This week on Wheelgun Wednesday I am excited at the opportunity to dissect a mystery with all you revolver lovers and appreciators. It has been a while since I was at the helm of a good old wheel gun article and I assure you I had been doing a ton of digging all this time to present you with this mysterious H. Hensel Revolver! I put many hours into looking around for any information on this old gat. Shall we Sherlock the sh*t out of this? Let’s dive down the rabbit hole!
BACKGROUND on acquiring the h. Hensel revolver
An older gentleman had brought in a few miscellaneous firearms that he acquired at an estate sale long ago. Among the firearms was an old constabulary looking revolver. On the revolver was a tag that read “Hensel Military Pistol German” and under that was “taken from German soldier”. Now, obviously, that is unlikely and was more or less a sales pitch tag from a gun show or something, but it made it all the more intriguing!
Anyone who has read some of the Curious Relics segment over on our sister site AllOutdoor.com, knows I enjoy an antique firearm. When I saw this revolver it had my extreme curiosity and I was running all the revolvers I know through my head. It has a safety on the side so it reminded me of the 1879 Reichsrevolver and it has a double-action style handle like a Colt 1877 or a French 1892. The size is bigger than a typical bulldog revolver but smaller than most military revolvers of the time.
closer look at the H. Hensel revolver
This poor old revolver definitely was not kept in the best care before it got to me but besides the surface wear and tear, it is obvious that it is well made and was probably very beautiful in its prime. On the top strap, it reads “H. Hensel, Breslau” and besides a mix of proof marks that is the only information on the revolver. It is double action but can also be cocked for single. It features a manual safety and lanyard loop.
Before the real detective work got started I knew I had to do my best to inspect and stop any further rust. This meant not just what was on the surface but what was also under the hood so to speak. I completely disassembled it and kept an eye out for further markings while I cleaned and maintained what I could. No luck for further information but the good news was the only rusting on the interior was on the end of the lanyard anchor.
researching the h. Hensel revolver
I am going to tell you upfront that this is fairly open-ended and nothing is terribly set in stone. I put in a lot of time looking into this enigma and this is what I found. H. Hensel stands for Hugo Hensel and Breslau used to be a city in Poland and is now known as Wrocław. At the time of this revolvers creation, Breslau was most likely a part of Germany. The proof marks (two crowns and a U beneath them) are German as well dating 1891-1939. The Hugo Hensel name can be found on a myriad of side by side shotguns and drilling guns throughout the internet. I also found it on an old munitions box dated from 1900.
H. Hensel or Hugo Hensel appears to be a small-time manufacturer and probable one for hire if someone needed a custom gun. I have seen evidence to infer that the Hensel name was a family of at the very least gun makers and names such as Karl and Ludwig have been reported. To anyone in the states, it would be fair to compare it to notable firearms having “Sears” or “Coast to Coast” inscribed on them. Back in the day, all sorts of small-time factories would group themselves together to manufacture specific parts or even their own firearms for one greater goal.
specifications of the h. Hensel revolver
This revolver has very similar characteristics to constabulary or police revolvers of the late 1800s. It is double action, has a manual safety in case that heavy double-action trigger was not enough, and a lanyard loop which I am sure was an irreplaceable addition that set these guns apart from others. It loads via a loading gate like a Colt 1873 and ejects a lot like a Nagant revolver in that the ejector pulls out from the center pin and swings out to be pushed into the cylinder. This has been a frustrating and confusing adventure but it is good to find solace in the concrete data listed below.
- Cartridge: Unknown as of right now
- Bore Diameter: .355-.365 Inches
- Barrel Length: 4 Inches
- Cylinder: 6-Shot Capacity
- Front Sight: Dovetail Post
- Rear Sight: Shallow Rounded Groove
- Weight: 1lbs 6.8oz
- Overall Length: 8.75 Inches
- Single Action Trigger Pull: Roughly 10lbs
- Safety: Manual (actuated only when the hammer is forward)
- Lanyard Loop
- Loading Gate and Swing Arm Ejector
Cartridge/Caliber Speculation H. Hensel Revolver
One major factor to a functional firearm is finding the correct cartridge it is meant to be paired with. I have looked and measured and all to no avail. Measurements of the bore seem to vary. The only thing I have not had the time for is making a chamber cast or in this case a cylinder cast. I have ordered some Cerrosafe casting alloy and will make a cast. Results will either be posted here or in another article. I have taken the cylinder out and examined some cartridges of the time that are available to me here in the US and the only one that seems to fit decently is .38 Long/Short Colt.
I determined the bore size to be capable of handling the 38 Long Colt’s bullet and the cartridge is far wimpy enough to be safe so I did, in fact, try and shoot some out of it. Happy to report that a full cylinder worked flawlessly and safely. I did not have a target available to me at the time. It is extremely unlikely that 38 Long/Short Colt is the proper cartridge and I promised I have scoured all sorts of lists of obsolete cartridges that could have been paired with this where and when it was made. Feel free to guess and speculate along with me!
Conclusion h. Hensel revolver…for now!
I have had this revolver since October of 2020 and all this time I have been searching the best I can to present any curious reader with my findings. I even went as far as seeking out the help of some of the very gracious folks over at the Cody Firearms Museum. They were kind enough to lend me a little of their extremely busy time and give me some of their thoughts and guesses. This is where I was informed that the German proof marks dated 1891-1939. Thanks to them I would wager that this revolver was made just before or at the beginning of the 20th century.
If I ever find more substantial information or heck even the correct cartridge and some range time, I will let you know! Till then, what do you guys think? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.