One of the most prolific firearm inventors of the late 19th century was Andrew Burgess, a quiet New Yorker who had been a Civil War photographer. He created this unique 12-gauge shotgun for those who needed a compact arm that could be carried in a belt holster.
Photography was but a profitable sideline for Burgess. By the time of his death in 1908, he held nearly 894 firearms-related patents—including the one to this folding gun. His own Burgess Gun Company was ultimately purchased by Winchester in 1899. It was common practice for Winchester to buy out competing companies and then close them.
Claimed to be nearly semi-automatic in operation, this folding gun had a sliding pistol grip assembly that moved backward under recoil and could be quickly shoved forward again by the shooter. It was able to fire six shots in less than three seconds.
Users appreciated the shotgun’s attribute of compact storage in two hinged-together sections. These two components could be quickly rejoined, allowing the folding gun to be carried under a coat in a belt holster and drawn much like an oversized handgun. While primarily manufactured as a shotgun, a few were also made in rifle calibers.
Designed for police service, express messengers, prisons and banks, the folding gun quickly became a popular choice for law enforcement agencies seeking a compact arm. One primary reason for ready police acceptance may have been its consistent three-foot pattern with buckshot at 40 yards.