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THE

 

EVOLUTION

 

Of  the

 

English  Civilian

 

Flintlock pistol

 

1650 ~ 1830

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Marsden  B  Robinson

 

 

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THE EVOLUTION Of the English Civilian Flintlock pistol

 

1650 ~ 1830

 

This book will be published late in 2012.  It covers exhaustively the technical and stylistic development of the English civilian flintlock pistol from the doglock, through the adoption of the so-called “French” lock c1670 until the end of the flintlock era c1830.  It is the culmination of a 9-year research project into every worthwhile book ever published on the subject, and involved the analysis of over 1500 pistols.

 

English civilian flintlock pistols are divided into three types:

 

Sidelock pistols                Pistols in which the entire lock with the cock, frizzen, flashpan etc. can be detached from the stock as a single unit

 

“Queen-Anne” pistols    Pistols in which the cock, frizzen, pan etc. are mounted on the side of a lockplate which is formed as a rearwards extension of the breech

 

Boxlock pistols                 Pistols in which the cock is centrally mounted between two lockplates.

 

The development of each type is traced from its inception until its demise, from baroque through rococo to neoclassical styling.

 

The Pistols shown include every common type and style, most ‘scarce’ versions, several that are classified as ‘rare’, and two that are unique.  There are pistols with 2, 3, 4, and 7 barrels, including a ducks-foot pistol and a revolver, and every known multiple-barrel configuration.  In all, the entire compass of English civilian flintlock pistol is shown and described in full detail.  Makers depicted include Barne, Truelock, Pickfatt, Delaney, Barbar, Freeman, Harman, Probin, Baker, Durs Egg, Mortimer, Nock, and Staudenmayer.

 

All of the pistols illustrated are shown in at least 4 photographs. Additionally there are close-up photos of the outside and inside of the locks of the Sidelock pistols. Cased sets are illustrated.

 

Virtually all stylistic and technical features are depicted in close-up photographs accompanied by tables showing when they first appeared, the period in which they were in common use, and the date they fell into disuse.  This covers approximately 90 features with some 500 alternatives between them.  Examples are cock shapes, barrel to stock attachments, breech types, frizzen-springs, butt shapes, roller frizzens, mainspring links, detents, etc.  These are set out in alphabetical order so that the reader can instantly refer to, for example, ‘lockplates’ or ‘top-jaws’ to see all the common types and the dates applicable to each one.

 

 The book will be published in full colour and will be hard-bound with over 300 A4 pages comprising 75,000 words and some 600 photographs.  It includes extensive quotations from all the recognised writers on the subject.  It will probably become the definitive textbook on this subject. Some of the data presented has never been published before, and none has been set out in such a systematic quick-reference format.  It will be essential reading for collectors from beginners to the very experienced, dealers, auction houses, restorers, museums, and libraries.

 

Also included will be a dating template which should enable the determination of the probable date of manufacture of a pistol +/- 5 years in most cases.  The book will be accompanied by a DVD depicting a close-up of a flintlock pistol being fired; this can be displayed on any computer, at full speed, in slow motion, or frame-by-frame.

 

 

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Contents

                  

Part 1 – Introduction and Overview of English Flintlock Pistols

 

         Chapter 1        Foreword        

         Chapter 2        Dedication      

         Chapter 3        Preface             

                                      Personal footnotes to the preface

         Chapter 4        Chart: The evolution of the English flintlock pistol     

         Chapter 5        Introduction and overview    

         Chapter 6        Difficulties with the dating of pistols 

         Chapter 7        Principles of operation of flintlock pistols     

 

Part 2 – Flintlock Pistol Types

 

         Chapter 8        Sidelock pistols            

         Chapter 9        “Queen-Anne” pistols

         Chapter 10      Boxlock pistols          

 

Part 3 – Components of Flintlock Pistols

 

       Chapter 11      Contents of Part 3       

 

Part 4 – Addenda

 

         Chapter 12      Dating template           

         Chapter 13      Glossary           

         Chapter 14      Bibliography  

         Chapter 15      Bore Sizes and ball weights   

 

Index                            


 

 

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Components of Flintlock Pistols  continued

 

F         Frizzens, rollers - Sidelock pistols                                                                                       

Frizzen springs - Boxlock pistols                                                                                          

Frizzen springs - “Queen-Anne” pistols                                                                             

Frizzen springs - Sidelock pistols                                                                                         

Frizzen-spring screws - Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols                                   

G         Gunmakers - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                                       

H         Hallmarks - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols with silver mounts

L         Links, main-spring to cock – Boxlock pistols                                                                 

Links, main-spring to tumbler – Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols                  

Lock internal components, undercut – Sidelock pistols

Lockplates, cross-sections – Sidelock pistols

Lockplates, lower edge shapes – Sidelock pistols

Lockplates, tail cross-sections – Sidelock pistols                                                          

Lockplates, tail shapes – Sidelock pistols                                                                         

Locks, cross-sections – Boxlock pistols

Locks, tail shapes – Boxlock pistols

London/Londini - Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols                                               

M        Mainsprings, mounting to butt-straps - “Queen-Anne” pistols                                

Mainsprings, mounting to lockplate - Sidelock pistols                                               

Mottling - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                                             

Mounts (Furniture) - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                      

Muzzles, shapes - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                              

P         Proof-marks - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                                    

            Proof-marks, F (Foreign) - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols          

R         Ramrod pipes - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols with fixed barrels                                                                                                                                              

Ramrods, swivel - Sidelock pistols with fixed barrels

Ramrods, tips (inner end) - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols         

Ramrods, tips (outer end) - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols         

Rifling - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                                                 

S          Safety-catches - Boxlock pistols                                                                                           

Safety-catches - “Queen-Anne” pistols                                                                              

Safety-catches - Sidelock pistols                                                                                          

Scear-springs, mounting screws - Sidelock pistols                                                       

Screw-cups - Sidelock pistols                                                                                                

Screw heads - Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols                                     

Set-triggers (Hair-triggers) - Sidelock pistols                                                                 

Side-plates - Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols

Side-screws - Sidelock pistols                                                                                                

Sights - Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols

 

 

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Principles of operation of the flintlock pistol  continued

 

A Sidelock in the rest position

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The tip of the mainspring (which is slightly compressed) is exerting downwards pressure on the toe of the tumbler, trying to rotate it – and the cock which is attached to it - towards the frizzen, but the tumbler cannot turn firstly because the ledge on the inside of the cock is resting on the top edge of the lockplate, and secondly because the nose of the scear is pressed into a notch on the tumbler.  The scear spring is exerting downwards pressure on the scear, trying to turn it clockwise, but the scear cannot move because its nose is pressing up against the tumbler.  The pan is open because the flint will not allow the frizzen to rotate far enough for the pan-cover to close.

 

A Sidelock at half-cock

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Pulling the cock back has caused the tumbler to rotate against the pressure of the mainspring.  The nose of the scear has slipped into the half-cock notch in the tumbler.  Upwards pressure on the rear end of the scear (by pulling the trigger) cannot disengage the nose of the scear from the half-cock notch because the shape of the notch will not allow the scear to rotate and thus disengage.  The pan-cover is now able to be closed, preventing the loss of the priming powder and also putting the frizzen into the correct position to be struck at the top by the flint.  The mainspring has been further compressed.  The ledge on the inside of the cock, which in the fired position rests on the top edge of the lockplate, can be seen in the right picture.

 

A Sidelock at full cock

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Pulling back the cock still further has caused the tumbler to rotate still further, and allowed the nose of the scear to fall into the full-cock notch, while compressing the mainspring even more.  Now pulling the trigger will push the back end of the scear upwards, rotating the scear until its nose releases from the tumbler, allowing the tumbler and cock to rotate quickly so that the flint hits the frizzen and scrapes down its face while the pan-cover opens exposing the priming powder.  A shower of sparks falls into the pan, igniting the priming charge.

 

 

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Glossary  continued

 

Scear                                    The L-shaped arm, found only on a Sidelock, which rotates slightly, in a vertical plane, when the trigger is pressed, and has a ‘nose’ that engages with the half-cock and full-cock notches in the tumbler.  It is sometimes spelled ‘sear’.   

 

Scear-spring                      A small spring that presses the nose of the scear against the tumbler in a side lock, the scear-tip of the trigger against the tumbler in a “Queen-Anne” pistol, and the scear-tip of the trigger against the base of the cock in a Boxlock.  It is sometimes spelled “sear-spring”.  

 

Screw-barrel                    A period name for ‘rifled barrel’, qv.

 

Screw                                   A foreshortened term for ‘side-screw” qv. In the flintlock period it was often called a “nail” or “side-nail”.  

 

Sear                                       An alternative spelling of ‘Scear’, qv

 

Sear-spring                        An alternative spelling of ‘Scear-spring’ qv.

 

Set-trigger                          A servo-mechanism which enabled the trigger-pressure required to fire the pistol to be substantially reduced.  It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Hair Trigger’

 

Shoddy                                A bag made of left-over cuttings of material from blanket factories in which pistols were often supplied before the advent of ‘cases’, qv.

 

Sidelock pistol                 Refer to definition PXXXX

 

Sideplate                             A decorative metal plate, on a Sidelock pistol, on the opposite side of the stock from the lock.  The screws that attach the lock to the stock pass through it.  Its purpose is to spread the load of the heads of the screws so that they do not damage the stock.  Decorative sideplates, that serve no similar purpose, were often fitted to “Queen-Anne” pistols.

 

Side-screw                         The modern term for ‘nail’, a screw that passes through the stock of a Sidelock, and holds the lock to it. 

 

Side-nail                              A period term for ‘side-screw’, qv.

 

Single-bridle lock           A Sidelock having a bridle to the tumbler qv but not the frizzen qv.

 

Slides (Barrel slides)     another name for wedges, qv.

 

Spanish barrel                  A barrel-shape developed in Spain but popular in England around 17XX ~ 17XX, the breech-end half being octagonal and the front half round, with turned balusters between the two sections.

 

Spring cramp                    A small adjustable clamp used to disassemble a lock by holding a spring in its compressed position, facilitating the removal of the spring or the component it pressed against.

 

Spur cock                           A cock shaped like a capital C in reverse; also known as a French cock. 

 

Spur trigger-guard         A trigger-guard having at its lower rear end an additional curved section for the middle finger, to aid gripping the pistol. 

 

Standing breech              (a) In a turn-off barrelled pistol - the breech that remains attached to the lock or stock after the barrel has been unscrewed.    (b) In a pistol with a ‘fixed’ barrel with a ‘hooked breech’ - the saddle that remains attached to the stock after the barrel has been unhooked.   

 

 

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Sidelock pistols  continued  

 

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Date:

Maker:

Length:

Weight:

Barrel:

Bore:

Ball:

c1670

Truelock

16”   40.5cm

1.60 lbs.  725gm 

7¾”  19.5cm

No. 48  .460”  11.7mm

.33 ounces  9.6gm

An ornate turn-off barrelled pistol. The use of a bridle on the tumbler is very early.  The barrel is rifled with 8 grooves, about 1/5 of a turn in its length. 

Dating indicators:  Very straight fish-tail butt, no trigger-plate, unbridled frizzen, nearly round top-jaw, separate , octagonal breech, heavy rounded butt-cap, hand-screwed barrel (no provision for an external ring or internal tapered plug), very blunt lock tail.

 

  

 

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Sidelock pistols  continued  

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Date:

Maker:

Length:

Weight:

Barrel:

Bore:

Ball:

c1815

Bond, Philip

16”  40.5cm

2.22 lbs.  1010gm

9¾”  25cm

No 22  .596”  15.2mm

.73 ounces  21.3gm

One of a cased pair of duelling pistols (see page XXX).  The iron ramrod is unusual – taken in conjunction with considerable wear of the frizzens but otherwise pristine condition I assume that the original owner was an enthusiastic target-shooter who had the iron ramrods fitted to make them barrel-heavy. 

Dating indicators:  saw-handled butt, spur trigger-guard, rainproof pan, linked mainspring, flat lockplate 3-screw bridle, double-necked cock.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Queen Anne” pistols  continued  

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Date:

Maker:

Length:

Weight:

Barrel:

Bore:

Ball:

c1720

Wynn, David

13”  33 cm

1.59lbs  720gm  

8”  12.5cm

No. 18  .638”  16.2mm

.89 ounces  26.1gm

““Queen-Anne”” pistols with fixed barrels are unusual but not rare.  The swamped barrel, to facilitate loading, is more common in conjunction with fixed barrels.  Wynn was one of the best makers in the early 1700s, which is reflected in the quality of this pistol.  

Dating indicators: octagonal breech, “dragon looking backwards” sideplate, pillar trigger-guard, nearly round top-jaw.

 

 

 

 

 

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Boxlock pistols  continued  

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Date:

Maker:

Length:

Weight:

Barrel:

Bore:

Ball:

 

c1760

Barber

12”  30.5cm

1.42 lbs.  645gm

5”  13cm

No. 27   577.”  14.2mm

.59 ounces  17.4gm

 

 

Possibly by Lewis/Louis Barbar (the spelling ‘Barber’ may have been an alternative).  Early round-bodied Boxlocks are not common. 

Dating indicators:  open-necked cock, rococo styling, early top safety catch.


 

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Boxlock pistols  continued  

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Date:

Maker:

Length:

Weight:

Barrel:

Bore:

Ball:

 

1780

Perry, William

9¼”  23.5cm

.875 lbs.  400gm

3½”  9cm

No. 63  .420”  10.7mm

.25 ounces  7.5gm

 

 

The bas-relief engraving on this pistol is unusual. The buttcap caries the mark of Charles Freeth.  Dating indicators: Birmingham hallmark for 1780, cannon barrel, birdshead butt, inset frizzen-spring, sliding trigger guard safety-catch.

 

 

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Breeches, cross-sections

Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols with turn-off barrels

 

This chapter refers to the cross-section of the standing part of the breech that remains attached to the stock after the barrel has been unscrewed. In most – but not all – early Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols with turn-off barrels, the standing breech is octagonal in cross section.  In later pistols it is usually round.

Hayward, The Art of the Gunmaker, Vol. II, page 7: “The earliest pistols of this type [turn-off barrel] have octagonal breeches, but subsequently, 1725 - 1750, it became usual to finish the breech  with a circular section.” 

Burgoyne, The Queen Anne Pistol 1660-1780, page 27: “The existence of a round breech  does not assist in dating pistols; although generally, an octagonally formed breech  is a clear indication of manufacture in the first quarter of the [18th] century, the lack of this feature does not necessarily denote later manufacture.” 

Burgoyne, The Queen Anne Pistol 1660-1780, page 30:. “The octagonal breech is an element of construction found in pistols produced before 1725.” 

Burgoyne, The Queen Anne Pistol 1660-1780, page 31: “By 1730 breeches were almost always round in cross-section.” 

Dixon, Georgian Pistols page 126: “When this type of pistol [“Queen-Anne”] first appeared the breech  was invariably octagonal, but from about 1750 it became rounded in form.” 

Dixon, Georgian Pistols, page 117: “The round breech  chamber was a fashion generally favoured …. from about 1730 onwards.” 

George, English Guns & Rifles, page 51: “The octagonal breech  is the shape most commonly found in pistols with turn-off barrels made 1700 - 1720.”     

George, English Guns & Rifles, page 52: “The round breech was typical of pistols [Sidelocks and “Queen-Annes”] made after 1720.” 

  

 

Octagonal breeches

(author’s research)

In common use from the beginning  of the flintlock era

Common use ceased       c1730

Latest example noted      c1730

 

 

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Round breeches

(author’s research)

Earliest example noted   c1680

In common use by          c1720

Common use ceased       c1765

Latest example noted      c1770

 

 

 

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Touch-holes, linings

Sidelock and “Queen-Anne” pistols

 

To prevent the corrosion of touch-holes, (which caused their enlargement, allowing the escape of gas pressure and thus loss of power) expensive pistols were fitted with touch-hole linings, initially of gold, but later of platinum, both of which are very resistant to corrosion.  Platinum is harder than gold and was, at the time, less expensive.

On occasions barrels that had originally been made without lined touch-holes, were bored and lined;  accordingly the presence of a lined touch-hole cannot be taken as an infallible guide to ascribing a date to a weapon.  Similarly gold touch-holes were often replaced with platinum ones during the working life of a pistol.

I have not seen a Boxlock pistol with a lined touch-hole, although the reason for lining them is just as valid as for Sidelock pistols.  Lined touch-holes are not found on Sidelock pistols with turn-off barrels because they had ceased to be made before lined touch-holes were developed.  This does not apply to neoclassical “Queen-Anne” pistols, e.g. the example by Harcourt on page XX

Atkinson, Duelling Pistols, page 51: “Gold touch-holes had been used long before the duelling pistol was thought of.” 

George, English Pistols & Revolvers, page 85: “It was common in the early 19th century for touch-holes of pistols of the better quality to be lined with platinum.”

George, English Guns and Rifles,  page 198: “[Gun by Pattison] would seem to have been made shortly after 1800 – the use of gold in the touch-holes being a feature that fell into disfavour only a few years later when platinum vents became the order of the day.” 

Dill, London Gunmakers and the English Duelling Pistol 1770-1830, page 27: “John and Joseph Manton were using platinum-lined touch-holes by 1805.  The conversion to platinum was complete by about 1810.” 

Dill, London Gunmakers and the English Duelling Pistol 1770-1830, page 27: “Platinum-lined touch-holes are no guarantee of a dating assist.  Many pistols were sent back to the gunmaker’s shop for maintenance and repairs.  [Touch-holes, originally of gold, were replaced with platinum].” 

Akehurst, Antique Weapons, page 85: “Useful as a guide to the date of early 19th century (after 1800) guns is the change from the use of gold for touch-holes, to platinum, between 1805 and 1810.” 

Akehurst, Sporting Guns,  page 54: “Both John and Joe Manton took to making touch-holes of platinum between 1805 and 1810.” 

Bedford, Early Firearms of Great Britain and Ireland, page 131: “Joseph Manton is credited with the use of the first platinum-lined touch-hole in 1805” 

Hayward, The Art of the Gunmaker, Vol. II, page 200: “The insertion of a gold plug in the barrel where the touch-hole was drilled, to avoid corrosion when the priming was ignited had become standard fittings on first-quality firearms by 1750-1775.” 

Hayward, The Art of the Gunmaker Volume II, page 212: “From about 1810 onwards firearms of second quality had touch-holes of platinum. ……. the explanation is that at that time platinum was regarded as a laboratory plaything rather than a precious metal.” 

Atkinson, The British Duelling Pistol, page 34, page 80: “To say that the changeover from gold to platinum began in 1805 may be a reasonable approximation.” 

 

 

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Ramrod pipes

Sidelock, “Queen-Anne” and Boxlock pistols with fixed barrels

 

Early pistols had very ornate forward ramrod pipes with multiple baluster turnings, or a series of facets.  In later pistols these were reduced to a plain slightly curved surface with one or two raised rings at the ends.  When the fashion changed to neoclassical, ramrod pipes followed suit, reducing to a flat surface with raised rings at the end, and finally to what appears to be nothing more than a simple undecorated tube.

Rear ramrod pipes were usually decorated en suite with their forward companions, but occasionally (particularly with very early pistols) they were omitted, or were plain but had a little discreet engraving on their finials.

 

 

Multiple baluster forward ramrod pipes

(author’s research)

In common use from the beginning of the flintlock era

Common use ceased       c1760

Latest example noted      c1770

 

 

 

 

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Plain forward ramrod pipes with baluster-turned end (author’s research)

Earliest example noted   c1740

In common use by          c1745

Common use continued until the end of the flintlock era

 

 

 

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Plain unornamented forward ramrod pipes

(author’s research)

    c1790

Earliest example noted   c1800

In common use by          c1810

Common use continued until the end of the flintlock era

 

 

 

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Touch-holes, linings,  Sidelock pistols  continued

 

 

Gold-lined touch-holes

(author’s research)

Earliest example noted   c1755

In common use by          c1775

Common use ceased       c1800

Latest example noted      c1805

 

Common use continued until the end of the flintlock era

 

 

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Platinum-lined touch-holes

(author’s research)

Earliest example noted   c1805

In common use by          c1810

 

Common use continued until the  end of the flintlock era

 

 

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Copyright © Marsden B Robinson - 2012