Custer’s British Bulldogs

No, not that kind of bulldog. Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer is believed to have carried a pair of British Bulldog revolvers, short-barrelled and double-action revolver that was made in pocket and small belt-sized. According to a report given by Brigadier-General (then Major) E.S. Godfrey on January 16, 1896, Custer carried “two Bulldog self-cocking, English, white-handled pistols, with a ring in the butt for a lanyard. We know they weren’t the production revolvers, because those were officially produced in 1878, two years after the infamous battle. But scholars believe he might have had an earlier version.

Designed to be carried in a coat pocket or kept on a night-stand, this little revolver was a solid-frame pocket revolver, meaning the round chamber was rotated away from the weapon in order to be loaded, instead of the barrel flipping up or down out of the way. It had a 2.5 inch barrel and packed a wallop with .44 and .45 caliber bullets.

These pockets “protectors” were made with a metal loop on the end of the butt, where a lanyard or chain could be attached to keep the revolver from falling out of the pocket.

The Webley British Bulldog revolver is famous for another moment in history, as well. Charles Julius Guiteau, angry that he had not been appointed to a Federal post, used an American-made Bulldog to assassinate President James Garfield on July 2, 1881. Guiteau paid $10 for the revolver, a box of cartridges, and a penknife.

After Guiteau’s trial, the revolver was placed in the Smithsonian Institution. Some time after (believed to be around 1900) the revolver disappeared, and has not been seen since.

This little weapon is considered one of the guns that “won the west.” Check out The British Bulldog Revolver; The Forgotten Gun that Really Won the West by George Layman.

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11 thoughts on “Custer’s British Bulldogs”

  1. This post was worth it for the puppy pic alone. But I do like finding out about these weapons and their infamous stories.


    Peace, Julie

  2. More guns…that is very interesting about the guns.
    I guess someone visiting wanted the gun, hopefully it wasn’t one of the Smithsonian employees. Well if it was I guess the family that finds it will be in for a interesting history on that gun. Thanks for posting the story about the weapon. Very interesting. Amy

  3. Tracy, I’ve never heard of this type of gun. Wow, you’re really coming up with all kinds of different weapons! Great information for western romance writers. I’m going to file this away. Never know when I might need it.

  4. Interesting. The first gun is a pretty, little weapon. Having the loop on the butt wasn’t such a bad idea. You wouldn’t have to worry about loosing your weapon. Even if you dropped it, it wouldn’t be out of reach.
    Thanks for another good post.

  5. Julie, the pup is what I thought of everytime I typed “Bulldog”. 😀

    Amy, like you, I hope someone finds it in their family “collection” someday. I’d hate to think it has been lost forever.

  6. lol, Tabitha!

    There’s nothing wrong with you, Mary. You appreciate fine craftsmanship. 😀 Actually, a gunsmith at the time these weapons were made was part wood artist, part blacksmith, part engineer. They truly were a work of art.

  7. Linda, there are a couple of great shows on Outdoor Channel that cover cowboy weapons, shooting styles, clothing, etc. Between that and my gun collector friend, I still have several to go.

  8. That’s one cool looking gun, Tracy. I’d heard that Custer carried “pearl handled” pistols, but never knew until now what those guns were.
    And your cover is just dreamy. That man…sigh.

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