Before the Civil War, Samuel Griswold was a successful businessman, having found a good living making cotton gins. Business was so good that he purchased 4,000 acres outside of Macon, Georgia, where he established and named a town after himself – Griswoldville, Georgia.
Arvin Gunnison had worked for Griswold many years before the war started. He was a trusted employee and was likely the person who was in charge of the actual production at the factory. Griswold handled the financial side of things; Gunnison handled the technical side of things. Beyond this, little is known of Gunnison on a personal level.
With southern weaponry in short supply, Griswold and Gunnison first entered the arms business in February 1862 when they answered the call of Georgia’s Governor Brown by making pikes.
Soon, the two branched out and excelled in the revolver market. Their production numbers were unrivaled in the South, as was the quality of their guns. Unfortunately, production ended abruptly on November 20, 1864, when Captain Frederick Ladd and the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment burned Griswoldville. That began General Sherman’s March to the Sea.
Examples of the Griswold and Gunnison revolvers can be spotted by their brass frame, slight upward angle of the butt profile, and the twist lines on the cylinder, caused by its manufacture from twisted iron instead of steel.
Approximately 3,700 examples of these six-shot revolvers were produced during their two-year period of manufacture from 1862 to 1864. These .36-caliber revolvers were based on the Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver, but with a barrel assembly that looked more like the ones on a Colt Dragoon than a Model 1851 Navy.
(Firearm courtesy of NRA Museums)