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Peabody Sidehammer: The Best Martini Action You’ve Never Heard Of

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Henry Peabody was one of the less-recognized American firearms designers. A machinist from the age of 17, he worked at the Watertown Arsenal and eventually took a job as foreman for the Spencer rifle company in 1862. That same year he patented a dropping-block rifle action, and began working on developing it for military use. He partnered with the Providence Tool Company in Rhode Island to manufacture his guns, and while he was not able to get it adopted by the US military they did begin getting a number of foreign military contracts by 1867 or so. His big break was a sale of 15,000 guns to Switzerland in the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War. This was followed by a contract for Spain, and then an open-ended sale to the French Government of National Defense in 1871 following the military disaster of the Franco-Prussian War. In total, some 113,000 Peabody sidehammer rifles and carbines were made over just a few years – a remarkable success for the time by a small company and otherwise unknown inventor.

Peabody and Providence Tool would follow this with an even more successful period manufacturing the Peabody-Martini rifle, but that is a story for another video. Henry Peabody died a wealthy bachelor in Boston in 1903, and left his fortune ($350,000 at the time; about $9 million by today’s value) to founding a girls’ school in Norwood Massachusetts.

For more details on the development of the Peabody rifles and the various contracts manufactured, I highly recommend Edward Hull’s book “Peabody Firearms”:

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