Five-Barrel Rifle, Smith, Rhodes & Company, Richmond, Virginia, 1861, UNIQUE
Brass barrels, .31/.38/.50 Calibers, Lockplates Signed SMITH & RHODES & CO.
Smith, Rhodes & Co., Richmond, Virginia, listed in business only in 1861
Barrel Rib Engraved in Script – Richmond, Va.
The only known five-barrel American rifle, this iron mounted example features two .50
caliber smoothbore barrels on top of cluster; the two bottom barrels are .31 caliber rifled
tubes with the central bottom barrel being .38 caliber smoothbore. The bottom level of
barrels is fired by the underhammer, while two back-action side locks fire the top-level
barrels. This gun is unique among American firearms. It had to be a special order for a
man who wanted multiple options for bird and small game shooting but only wanted to
carry one gun! A bonus is that it is Southern, probably made during the rebellion but
obviously not for the rebellion.
• The only 5-barrel American gun known to exist.
• All barrels are brass!
• The configuration is 2 barrels over 3 barrels.
• The top two barrels are smoothbore fired by 2 back action side locks.
• Two bottom outer barrels are rifled & fired by underhammer in positions 1 & 3.
• The middle bottom barrel smoothbore but smaller caliber and is fired by the underhammer in position 2.
The barrel group is 25.25-inches long; five-barrel ribs; half stock is oak; rifle is iron
mounted. The side outstanding chiseled hammers are fish/serpent heads with the
hammers scaled the entire length. The underhammer, which also serves as the trigger
guard displays a similar head and scales the entire length. Using the trigger guard as a
hammer is very unusual in American arms. The fish/serpent heads and bodies on both
the side hammers and the trigger guard bow/hammer are unusually long and involved,
with very prominent scales…highly developed and artistic. The gun remains in
excellent original condition with the only imperfection being minor; the detent that holds
the cocked trigger guard in each of the three positions over the selected nipple is non-
functional. This is not a difficult fix to correct. (We have a great gunsmith available)
Literature: Exceptional Arms, (Celebrating 50 years of arms collecting excellence from
the private collections of the member of the American Society of Arms Collectors)
American Society of Arms Collectors. National Firearms Museum, 2003. See
Extraordinary Arms chapter, page 12.