COLLECTOR’S CORNER: THE
(IN A NUT SHELL) Presented by Gene Weicht “The Bullard Guy”
The patent for the
Bullard Repeating Rifle was granted Aug. 16, 1881 to James H. Bullard.
The company started in Springfield, Mass. early in 1882 as J.H. Bullard
& Co. and by May 6, 1882 was called the Bullard Repeating Arms
Association. On Oct. 11, 1883 the company reorganized and became the
Bullard Repeating Arms Co. which remained the company name till its
demise in January of 1891. The company officers were George H. Ball –
President, Horace Holly Bigelow – Treasurer and the inventor, J. H.
Bullard, was Plant Manager. J.H. Bullard left the company in mid-1885
and turned his attentions to other interests and inventions. He never
stopped inventing. His brother William A. Bullard served as Plant
Manager for a short time. Soloman K. Hindley became Plant Manager in
1886 and filled J. H. Bullard’s place as Inventor to some degree for the
Company. He never improved the original Bullard Patent but did invent &
patent the detachable magazine, which becomes the REPEATING MUSKET.
The Bullard Factory
and Property was sold to the Elektron Manufacturing Co. and the
Christian Industrial & Technical School in January of 1891. THE BULLARD
REPEATING ARMS CO. – Closed their doors forever.
BULLARD RIFLE FRAMES
Six basic frames were used to make all Bullard Rifles including the
Military and Experimental Models. Two are Repeater Actions and Four are
Single-Shot-Shot Actions. They are as follows:
Large-Frame Repeaters were used for 40 Cal. thru 50 Cal. Rifles Sr. Nos.
from 1 thru 1500 and 2501 thru 2700. To my knowledge no Large-Frame
Repeaters have ever been noted in the 3000 thru 3500 Sr. No. Range. The
caliber of Sr. Nos. 1 thru 85 were seldom marked on the rifles. If
marked it was on the barrel in front of the action.
Approximately the first 100 rifles were marked BULLARD REPEATING ARMS
ASSOCIATION-SPRINGFIELD, MASS. U.S.A. PAT. AUG. 16, 1881. All the later
Bullard Rifles were marked BULLARD REPEATING ARMS COMPANY-SPRINGFIELD,
MASS. U.S.A. PAT. AUG. 16, 1881. One known rifle, with a high Sr. No.,
is marked BULLARD REPEATING ARMS COMPANY-SPRINGFIELD, MASS. PAT. AUG.
Repeaters were used for 32 Cal. up to but not including 40 Cal. Rifles.
Sr. Nos. from 1501 thru 2000. The 44-40 Winchester Cartridge was offered
in this Frame. (No rifles are known to exist.) Most Small-Frames are
marked BULLARD REPEATING ARMS COMPANY-SPRINGFIELD, MASS. U.S.A. PAT.
AUG. 16, 1881.
(3) Single-shot Small Width Solid-Frames (1 in. wide) was offered from
22 Cal. thru 38 Cal.
Single-Shot Large width solid-Frames (1 1/8 in. wide) were offered from
40 Cal. thru 50 Cal. *
Single-Shot Small Width Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Frames (1 in.
wide) were offered from 22 Cal. thru 38 Cal.
Single-shot Large Width Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Frames (1 1/8
in. wide) were offered from 40 Cal. thru 50 Cal.*
*There are a few
rifles of both types of Large Width Frames produced in calibers less
than 40 Cal.
All Four Single-Shot
Frames range from Sr. Nos. 3501 thru 4076 (Highest known Sr. No.) Most
of the first 165 to 175 Sr. Nos. were Solid-Frames of Both Widths. There
were a few Solid-Frames made in the higher Sr. No. ranges but not many.
All the Repeating and
Single-Shot Rifles were patented BUT the Bullard Company was not
consistent in the placing of the proper patent date on the proper frame
that it was patented for.
The patent dates,
their use and the best estimates of the starting dates of production are
The Repeating Rifles
Patent was filed May 5, 1879 and the Patent was issued August 16, 1881.
A British Patent was issued Sept. 23, 1881. These Patents covered both
the Large and Small Frame Repeaters. The August 16, 1881 Patent Date was
used on all Large and Small Frame Repeaters. The Large Frame Rifle
probably went in to production in January of 1883. The Small Frame Rifle
probably went in to production in 1884.
The Single-Shot Small
and Large Width Solid-Frame Rifles probably were in development in late
1883; but I do not think they went into production until mid 1884 or
early 1885. For reasons unknown the Single-Shot Solid-Frame Patent was
not filed until January 28, 1886 and issued July 6, 1886. Rifles were
marked BULLARD REPEATING ARMS COMPANY-SPRINGFIELD, MASS. U.S.A. JULY 6,
1886. The first Single-Shot Solid-Frame Rifles used the Repeating Rifle
Aug. 16, 1881 Patent Dates up to about Sr. No. 3555. From there on up to
about Sr. No. 3650 it could be either the 1881 or 1886 Patent Dates.
There are many exceptions. For example, Sr. No. 3558 has the 1881 Patent
with the 1886 Patent stamped below it, Sr. No. 3560 has the 1881 Patent,
Sr. No. 3625 has the 1886 Patent and Sr. No. 3642 has the 1881 Patent.
The Single-Shot Small
and Large width Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Rifles probably went
into production early in 1887. A guess would be about Sr. No. 3675.
Rifle Sr. No.3695 is in this Model. For reasons unknown all the
Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Rifles are marked with the July 6,
1886 Solid-Frame Patent Date.
The Single-Shot Small
and Large Width Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Rifle Patent was
issued October 30, 1888. This Patent Date was never used on any known
James H. Bullard developed seven cartridges of his own. These were the
.32-40-150, .38-45-190, .40-70-232, .40-75-258, .40-90-300, .45-85-290
and the .50-115-300 which was the first semi-rimless (rimless) cartridge
produced in the United States and probably the world. For reasons
unknown, the seven, Bullard Cartridges were never patented. James H.
Bullard did have two cartridge patents, but they were only for
improvements in cartridge manufacturing.
Two Gutta-Percha (Shotgun Type) buttplates were used on the Bullard
Rifles. The ELK motif was used on the large frame repeaters and the
TURKEY motif was used on a very few large frame repeaters, but mostly on
the small frame repeaters and single shot rifles. The ELK logo was used
on all Bullard Catalogs. The Crescent, Schuetzen, Swiss and Modified
Military type buttplates were also available.
Four catalogs and at least two brochures were printed. Only the 1887,
the fourth catalog, is dated. There may be one later catalog but, if
printed, it still is unknown.
The first loading tool offered by the Bullard Company was the Brown
Variform Combination Reloader. This was a hand held tong type tool that
could perform all the necessary operations to reload a cartridge.
Bullard did come out later with their own reloading tools. They were a
series of four separate hand operated tools. Very simple, to say the
least, if time meant nothing to the reloader.
The Bullard Company offered all types of sights that were popular during
that period of time. By far the most used sights I have observed are
from Winchester. Most tang sights are Lyman. They were used on both the
Repeaters and Single-Shot Rifles. Some of the Single-Shot Target Rifles
use Winchester windgauge front sights and mid-range vernier peep tang
sights. ORIGINAL Marlin-Ballard windgauge front sights with their
mid-range vernier tang sights are very scarce.
Special note concerning sights: It is my opinion that 75% to 80% of all
Bullard Rifles have had some sight changes or additions since they left
the factory. The Repeating Rifles got tang sights added and rear barrel
sights removed. The Single-Shot Rifle shooters changed sights all the
time. You just have to accept the fact that a lot of really nice or even
mint condition Bullard Rifles don’t have their original sights. I do not
feel this greatly effects their desirability or value, to any great
extent, considering the very low number of Bullard Rifles produced. It’s
just the way it is.
Several Military and Experimental Models were made. The following are
known to date. Two Hindley Patent Repeater Muskets were submitted to the
U. S. Ordinance Department May 9, 1888. A Saddle-Ring Repeater Carbine
was produced. Three Single-shot Solid-Frame Muskets and a single-Shot
Solid-Frame Carbine are still known to exist. The hunt goes on.
The Bullard Company made many variations and special order rifles:
Schuetzen Rifles with interchangeable single & double set triggers were
made; Detachable-Interchangeable Barrel Rifles were made with two and
three extra barrels; Engraved Rifles; Salesmen Examples and many more.
Every Bulllard Rifle was pretty much hand made & hand fitted. They may
look alike at first glance BUT it is really hard to find two rifles
exactly the same. Interchanging parts from one rifle to another, without
lots of hand fitting, is next to impossible.
The Bullard Rifles
were a quality firearm of the highest possible craftsmanship and without
a doubt had the
SMOOTHEST LEVER ACTION EVER MADE!
on the Bullard Rifles is available in a very excellent book “BULLARD
ARMS” by G. Scott Jamieson. The Author is preparing a second book, which
will be of great interest to “us Bullard Rifle guys.”