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Miller Pill-Lock Revolving Rifle

John and James Miller of Rochester New York designed and built this rifle, which is an example of an intermediate revolving firearm. It comes after the flintlock Collier guns, but before Sam Colt’s Paterson demonstrated how to use the hammer to automatically index the cylinder. Miller’s gun (it was actually patented by James Miller, in 1829) requires the cylinder to be manually rotated between shots, and uses a pill lock ignition system. Each chamber in the cylinder has a small recess into which a pill of explosive mercury fulminate can be seated and sealed in place with beeswax. The firing pin on the hammer crushes the pill upon firing, creating the sparks to ignite the gunpowder charge in the chamber.

Only a few hundred of these rifles were made, between 1835 and 1850. They were constructed by about a half dozen different gunsmiths, with the most common being Billinghurst (a man who had worked with the Miller brothers).

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