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THE FACINATING WORLD OF MINIATURES
Miniature weapons and related paraphernalia have been around for nearly as long as have the originals after which they are modeled. Incredible craftsmen, like the famous Swiss watchmakers, have been drawn to the challenge of miniaturization of firearms, blades, artillery and virtually anything else that represents the level of quality and complexity found in weaponry. In this column we will periodically look at the fine examples of this craft and the men who made them.
In my opinion, Aldo Uberti has done more to stimulate the miniature firearms collecting hobby than everyone else in history put together. Aldo loved miniatures, and had his craftsmen make him many different miniatures of Colt revolvers and Winchester lever action rifles. Uberti was making full size replicas for the United States Historical Society, and once their representatives got a look at some of Aldo’s miniature collection, they decided there was a market to produce them on a limited scale. Before this, only the very wealthy could afford to collect miniature firearms. Aldo Uberti as the maker, and the U.S. Historical Society as the marketer, made miniatures firearms that the average person could afford, thus hundreds, if not thousands of people became new miniature firearms collectors.
One of the projects Uberti was going to make for the U.S. Historical Society was a limited edition of 1500 miniature Henry rifles in their typical 47% scale. This turned out to be a much more difficult task than they initially imagined. Because of the integral under the barrel tubular magazine, they had to drill two perfectly aligned parallel holes in the metal barrel stock, one for the bore and one for the magazine. Out of who knows how many attempts, they were only successful in making four correct barrel assemblies. Because of this difficulty, the project was then shelved.
All four barrels were made into rifles, all of which stayed “in house” at Uberti. Aldo kept one, his business partner kept one, and the other two went to Uberti family members. Recently, Aldo’s business partner, now living in Switzerland, emailed me asking me to appraise his personal miniature collection which he was going to sell. And there, in one of his photos, was one of the Uberti Henry rifles! I asked if he would consider selling it to me, but alas, his friend who was buying the collection also wanted it, and he had first dibs. The partner then told me that he might be able to get me one from a Uberti family member. After many emails, several months, and a big monetary wire transfer to Italy, I was finally able to buy this rifle.
This was Aldo Uberti’s personal 47% scale miniature Henry rifle which I purchased from a family member, serial numbered 1AU on the top of the barrel, and again on the rear of the lower tang. 20 3/8" long
overall with a 11 3/8" octagon rifled barrel. The steel parts are currently finished in the white. The receiver, side plates, cartridge lifter, buttplate, and buttplate cleaning rod trap door are gold plated brass, but have a more realistic brass looking finish, not like the highly polished Winchester 1866 rifles and carbines Uberti produced. Beautiful highly figured French walnut buttstock. Long range ladder type adjustable rear sight with calibrated distance markings. Typical Henry blade type front sight. There is a sling swivel on the left side of the buttstock, and a loop screwed to the left side of the barrel, for a military type sling, which most of the early Henry’s had in hopes of garnering military contracts with the U.S. and other governments. I sent this miniature rifle to master engraver Roger Sampson and had him hand engrave the proper Henry barrel address on the top flat of the barrel. It is now at Doug Turnbull Restorations in New York for final finishing in blue and case colors. This historic piece is going into my small personal collection, and I am very proud to own it!