver went through three models, was used by Confederates in the American Civil War and the British in the Zulu War, and was manufactured until 1885. See main article: Antique Tranter Revolvers.
Tranter also produced percussion rifles with a revolver cylinder instead of a magazine, with both a single and double trigger mechanism, and single action shot saloon pistols.
He continued to manufacture percussion revolvers for years following the introduction of cartridge revolvers, as many shooters mistrusted the new fangled system and preferred the old models. However, Tranter did then go on to secure a patent for producing rimfire revolvers, some of the first in Britain, and also began manufacturing centre fire revolvers in 1868.
He constructed a large factory in Aston Cross, The Tranter Gun and Pistol Factory, in 1867. Here, he produced over 20 pistols of his own design, plus models by other designers under contracts such as the official British Snider Rifle. He made 24 patent applications between 1849 and 1888. 19 of these were for cartridge weapons, including bolt-action rifles and machine guns, as well as the famous Tranter revolvers. He was a founding member of the Birmingham Small Arms Company.
Tranter revolvers are iconic, and more collectible than Tranter rifles. You rarely see rifles come up at auction.
Due to their use by Confederates in the U.S. Civil War, the revolvers often have a provenance interesting to collectors.
Price guide and notable auction sales
Revolvers usually sell for a few thousand, though pieces with an interesting history often realise tens of thousands. The most expensive examples usually retain their original cases, often with antique accessories.
- Confederate Thomas Griswold & Co, cased ,engraved, gold washed Tranter double action .44 Caliber percussion revolver. Sold for $14,340 at Heritage Auctions in December 2007.
- Cased Tranter 80-bore percussion double action revolver, New Orleans Agent’s markings, Confederate Louisiana General F. R. T. Nicholls, sold for $14,340 at Heritage Auctions in June 2009.
- Cased gold-mounted Royal presentation 54-bore Tranter five-shot Double Action percussion revolver, supplied to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, in 1869. Sold for £16,100 at Christie’s in July 1997.
- Rare cased pair of Presentation Tranter 54-bore third model five-shot self cocking percussion revolvers, sold for £22,500 at Bonhams in April 2012.