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19TH CENTURY ENGLISH PISTOL WITH BRASS TACKS - SHOWING SOLID EVIDENCE OF USE BY INDIANS – GREAT WESTERN FRONTIER PISTOL:   This early to mid 19th Century pistol shows all indication of having been supplied through the British Government to the North American Fur Trade, and its subsequent use by a Native American.  The brass tack decoration appears to have been applied during the period of use, and is not some later added 20th Century affectation.  Much scarcer than the Northwest Trade Muskets and other Indian used long guns, a righteous Indian used pistol is a special addition to any frontier collection and one that appears very seldom on the market. 

The stock is decorated with tacks distributed. along both sides of the forestock, both sides of the grip, and lines paralleling the lock plate and trigger guard.  The tack heads show appropriate wear, and have the appearance of having shrunk into the wood, something that only happens with age and use.  There are two tack heads which have broken away – one on the right side immediately above the trigger, and one on the left side just forward of the breech.  The remaining shank from that second missing tack head confirms these tacks are solid brass with square shanks – the type known to have been available well back into early Fur Trade era.  Again, the tacking present on this pistol not only appears genuine in the style of the tacks, the appearance of the tack heads, and they way they have pulled down into the wood grain, but they are also applied in a pattern which is typical of other known genuine Indian tacked guns, not one of the goofy, humped up designs applied by modern collectors attempting to sweeten up an old worn out gun. 

Measuring 16 ˝” long, this pistol presents as one of a size and style that would have been present on the early frontier – one that was large enough, and heavy enough to have been useful in self defense, and sufficiently robust to withstand the rigors of hard daily use.  The 10 ˝” long barrel has a rifled bore, approximately .62 caliber, which is the characteristic caliber of the Northwest Trade Muskets supplied to the Indians at the frontier trading posts.  The rifling, strong and quite prominent for its length, stops within about 1” of the muzzle – a common feature which left a smooth surface at the mouth of the muzzle to make it easier to start a ball down the bore during the loading process.  The breech has flats which then transition into a round profile for the balance of the length.  There is a front sight, but no provision for a rear sight.  Evidence that this pistol served a long and active life on the frontier, it is fitted with the front section of a ram rod from an  Enfield Rifle.  Cut down to fit the length of the pistol’s barrel, the rod retains the full profile of the rod tip, the rod fits snugly in the ramrod hole - testament that it has been with the pistol for a long time, and the finish of the rod matches the rest of the pistol’s iron surfaces. 

The left side of the barrel is stamped with a series of British proof marks, the most significant of which is the British government “Broad Arrow” stamp which indicates government ownership.  The British government was heavily involved in maintaining control over the Indian trade in North America as they had from the earliest days of colonization.  After the American Revolution, the British influenced Indian Trade continued as an active business venture across Canada, and south of the “49TH Parallel” into the disputed Northwest frontier until the mid-19th Century when the Oregon Territory was secured by the United States.  That this government stamp is applied to a pistol which is not of one of the known British military pistols strongly argues that this pistol was definitely intended for the Indian trade.  The barrel has an overall aged brown finish which is generally smooth with no heavy pitting. 

The stock has a nice profile including a well shaped round butt grip and a fore stock that extends almost the full length of the barrel.  The wood has an even patina, and while showing signs of actual use, there is no significant damage which affects the structural integrity of the stock.  There is an area dug out around the iron pin which secures the barrel in the stock, probably from where a previous owner or early gunsmith – likely of the period of use – needed to remove the barrel for some repair function.   

The back action lock functions properly, holding properly at half and full cock.  The trigger releases the hammer for a solid, crisp fall, but there is a little sluggishness in the movement of the hammer, probably due to a build up of old debris on the internal components of the lock.  The finish of the lock plate, trigger and screw heads have the same naturally aged finish, turning to smooth brown where the surfaces have been handled.  The brass trigger guard has a naturally aged patina.  

This early pistol is an evocative survivor of the western Indian Wars which occurred before and after the Civil War, with all of the features present one looks for in a genuine Indian used firearm.  This is one that will be almost impossible to better without dipping into one of the very few well established collections of these special guns that are quietly held around the country.  Very rarely does a pistol such as this one come to the surface to be offered on the open market, and this is a prime opportunity to acquire a very attractive specimen.  (0237)  $2495 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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