The triple barrel, 18-shot Pistola con Caricato revolver


May 13, 2012

The Pistola con Caricato is a three-barreled revolver with 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm semi-rimmed caliber (Photo: Horst Held)

The Pistola con Caricato is a three-barreled revolver with 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm semi-rimmed caliber (Photo: Horst Held)

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A host of unusual firearms have been floated and (mostly) abandoned over the two centuries of largely trial-and-error design. After our recent coverage of Arsenal Firearm's AF2011-a1 double barrel semiautomatic pistol, we wondered if more extreme versions of multi-barrel repeating handguns existed. The outlandish Pistola con Caricato three-barreled revolver is a definite candidate.

This revolver was manufactured in Italy during the early part of the 20th century, complete with three barrels and 18 chambers in 6.35 x 16 mm semi-rimmed caliber (.25 ACP). While rather more bulky than one would want in a pocket handgun, 18 shots would provide a certain feeling of security in back alleys and dark lanes.

The only markings visible on the gun appear in the following photograph. They indicate that the revolver was made in Italy, and was given the name Pistola con Caricato. Caricato is an Italian word meaning either "stuffed" or "caricature" - either definition could apply to this rather strange handgun.

Markings on the triple-barrel revolver identify it as a Pistola con Caricato in 6.35mm. Caricato is an Italian word meaning either stuffed or caricature. Either could apply to this handgun (Photo: Horst Held)

After the name of the gun appears the marking "01-CAL .6.35." In addition to identifying the caliber of the revolver, the 01 suggests that it may be a prototype, as does the rather sloppy stamping of the characters. If so, it does not appear to have made it into production, as there is virtually no historical record of this gun. There are additional markings in the photo, but they have been worn into illegibility. The view of the barrels from beneath shows that the bluing of the gun has probably been taken off during polishing, which may also explain the worn markings.

The 6.35 x 16 mm cartridge is traditional for light pocket handguns, as it is so low in power that safely containing the firing pressure does not require thick (and hence heavy) metal. In fact, the 6.35 x 16 mm cartridge is the lowest power standard cartridge still in manufacture, save for the rimfire .22 short. Having a impact momentum about one-fifth that of serious self-defense ammo, it is normally considered no substitute for a more powerful firearm.

On the left is seen the selector slide that chooses which of the firing pins (on the right) will be activated when the revolver is fired (Photo: Horst Held)

The revolver has four firing settings and a safety. The selector (above left) allows the shooter to select which firing pin and barrel will be used to fire the gun, and it also has an option to fire all three barrels on each pull of the trigger. There is also a mechanical safety that prevents the hammer from hitting any of the firing pins.

The revolver uses moon clip speedloaders to hold the 18 rounds of ammunition, thereby greatly reducing the difficulty of loading and reloading the gun (Photo: Horst Held)

The Pistola Con Caricato also made an early use of moon clips, as seen above, to load and unload cartridges from the gun. Moon clips were first introduced around 1908, and only became common in revolvers used in the First World War. The moon clips for the Pistola Con Caricato sandwiches the 18 rounds between a holding plate and a firing access plate, through which the firing pins strike the cartridges. With 18 rounds that just drop in and the top-break loading design, the gun must have been a quick loader.

Little solid history is associated with this handgun, again supporting the notion that it may have been a once-off prototype. It is rumored that this revolver once belonged to the firearms collection of the Smithsonian Institution, but confirmation of this claim has proven elusive.

Unfortunately, the Pistola Con Caricato has apparently been sold to a Russian collector, so if you were looking to add a triple-barrel pistol to your collection, you'll probably have to make one yourself.

Source: Horst Held

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

Sorry, this looks like a two barrel design (over and under) which is very much like one of my designs - which handles two calibers of bullet.

Where do you see the third barrel?


Well, I don't really get it: if the gun has 18-round cylinder, why on earth will you need thre barrels? One would be more than enough to fire those 18 rounds one by one. Unless the revolver allows to fire three rounds at a time...

Alex Zverev

Er, Mirmillion, the third (and rather ridiculous) barrel is plainly evident.

Bob Fately

If you look at the pic where they show the firing pins you will notice an upside down pyramid configuration.


Alex, I suggest re-reading the article where it says "it also has an option to fire all three barrels on each pull of the trigger."

Ryan Gribble

That is the first 25cal I have ever seen that might give a DRT on anything larger than a mouse.


Each upper barrel fires every other round in the outer row. The lower barrel fires all six of the rounds in the inner row.

Basically someone took a standard six shot revolver mechanism and added a second row of chambers. Instead of making a dual indexing system to align the outer chambers with an added upper barrel, the maker added two more barrels.

A similar revolver was shown on an Episode of Pawn Stars. IIRC it held at least 20 rounds and had two barrels, requiring a more complex indexing system.

Gregg Eshelman

Caricato in Italian means "loaded" quite appropriate for the intended purpose!

Philippe Rockholt

"Caricato" means "loaded" or if you prefer "stuffed" as the article says, but, being Italian, and seeing the low accuracy in the writing, I'd say that the idea was to stamp "Caricatore" (=magazine) but there wasn't room enough for the las two letters.

Giolli Joker

It's good to see a gun I don't want, no room left, which is why I have not bought a replica of one of these: Also, I'm quite a chicken when it comes to cap & ball revolvers, like to keep my digits attached to my hand. 1. I don't have knowledge to check revolver indexing is reliable. 2. not real fond of having a gun that takes a lot more time to load than to shoot. Mostly I'm stuck with indoor ranges in urban area, so reloading while paying for range time is not a thing I want to do. TV writers being well like realy realy smart, had a western in the 50's. This thing has 9 pistol chambers & a shotgun chamber. In the TV program that used one of these guns as a prop, much was made of the hero's "7 shot" revolver.

Dave B13

and how many kilo's does this thing weigh?

Ed Weibe
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