29 April 2012

Allen Underhammer "Pocket Rifle"

We're back!

Probably one of the most recognized names in the field of muzzleloading arms is that of Ethan Allen. BTW, he is not the same Ethan Allen of the American Revolution fame. Our man was born in Massachusetts in 1806 – long after the guns of the revolution had cooled off.

While he initially worked under his own name, he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, and together they formed the firm of Allen and Thurber and made several types of firearms. You may have seen the Allen and Thurber boxlock rifle in the form which was made and marketed as the Mowrey muzzleloading rifle. Allen later partnered up with Thomas Wheelock and together they made the Allen and Wheelock single action revolvers.

Ethan was also noted for his pepperbox revolvers, the precursor to the revolving cylinder single action as made prominent by Samuel Colt. He was also famous for his underhammer arms. Needless to say, Ethan Allen was a very busy man and prolific arms designer and maker.

Recently we discovered on the website of Collectors Firearms, www.collectorsfirearms.com , a very unusual and unique underhammer carbine which appears to be a First Model Allen “Pocket Rifle.”  We appreciate the permission of Collectors Firearms in being able to share this wonderful little rifle with you.

This pocket rifle features essentially the same mechanism as used on Allen's underhammer pistols and fitted with a buttstock. Most likely this combination was offered as a “buggy rifle”  being short and handy and quick to get into action. I'm sure the wood stock's added bulk may have given the little rifle much more presence and perhaps increased it's intimidation value toward unsavory types that one might meet on the road.

Following is the description of this nifty little pocket rifle as found on Collectors Firearms site: 

34 caliber rifle. Unusual, appears to be an Allen 1st Model Pocket Rifle except for the integral rifle stock. Gun has no markings except for "8.0" on bottom of barrel. Barrel is 8" overall length. Metal is very fine. No rust, stains or pits. Stock is very good plus with a small toe repair at butt plate. This is a most unusual Underhammer and beautifully made! $1,575.00 Item# AL3243.

If you are interested in acquiring this really unique underhammer firearm contact Collectors Firearms at: www.collectorsfirearms.com and be sure to tell them that you saw the Allen First Model Pocket Rifle (or so we all believe it to be) here on The Underhammer Society blog site. 

Now, on another note about Ethan Allen...
After all these decades there still is considerable confusion and ongoing misinformation regarding Ethan Allen’s underhammer arms and those recent models of underhammer arms that were made and marketed by Numrich Arms as “Hopkins and Allen” underhammers. The fact is that they are not even remotely related. 

The original Hopkins and Allen Arms Company was an arms manufactory based in Norwich, Connecticut and founded in 1868 by Charles W. Allen, (not Ethan Allen) Charles A. Converse, Horace Briggs, Samuel S. Hopkins and Charles W. Hopkins. Hopkins and Allen never made percussion underhammer firearms of any kind.

After much financial turmoil the company went bankrupt in 1916 and Marlin/Rockwell purchased its machinery, inventory and designs in 1917. Later, Numrich Arms gained control of the company name, Hopkins and Allen, which marked the beginning of one of the most confusing chapters in modern firearms history regarding underhammer arms.

During the muzzleloading revival of the 1950s, 60s and 70’s George Numrich of Numrich Arms/Gun Parts Corporation fame, determined that there would be a sizable market for an inexpensive and simple muzzleloading rifle. So they made one. It was a simple, rugged, and accurate underhammer design that looked promising. However, they felt that they needed a recognizable name to go with this new rifle and having the rights to the old Hopkins and Allen Arms Company trademark they applied the moniker to their new wonder. The result was that they have managed to confuse muzzleloaders ever since – even some otherwise knowledgeable shooters. I even heard of one person who was selling a Numrich H&A underhammer rifle who advertized that his rifle could be traced all the way back to Ethan Allen himself! Talk about creating provenance!

So, in conclusion here’s the straight skinny:

While Ethan Allen made underhammers, he never made furniture nor Hopkins and Allen underhammers. Furthermore, Ethan Allen had nothing to do with Hopkins and Allen and Hopkins and Allen never made underhammers. Numrich Arms made underhammers, but they were never really Hopkins and Allen and they never made Ethan Allen nor Hopkins and Allen firearms. And none of this has anything to do with Allen and Wheelock.

Now that should perfectly clear up the confusion. Right?

If you have any other questions, please refer to Nick Chandlers book, Early American Underhammer Firearms, which I have plugged further down the page  http://underhammers.blogspot.com/2010/12/early-american-underhammer-firearms.html and in the archives on this blog. Go to the lower right bottom of this page to access the Older Posts.




KenHulme said...

When I first scrolled past the photo, my initial thought was "21st century ray gun". That stock looks so modern; so futuristic even for today. It's an avant guard assault pistol!!

qt said...


You got me looking at the same site. Did you notice this one?


In the "and now for something completely different" department...

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About Me

Roger Renner

Hi. I've been a student, admirer, and designer/builder of underhammer guns for over 30 years. In that span I've built over 200 semi-custom underhammers exploring the possibilities from the ordinary to the exotic. In 1996 I founded Pacific Rifle Company to explore the market's interest in a high-quality underhammer rifle. Thankfully, that interest was, and still is, there. I sold PRC in 2006 but continue to craft high-end underhammers as I am truly afflicted with underhammeritis - which can be contagious!