A rare Quackenbush pistol comes to light

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • From Airgun Revue
  • Wes Powers find!
  • Toy pistol?
  • Powered by rubber bands

I had a glitch writing today’s historical blog, so I pulled in this one from the past. Oddly, Edith did the same thing when I was unconscious on a ventilator in the hospital several years ago. At any rate, it belongs in the historical section.

From Airgun Revue

The following appeared in Airgun Revue #6, which was published in 2000. While this blog is kind of short, I’ve always had a strange liking for this little pistol because it reminds me of the Haviland & Gunn pistol Edith found at a flea market for $5.

Over 125 years old, yet no one’s ever heard of this gun!

Collector Wes Powers displayed this rare Quackenbush toy pistol at the 1999 airgun show in Baldwinsville, New York. He described the moment he first saw it, saying he knew it must be a Quackenbush or at least a near-relative, but it was a gun he’d never seen before. That’s saying something because collectors know that when West finds something new it must be REALLY rare!

He was even able to track down the patent application for the gun. The fact that Quackenbush referred to it as a “toy” pistol is especially interesting, because the gun was and is capable of launching a .22 caliber round ball with some force!

The language of the patent makes it sound as though the gun was meant to be a simple but powerful cap pistol; but the barrel is bored through, and it will accept a round ball.

This gun fits into a number of categories. It’s very much like the zimmerstutzen guns I’ve written about, especially the older ones that used percussion caps to launch lead balls.

It’s also a lot like the cap-firing BB guns I’ve written about.

Wes demonstrates how the firing hammer pivots sideways to put on the percussion cap. The rubber bands that power the hammer have been removed for clarity.

A closeup of the hammer pivoting sideways reveals the nipple for loading. If there were a rubber band on the gun, doing this would allow you to safely load the cap.

A curious thing about this toy pistol is the way the hammer is powered. Instead of the traditional coiled mainspring, this pistol uses rubber bands to slam the hammer down on the percussion cap! On the front of the frame, two wire hooks anchor both ends of a rubber band, which passes around the hammer. When the hammer is pulled back, the band stretches, storing up potential energy for when the trigger is pulled. It’s an ingenious method, not to mention how it lowers production costs, simplifies construction and gets the user involved in the design (they have to replace the band when it breaks!).

The Quackenbush Lightning air rifle used elastic bands in a similar fashion to power the piston of what was an early spring air rifle. That gun is rare enough by itself, but the gun featured in this article has never been written about. Thanks to Wes for sharing his find.

26 thoughts on “A rare Quackenbush pistol comes to light

  1. Cool, Fred Flintstone (slingshot weapon) meets the old west.

    On a side note.
    Crosman is offering the Maximus in the 12 ft.lb. Euro version for sale in the US.
    With an increased shot count, and a threaded barrel adapter.


    No sights, but it’s good to see them stepping in with a gun that can be had in 2 factory configurations.
    Power, or shot count.

    Maybe Pyramyd will start offering them.

  2. It is amazing what “treasures” can be found at flea markets and yard sales. I frequently see black powder rifles and pistols, firearms and even the occasional air rifle or pistol.

  3. I have scored a few black powder weapons at flea markets, and yard sales, but rarely see airguns beyond the Daisy 880’s and Crosman 760’s, Chinese B3’s, and the marksman repeater pistol.

    And the occasional cartridge gun.

    I did pick up a Daisy 747 for $25 at a garage sale once, and another time a guy offered me a Crosman Mark 1 in excellent condition in trade for a gas blow back airsoft glock 18 pistol.

    That was my first Crosman Mark series pistol.
    I now own three.
    They are going to my grandson when he gets older.

  4. BB
    You always find the neatest items.

    Off topic, realize you haven’t seen gun. What is an estimated value of Crosman 600, in original box, box shows wear, original manual and ramrod, serial #18xxx. Gun is approximate 80% to 85%. Plan to take to Texas Airgun Show to sell. Hope to visit with you there.

  5. B.B.,

    Quite interesting. I am assuming that this is loaded from the muzzle? Would there be a push rod of sorts? Also, the cane shaped rod that holds the “hammer”,… is it hollow or solid? I thought perhaps hollow (tube) to divert any gases forward away from the shooter.

    I assume there is a sear of sorts as well so as to hold the hammer back in the ready to fire position? I fail to see a way of securing the rubber band to the hammer as well. It could be done, but it seems to lack any sort of secure hook. Just some thoughts.


  6. BB,
    I may be wrong but I think that there are less serious airgun collectors today that there were 20 years ago. Several of the older collectors have passed away and I don’t see younger guys with the thirst for the collectables that I used to see. You go to more airgun shows that I do. What do you think?


    David Enoch

  7. I think that has a lot to do with the nostalgia we grow up with. I love mini bikes from the late sixties–what the cool ten year olds had. I love hot rods and not drift cars. I’d take a ride in a P51 or Spitfire over an F18 any day of the week. If you grew up watching Roy Rodgers, Bogart, and John Wayne, your choice of a shooting iron is gonna be different than if you grew up with Mission Impossible and Tron. The biggest difference? I don’t think the crap kids grew up with in the 80’s and 90’s is still gonna be working 50-60 years from now. There is NO doubt that the polymers they use to build parts of a modern semi-auto make a fine shooting gun. But does anyone belive their grandkids will be shooting them like l shoot my grandfather’s 1911? My kid will never trade his .40 for my grandpa’s 45. But I’ll bet only one of them will be working when HIS grandkids go through his estate….

    • Bejezus

      As a kid from ’87 I totally second what you have said. I have always known and loved the berreta 92 and loved the m16. I never realized the “others” until I was older. I never realized what the matel-omatic did (or rather didn’t do) for our country.

      I’m still a wood and steel guy but it’s a different relationship. I look at the “new hip junk” and it’s price. Then I take a step into the past, looking at designs that have stood the test of time. Garbage naturally weeding itself out. (Cuz it’s all broken Lol) my 30yr old springers shoot better than my new junk ones. The cost isnt much different. Its apples to oranges until you get to the dollar sign. Why buy new junk when you can buy solid history that performs for a couple bucks more? There are huge exceptions to what i have said. But my taste influences the options. Thats just how I look at it.

  8. Not knowing much about firearms, I need to know more about percussion caps. Could you still find any that would work in this pistol ? If it shoots .22 cal round balls, wonder what the velocity would have been, using the percussion caps of the day. I find it amusing that this was patented as a toy, where as now the air gun manufactures go ballistic in printing all kinds of legal stuff telling us that “THIS IS NOT a TOY” . Times change I guess.

    • K7uqshooter

      Depending on the size percussion caps are still avaliable. Unless you knew that and are asking for the specific size?

      As far as I know percussion caps haven’t changed much for the better part of a century?

      I’m curious too about velocity. It would be really cool to get into the 400-500fps range I think.

  9. BB, David– the same thing is happening in the world of classical, baroque music and opera. Also in art museums and hobbies like building models . Young people today, are living in an electronic opium den (many in a hard drug world). Ed

  10. Good evening B.B. and everyone.

    As I posted yesterday , I finally got my chrony working. I’d like to see if anyone here can give me feedback on some readings I got with three different JSBs out of a .22 Walther LGV. This is a new rifle, with about 200 pellets through it so far.

    1. Jumbo Heavy 18.13s — High 541.19 / Low 533.04 / Avg 538.54 / ES 8.15 / SD 2.64. That works out to 11.67 fpe.

    2. Jumbo 15.89s — High 588.27 / Low 582.72 / Avg 585.83 / ES 5.55 / SD 2.00. That’s 12.10 fpe.

    3. Jumbo Express 14.35s — High 626.32 / Low 612.41 / Avg 620.44 / ES 13.91 / Sd 3.46. That one is 12.26 fpe.

    I only got a couple of error readings out of those 30 shots — both when I hurried and wasn’t lined up right. I’m just checking to see if these sound right for this gun and these pellets. Any input would be appreciated. All three are shooting about the same size groups at 10m. If that holds true at 25 / 30 yds, given the low Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation of the 15.89 grains, would that seem like the pellet of choice for this rifle?

    Thank you.

    Jim M.

    • Jim M.,

      I do not have the LGV, but (all) of those look pretty good to me. The 15.89’s do well in both the TX and LGU.

      (For sure get out further). Now that you chrony is up and running, you can use Chairgun to find your optimal zero range to keep you in the 1″ kill zone. For the TX’s #’s, 34 yards was the zero and I think that was with the 18.13’s. I do the 18.13’s in the TX and the 15.89’s in the LGU.

      Try them (all) again. I do not worry about hitting the bull when doing grouping testing. You can adjust the scope at any time later. You are just looking for how tight they will group, that’s all.

  11. BB
    When i get time I might try to build a test fixture just to see what kind of muzzle velocity these “toys” had. “barrel” from cap to muzzle looks about 4 inches. This about right? Any idea if bb was loose or tight fit? I assume no rifling. Very interesting find. Thanks for presenting it.

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