Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities: The First Fast Handgun Reload

Today's YOFC is a device that I have been interested in for quite some time. To my knowledge the following device is the first, patented at least, device to aid in the rapid, simultaneous, reloading of a revolver cylinder. Created by William De Courcy Prideaux of Great Britain in the early 1890s the device was patented in the UK in 1893 and the U.S. the following year (U.S. patent #516,942).

The "Prideaux Device" as it has become known, was originally designed to aid in the rapid reloading of the ubiquitous Webley and Scott revolvers. To that purpose it did in fact serve, Prideaux devices are known to have existed (and indeed some still survive) for all calibers of Webley and Scott revolvers, from the .22 training revolvers, to the .455 British revolvers. The devices were commonly purchased by Royal British officers before and during WWI. I have not been able to discern if anyone besides Prideaux manufactured the devices, most of them are marked only with the Royal emblem of Her Majesty. After the end of WWI it would seem that the Prideaux device fell out of favor as there are not any that I have seen marked, issued, or claimed to be from WWII. Certainly a rapid reloading device like the Prideaux would have been used during WWII, had it been available in a sufficient quantity and/or still in manufacture.

What makes the Prideaux device so interesting is actually the date of its invention. Speed loaders are generally viewed to be a 20th century construct. With the common Safariland COMP series of HKS series of speed loaders (the two widely accepted standards), being developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, most of the United States, where law enforcement carried swing out cylinder revolvers until the 1980s, did not adopt the common use of speed loaders until the mid 1970s. But in fact the Prideaux pre-dates the common adoption period by more than 80 years. In fact Prideaux and Borchardt applied for patents in the same year at nearly the same time. So, the first successful speed loader was created at roughly the same time as the first successful box magazine. To me this is quite interesting, because revolvers are generally viewed as archaic with a longer period of development than pistols, but the reality is both systems were being developed and refined simultaneously to one another.

Regardless of whether you find the simultaneous development interesting or not, the Prideaux device is still an interesting piece of history. It pre-dates all common speed loaders and was essentially the first of its kind. It was, at least in part, a commercial success, and was used successfully during at least one World War. The Prideaux device is a piece of firearm history, sometimes forgotten in the pages of the book, but certainly worth noting.

Cartridge End of PrideauxCartridge End of a surviving Prideaux Device

Top of PrideauxTop End of the same surviving Prideaux Device

Prideaux Patent 1Prideaux Patent Image 1

Prideaux Patent 2Prideaux Patent Image 2

Patent PDF available here.

-Rob

2 comments:

  1. The devices were commonly purchased by Royal British officers before and during WWI. I have not been able to discern if anyone besides Prideaux manufactured the devices, most of them are marked only with the Royal emblem of Her Majesty. http://findmybud.com/

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