Any idea what this is?


September 28, 2003, 02:52 PM
Hi all,

I'm not normally one for impulse purchases especially when I know absolutely nothing about the gun however, this one was offered to me so cheap I was happy to have it simplyas a curiosity. All I can tell about it is that it is some type of percussion pistol with a bore of ~.55"

Any other information would be much appreciated. Apologies for the quality of the photos.

I'm sure if anyone knows what it is it will be someone here.

Many thanks


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September 28, 2003, 02:56 PM
mark on underside

September 28, 2003, 02:58 PM
and a small plate on the back.

4v50 Gary
September 28, 2003, 05:50 PM
It looks like nothing I could find in Chapel's Guns of the Old West as well as Sawyer's. I have other books, but they're hard to reach right now. I need a floor to ceiling bookcase as well as another to wrap around some existing bookcases. Too many books, not enough space.

The hammer strikes me as being centerline of the bore. Is it? That's a good clue.

September 28, 2003, 07:10 PM
4v50 Gary,

The hammer is on centerline of the bore. The only other useful things I can think to mention about it is that it's smooth bore and would appear to muzzle load as it's not a screw bbl and has no other obvious method of lock. When looking directly down the barrel there is a smaller tube almost like a washer in design just in front of the nipple/ hole for the cap.

If it's of any help I can probably lay my hands on a better digital camera in the morning and take pictures of anything you think may help identify it.

Thank you for all your research.


Mike Weber
September 28, 2003, 09:08 PM
The underbarrel marking looks like an inspectors cartouche. This is a wild guess but I would say that what you probably have there is a gentlemans pocket pistol from the 1830's-1840's period, probably from one of the lessor known Birmingham or London gunmakers. The pistol was most likely an economy priced piece during its heyday.

September 28, 2003, 10:59 PM
Screwbarrel derringer?


4v50 Gary
September 28, 2003, 11:39 PM
Was checking in my book on English guns (John George) and didn't see it in there. Gonna have to go with that proof mark as a clue.

BTW, I don't think the thumbpiece (escutcheon) plate has any significance unless it's a trademark of the maker. It served as a place for the owner's name to be engraved (and sometimes had a nut from which a screw could be inserted from the trigger guard to secure the trigger guard. Even the Brown Bess musket had one. The Regimental number, Co. & Rack # used to be engraved on it.

September 29, 2003, 01:57 PM
I guess it’s origin may well remain a mystery! Thank you for all your research everyone.

One last thing I was going to ask. Is there anything obvious I could look for on it that may indicate it’s a reproduction?

Thanks once again


Mike Irwin
September 29, 2003, 11:10 PM
Yeah, if you feel brave, take the action apart and take a look at the spring.

I don't believe that coil springs really came into common use in firearms until around 1900, so if it has a coil spring, chances are it's not all that old.

September 30, 2003, 12:52 PM
I just looked again. Your second photo appears the be the crossed swords proof mark of the Birmingham proof house. While the pic is unclear, could you tell is if there are letters in that mark, and where the letter(s) are (top, bottom, etc.)?

September 30, 2003, 02:27 PM

Your right, the marking on the underside of the barrel is certainly some type of crossed swords but with no lettering I can make out (it is really quite faded). Above the crossed swords is a dot of some description.

One thing that I forgot to mention earlier is that the same marking appears again just bellow the barrel but before the trigger guard (on the underside of the action).

Thank you all once again for all the research your doing. :D


Jim K
October 3, 2003, 11:01 PM
The mark on the bottom is certainly a Birmingham proof mark, used from 1813 until 1904, which would cover the period of that pistol. The letters should read BPC. The crossed objects are scepters, not swords, and the top center object is a crown.

It is interesting that there is no inspection ("V" - view) mark, but its absence is not uncommon.

The pistol is of English origin, and appears to be a plain pocket pistol, commonly carried when English streets and roads could be very hazardous for an unarmed citizen. (With all citizens unarmed, I am sure things have changed. Or maybe not.)

These pocket pistols were often sold in pairs, and some side hammer types in longer barrel versions are often thought, at least in the US, to be "duelling pistols". Of course they are no such thing.

With a pistol of moderate value, the plate on the back appears to be something of an affectation. It would have been for the owner's initials or (in a higher class gun) his coat of arms. The diamond shape might indicate that it was bought by or for a woman; a woman did not usually have her coat of arms in a shield, but in a diamond. (The presence of that kind of decoration is a sure indication that a pistol is not a "dueller" - the last thing wanted in a duel was a shiny plate to reflect light into the shooter's eyes.)

The fact that this was a pistol of moderate price is shown by the absence of any maker's name as well as by its general form and workmanship.



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