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Posted By: Steve Nash The pinfire game gun - 07/02/20 05:39 PM
There are wonderful threads on this board that follow individual makers, and models. In keeping with the spirit of sharing, and to provide a different distraction in these trying times, I am starting a thread on the pinfire game gun.

When I started researching and collecting British pinfire game guns some 25 years ago, there were few suitable reference books, the Internet was a plaything for University academics, and knowledge was something painstakingly gathered. Now there are amazing print and on-line references on British gunmakers and gunmaking, and sharing and exchanging information on-line is commonplace. While the research part has gotten easier, the gaps in knowledge are still there.

I expect some followers of this board already know quite a bit about pinfires. Many of you will have one or several in your collections, and I hope you will contribute to this thread. To those who are very familiar with the story of the British pinfire, I ask for your patience -- something in these posts will surely be new to you. I will try to cover as many makers, types and features as I can to make this interesting. I will be adding to this thread every few days.

So, here's going right back to the beginning of British breech-loaders.

At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 an example of Casimir Lefaucheux's pinfire was on display, and Eugene Lefaucheux was on hand to answer any queries about its features. The British shooting press didn't make any notable mention of Lefaucheux's gun prior to the Great Exhibition, despite the gun being in use in France since the 1830s. Perhaps it was believed the British sportsman would stick to the muzzle-loader, and leave the "crutch-gun" to foreigners. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to differentiate a curiosity from a real developmental step, but it was clearly not obvious back then.

British gunmakers could have just copied Casimir Lefaucheux's pinfire, much as the earlier generation of makers copied the French flintlock. The pinfire gun was, after all, a design in working use and not just a prototype. A straightforward copy with recognisable names on the lock plates might have been reassuring enough for at least some sportsmen to try the new system, and to make this possibility easier Lefaucheux did not patent his invention in Britain. This left the door open to anyone copying the gun and the cartridge system. That this didn't happen is an indication of the tremendous reluctance that existed towards this invention, pre-dating the Great Exhibition. Trusted names spoke ill of the French breech-loader, which seems to have deterred even the slightly curious. Who would want to try a gun boldly proclaimed by the experts to be unsafe? The muzzle-loader was also at its highest level of refinement, with quick-firing locks, strong barrels and quality craftsmanship. There would have to be a change to the design to make it palatable to the shooting community.

Giving a British character to the Continental pinfire was indeed the first step towards its acceptance. Not just a respected name, but a design make-over was needed. This is what Joseph Lang accomplished, by having a wooden fore-end instead of an iron one, substituting a discrete lever to release the barrels instead of the long Lefaucheux lever, limiting decoration to tasteful acanthus-leaf engraving and fine chequering, and, most importantly, sticking to the lines, proportions and dimensions of the British double-barrelled muzzle-loader.

The version offered by Lang is believed to have been first built by Edwin Charles Hodges, who convinced Lang to market it. Hodges became the most sought-after actioner of early breech-loaders, and his work was used by the top makers (this is not surprising, few at the time knew how to accomplish this task well). The Lang gun has the lever engaging with a single notch or bite on the barrel lump, relatively close to the hinge pin. This proved adequate but less robust than the later double-bite fastening mechanisms. The original Lefaucheux patent of 28 January 1833 clearly shows a double-bite fastener, and the addendum of 13 March 1833 shows the typical double-bite fastening mechanism found on Lefaucheux sporting guns. The Lefaucheux gun illustrated in The London Illustrated News of July 1851 appears to have had this typical double-bite mechanism, so it is anyone's guess as to why this engineering feature was not copied by Hodges and Lang. Perhaps they surmised that a single bite was sufficient to the task. It was nevertheless a good working design, as guns with this mechanism have survived hard use, and single-bite guns were made by many noted makers well into the 1860s, even after the double-bite fastener (the Henry Jones double screw grip) came into widespread acceptance.

The following is a good example of the early design, a 16-bore forward-underlever pinfire sporting gun by John Blissett of London, number 3742, possibly made before 1860. This is an early Lang-type single-bite forward-underlever action with the assisted-opening stud, and the action is signed by Edwin Charles Hodges. When the lever is opened fully, a rising stud on the action bar lifts the barrels slightly and makes it easier to fully open the gun and load/remove the cartridges. Curiously, Hodges or Lang never patented this feature. The 29 7/8" damascus barrels, signed "John Blissett, 322 High Holborn, London," still have mirror bores, despite the gun showing signs of great use and period repairs. The gun has thin fences typical of pre-1860 gun, and the hammers have prominent stylized cap guards, a carry-over from percussion guns. The back-action locks are signed "John Blissett London" and have foliate scroll engraving, with dog and game scenes. The stock escutcheon is vacant, but it is in gold instead of the usual silver.

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The IGC Database tells us that John Blissett was the son of Isaac Blissett, a gun maker and jeweller. John's father set him up in business as a gun maker and jeweller at 74 High Holborn, around 1834. In 1835 John Blissett moved to 321-322 High Holborn as a gun maker and repository for guns (selling second-hand guns), but his principal business address was 321 High Holborn. The 322 High Holborn business address started to be used in 1851. In the 1861 census John was recorded living at 322 High Holborn with his son William, also a gunmaker. In about 1866 the firm was re-named John Blissett & Son. John Blissett died in 1872, and William died in 1876. William James Tomes took over the business re-naming it Blissett Son & Tomes. In 1883 he moved the business to 98 High Holborn where he changed the name to Tomes & Co., and ceased trading in 1885.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/02/20 06:17 PM
Steve,
Very interesting, thank you.

An observation on the 'single bite.' Powell's patent action lifters (No.1163 of 1864)
were, for the most part, single bites (Some were fitted with a doll's head extension.).
The last pinfire lifter was sold in 1891 and the last centerfire in 1909.

Many of the centerfire version are still in active service with modern ammunition and seem to be holding-up quite well.
Posted By: canvasback Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/02/20 07:58 PM
Looking forward to your posts, Steve. This could be very interesting.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 04:35 AM
I'll be looking in on this thread.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your notes on these guns.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 01:07 PM
It's always a lot of fun to hear what Mr. Nash has learned over the years on pinfires and other subjects. I look forward to more posts.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 06:24 PM
Here's another post before everyone gets busy with weekend festivities, to keep the momentum. Before delving into the various actions that blossomed in the 1860s, I'd like to stick with the first pattern a bit longer.

Finding any pinfire possibly made before 1860 is a real treat in my book. Various authors have proposed that before 1860 there were no more than a few hundred pinfire game guns in Britain, and that makes sense to me. In January 1857 Joseph Lang published a pamphlet in which he claimed to have been using his breech-loader for three years. This meshes well with the story that Edwin Charles Hodges built his breech-loader after the close of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and took it to Lang. By his own account, the first Lang breech-loader might have been produced in 1853, or early 1854. If so, that does not give much time to hand-build and sell a lot of guns. The earliest builders of breech-loaders, from contemporary accounts, were Lang, John Blanch, and Edward Michael Reilly. Blanch built his first pinfire in 1856. Exactly when Reilly might have started is unclear. A few provincial makers might well have started building breech-loaders around this time, but I can' confirm it. Purdey's first pinfire was built in 1858, and Boss & Co., under Stephen Grant, started producing pinfires in 1859, and sold 15 in that year. Before 1860, it was a small number of makers producing a small number of sporting guns, for a shooting public that already owned fine muzzle-loaders. It didn't help that sporting guns were built to last, as shown by the examples in still-usable condition surviving today.

The real business for a gunmaker was in fulfilling military contracts involving thousands of arms, and in cheap-but-serviceable guns as items of trade and barter in distant lands. A firm meeting these demands would have a large in-house capacity, afford water- or steam-powered machinery and factory space, as well as provide work for hundreds of outworkers supplying the trade. Of this type of business operating in the 1850s, I can't think of a better example than Barnett's. John Edward Barnett established his business in London in 1796, stocking pistols for the East India Company. In 1842 the firm was recorded as John Edward Barnett & Sons, in business at 134 Minories until 1859, and additionally at Brewhouse Lane, Wapping, from 1860 to 1874. Barnett's guns were usually simply marked "Barnett." Barnett supplied flint and percussion trade guns for the North American fur trade (notably to the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company), and Barnett was also the most prolific of English manufacturers associated with the American Confederacy, having made and sold to them thousands of Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle-Muskets and P-1856 cavalry carbines.

With such a profitable business in martial and trade arms, you wouldn't think Barnett would bother with the tiny sporting gun market -- but they did, though Barnett sporting guns are rarely recorded. Perhaps with the emergence of the pinfire breech-loader in the 1850s the firm saw an opportunity to expand its trade, though in practice it never did go in that direction. They nevertheless sold the gun shown below under their name, but whether they made the gun from a barrelled action, or bought a ready-made gun and added their name to it, is anyone's guess. As to who would have wanted a Barnett-signed pinfire, rather than a gun from a respected sporting gun maker, is even more of a head-scratcher.

The gun is a 12-bore, number 7076. It has the Lang-type single-bite forward under-lever with assisted-opening stud, and the action bar is signed "Joseph Brazier". The back-action locks are signed "Barnett", and the top rib is simply signed "Barnett London". The 28 7/8" barrels are marked with London proofs. The gun is decorated with bold foliate-scroll engraving, and I particularly like the detail on the classic "dolphin" hammers. It has seen hard use and a few screws look to have been replaced, but it is in generally good order for what may be an 1850s pinfire. The bores are moderately pitted, and the gun weighs 6 lb 11 oz.

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While the Brazier name is welcome information, it does not clarify how much of the gun was provided, or made, by this firm. Joseph Brazier was recorded as a gunlock maker and gun and pistol maker at The Ashes, Brickkiln Street, Wolverhampton, since at least 1827, and in the 1861 census he was listed as a master gunmaker employing 70 men and 20 boys. His firm might have provided the barrelled action and the locks, or it might have made the entire gun to Barnett's wishes. Brazier locks have always been in particularly high regard, and the locks on the Barnett still speak beautifully.

I did consider whether it could have been made by another "Barnett," but there were no others in the 19th Century that I could find. I also considered whether it was a spurious naming, as simply having "London" on a rib without a street address usually sends up a red flag -- but such guns are usually of a lesser quality (they probably wouldn't have Joseph Brazier parts), the name might be misspelled (eg. "Barnet"), the proof marks might be suspect, and so on. Such guns tended to show up in the 1870s and 1880s, and not in the 1850s when so few craftsmen were able to action a breech-loading gun to begin with. And at the end of the day, why choose a maker such as Barnett to plagiarize, when many other names would be better used in a scam? Last year at Holt's auction a superb percussion double-barrelled sporting gun signed Barnett was sold, so the firm did indeed make a small number of sporting guns. I've not encountered any other, and I'd appreciate hearing if anyone out there has encountered Barnett sporting guns.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 07:10 PM
Barnett is a new one for me. I hope someone can add information on him.
Posted By: Joe Wood Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 09:39 PM
I have a centerfire gun made about 1869 and is signed Joseph Brazier, Ashes all over, including JB on the extractor. Jones underlever. Signed Thomas Johnson, Swaffham, Norfolk on the rib. It is number three of a three gun set. I am convinced Brazier made either all of the gun or all the metal work. I have seen ads listing him as a gunmaker. IMO he did not continue with this venture long.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/03/20 10:51 PM
Powell used a Brazier action (as well as locks) on one or more of their earliest (1862)
breech loading pinfire guns. Brazier also has an action patent (No.259 of 1864).
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 12:29 AM
Stephen Nash knows more about UK pin-fires than any living man. I recently sent him a message about a March 1858 Reilly pin-fire extant gun...and received the usual gentlemanly and erudite reply. Birmingham is unlikely to have been able to have built center-break breech loaders for the trade - and there are very few London gunmakers who could have done it in early 1858.

One supposes that It was hard to image what turmoil was going on in the London gun-making fraternity at this time. There were very few gunsmiths who could turn out barrels with lumps, or actions with under-levers at the time. Blanch's epitaph mentions this..."everything was new..."

The fact that Reilly did change from the Lefaucheux forward under-lever to the Berringer around the trigger guard under-lever for the 1859 "The Field" trials was mentioned...here is the evidence: (book published early 1860 - but note the use of "Reilly & Co." used from Jan - Oct 1859....The text was probably written in Summer 1859 shortly after the trials:
https://books.google.com/books?id=gVIBAA...lly&f=false



And Stephen Nash...all of us need your reference book. Thanks for your intellectual work and your unfailing optimism and courtesy.
Posted By: canvasback Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 01:38 AM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
Stephen Nash knows more about UK pin-fires than any living man.


Ive come to the same conclusion, Gene. Steve has been keeping a few of us enthralled up here in Canada during the Covid lockdown. Glad to see him sharing down here.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 02:48 AM
That's a really great find, Gene, and new to me - a wonderful illustration. I wondered when Reilly's "ring" underlever first appeared. I'm sure this thread will prompt lots of new information, and I'm enjoying the anticipation..

Thanks to all for the input and kind words. I claim no special expertise, only a long-standing obsession to learn everything I can about these interesting guns. The book is slowly coming together, and it will tell a more coherent and complete account than I can cover here. In the meantime I will present as many different pinfires as you will have patience for. Some will be from very familiar makers, others obscure, some in fine condition, and some in a dismal state -- but all are part of the story.

And to my American friends, have a joyous 4th of July.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 04:01 AM
Yes - Steve is a wonderful resource.

There is another pinfire authority - James Stockham from Central, South Carolina. James has a huge pinfire collection. He displayed 40 of his guns at a Vintage Cup event in Millbrook, NY and then later had part of the collection on loan for two years to the NRA's National Firearms Museum. Unfortunately, he's not inclined to spend time on a computer.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 01:26 PM
Barnett is listed in Nigel Brown's British Gunmakers (London). I can copy out if required; there were numerous address changes. I have a Barnett 16 bore single muzzle loader. Fun to use pin-fires and I use a Thomas Newton of Manchester. Good fun! Lagopus..
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/04/20 09:07 PM
Erskine's patent pinfire was patented in 1859 too.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/05/20 11:49 PM
Thanks to all who are contributing to the thread. There are indeed very knowledgeable collectors out there, and I would dearly love to see Mr Stockham's fantastic collection. Gene Smith and Chris Curtis's book, "The Pinfire System," is required reading for anyone looking into this period of gunmaking. They, and others, are experts on pinfire pistols and revolvers, a subject on which I know little, and on the matter of pinfire cartridges I again defer to the experts.

I am going to stick to pinfire game guns. To the members that have contributed so far, I will get around to Powell, Reilly and Erskine examples, I promise.

It is near impossible to follow a precise timeline in describing pinfires, but I am going to try starting with early designs, and guns that can attributed to an early date. Some guns can be precisely dated from records, while others fall into more general groupings, like post-1862 (from unmarked Jones underlever actions). The start in Britain was in the mid to late 1850s, and then the bulk of new designs and manufacture happened in the 1860s. A few makers built pinfires into the 1870s, I imagine to please conservative clients, but by 1870 few were being made, having been replaced by the centre-fire. Dual-fire guns able to use both pinfire and centre-fire cartridges appeared in the mid-1860s, but did not last long. And muzzle-loaders converted to breech-loading might have been done anytime during the brief heyday of the pinfire in Britain, a cheaper (though risky) alternative to buying a new gun. Guns carrying patent designs or features are a bit easier to place within a timeline, but guns built for the trade can be impossible to narrow down. As AaronN points out, some makers were coming up with inventive designs in the late 1850s.

I will get to all of these types in due course, but one generalization that can be made is that the Lang-type single-bite, forward-underlever fell from favour by the 1860s in light of better alternatives. Before leaving this type altogether, here is one signed Hugh Snowie. It is a good example of the lengths one might go to keep a gun in the field. A gun was a sizeable investment back then, as it is still.

From the IGC database, Hugh Lumsden Snowie was born in 1806 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was apprenticed to Charles Playfair from 1821 to 1827. He might have been Playfair's first apprentice, as that was the year Playfair first started his own gun making business. After his apprenticeship Snowie worked in London as a journeyman gun maker for about two years before moving in 1829 to Inverness to establish his own business. By 1851 he was recorded living at 89 Church Street, with his wife, daughter, and two sons (Thomas and William, who eventually apprenticed under their father). Hugh Snowie died in London in June 1879, and his sons continued the family firm.

This gun has been heavily used, and it has undergone significant repair and maintenance work. It might even be a converted muzzle-loader, but I can't be entirely sure. What is certain is that someone went to great lengths to keep it in working order. It is a 14-bore, serial number 3277. My best guess is that it was probably made around 1860, or soon after. The 29" damascus barrels have London proofs, and an unsigned top rib. The back-action locks are signed "H. Snowie."

The gun is a single-bite screw grip action with forward-facing under-lever and assisted-opening stud, of the type Joseph Lang started making in 1853-54. The actioner's initials are "S.B", who I've not been able to trace. It could be the mark of Samuel Brown of 12 Lench St., or that of Samuel Breedon of Washwood Heath, both Birmingham gun makers at the time who could have supplied a barrelled action or partly finished gun to Snowie. Early in the development of breech-loaders there were not many who were experienced at duplicating Lang's action -- so it might remain a mystery. The under-lever swings out to the left, marking this a gun for a left-handed shooter. The gun has early features, such as a mechanical safety grip and a long butt plate upper tang, styles that soon disappeared in the breech-loading era (the reason behind wondering if this was a conversion). The gun has fences with raised collars, an attractive flourish. The hammers have extended flanges, and overall the gun has well proportioned lines, weighing a light 6 lb 10 oz. It is a real shame the 14-bore fell from fashion.

The story I want to know is why it underwent so many repairs. Several action screws have been replaced, the assisted-opening stud is missing, the under-lever looks like a replacement, and the right-hand lock plate has an extra drilled hole. Removing the lock plate shows that a new, shorter mainspring was fitted, which required a new hole for the spring's attachment pin. The gunsmith might have simply used a spring salvaged from another gun, but fitted it in a way whereby both hammers pulled with equal force, and at half- and full-cock the hammers still align perfectly. The gun has seen heavy use, the engraving is quite worn, and the bores are pitted. It was kept going long after someone else might have retired it from the shooting field, or returned it to the gunmaker to be scrapped for spare parts and iron. I wonder how many red grouse fell to this gun?

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Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 02:44 AM
Barnett and Brazier:

Maybe a generation before J.E. Barnett, was Thos. Barnett and he thought people were using his "Barnett" marking on guns he did not make!

(Aris's Birmingham Gazette - Monday 08 November 1830)

But as for J.E. Barnett & Sons, Here are a couple ads:

(Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 27 September 1867)


(Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Friday 13 February 1874)

And the Brazier Locks:

(Field - Saturday 15 January 1870)


(Field - Saturday 22 May 1869)
Posted By: Roy Hebbes Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 02:32 PM
Howard A Blackmore in his book Gunmakers of London, lists The Barnett family tree,17 names in all ranging from 1700's t0 1875. F. Barnett is listed as a maker of Fowling pieces of superior manufacture and finish.
He is listed at 20 Oxford street in 1843.No closing date for the business is given.
I think there is a possibility that the gun is spurious because Barnett name was well known in the early 1800's.For example Blanch, in his book,:" A Century of Guns." notes that in 1812 the London post office directory listed only three gunmakers, Barnett, Blanch & Wilkinson. Familiar names such as Purdey Were at that time still in their infancy.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 03:59 PM
The pinfire era developed a new industry creating pinfire loading tools. Literally dozens or hundreds were developed as "better mousetraps" by Dixon, Hawksley, Bartram, and others. Prior to the pinfire cartridge, the muzzle loaders needed limited tool types. With the breechloader development, the uniformity of gauge became more important, too , so cartridges could be made to fit.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 04:04 PM
Interesting comments on the Barnett name. If it is spurious, it is the best quality one I've seen, from a time when there weren't that many pinfire game guns around. I shall digress from the timeline for a moment as I do have another, later, pinfire sporting gun from a maker that specialized as a maker of martial arms on contract to the War Department but who also dabbled in sporting guns, Benjamin Woodward.

Benjamin Woodward starting out as a gunmaker in 1838, and in 1840 he moved his business to 10 Whittall St. in Birmingham's Gun Quarter, an address he maintained until 1883. In the 1841 census, Benjamin was described as a gunmaker, and two of his sons, Frederick and Benjamin, then both 15, were listed as gunmaker's apprentices. The younger Benjamin quit his apprenticeship and another son, Henry, was taken into the business, and in 1842 the name was changed to Benjamin Woodward & Sons. The firm is best known for producing military arms, notably the .577 three-band 1853 Enfield rifle-musket. Benjamin Woodward was also one of the founders of the Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA) in 1861, "a company to make guns by machinery," an effort to compete with Enfield on the production of military arms. In addition to the main business of government contracts, Benjamin Woodward & Sons continued to make a small number of sporting guns. I should point out that there is no family connection to the more famous James Woodward of the London gun trade.

The gun shown here is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun, serial number 134, made some time after 1863. The 29 13/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs and barrel maker's marks "C.H.," which I believe might be for the Birmingham barrel maker Charles Hawkesford of Court, 2 Summer Lane (in operation 1859-1869). Other marks include "B.W." (Benjamin Woodward?) and "J.F." (which I've as yet been unable to trace). The upper rib is signed "B. Woodward & Sons Makers to the War Department No. 134", reflecting the firm's main area of business. The back-action locks are signed "B. Woodward & Sons" and have game scenes on both lock plates. The foliate scroll engraving on the action body is quite pleasant, nice starburst patterns around the pin holes, and the game scenes on the lock plates are particularly well executed. The low serial number is possibly an indication of the small number of sporting guns made by the firm. The gun still has mirror bores, and weighs 6 lb 12 oz.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 10:44 PM
I am curious about John Blissett. There was an Issac Blissett in London who also made guns at the time.

Here is the 1851 census record for John Blissett. Note he called himself a "Whitesmith." A lot of records have him at 321 High Holborn.


However, in late March 1847 a Blissett took over Reilly's workshop at 316 High Holborn. He seemed to specialize in air-canes, etc. Who might he have been? he was 5 numbers down from John Blissett at 321 High Holborn.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/06/20 11:48 PM
Argo, I have a T. Blissett, Liverpool, 8 gauge pinfire double. Interesting mechanism. I am not sure of his relationship with your Blissett.
Posted By: Roy Hebbes Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/07/20 03:37 PM
Steve,
The Mark plate of the gunmakers Company of London, shows two marks
for Barnett.
1/ A star over RB
2 /As mark 1; but encircled with a stamped border.
Do either of these marks appear on your gun?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/07/20 04:20 PM
Originally Posted By: Roy Hebbes
Steve,
The Mark plate of the gunmakers Company of London, shows two marks
for Barnett.
1/ A star over RB
2 /As mark 1; but encircled with a stamped border.
Do either of these marks appear on your gun?

Roy, the Barnett pinfire I have does not have either of these marks, only London proofs and bore stamps.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/07/20 04:34 PM
It's hard to imagine that the guns we're talking about here can be 20 years later than the fabulous gun AaronN posted in another thread, the original Casimir Lefaucheux. It is good to remember the pinfire system was current and accepted in France well before any British-made pinfire first appeared.

Mixed in with the first Lang-type forward underlever guns in Britain would have been some Continental guns, such as the Lefaucheux breech-loader, a subject I'll get to in time. Makers were often using Belgian-sourced barrel tubes, and anyone using a pinfire in Britain in the 1850s would have been using imported French cartridges, so cross-Channel trade in sporting goods and gunmaking materials was evident. According to John Walsh, editor of The Field and sponsor of the public trials of 1858 and 1859, pinfire guns entered in the trials were of the Lang type with one exception, a Bastin System gun built by Auguste Francotte of Liège, Belgium, with a fixed breech and sliding barrels.

When Casimir Lefaucheux patented his hinge-action, breech-loading gun in January of 1833 and his pinfire cartridge design in 1836, his was not the only breech-loading system that gunmakers had been tinkering with. Parisian makers were experimenting with fixed barrels and lifting breeches (such as the Pauly and Robert systems), and many a follower of this board has tried, or at least held, a Darne with the rearward sliding breech. French gunmakers can certainly think outside the box.

In 1855 the Bastin Brothers of Hermalle-sous-Argenteau, Liège, went by another route when they patented an action whereby the breech remained stationary and the barrels slid forward (Liège provincial government patent 2149 of 1855, and patent 2395 of 1856). An added feature of the gun was having a recess under the hammer noses which "grabbed" the pin after firing. When opening the action the fired hammer would keep the fired cartridge from moving with the barrels, thereby extracting it -- a flick of the wrist then ejects the spent case. If one or both barrels were unfired, the cartridges would stay in the chambers. The cleverness of this selective extraction is that no additional mechanism or modification was required.

The Bastin underlever action has a forward-pivoted, pull-down underlever with a hinged catch on the distal end. While it looks ungainly, it is remarkably smooth and easy to use, and while not as time-efficient and ergonomic as the later snap-actions, it has a certain elegance. The Bastin Brothers were inventors and they made actions for other gunmakers -- I am unaware of any complete guns made and sold by them, perhaps they simply made a good living off of royalties and partial builds. While the Lang-type underlever fell from favour pretty quickly in the face of better alternatives, the Bastin system remained popular in Britain well into the 1860s, including on guns built by James Purdey and others.

This gun is a 14-bore, serial number 2309, by the Masu Brothers of London, made sometime between 1865 and 1869. It has 30 5/16" damascus barrels signed "Masu Brothers 3a Wigmore Street London & Liege" and, uncommon for a London-retailed gun sold to the British market, it has Liège proof marks. The action is stamped "Bastin Frères Brevetée 598," so it is the 598th gun built on the Bastin system -- probably towards the end of its popularity. The gun has very thin fences, which can be considered a decided weakness. The back-action locks are unsigned, metal parts have simple border and open scroll engraving, and the trigger guard has a chequered spur grip extension. The figured maple stock might be a contemporary re-stocking job, and the gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz. The stock has heel and toe plates, marking the departure from the iron butt plates commonly found on most pinfires. (A discussion on heel and toe plates and variations in butt plate materials will be for another day; so many features on late-Victorian, Edwardian, and later guns started on pinfires.)

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The Belgian gunmaker Gustave Masu was established in London in 1864 at 3a Wigmore Street, and the firm became Masu Brothers in 1865. Wigmore Street is in London's fashionable West-End Marylebone district, and a stone's throw from Cavendish Square, so his customers would have been well-to-do. In 1869 the firm was renamed Gustavus Masu and moved to 10 Wigmore Street. In 1882 it returned to the name Masu Brothers, and ceased trading around 1892. It would appear that Masu guns were built in Liege (by the other brother, whose name I have not been able to find) and retailed in London by Gustave. I should add that every Masu Brothers gun I've handled has been of very high quality. I've another, different Masu pinfire to post here, but that's for another day.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/07/20 11:37 PM
Amazing gun Stephen. What a different look and feel. And the Lige is there (to which which Raimey will be nodding his head).
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/08/20 03:11 AM
Masu got in a bit of trouble selling these guns too:



Birmingham Daily Post - Thursday 21 June 1866
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/09/20 01:29 PM
Wonderful find, AaronN, I had wondered how a gun with a British address could have wholly foreign proofs -- now I know. Assuming Gustave Masu learned his lesson and didn't repeat the offence, the Bastin action gun would have likely been sold before March 1866. As the name of the firm changed to Masu Brothers in 1865, this narrows down the dating of the gun. Every piece of information helps.

Here's another example of piecing together the puzzle of the pinfire timeline. Probably the more famous configuration for early British breech-loaders is the "lever over guard," whereby the lever to disengage the barrels is rear-facing and follows the contour of the trigger guard bow. It is probably the first picture that comes to mind when you think of a pinfire game gun, as this configuration was the most commonly produced. While lever-over-guard guns are typically referred to as "Jones type actions," not all of them are based on his design. Henry Jones patented his double-bite screw grip action in 1859 (patent no. 2040), but he famously let the patent lapse in late 1862 thereby allowing almost all makers to copy it freely from that date onwards. But Jones was not the first to use the lever-over-guard, and single-bite actions with this feature pre-date the Jones patent, and many single-bite actions were built well into the 1870s and later, as has already been commented on.

The truth is, this quintessential British design is not British at all, but French. And furthermore, it may have been around since at least the 1840s, if not a bit earlier. Beatus Beringer, a gunmaker of Paris and St. Etienne, obtained 29 patents in the 1830s and 1840s, almost all dealing with breech-loading. The "Système Beringer" allowed his guns to fire either pinfire cartridges or percussion caps and loose powder (with special removable breech chambers). Furthermore, his guns functioned on the basis of a rearward-facing under-lever, whose shape formed the trigger guard bow. His rearward under-lever may also have been built to align with a fixed trigger guard, as to this day the lever-over-guard in France is known as the Beringer action.

I believe John Blanch may have been the first to offer a lever-over-guard gun to the British shooting community. While I have no certain evidence of this, my belief is led by the fact Blanch went to the trouble of purchasing directly or indirectly a Beringer gun (no. 2359), in 1855. The proof is a photograph copy of the receipt, dug up by Argo44 in his Reilly research, and kindly passed on to me. The pinfire was a French invention, so why not look to the French for ideas on how to build them? It would make sense that British makers would get their hands on competitors' guns, and take them apart to analyse them in detail. Blanch was one of the very first promoters of the pinfire system in Britain, with Reilly and Lang. He, as others, were building Lang-type guns with the forward under-lever (Blanch's offered his first pinfire in 1856, a Lang-type forward-under-lever). Perhaps he wanted to improve upon the design and offer his clientele something different. He must have been aware of the different design -- why else would he choose a Beringer for study, rather than an original Lefaucheux? I admit this is conjecture, but the 1855 Beringer receipt is, I believe, a significant part of the story of the pinfire in Britain. How soon after 1856 Blanch may have built a lever-over-guard gun is an open question, but he would have known how to make one.

In trying to determine when the first lever-over-guard guns appeared, it would seem logical that they would be based on the first design, the Lang single-bite, assisted stud opener. It would be the same action, but with the direction and rotation of the lever reversed (on a right-handed forward-under-lever, the locking lug rotates clockwise; on the rearward lever-over-guard, the locking lug rotates counter-clockwise). Here is one that fits this description, a single-bite, assisted stud opener action with the lever-over-guard, by William Moore & Co., number 1159A. William Moore was one of the most highly regarded makers in London and Birmingham. I have no means to verify its date, but I would not be surprised to learn it is an early gun, around 1860. It is a relatively standard gun for its time, not of "Best" quality but certainly not an inexpensive gun. It does have a few flourishes, such as the under-lever that is shaped to fill the space in front of the trigger guard bow, fences with prominent raised edges around the pin holes, and a raised button on the trigger guard bow to centre the under-lever when closed. Most importantly, it is a perfect copy of Lang's design, but with the reversed underlever. The barrel rib is signed "W. M. & Co.," as are the lock plates. Though cryptic today, at the time everyone knew the Moore name.

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Originally a stocker for Joseph Manton, in 1829 William Moore set up his own stock making business in Birmingham, and became a gunmaker shortly after that. In 1836 the name of the firm changed to William Moore & Co. Moore also entered into a number of partnerships in addition to operating his own business. In 1838 he entered into partnership with William Harris, creating the firm of Moore & Harris at 35 Loveday Street. In 1847 Moore and William Patrick Grey entered into a partnership and operated as Wm Moore & Grey. Grey's son, Frederick Hargrave Grey, apprenticed to Moore. In 1854 William Moore & Co moved to 43 Old Bond Street, London, and Moore and Grey started to trade from this address as well, as William Moore & Grey. It appears that guns marked Wm Moore & Co were mainly export guns with a different serial number range (which might be one explanation for the "A" in the serial number). In 1861 Frederick Beesley, a name that would become famous later, was apprenticed to William Moore & Co.

William Moore may have died in 1864. The fame of the William Moore name was such that it frequently appeared in the 1860s onwards on low-quality Belgian guns, with exporters hoping to dupe buyers into believing they were purchasing a recognised name. What is confusing is that real Moore guns might be signed William Moore, Wm Moore & Co, W. M. & Co, Moore & Harris, William Moore & Grey, or William Moore, Grey & Co.
Posted By: Geo. Newbern Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/09/20 02:55 PM
Here's one more for comparison. A Boss built in 1860 as a pinfire gun and converted to centerfire. It seems facially similar to the ones posted above, but this one has an underlever single bite lockup...Geo



Copy of original 1860 build sheet:


The original buyer was a son of the 4th Earl of Harewood and was an official of the Ripon Cathedral.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/09/20 11:33 PM
This is an amazing instructional line....can't wait to read more. Thanks.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/10/20 09:19 PM
Well, that is a very early Boss & Co, Geo, as they only started making pinfires in 1858, and the firm used the Henry Jones double screw grip once the patent expired in 1862. I'm always awed by the amount of use required to wear chequering down to smoothness.

Not every single-bite lever-over-guard is of the Lang design like the William Moore. Here is a 16-bore by Charles Frederick Niebour of High Street, Uxbridge (at the time Uxbridge was a town just outside of London, now it is within west London). It has no serial number, as was not uncommon for builders of few breech-loading guns. It is a single-bite action, but it lacks the assisted-opening stud. This is not because the actioner didn't know how to make one, as the gun was actioned by Edwin Charles Hodges himself, the best actioner of the period and the likely person behind the original Lang gun. The 29 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs, and the top rib is signed ". F. Niebour Uxbridge." The single-bite screw grip action is signed "E. Hodges," and the back-action locks are signed "C. F. Niebour Uxbridge". It is beautifully made, and it has some unusual features. The hammer noses have protruding "lips" of a style I've not frequently encountered, the finial of the under-lever is left smooth, and the fore-end is unusually long, possibly a special request. The gun also has a very brief action bar, and the resulting short distance between the hinge and the bite is enough to make an engineer wince. Still, Hodges must have judged it sufficient, and the gun is still on face. The bores are pitted at the breech, and overall it still shows vestiges of bluing and case colours. The gun with its light frame weighs 6 lb 11 oz.

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Charles Niebour was in business from 1831 to 1859, at which point his son Charles Frederick took over the business, so I'm guessing an un-numbered gun dates from around that time or early 1860s.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/10/20 11:43 PM
Keep them coming please Stephen. This is an amazing historical resource.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/11/20 02:50 AM
Looks like after Charles Frederick died, his window decided to sell off everything at the shop.



Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette - Saturday 01 June 1889


She must've sold the business to Sydney T. Hackett

Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette - Saturday 14 June 1890
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/11/20 02:59 AM
Totally cool AaronN. History being reconstituted.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/11/20 01:54 PM
After reading the wonderful article about the Pauly shop in the last DGJ, I realized I had read nothing about any shot and wad units with combustible powder sections. I'm thinking about how the old Colt skin revolver cartridges worked where seating the bullet crushed and opened the powder section. Was anything similar ever tried for shotguns during the muzzleloading or early breechloading period? It is likely shot cartridges of this type would be too delicate to be of practical use.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/11/20 03:05 PM
Hal, I hope that it's not too far off of Mr. Nash's topic, but this may relate to your question a bit. The needlefire shotgun I have used a rolled paper cartridge . No extractor as the cartridge was supposed to be almost totally consumed when fired.



Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/11/20 07:14 PM
It isn't possible to understand the history of the pinfire system without looking at at the contemporary breech-loading alternatives at the time, with the Needham needlefire being first and foremost - so not off-topic at all, Daryl.

In the late 1850s a sportsman could purchase a new muzzleloader, a gun at its pinnacle of perfection. Or the choice could be made for a new-fangled breech-loader, but which one? A pinfire, a needle-fire from William and Joseph Needham, or a Charles Lancaster breech-loader? Each had their advantages and disadvantages, their followers and their detractors. Some considered the Needham needlefire just plain ugly, in large part because it lacked proper hammers! The Lancaster is rock-solid when closed, but the slide-and-tilt action feels decidedly loose when open, which some found off-putting - and then there was the cost of Lancaster cartridges to consider. The pinfire was of French origin, and required French cartridges. Altogether it took brave souls, not afraid of extra expense and disparaging comments from their peers, to go the breech-loader route.

The Needham needlefire was only available as a 'best' gun, so it was expensive and exclusive. So was Lancaster's breech-loader using base-fire cartridges or Pottet / Schneider centre-fire cartridges, which at 60 guineas or more for a cased gun, was the most expensive sporting gun around.

Thanks to Daryl for sharing pictures of the needlefire, and here is Lancaster's breech-loader. Then I'm back to pinfires.

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This particular gun is a 14-bore, number 3092, made in 1858 for Captain Henry John Bower of the 4th (The King's Own Royal) Regiment of Foot. The action is Lancaster's 'slide-and-tilt' type, where the lateral underlever moves the barrels forward before they can swing on the hinge. Note that the action face is not at the normal 90 degree angle to the flats. Instead it is at an acute angle, making for a very strong closure once the barrels have slid back into place. Lancaster favoured nose-less hammers, and the locks are non-rebounding.

As to the action design, there is much history behind it. Albert Henry Marie Renette of Paris obtained two French patents in 1820 for exterior-primed (capping breechloader) guns with slide-and-tilt actions, some seven years before Casimir Lefaucheux patented his hinge-action capping breechloading gun, which led the way to his pinfire invention in 1834. In 1853 Renette's son-in-law and partner, Louis Julien Gastinne, obtained French patent No. 9058 for this breech action on a hammer gun, intended to use the new internally-primed centerfire cartridges. The prolific patent agent Auguste Edouard Loradoux Bellford patented the design in Great Britain, receiving patent No. 2778 of 1853. This is the patent that was later assigned to Lancaster and first used for his base-fire cartridge, and the story behind "Charles Lancaster's Patent" marked on his guns -- though the patent was never taken out in his name.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 02:18 AM
Another key feature of the Gastinne patent was the cartridge extractor I believe.


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And for a segue back to pinfire:

Also, brought in from Gastinne and patented in England was Brooman's Improvements in Breech-loading Fire-arms.

Quote:
I, RICHARD ARCHIBALD BROOMAN, of 166, Fleet Street, in the City of London, Patent Agent, do hereby declare the nature of the said Invention for IMPROVEMENTS IN BREECH-LOADING FIRE-ARMS, (communicated to me from abroad by Louis Julien Gastinne, of Paris, France,) to be as follows: This Invention relates to those breech-loading fire-arms in which the Lefaucheux cartridge is used with detonating powder, for ensuring central fire


He also references the Bellford -> Lancaster gun and then used on a gun which used a Horizontal Pinfire cartridge!

Quote:
both rods F and f work in apertures formed in the metal between the two barrels, as in the guns for which Letters Patent were granted to Auguste Edouard Loradoux Bellford, the 29th day of November 1853, No. 2778, and assigned to Charles William Lancaster, of New Bond Street, London, the 22nd day of November 1856. To retain the cartridge extractor in place I form a recess c, d, in the rod F, into which a small pin k (Figure 2) takes. When the barrels are raised the extractor resumes its original position.



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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 04:44 AM
What an excellent historical line. Re Reilly, for the record here is the earliest newspaper advertisement so far found for a Reilly center-break "Fusil a Bascule"

04 October 1856, Illustrated London News:
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 08:45 AM
Some really good guns in this thread,I always think that it`s a miracle that so many early breech loaders have survived in good condition given their long obsolescence ! They are a lasting tribute to the skills of their makers thankfully.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 01:16 PM
Great information is turning up, thanks to all the posters. The time of the early breech-loaders is surprisingly complex, considering it is mostly brushed over in so many gun history books. The conventional wisdom has been that you had in neat chronological order flint, then percussion, then the pinfire (if mentioned at all), then everyone happily jumped on the centre-fire bandwagon. The truth was quite messy, with many competing cartridge systems and gun designs happening concurrently, in Britain and mainland Europe. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the pinfire system rose to the pinnacle of fashion in Britain, and for the briefest time these were the best sporting guns in the world, desired over all others by the wealthy and powerful.

So, for today, let's look at some top offerings, a Holland, and a Holland.

Even a big London name had to have started somewhere. Typically, a firm started small around the output of one gunmaker, a few workers, and perhaps an apprentice or two, gradually building a reputation for putting up fine guns. Of course, the barrels, locks and assorted furniture would come from elsewhere, usually Birmingham and the "black country" ironworks, and the actioning, fitting and finishing done in the London premises or by skilled outworkers.

Towards the end of the 19th century many Holland & Holland guns were made by other makers, such as Webley & Scott, with the H&H name added. But that's much later than the period I'm interested in. I'm concerned with the period when Harris Holland made pinfires.

Harris John Holland set up in business as a tobacconist in 1835 at 9 King Street, Holborn, London. He was also a keen rifle shot and an enthusiast of live-pigeon shooting. During the 1840s he became involved in dealing in guns as well, and by 1850 he was a full-time gunmaker. The business moved to 98 New Bond Street in 1858, and his nephew, Henry William Holland, was taken on as an apprentice in 1860 for the usual seven-year term. Henry William became a partner in the business at the end of his apprenticeship in 1867. Harris John Holland retired in 1875, and in 1876 the name of the firm was changed to Holland & Holland, and much has been written about the firm and the wonderful H&H guns since then.

Harris Holland started making breech-loaders in 1857, when he made six of them. In 1858 he made 14, and in 1859 he doubled his output to 28 breech-loading guns. Production increased very gradually after that, averaging some 30-40 breech-loading sporting guns a year. In 1865 he built 66 breech-loaders, and by comparison only 19 percussion-cap guns. All of the breech-loaders up to this point were pinfires, as Harris Holland made his first centre-fire gun in 1866.

If these numbers seem low, they were actually comparable to the other top makers of the day, such as Boss & Co., Purdey, etc., and smaller firms could be making far fewer. This is why finding any early breech-loader in its original configuration is exciting, and if by one of the top makers, even more so. The total numbers produced were very low compared with later true "factory" output in the 1880s and later (and sporting arms production was always dwarfed by military contracts). So, any Harris Holland pinfire is a rare find. Holland pinfires are rare enough that no 1850s-1860s pinfires are illustrated in "The Shooting Field", H&H's own book on the firm by Peter King published in 1990, or in Donald Dallas's fine history, "Holland & Holland, The Royal Gunmaker", published in 2003.

Gun number 824 is a 12-bore single-bite rotary-underlever sporting gun with back-action locks, made in 1861 for Alan James Gulston of Dirleton and Derwydd, Wales, one of the largest landowners at the time. In the 1861 census A. J. Gulston was listed as 43 years of age. As is typical for early breech-loaders the fences are quite thin. The 30 1/8" damascus barrels, signed "H. Holland 98 New Bond St London" on the top rib and stamped "H.H" on the under rib, still have mirror bores. Interestingly the gun has a mechanical grip safety, a hold-over from percussion guns that I've only encountered on the earliest British pinfires. Also interesting is the concave "pinched" underlever finial. The gun weighs 7 lb 1 oz.

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Gun number 963-A (possibly one of a pair?) is a 12-bore double-bite rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun with back-action locks, made in 1863. The 29 3/4" damascus barrels, also signed "H. Holland 98 New Bond St London" on the top rib and stamped "H.H" on the under rib, have bores that are slightly pitted. Unfortunately Holland's records for the years 1860-64 are missing and the original owner cannot be traced, even with a clear family crest on the stock escutcheon (out of a ducal coronet, a wolf's head proper, which was used by several families such as Freeman, Seale, Ward, West and Wolseley). There is still much original colour on the trigger guard bow, heel-plate and fore-end iron, though the colour has faded elsewhere. On this gun the underlever finial is left smooth, like the Niebour. The gun weighs 6 lb 15 oz.

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I've only ever seen one other Holland pinfire illustrated, in Geoffrey Boothroyd's Sidelocks & Boxlocks, published in 1991. I can't be certain, but that illustration might be of gun number 963-A, before it fell into my hands.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 02:25 PM
Beautiful guns. Do we see an early rendition of the Holland style of engraving in #824 ? Engraving with the background taken out was not the norm.
A friend had an H. Holland breechloader, centerfire. As I recall the gun was in the 500 serial range , and at the time it was one of the earliest serial numbers found. It was a conversion , and a fun shooter in our local Nimrod Classic vintage gun shoot. I believe the serial number was one of the missing from the H. Holland books.

I should also add that the guns being in their cases is really important. Notice the loading tools and accessories. It was a wonderful period for "new" tools, unrelated to muzzleloaders.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 03:20 PM
That`ll be a double wow ! for the Hollands .....
Posted By: Joe Wood Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 04:43 PM
Be still my heart! Those Hollands could easily entice me to have a go with oinfires!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 06:07 PM
What a pair of guns!!! What history! Stephen, you are truly a collector and preserver. Can't wait to see more. Assume the double-bite 963-A uses a Jones under-lever. If Harris John Holland did not build those actions or create barrels with a lump, wondering who in London did.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/12/20 11:58 PM
Browsing through"The Field" for 1856, I came upon this H. Holland advertisement for 20 September 1856. It appeared regularly in "The Field" for the rest of the year. It's within two weeks of Reilly's first ad for breech loading shotguns. I would assume that if Haris Holland advertised such a gun in Sep 1856, he could have made it.

I'm wondering if one or two of those six 1857 H.Holland made breech-loaders came about from this advertisement? Were the 1857 breech-loaders counted per SN - i.e. recorded when ordered? Or when delivered?

20 September 1856, "The Field."


The Kufahl breech-loader mentioned by H. Holland in the ad is really a version of the Prussian Army Dreyse Needle gun adopted by Prussia in 1848. Later, Sears patented it in England in 1859 with permission from Kufahl. Interesting that M. Holland was making rifles under license in 1856. Apparently Reilly wasn't the only London maker pushing advanced breech-loaders at this time. But Reilly favored the Prince and Terry Patent guns.

https://books.google.com/books?id=_S0xAQ...der&f=false
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/13/20 05:11 PM
That Field advertisement is a great find, Gene. Contemporary advertisements are such a great window on the times, and advertising really blossomed in the Victorian period. I would like to know what a £10 Holland gun looked like!

In case anyone was keeping track, all the pinfires I've shown so far have back-action locks. These predominate amongst pinfires, but bar locks were used as well. And so far I've mostly shown single-bite underlever guns (and a few double-bite actions), all inert. The rising stud on the action bar found in the early Lang-type actions did assist in partly opening the barrels and in partly closing the lever on the return journey, without the use of springs. Lefaucheux guns accomplished the same opening/closing assistance with a small angled stud on the barrels, a simpler solution. Snap-actions and spring-assisted actions are coming up next, but before I do so, I'd like to cover one last single-bite underlever gun, to show that they were still in use while other actions became prevalent. It is a bar-lock gun by Joseph Lang.

The IGC Database tells us that Joseph Lang started his apprenticeship in 1812 when he was 14 years old, to William Henry Wilson or Alexander Wilson, at Wilson's Gun and Pistol Warehouse at 1 Vigo Lane, London. Lang became manager of William Henry Wilson's gun dealing business at some time, probably in about 1820, when he would have been 21 years old. By 1823 Lang started to trade as "Joseph Lang, Gun and Pistol Repository" at 7 Haymarket. In May 1826 Lang bought the bankrupt stock of Joseph Manton, and in September 1826 he again advertised the fact that he was the only gun dealer in London who did not deal in "Birmingham and other Country-made guns", an interesting insight into the London trade at the time. In 1828 Joseph Lang married James Purdey's daughter Eliza, further cementing his links with the family. At that time Lang described himself as a gun maker, and in 1852 the firm moved to 22 Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, the year before he started making/marketing his pinfire gun.

Lang's pinfire guns might have been slow to attract attention in Britain, but he achieved acclaim and popularity in France, and Lang was given a First Class Medal at the 1855 Paris Exhibition for the quality of the workmanship of his pinfire guns. He was also given a medal at the 1862 International Exhibition in London, again for his pinfire guns. While Lang was appointed gun maker to His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia (grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia), he never received a royal appointment in his home country. On 21 December 1868 Joseph Lang died, aged 71. The name of the business did not change until 1874, when it became Joseph Lang & Son, rather a long time after the fact. There were a number of subsequent changes in ownership and name, too many to include here, and the firm continues today under the name Atkin Grant & Lang.

When Henry Jones's patent for the double-bite screw grip action lapsed in September 1862, any maker could build it royalty-free, and they did so in ever increasing numbers. The double-bite action was definitely stronger than the earlier single-bite design, but the single-bite action was certainly strong enough for the black powder cartridges of the period, and some makers continued to make effective use of single-bite designs. Today's gun is a good example of this, a 12-bore single-bite rotary underlever sporting gun, serial number 3245, made in 1867 for J. M. Hasel Esq. (delivered on 7 August). The 29 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs, the top rib is signed "J. Lang 22 Cockspur Street London," and the bar-action locks are signed "J. Lang." Perhaps Lang continued to make single-bite guns on the premise they were sufficiently strong. Being a gun with bar locks from a renowned maker, this was hardly a cheap gun, but without seeing more examples of Lang pinfires it is impossible to know if this is a typical Lang gun for 1867 or not. This particular gun has seen a lot of use, it has a broken hammer screw and a broken cross-key, and the bores are pitted. A later owner ("Gammon") stamped their name on the stock. It weighs 6 lb 12 oz.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/13/20 07:12 PM
Beautiful and elegant gun Stephen, as usual.

I thought to go through "The Field" from about 1853 to 1860 to see when each manufacturer began to actually advertise Breech Loaders (which will be a work in progress). Purdey never bothered to advertise that I can see.

Reilly - 04 October 1856:
H.Holland - 20 September 1856
(per above)

Lang -15 May 1858:
Lang did not appear deign actually to advertise a breech-loader until 1858 when he allegedly became so fed up with breech-loader "rubbish" being marketed that he decided to make a cheaper work-man's gun rather than the best-quality noble-man's guns he had previously been making.
15 May 1858, "The Field" (adverts for Reilly and Lang)

The sarcastic phrase "instead of being fed-away by interested writers" makes it seem as if the press was as much despised in 1858 as now.

(There were Lang advertisements in summer of 1856 which discussed breech loading guns and rifles; however, it's not clear that he was advertising center-break guns. At the time, breech loading rifles (the Prussian needle gun, Prince-Patent, Terry-Patent, etc., were are the rage to talk about).
09 Aug 1856, "The Field"


J.Blanch - 06 November 1858


Will add more.....
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/14/20 02:35 PM
The rotary underlever is a strong action, no error, but imagine if gunmakers/inventors hadn't had the urge to come up with something better... Thankfully that was far from the case. Snap-actions allowed the gun to be closed and bolted in one motion, with that satisfying "clunk." Not surprisingly, many shooters of the day opposed this development quite vociferously, fearful that springs would fail at inopportune moments, or that such designs would not be strong enough to withstand the jolt of firing, or be unnecessary complications -- simpler was better, and the interrupted-screw underlever was certainly simple. There is a certain truth to this, and some of the early snap-actions were hardly robust or all that easy to use. We know the Purdey sliding underbolt with the Scott spindle eventually "won" in the end and became the standard form, but there were quite a few inventions along the way, including some that could be argued were better or easier to use than the Purdey-Scott arrangement.

The advantage of a snap-action is speed, and in the 1850s and early 1860s speed was something no one needed, beyond the tremendous advantage conveyed by the breech-loader over the muzzle-loader. Two shots at a covey was the most anyone expected, hence the double gun. To be able to un-load with a pull of the cartridge pin and re-load with ready-made cartridges was what the breech-loader offered, and to do so safely and neatly was wondrous enough. The fact of having to use one's hand to open or close the underlever was not overly awkward, and for walked-up shooting, the opportunities on game were few, as they are today. (To this day I don't see the need for an ejector gun outside of driven-bird shoots and maybe clay sports, but that might just be me.)

As with almost all important gun inventions, the French were there first. François Eugène Schneider came up with the first snap underlever, patented in October 1860, and acquired by G. H. Daw in 1861 and immediately improved, for the Daw centre-fire breech-loader that first appeared in late 1861. Thomas Horsley was next with a spring-tensioned trigger-guard lever in February 1862. Joseph Needham patented his snap sidelever in May 1862, and the first toplever snap action was Westley Richards' pull-lever of September 1862. Then came J.W.P. Field's snap underlever patented in December 1862, followed by James Purdey who patented his famous double-bite snap action in May 1863, with a sliding underbolt linked to a peculiar thumb-operated lever in the trigger guard. Inventions still flourished, with Thomas Horsley coming up with his sliding toplever patented in October 1863, Edward Harrison (of Cogswell & Harrison) with a forward underlever snap action in February 1864, William Powell patented his toplever snap action in May 1864, and Stephen & Joseph Law patented their side-lever snap action in May 1865. Then, Purdey married his double-bite action with W. M. Scott's toplever (which Scott patented in October 1865), narrowly edging out John Croft's snap toplever patented in April 1866. While the best of these actions stayed in use into modern times (the Powell and Westley Richards in particular), most disappeared over time and the strong and efficient Purdey sliding underbolt and Scott toplever spindle became the standard.

Sadly I don't have a Daw action to show, and I've never seen a Horsley trigger-guard lever action. But I'll be posting the other actions, in roughly chronological order, starting with the Joseph Needham Patent No 1544 of May 1862, on a Blissett gun.

John Blissett was a London gunmaker and retailer on London's High Holborn street. He started his business in 1833, and he obtained a few patents for minor inventions. His son William was recorded as a gunmaker in the 1861 census, and I presume he apprenticed under his father. In 1866 the name of the firm was changed to John Blissett and Son. John Blissett died in 1872, and the business ceased altogether in 1883. Blissett built guns, but the firm was also a repository -- selling second-hand guns of other makers. Not everyone had the money for a bespoke gun.

The gun is a 12-bore, number 4097, and the action is a Joseph Vernon Needham patent rotating bolt single-bite snap action, with self-half-cocking. The elegant side-lever releases the barrels and raises the hammers to half-cock. With the typical Jones underlever the hammers have to be pulled back manually before the lever can be swung and the gun opened. With the Needham action the same can be done in one natural motion, and the gun can be snapped shut. With the new and growing sport of driven bird shoots, a fast-acting gun was a decided advantage. The Needham action was very popular, and appeared on the guns of many makers. The barrels are 29 3/4", and have been re-browned.

The Blissett gun is a bar-in-wood design, to my eyes the most elegant pattern for a breech-loading gun. Wood predominates which makes for a beautiful gun, but the lack of metal is a nightmare for strength and lasting wear, successful bar-in-wood guns are engineering feats that demand admiration. The Needham action is further peculiar in that the hinge pin is part of the mechanism for disassembling the gun. The hinge pin is pushed out with a fingertip, and it remains captive. The barrels and still-attached fore-end can be then removed. While it seems counter-intuitive to have a slender hinge pin, the action must have been strong, judging from its popularity. The downward-turning lever is on the right side, and on the left can be seen a small cam which lifts the hammers when the lever is depressed. The gun, now well worn, is beautifully engraved with foliate scroll, and retrievers on the lock plates and trigger guard bow. The bar locks are signed "John Blissett London" and the top rib signed "John Blissett, 322 High Holborn, London."

Blissett stressed price in his advertising, and Blissett guns I've seen are well-made and of moderate quality -- not high-end, but not lowest-quality either. His clientele must have been varied, because the Needham gun would likely have been one of his most expensive offerings. The action bears a Needham silver poinçon and patent use number 171, which indicates it is the 171st action Needham built or authorized. Considering its popularity, this helps date the gun to around 1863, fairly early in terms of Needham actions. The gun weighs a svelte 6 lb 11 oz, and the barrels still have mirror bores.

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Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/14/20 03:26 PM
Interesting locking developments. Below are pics of a Joseph Smith [I think it may be his patent] that is quite similar to the Needham mentioned in Mr. Nash's post above.





Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 03:46 PM
Well, that Smith gun prompted me to pull out my copy of The British Shotgun Volume One. The action was patented in December 1863 so it fits in nicely with the other snap-action inventions being covered here. It looks near-identical to Needham's action, but the locking mechanism is different. It even has the captive hinge-pin barrel removal mechanism. The gun is in centre-fire and apparently not a conversion, so it must be an early centre-fire. Remarkable gun.

Please forgive my long-windedness today, but sometimes a single gun can demonstrate several advances and carry a lot of history. Today's bar-in-wood gun exemplifies the start of the Westley Richards "doll's head" and the "crab joint," and it is an uncommon variation.

Many double guns have a top rib/barrel extension such as a "doll's head" or a tab through which a Greener-type crossbolt extends. The idea of fastening the barrels to the action at that point, at the highest part of the breech face, was started by Westley Richards, and it was done to address a weakness inherent in all hinge-action guns. Ultimately the top extension provided many makers with a second or third point of attachment, but Westley Richards considered the single rib/barrel extension sufficient, and made many guns on that principle alone.

Some names become synonymous with their inventions. In the case of Westley Richards, one of the great names in Birmingham gunmaking, both terms "doll's head" and "crab joint" come to mind. The peculiar rounded tab extending from the barrels into the top of the breech has been copied by many makers, including several American ones. The elaborate wood-covered jointing indeed bring to mind a crustacean appendage -- well, I can't think of anyone else who went to such trouble. The amount of skill required to shape metal and wood to these respective designs is beyond my understanding -- it is uncommonly fine work. The best-known and most commonly encountered bar-in-wood guns carry the name Westley Richards, as the firm started the making of bar-in-wood guns and made these a mainstay of their offerings for a long time. The pivoting top lever, the one our thumbs know how to use seemingly without thinking, appeared on Westley Richards snap-action guns in 1864, one year before the more famous W. M. Scott top-lever. Like many gun inventions, the side-swinging top-lever was an improvement on an earlier system that is rarely seen today, the pull-lever.

One of the reasons that I've studied the pinfire is that so many of the inventions, designs and ideas found on the fantastic hammerless Edwardian guns of the Golden Age of shotgunning started there. Breech-loading was new, exciting, and radical. Clever inventions abounded, and makers fought for custom through innovation and meticulous attention to detail. What makes collecting the earliest breech-loaders a challenge is that there were relatively so few of them. A gun mechanism might have been patented in, say, 1862, but only a handful would have been made in that year. Popularity would be gradual and in the meantime the maker might have come up with a better idea, and then even fewer guns might be made with the earlier design. This makes the early designs hard to come by, especially when a maker supplants his own ideas with better ones.

The first Westley Richards doll's head and crab-joint gun did have a top lever, but it did not pivot -- it was pulled straight back with the thumb. While this was great news for left-handers, there is only so much leverage that can be applied in this way against a strong spring, and it is no surprise that Westley Richards decided that a laterally pivoting lever did the same job with less effort. The pull-lever was given the patent number 2506 in September 1862, and the lateral lever was given patent number 2623 in October 1864. There could not have been many pull-lever guns made in this short time, and famously one was built in 1863 for HRH Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, for his 22nd birthday.

The Prince of Wales enjoyed his shooting. The year before in 1862 Sandringham and close to 8,000 acres of land were purchased for him and his fiançee, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, by his mother and father, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. With his new Westley Richards pull-lever pinfire, he could shoot to his heart's content and he developed the Sandringham Estate as one of the finest shooting grounds in Britain. Later, and as Edward VII, he no doubt had many fine guns to choose from, but I'm sure he remained fond of his birthday gun. If you do have a copy of The British Shotgun Volume One, there is a photo of the Prince with his WR (page 135 in my copy).

The doll's head fastener was actually a clever solution to a problem. One of the weaknesses of the hinge action is made worse by the distance between the hinge and the attachment point. When a gun is fired the barrels try to flex downward, acting as a first-class lever against the action bar. The closer the attachment point to the hinge, the stronger the forces working against the action bar. With enough shooting, the junction between the action bar and breech face is apt to crack or fail. Two solutions eventually reduced this problem. The first was to increase the distance as much as possible between the attachment point and the hinge -- and the doll's head did just that. The second, appearing in most guns some time later, required leaving a slight curve or radius where the action bar meets the breech face, as a curved surface, even a very small one, is stronger than a right-angle joint at withstanding opposing forces (this is a good time to take out a magnifying glass and look at your guns). While the doll's head provides the only point of attachment in the early Westley Richards guns, other makers often combined the doll's head with an under-bolt or other attachment for extra strength. Considering we're talking about guns made with hand tools, the craftsmanship required to shape and fit a Westley Richards doll's head is astounding.

The crab joint must push the limits of the stock-maker. Both the action portion and the fore-end have to be shaped to fit together in the least ungainly way. I admit the Westley Richards style is not my favourite bar-in-wood jointing, aesthetically speaking, but I still marvel at the design and the skill required.

As to the story of the business, William Westley Richards was born in 1788, son of Theophilus Richards, another gun maker. He started his business in Birmingham in 1812, and from 1826 or so he operated from a second address, 170 Bond St. in London (more on that in a future post). William Westley's son, Westley Richards, took over the business in 1840 at the age of 26. He was a great inventor, obtaining a number of varied patents (such as the hinged breech block "monkey tail" carbine). In 1859 the business was re-named Westley Richards & Co.. Westley Richards retired from the business in 1872 due to ill health, and died in 1897 at the age of 83. Westley Richards & Co. is still in business today.

Gun number 10652 is a 12-bore, made in 1865. Unlike so many Westley Richards pinfires, it is still in its original form and was never converted to centre-fire. It has 30" Birmingham-proofed damascus barrels signed by Westley Richards, and carry the London address on the rib. It has the pull-top-lever snap-action with doll's head fastening system (patent No. 2506 of 1862). The breech face is stamped "WESTLEY RICHARDS PATENT 564," indicating it is the 564th gun built on this patent, perhaps amongst the last of this type. As Westley Richards had already started building lateral top-lever guns by this point, the client must have preferred the pull-lever instead. The bar-action locks are signed "Westley Richards," fitted to a bar-in-wood stock with the "crab joint." The hammers are flat-sided, with dolphin-shaped noses. The silver stock escutcheon has a distinctive family crest (unicorn's head erased, horned and crined) and initials "CGS", but I have yet to trace it back to the owner. The gun weighs a tidy 6 lb 12 oz, and the bores are still mirror clean. It is still in its original leather-covered case with label, cleaning rod, and original key.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 06:24 PM
Thanks Stephen - the above is still more outstanding history and excellent commentary. Returning to the previous gun, Needham Patent snap lever made by John Blissett, I am curious about this Needham ad - I wonder what sort of patent breechloader Needham was offering at the time January 1857.

19 Jan 1857, "The Homward Mail from India, China, and The East"


Also from about 1855-1857 John Blissett published the same ad in "The Field" - He didn't start finishing Breech loaders till later it seems.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 08:06 PM
I think the breech-loader referred to in the Needham advert is his needle-fire, shown on the 4th page of this thread. Needle-fires were apparently around from the 1840s onwards.

I've just been reading that military interest in the needle-fire by the Prussians, Austrians and Danes did not go unnoticed in British military circles (and to those interested in foreign affairs), something which might have facilitated the later acceptance of breech-loading sporting arms to some extent.

I've examined a needle-fire rook rifle, but I've never held a needle-fire game gun.

I'm also still pondering the horizontal pinfire that AaronN mentioned. I've never seen one of those either.

I'm starting to realize that one lifetime is not long enough to study sporting arms.
Posted By: coosa Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 08:28 PM
Thank you, Mr. Nash, for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. Threads like this make this board worth reading.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 09:38 PM
Steve, You are right about Needham:

https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=319028
"On 2 October 1852 Joseph Needham of Ashtead Row, Birmingham registered patent No. 184 for a gun lock and the first successful hammerless needle-fire gun. He is known to have made needle-fire guns on the Rissack design. In 1850 Jean Jacques Rissack of Liege, Belgium patented a needle-fire gun in which the primer was in the base behind the powder as opposed to backing onto the over-powder wad, and the pin was either in the breech plug or on the hammer. Rissack's pistols and gallery rifles were very popular, the cartridges were made by Eley."

Prussia actually adopted the Dreyse Needle Gun in 1848. This fact was raised regularly in "The Field" and in Parliament, especially by proponents of the Prince Patent (1855) to try to get Arsenal to get their heads out of the Enfield sand.

That's the problem with trying to interpret advertisements for center break guns from this period. There was a lot of different breech-loading rifles coming out in the 1850's. So unless an advertisement actually refers to "Lefaucheaux" or "Fusils a Bascule" or "break-action" or some such, it's very difficult to know whether the ad is actually talking about center-break pin-fires.

For instance the Fall 1856 H.Holland ad for breech-loader shotguns...."perfect for Battue Shooting" - was this a center break gun or a version of the needle fire breech loader rifle he advertised just below it?


Battue Shooting (Battue is beaten in French...driven, beaten game)


So far it looks like Reilly is the very earliest to specifically be advertising center-break breech-loading guns in the UK Press.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/15/20 11:53 PM
As best as I can determine from our ledger books - Rigby sold 102 guns and rifles using Needham's 1852 needle-fire patent between 1858 and 1865. I have no idea when Needham began producing such guns under his name. What makes identifying just how many guns were made using that patent is that Rigby and Needham had different patent use numbering schemes.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 04:20 PM
Next in line in the chronology of snap-actions is the JWP Field Patent of December 1862.

Two of the most highly valued points of reference in British gunmaking are name and address. While it is very true that an obscure maker operating in a distant town could, and did, produce guns of the highest order when commissioned to, most of the top-tier makers in mid-Victorian Britain, with names known by all the keen sportsmen of the day, had London addresses. While the name Purdey is synonymous with the finest guns today, in the 1860s James Purdey was just one of several London makers with equally well-earned reputations, along with James Woodward, Thomas Boss, Harris Holland, John Blanch, Edward Reilly, Joseph Lang and others, names that are still recognized today.

At the very beginning of the pinfire era in the 1850s, simply offering high-quality breech-loading guns placed gunmakers in the fore-front of their field. After some time this distinction would have lost its novelty, and other means were needed to remain competitive. Inventing and building proprietary patents attracted the attention of sportsmen and raised the estimation of the maker's wares above others, at least until something better came along. A long and storied history would also be helpful in terms of reputation, and a prestigious London address would provide access to well-heeled patrons. Being able to claim the custom of important persons was one of the most powerful tools in advertising, better still if there was a royal connection.

One would think that a firm encompassing all of these traits would be amongst the best known today, yet it is surprising how little is known, or has been written, about Parker, Field & Sons, and even less on their sporting guns. Surviving pieces show off the high quality of their flint and percussion pistols and sporting guns, but of their pinfire game guns very little is known.

The origins of the business started with John Field, who had been a goldsmith, sword cutler and gun maker at 233 High Holborn from 1783 to 1791. He traded under his own name and also as Field & Co and Field & Clarke. When John Field died in 1791, William Parker went into partnership with his widow, and they traded as Field & Parker. John Field Junior worked for the firm, but not as a partner. In 1793, William Parker bought John Field's widow's share of the partnership. William Parker became gun maker to Prince Edward, then to King William IV, and the Duke of Kent. In 1841 William Parker died, and John Field Junior and his sons started trading as Parker, Field & Sons. In 1850 John Field Junior died and the sons, John William Parker Field and William Shakespeare Field took over the business. JWP Field was was an accomplished rifle shooter, and he was Instructor to the Honourable Artillery Company from 1866 to 1879 and Captain of the English Twenty shooting team (Britain's top shooting club, still in operation). At some point Parker, Field & Sons received the greatest accolade, becoming gunmaker to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, a recognition the firm made good use of in their labels and advertisements. William Shakespeare Field died on 17 August 1875, and John William Parker Field continued running the firm until his death in 1879. The firm ceased business in 1886, after just over 100 years in the trade. As to the address, High Holborn street was central and very well located; Charles Dickens lived on High Holborn for a while, as did William Morris, the influential designer and promoter of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Parker, Field & Sons is probably best known for its contracts to supply arms to the Honourable East India Company, for "North West" trade guns supplied to the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies and used by native hunters in the North American fur trade, and for military Enfield muskets supplied to both sides in the American Civil War. The firm also provided police forces with pistols, truncheons, tipstaffs, cutlasses, handcuffs, wrist shackles and leg irons, and "all articles used by police." Parker, Field & Sons exhibited their guns and assorted wares at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, where Casimir Lefaucheux first demonstrated his pinfire invention to the British public -- perhaps they admired each others' work.

At least three types of pinfire game guns are known to have been made by Parker, Field & Sons: the Lang-type forward-underlever with a single bite and a rising stud for assisted opening; a similar single-bite action but with a rear-facing underlever (like the Moore covered earlier); and an elegant bar-in-wood design incorporating JWP Field's patent No. 3485 of December 1862 for a partial snap-action fastener.

It is the latter I'd like to focus on, because it is an unusually beautiful gun, amongst the first to exhibit the bar-in-wood construction in an attempt to hide the hinge, or at least minimize the visual differences between muzzle-loaders and the early breech-loaders. It is a 12-bore, and gun number 10567 was probably made some time around 1865. The top rib is signed "Parker Field & Sons Makers to her Majesty 233 Holborn London" in script and "Field's Patent" within a decorative scroll. The same "Field's Patent" marking is present on the sculpted underlever. The 30" damascus barrels have London proofs and bear the Field stamp and the barrel maker's mark R.W., possibly Robert Wall of 9 Little Compton St., Soho (1864-65). The single-bite partial snap-action rotary underlever action is John William Parker Field's patent No. 3485 of December 1862. It is only a partial snap-action, as the underlever is only partially under spring tension, it has to be completely closed by hand.

The slender bar action locks are signed "Parker Field & Sons." The rounded hammers have dolphin-headed noses, and the thin percussion fences are decorated with with acanthus spray engraving. The figured stock has drop points, a feature not commonly found at the time. The foliate scroll engraving is typical, and the vacant monogram escutcheon on the top wrist is gold, and not the usual silver. The guns weighs a tidy 6 lb 15 oz., and the bores are still mirror-bright. While the gun still has its original leather-covered case, it is in rather poor condition and the label is darkly stained.

No Parker, Field & Sons records survive, so it is impossible to accurately date the gun or know who the gun was made for. Still, from known serial numbers, the patent date, and the barrel maker's mark, a pretty good guess can be made. From surviving guns, it seems that Parker, Field & Sons were still making percussion guns and even flint locks around this time, confirming that a maker will make anything the client is willing to pay for!

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Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 05:39 PM
Just came across this article which is very relevant to the conversions here:


Full Size
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 07:26 PM
Steve, your photos are amazing. The history and writing just as good. Look forward to next installment. It is a privilege to be able to read in advance what will be an excellent book.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 07:30 PM
Great article, AaronN. And a good excuse for a temporary diversion from snap-actions. Ask most aficionados of British SxS guns which are the Big Three, and you would almost always get the response "Purdey, Boss, and Holland & Holland," with apologies to Woodward, who somehow gets squeezed out of such lists for no good reason. But for me, the Big Three names are Lang, Blanch, and Reilly, for the reasons pointed out in that article. Joseph Lang, John and William Blanch, and Joseph and Edward Michael Reilly were the first real proponents of the pinfire system. Lang began in 1853, Blanch in 1856, and the Reillys probably around the same time. All of the early guns were of the single-bite, forward-underlever type, with the gradual appearance of Mr. Beringer's lever-over-guard design towards the end of the decade (possibly started by Blanch). While many others eventually joined the party, these three businesses put their reputations on the line for the pinfire system, and should be recognized for their forethought.

The weekly sportsman's newspaper The Field of 2 May 1857 carried the following advertisement: "BREECH-LOADERS. -JOHN BLANCH and SON, Gunmakers, 29 Gracechurch-street, London, beg respectfully to call the attention of their friends and the sporting world generally to the above guns, which are much admired for their rapidity of loading, and the numerous safe-guards against accident which they possess. They would earnestly request those gentlemen who intend favouring them with orders for these guns for the ensuing season to do so as early as possible, that no delay or disappointment may be experienced. A large stock Single and Double guns and rifles and revolving pistols always on hand."

The 1861 census lists William Blanch as a gun maker employing 4 men and 1 boy, and living at 29 Gracechurch Street with his wife and three children. It is easy to forget that in most instances, a gunmaker's address appearing on the top rib of a gun was usually their home, as well as their workshop! At the time his father was living at 25 Hanover St. in the fashionable Mayfair district, but though 77 he had not retired from the business. John Blanch died on 5 December 1868 aged 84, and William continued the business - though he had probably been running it himself for some time. William died on 8 October 1899 and the business continued at the same address until 1914, when the lack of materials, demand and workers meant the firm had to move to a less expensive location. Over the years the firm moved and was sold several times, most recently in 2010, and now operated out of 16 High Street, Cheddington, Bedfordshire.

A good example of a Blanch gun is this 12-bore rotary-underlever sporting gun by John Blanch & Son of London, number 4696, made around 1864, after the Henry Jones patent for the double-bite screw grip action had expired. Gunmakers knew a good thing when it happened, and they were not going to pass up a royalty-free, simple, and strong action design. The 30" damascus barrels carry London proofs and are signed "J. Blanch & Son, 29 Gracechurch Street, London" on the top rib. The barrels also have the barrel maker's initials "TP," which I believe to be for Thomas Portlock, who was in business from 1860 to 1864 at Riley St., Bermondsey. Thomas was the father or brother of John Portlock (there is little information on their origins), and both of these London barrel makers provided barrels to the top London makers. The gun has back-action locks signed "J. Blanch & Son," the dolphin-style hammers have stylized cap-guards, a hold-over from the percussion days, now purely ornamental. Features which seem to be part of a Blanch house style are the fences carved with acanthus-leaf sprays, and the under-lever with a concave finial. The stock has heel and toe caps, a nice touch, and the barrels still have mirror bores. The gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 07:51 PM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
Steve, your photos are amazing. The history and writing just as good. Look forward to next installment. It is a privilege to be able to read in advance what will be an excellent book.

Gene, thanks for the vote of confidence. There will be much, much more in the book, this is meant as a taste.

As to photographs, these are salvaged from my learning attempts, with morning sunlight and cardboard backdrops. I am investing in proper lighting and better backdrops, and I'm building a better support system to hold the guns. Many use a black or dark background, but I want to experiment with white and other colours, and with better controlled lighting. What I've grasped from taking pictures so far is that it is a lot harder than I thought it would be! Since so much can be learned from detail, I want pictures in the book to be crisp and clear. I've also come to realize why so many pictures of antique guns are in black-and-white - it hides all the blemishes of age.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 08:29 PM
I did a little research on who was buying these guns; shooting was a well-to-do sport (commented on previously on this board).

(UK currency up to 1971:
-- 4 farthing = 1 penny (d);
-- 12d = 1 shilling (s)
-- 20s = 1 pound ()
-- 1/1s = 1 guinea (g)

1885:
-- Average annual wage for workers in England - 42/12s a year
-- Average annual wage overall for England - 56
-- Average annual wage for workers in UK total - 42/14s

From Reilly advertisements:
1834 - Double gun fowler with case - 10-20g
1855 - Double gun fowler with case - 10-25g
1885 - Double gun fowler with case - 20-50g

This does not count the cost of ammunition, or the annual hunting license. This might explain why young officers going abroad bought .577 caliber rifles (in order to use issue ammunition). The cost of trying to seem "respectable" or a "gentleman" at the time, with boot blacking, tea, hats, suits, horses, dogs, etc., and the required hobbies gambling and guns, was enormous. Small wonder that UK was run by a very small group of people (who all knew each other it seems). Whatever, a gun was a major outlay of cash for even well regarded "gentlemen."
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 08:55 PM
Good info. Here's a page from John Henry Walsh's book Manual of British Rural Sports, 5th Ed. in 1861.Good guns were very expensive!

Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 09:20 PM
An interesting footnote in the history of breechloading guns is in the Blanch article above, courtesy of Mr. Newcomer. In the mid 1850s the breechloading ammunition industry in England had not yet evolved.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 10:43 PM
Thanks Daryl, "Stonehenge," editor of "The Field," in 1859 discussed the availability of ammunition for pin-fires in UK.



His conclusion was, unless you wanted to pay Lancaster an extortionist amount for his center-fire center-break gun ammo, a monopoly which he refused to let go of, you'd go with the pin-fire....and at that time, all the ammo was coming from France and was readily available in England. By 1862, Reilly, Eley and others were making it in Britain.



(That book is available on line and is a store house of historical information on the state of the trade at the time).
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 10:44 PM
Does anyone know when Eley might have started making pinfire cartridges?

From the IGC Database, Eley Brothers started selling pinfire cases, probably French manufacture, in 1860, and patented their own version in 1861. Is it known if they started making Eley pinfire cartridges in 1861?
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/16/20 11:03 PM
I'll look...So far here are comments "The Field":

21 Jun 1860 "The Field" - Eley selling breech loader cartridge accessory reloader:


17 Oct 1860 "The Field" - Discontent with Eley Red cartridges reloaded for pin-fires.


from 03 Nov 1860 "The Field" about reloading "Lefaucheux" pin-fire cartridges. At that time Boss was making them (or at least marketing them), Eley as well - his "Red Cartridges" - though it looks like there were problems depending on the gun and it is not clear from the comment whether Eley was selling French cartridges or his own..

03 Nov 1860 "The Field"

Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 12:48 AM
05 Jan 1861, "The Field" - first Eley advertisement for pin-fire cartridges:




23 Feb 1862, "The Field" - looks like the major retailers continued to stock French cartridges:
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 02:17 AM
Eley 1861:


Full Size

And my article on it:

Full Size


Full Size
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 02:42 AM
Thanks Aaron, Looking at those "Field" articles, I have to agree with you, the author of the "Pinfire Page" article ...
-- "I think the cartridges Eley listed in 1860 could easily be the same design he patented in 1861,"
But I think even more likely is your second conclusion:
-- "It's completely possible that there was a completely different design that existed that first year."
The commentary in the Fall 1860 in "The Field" about the problems shooters were having with "Eley Red Cartridges" seems to indicate Eley was selling his own shells at the time and that changes had to be made because of feedback from the customers.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 03:33 AM
Also, what are these breechloading shotgun cartridges:


Full Size
Field - Saturday 06 February 1858


Full Size
Field - Saturday 08 September 1860
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 03:53 AM
Still watching and enjoying this thread.

I need to dig up my percussion breech loading cartridge gun with trigger guard underlever, with assisted opening pin on the action flats.

I think it would be a good one to show in this thread.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 04:19 AM
Good find Aaron..The Wire cartridges were well advertised for several years - used in percussion guns. But, darned if I know of those early Eley breech loading cartridges....were they the "Eley Red Cartridges?" Whatever, that 1858 ad is really early - just in time for "The Field" first test shooting.

Eley had enormous military contracts but still found time to pay attention to maybe 500 breech-loading shotguns operating in UK at the time (but admittedly used by the aristocracy). They couldn't have played that important a part since Stonehenge didn't mentioned them at all in his 1859 book. However, all of us would be interested in what you turn up...this is new history in the making.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 12:42 PM
Here's a George Jeffries of Norwich loading machine used for pinfire cartridges as shown in Argo's ad above. It is in a case with a Richard Jeffery [not Jeffries] of Guildford pinfire using the Dougall Lockfast patent.

Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 03:50 PM
Ok Let's take it back even further.


Field - Saturday 15 November 1856

Next week


Field - Saturday 22 November 1856

This seems to be the first ad mentioning cartridges for breech-loading guns.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 05:04 PM
Tinker, by all means join in. If you have a pinfire, I'd certainly like to know more about it.

Gents, wonderful information on the availability of cartridges, the timeline for that is becoming clearer. The requirement of French cartridges might have slowed down the acceptance of pinfires in the 1850s, that and the cost of a new gun -- it's not like muzzle-loaders were wearing out quickly -- so purchases of British-made pinfires were likely restricted to the wealthy.

If French and Belgian pinfires were available at a lower cost, might these have been popular in Britain, once the pinfire system became acceptable? Other than the reference to a Francotte Bastin gun at the Trials, I'm not finding much about contemporary use of European breech-loaders in Britain at this time. The fact that Gustave Masu ran afoul of the proof house laws suggests European-made guns were being sold. Advertisements mentioning French or Belgian breech-loaders might shed some light.

Back to snap-actions. The Purdey action of May 1863 fits in here, but I have neither a Purdey thumb-hole action, nor a Purdey pinfire, to show. Call it bad luck or an insufficiently deep wallet, but a Purdey pinfire has escaped me. I've recently seen a completely clapped-out Purdey hammergun, badly converted, that started out as a pinfire, but at an eye-watering asking price.

I do, however, have an example of the Thomas Horsley Patent No 2410 of October 1863, and its owner had the gun converted to centre-fire at some point. The high cost of good guns goes a long way towards explaining why so many pinfire game guns were converted to centre-fire.

One of the most famous provincial makers was Thomas Horsley of York. His guns rivalled those from the best London and Birmingham makers, and while most provincial makers used Birmingham-made parts, it appears that Horsley only bought barrel tubes from the forgers, and his firm employed its own barrel borers, action makers, stockers and finishers. The guns were of high quality, made with quality materials, and finished to a very high degree. For over 25 years I have sought a Horsley pinfire, and the best I could manage, and only fairly recently, was to acquire an incomplete, converted specimen. The better the original quality, the more likely the conversion to centre-fire will be both successful and aesthetically pleasing, and Horsley guns are an example of guns that do not lose their looks in the conversion process. Finding a Horsley in its original pinfire configuration is a big order to fill, and I'm still searching.

The IGC Database tells us that Thomas Horsley was born on 17 July 1810, in Doncaster. Horsley reportedly worked for Richard Brunton, a local gunmaker, from about 1825 to 1830. In 1830 Horsley bought the Brunton business, and in 1834 moved his home and business to 48 Coney Street, York, while retaining part of the business in Doncaster. In 1851 Thomas was recorded living at the address with his wife, six daughters, his son Thomas, and an apprentice, Richard Dawson. At the time Thomas Horsley was employing four men. In 1856 the firm moved to 10 Coney Street, and in 1861 he was recorded as employing eight men and three boys (his son Thomas was an apprentice).

On 12 February 1862 Thomas obtained patent No. 374 for a sliding-bolt single-bite snap-action, with a push-forward lever acting on a sprung bolt. On 1 October 1863 he obtained another patent, No. 2410, for a pull-back top-lever or slide. The operating lever was located on the top strap instead of the trigger guard, operated in reverse on the same locking bolt. Patent No. 2410 is the one for which Thomas Horsley rightfully developed his fame. While superficially similar in operation to Westley Richards's patent No. 2506 of 1862, already covered in this thread, the locking mechanism is quite different.

While Horsley built snap-action pinfires starting in 1862, and his pull-lever actions from late 1863, he may have stopped building them by 1867, unless a client specifically wanted one. In any case, the time period in which Thomas Horsley built pinfire sporting guns was probably short, making my chances of finding an intact one that much harder.

By 1871 Thomas was employing 22 men and four boys, making him one of the largest provincial gun makers in the country. In about 1874 the firm became known as T Horsley & Son. Thomas Horsley died in 1882, but the family firm continued at various addresses until 1959, when it closed its doors for good.

Gun number 1450 was made in 1866. It is a bar-in-wood 12-bore sporting gun with the patent pull-top-lever, and it started out as a pinfire. At some point it was converted to centre-fire and fitted with an extractor for rimmed cartridges (something that is not necessary in a pinfire gun), and the pinfire hammers replaced with centre-fire hammers. The 29 15/16" damascus barrels have London proofs, and the top rib is signed "Thomas Horsley Maker York, Patent 2410." The action bar has an unnumbered "Horsley's Patent No." cartouche, meaning the patent use number was not recorded on the gun itself. If a Horsley action was sold to another gun maker the patent use number would be added, essentially a licencing mark. Horsley might not have numbered the actions he used for his own guns, though some makers did. Without seeing more Horsley pinfires, I have no way of telling which practice he chose. If he only marked licenced actions, there is no way of knowing exactly how many pull-top-lever guns Horsley built in total.

The gun is a bar-in-wood construction with non-rebounding bar locks, signed "Thos Horsley Patent." The pull-top-lever is signed "Patent" within a banner, and fine scroll engraving decorates the gun. The conversion is a serious affair, the pin holes have been filled and hidden, and it looks like the standing breech has been strengthened with a slab of steel and re-engraved, and fitted with centre-fire strikers. Look closely at the pictures, remarkable work. The thin fences of the pinfire needed reinforcing, something obviously desirable, but I've never seen this level of work in any other conversion. As the gun still has non-rebounding locks I'm guessing the conversion was done around 1870 or earlier, and from the standing breech work I would also guess the conversion could have been done by Horsley (the mismatched hammers with incorrect engraving might have been a later repair). Sadly this example has lost its fore-end and the barrel fore-end loop. Complete, it would be a stunning, stunning gun -- even as a conversion. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 6 lb 14 oz. (minus the fore-end).


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10 Coney Street, York, where this gun was made, as it is today, now The Phone Store (image capture: Aug 2019 - 2020 Google) (correction thanks to Imperdix)

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 05:13 PM
Originally Posted By: Daryl Hallquist
Here's a George Jeffries of Norwich loading machine used for pinfire cartridges as shown in Argo's ad above. It is in a case with a Richard Jeffery [not Jeffries] of Guildford pinfire using the Dougall Lockfast patent.

Fantastic. Finding a British pinfire game gun is reason enough for celebration, finding one in its original case much harder, and the gun, in its case, with the loading tools is rarest of all.

I was once sold a Jeffery pinfire, but what arrived was a Jeffrey - that story is for another day... And I will soon post a Dougall Lockfast, a truly remarkable action.

The starburst detailing on your Jeffery barrels is wonderful. The Guildford Jefferys made superb guns, and like many Provincial makers, could put up work equal to the best London names.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 05:44 PM
Down the rabbit hole if anyone is up for a long read..

I tried to follow the whole thread of conversation about the breech loading cartridges in The Field. It gives a pretty clear understanding of people's thoughts, what guns they were using, whose cartridges they were using, etc. It culminates with that Eley ad on how to use the cartridges. From this too, you clearly see that people were using Eley made pinfire cartridges for a couple years as of 1860.

It begins with someone trying to put wire cartridges into a new cartridge for Needham's pinfire gun. This sparks a months-long conversation about pinfire cartridges and their pros and cons with many anecdata about people's experiences with the cartridges across many guns.


Field - Saturday 06 October 1860


Field - Saturday 27 October 1860


Field - Saturday 03 November 1860


Field - Saturday 17 November 1860


Field - Saturday 01 December 1860


Field - Saturday 08 December 1860


Field - Saturday 15 December 1860


Field - Saturday 29 December 1860


Field - Saturday 05 January 1861


Field - Saturday 02 February 1861
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 07:21 PM
Very interesting reading on the subject of cartridges. High percentages of mis-fires would certainly be off-putting. I have a G & J.W. Hawksley pinfire cartridge extractor, with holes to secure the pin, and a hook to pull out the paper case from a separated base.

If someone went to the trouble of making a tool for it, it was a real problem.

Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 07:53 PM
I own a n early Horsley pinfire conversion No1547 built 1866,it has the patent use stamp on the bar but no number .Can`t figure how to add a picture atm.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 10:06 PM
Imperdix kindly provided photos and of his converted Horsley no. 1547 and information on the conversion. He observes it is probably a later conversion, noting that the top front edge of the lockplates have been filed away to accommodate deeper fences, and that instead of adding a faceplate, Horsley installed a different action frame, something that David Baker believed Horsley did a good trade in, judging from the number of conversions.

It takes a sharp eye to spot some conversions.


Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/17/20 10:32 PM
Stephen Helsley kindly provided two William Powell records, the earliest surviving records of pinfires made by William Powell & Son of Birmingham. This provides great information on the costs of the guns and accessories (note £1/5 for the cost of a Jeffries loading machine).

The first is dated 9 August 1859 and is the earliest recorded Powell pinfire. Earlier day books were lost or destroyed. Owen Powell (no relation) was a long-time client of William Powell. He was also a gunmaker - so Stephen assumes the £11 price reflects the normal 15-20 percent discount.

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The second record is dated 7 August 1860, for numbers 3004 and 3005:

2 best Breech Loading shot guns 30 inches for No16 cartridges Brazier's Locks, stub damascus barrels, stocks buffed & lever over guard £18.10 ea.
1m No.16 French cartridge cases £2/10

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 12:11 AM
Very cool Imperdix, and Stephen Helsley. Those documents are priceless. And they give a solid documentary foundation to Stephen Nash's earlier essay on the beginning of pin-fire break action guns In Birmingham.

Returning briefly to the subject of Eley pin-fire shells: Eley in 1856-58 made "cartridges" for muzzle loaders and needle-guns, etc. Thus, in his advertisements, when he mentions "cartridges" it's difficult to sort out what is what. I gather that "green" are muzzle loading cartridges, and "Red" were unloaded pin-fire shells, but this isn't sure. I believe his "wire fire" "cartridges" for instance are for muzzle loaders though some adapted them to pin-fire shells. We badly need a series of Eley catalogues from the era.

Here is an advertisement from 05 June 1858 "The Field" dealing with both muzzle-loading cartridges and breech-loading husks.


Those 7 years from 1855 to 1862 were truly a time of ferment and change in the British gun industry.

Note: In addition take a look at the H.Holland advertisement between the two Eley ads. Harris Holland puts out a claim similar (not a definitive) to the one that Reilly advertised four years later...i.e.

"As all the work is manufactured upon the premises, sportsmen will have the advantage of viewing it through every stage of its manufacture."
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 03:28 PM
This post has brought out a lot of serious research. Thanks to all. I hope that somewhere along the way, we get a chance to study the conversion guns as the trends departed from the pinfires. There were several interesting ways the conversions were done.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 03:51 PM
Originally Posted By: Daryl Hallquist
I hope that somewhere along the way, we get a chance to study the conversion guns as the trends departed from the pinfires. There were several interesting ways the conversions were done.


I Agree. And I have several conversions (muzzle-loading to pinfire, and pinfire to centrefire) coming up, as well as dual-fire guns. The thorny problem of centrefire cartridge extraction in conversions was addressed in a variety of creative ways.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 03:59 PM
Imperdix has kindly provided additional pictures of his converted Horsley:








The lack of the patent use number on a Horsley-made gun is interesting. And what a graceful turn to the toplever.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 04:05 PM
Wow, already more than 3700 views on this thread, so that puts an end to my belief that all the persons still interested in pinfires would fit in the back seat of my car. Thanks to all who have contributed so far, and thanks to the readers who have been quietly visiting this thread. And I should also take this opportunity to thank and recognize the Internet Gun Club for graciously allowing me to use historical information in their IGC Database in my pinfire research.

There is a lot of inventiveness to come. The next development in snap-actions included the feature of partly cocking the hammers when opening the gun. What seems like an obvious feature now was not so obvious then. The first breech-loading guns were slow to use by modern, hammerless-gun standards. To open the gun each hammer had to be brought to half-cock, in order for the rotating barrels to clear the overhanging noses of the pinfire hammers. Opening the action required another series of movements, more or less awkward depending on the design. Unloading/reloading was simple, a dexterous reversal of hand movements brought the gun closed, and the hammers could be pulled back to full-cock in readiness to fire.

Feathered game hunting in the 1850s and early 1860s was mainly with walked-up game, with limited shooting opportunities during a day's hunt. The speed of reloading was not really a factor in adopting the breech-loader, which in any case was much, much faster than with a muzzle-loader. With the emergence of the driven shoot ("battue") where shooting opportunities were greatly increased, guns that could quickly be opened, emptied, reloaded, and brought to fire were advantageous, as were pairs of guns to be shot with the help of a loader. Before the driven shoot, there simply was no reason to have pairs of guns, let alone perfectly matched ones. In any case, before the days of large-scale pheasant breeding on private estates, a pinfire gun of any type was sufficient to deal with the day's shooting. As driven shoots increased in totals of birds, having a snap-action gun was a decided advantage though, if a second gun was out of the question. In the period before John Stanton's patents for a rebounding lock (firstly in 1867, and improved in 1869 and 1877), various gunmakers tried their hand at improving the efficiency and ergonomics of gun actions, and the assisted part-cocking of hammers. One of the more successful designs was that which appeared in the guns of London gunmakers Cogswell and Harrison.

The "typical" formation of a gunmaker started with an apprenticeship under a recognized gunmaker, and in time the apprentice would become a gunmaker, possibly be taken on as a partner, or move on to set up on their own. In this way the "pedigree" of most gunmaking names can be traced back to the Mantons or other famous 18th Century or early 19th Century gunmakers. However, there were notable exceptions, the tobacconist Harris Holland being one, another being Benjamin Cogswell, the pawnbroker.

The first Benjamin Cogswell started as a pawnbroker in London in 1770, and his son, also Benjamin, was born in 1796. Benjamin Cogswell the younger continued the pawnbroker business, and gradually became involved in the selling of guns, perhaps those held in collateral against loans. In 1842 he bought the pawnbroker business of Edward Benton at 223 Strand. Benton had previously bought this business from Robert Essex, a silversmith and dealer in firearms, who had inherited it from Hector Essex, a gunsmith and jeweller at 223 and 224 Strand. Cogswell advertised himself as a "gun and pistol warehouse." At some point from these premises Benjamin Cogswell found his talents as a gunmaker, and as an inventor. In 1848 Benjamin Cogswell registered a design (No. 1378) for a cap magazine for revolvers, and in 1852 he registered a design (No. 3389) for a six shot revolving pistol. In 1851 his "shopman" was Edward Harrison, and in 1857 Benjamin Cogswell started advertising himself as Gunmaker. By 1860 Cogswell had retired and the business was continued by his son, also named Benjamin. Harrison became a partner in the business, and in 1863 the firm was re-named Cogswell & Harrison. Edward Harrison was a prolific inventor, and on 1 February 1864 he registered patent No. 271 for a part self-cocking, rotating bolt, single bite, snap action pinfire gun, that was very similar to the William Fletcher patent of 1863. The gun pictured here is the 26th gun built on Harrison's patent.

It is a 12-bore with the self-half-cocking underlever action, serial number 5904 made in 1864 or 1865. The 30 3/16" damascus barrels carry the barrel maker's mark of Amos Elvins (Elvins worked for James Purdey before establishing his own business in 1864 at 64 Wells Road, Oxford Street, and he supplied barrels to Thomas Boss and other top makers). The top rib is signed "Cogswell & Harrison 223 & 224 Strand, London", and the back-action locks are signed as well. The push-forward underlever single-bite snap-action with half-cocking feature is Edward Harrison's patent No. 271 of 1864. The round fences have rising rods operating off the under-lever, which push the hammers back to half-cock when the underlever is pressed forward. This allows the gun to be opened in one smooth movement, and once re-loaded, the gun snaps shut with the hammers still at half-cock. The action bar is signed "Harrison's Patent No 26" within an acanthus-leaf cartouche, and this patent use number is also marked on the action table, under the barrels, and the fore-end iron. This action was popular, so a low use number indicates the gun was made early in its run, in 1864 or 1865, depending on the number of guns built on this design. Unfortunately Cogswell & Harrison no longer have the records for guns made during this period, so it is not possible to know how many sporting guns were made each year, or to trace the original owner. The barrels still have mirror bores, and the gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 04:15 PM
Here is yet more information courtesy of Steve Helsley, from the 1854-1859 Journal of William and John Rigby, in Dublin. The client is Lord Otho Fitzgerald, and in August he purchased both a "Foreign Lefaucheux gun" for 10/10 and a "plain Double Lefaucheux gun Best Locks No. 10818" for 23/2.

Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 05:34 PM
The best gun history I have read! Does anyone have a picture of one of those combustible muzzle-loader cartridges? Were the cases opened at the bottom during loading by some sort of projection near the flash hole or merely crushed like the Colt skins?
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 09:25 PM
Somewhere here I have a couple of intact original wire shot cartridges. I'll be on the lookout for them when I get on the task of unearthing the breech loading percussion shotgun.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/18/20 09:28 PM
Originally Posted By: Hal
Does anyone have a picture of one of those combustible muzzle-loader cartridges?

Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/19/20 01:09 PM
Mr. Newcomer, those are great pictures of what must be extremely rare items. Do you have photos of the Needham/Rigby type needlefire ammunition ?
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/19/20 02:01 PM
This was posted on the Reilly line but since the Lancaster "base-fire" system was contemporary to and competed with pin-fires (which won out ultimately), if Steve Nash doesn't mind, I'll post it here also for history.

Stephen Nash's incredibly interesting historical line on the early origin of pin-fires, led to a review of some 1860's Reilly's. The most interesting perhaps is 12boreman's 8 bore Reilly SxS shotgun, SN 14983, with both "New Oxford Street" and "Rue Scribe Paris" on the rib...the earliest extant Reilly with both the London and Paris addresses..making it serial-numbered surely circa February-March 1868. See P.16 of the Reilly line.

The key parts of the gun are the unique hammers and center-fire system:


In Diggory Hadoke's Vintagegunjournal on-line, there is this article about Lancaster:
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/ace-of-base-fire

The article discusses the well-known Lancaster "base fire" center-break, breech-loading system from the late 1850's, and the failure of a superior design because of greed -Lancastrer wanted to monopolize the sale of cartridges for his system.

Take a look at the "base-fire" Lancaster system. Does that not look something like the action on 12boreman's 8 bore Reilly made in 1868?



12boreman's gun is surely unique...a Lancaster "base-fire" design turned into a center-fire. What an interesting time in the history of gun-making.

One would suppose that with the Daw center-fire patent of 1861 (from the Frenchman Pottet), or even more significantly the:
.. 1) 1865 breaking of the Daw center-fire ammunition patent by Eley, and
.. 2) the 1866 revolutionary cartridge/shell primers introduced by American Berdan and a few months later by Edward Mounier Boxer in UK,
. that center-fires just immediately took over the market. Not so. Pin fires continued to dominate up to about 1872.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/19/20 03:53 PM
You can't have too many Lancasters, Argo44, thanks for posting. The Lancaster base-fire, sometimes referred to as the Lancaster needle-gun, was a true contemporary of the earliest British pinfires, and it pointed the way in which the British shotgun was to develop. The information that Argo44 refers to is correct and entertaining reading, especially the part about the proprietary cartridges killing the business. It also must have come to a shock to Lancaster and his customers that the base-fire, at 65 guineas the most expensive sporting gun in London, performed the worst in the Field Trials of 1858. It took me a while to understand that Lancaster's slide-and-drop action gun was also being built under a slightly modified design to use the early Pottet/Boxer or Schneider/Daw centre-fire cartridges. At first I thought these were simply converted base-fires, but no, these were built that way, concurrently with the base-fire. AaronN can tell us when the Pottet and Schneider cartridges first appeared in France, and as to the action designed for them, there is much history.

Albert Henri Marie Renette of Paris obtained a French patent in 1835 for a slide-and-tilt breech-loading action, presumably a capping-breechloader, close to the time Casimir Lefaucheux patented his hinge-action capping breechloading gun, which led the way to his pinfire invention in 1834 [text corrected 30/11/2020, as two earlier Renette 1820-dated patents might not be related to the 1835 patent]. In 1853 Renette's son-in-law and partner, Louis Julien Gastinne, obtained French patent No. 9058 for this breech action on a hammer gun, intended to use the new internally-primed Pottet/Schneider centerfire cartridges. The prolific patent agent Auguste Edouard Loradoux Bellford patented the design in Great Britain, receiving patent No. 2778 of 1853. This is the patent that was later assigned to Lancaster and first used for his base-fire cartridge, and the story behind "Charles Lancaster's Patent" marked on his base-fire and centrefire guns -- though the patent was never taken out in his name.

Here is a best quality 14-bore by Charles William Lancaster, made in 1858 (three years before the Daw gun, and concurrent with the base-fire and earliest pinfires) for Captain Henry John Bower, of the 4th (The King's Own Royal) Regiment of Foot. Gun number 3092 was one of a pair, with 30" fine damascus barrels with an extractor (the first British gun to have one), the top rib marked "Charles Lancaster 151 New Bond Str London. Patent Breech Loader", Lancaster's initials "CL" stamped under each barrel. The back-action locks were converted to rebound locks by Lancaster in 1894. Part of Louis Julien Gastinne's patent, for the extractor, was assigned to Lancaster in 1856. Note the size of the gap at the face when the lever is fully rotated, in partly necessary because of the acute (not 90 degree) angle of the breech face to the bar -- remarkable fitting work.

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At first I thought it was a converted base-fire, as the strikers were was not of the conical form in Argo44's photographs, and the protruding pins fixing the striker assemblies seem an odd aesthetic choice. Then I was fortunate to come across number 3879, a 12-bore, built on the same pattern, made in 1864 for Sir Thales Pease KCB. It was recorded in the Lancaster order book as simply 'under-lever centre-fire', same as number 3092. Neither was a conversion from base-fire, both were early centrefires. In a testament to Charles Lancaster's barrel-making prowess, at some point it had undergone a nitro reproof, and it is now my favourite grouse gun.

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[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/19/20 04:18 PM
Back to pinfires, and we finally get to the famous 1864 Powell Lifter action, next in terms of significant snap-actions to appear. Thanks go to Steve Helsley for some of the historical details below. The errors are my own.

Guns by William Powell & Son of Birmingham are always well built, and this one is no exception. What makes this one of particular interest is that it has been converted to dual-fire with an extractor, strengthened hammers and the pin holes left unfilled, thus being able to use both pinfire and centrefire cartridges.

The Powell name goes back a long way in British gunmaking. The first William Powell started a gunmaking business in Birmingham with Joseph Simmons in 1802, and from 1812 he started selling under his own name. His son, also William, took over the business by 1841. The second William Powell had a son born in 1823, also named William (side note: naming the first son William is a common tradition amongst some family lines in Britain -- it is the case with my family, but being the second-born I escaped this practice). It is the third William Powell that is of interest to me. In 1847 at the age of 18 he was made a partner in the business and the firm's name changed to William Powell & Son.

In the 1861 census records William Powell described himself as a gun maker employing 6 men and 5 boys, which gives an idea of the size of the business. In the 1860s there were few large-scale gunmakers, mostly providing military contracts, and firms building sporting guns were often quite small. Some, and sometimes all, of the work on sporting guns would be done by outworkers providing specific parts, such as locks, or doing specific tasks, such as jointing actions or fitting stocks. While all gun makers were able to build a complete gun (a requirement to becoming a member of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers), in day-to-day business most did only part of the work themselves, such as putting everything together and finishing, and making proprietary designs. It makes me smile when I read descriptions of early breech-loaders that include the term factory-this or factory-that -- when the "factory" probably wasn't bigger than my kitchen, and with less light. But I digress...

William Powell became a Guardian of the Birmingham Proof House in 1855, a post he held until he died in 1905. In the course of his life he registered a number of important patents. The one illustrated here is his very successful Patent No. 1163 (May 1864), for a rotating bolt single bite snap action with a lift-up top lever and transverse pivot behind the action face, which locked against the barrel lump which extended rearwards from the barrels into the action face. This patent was successful for both pinfire and centrefire hammer guns, with some of these actions being supplied to the trade and appearing on other makers' guns. Approximately 750 patent action pinfires were made, out of about 2000 hammer guns built based on this patent in the following 25 years, accounting for much of the firm's business. The lift-up lever continued on their hammerless guns until 1922, approximately 3000 more guns. The lifter action quickly became popular, with two guns sold in 1864, 70 in 1865 and 100 in 1866. This also gives an idea of the scale of a "successful" sporting gun maker in Britain -- compared to American factories turning out thousands of machine-made guns a year. A bespoke maker selling 100 game guns in a year was doing very well indeed.

Many Powell records prior to 1858 have not survived, so it is not possible to know exactly when William Powell first built breech-loaders, but he built pinfire game guns from at least 1859, and the first documented record is the sale of two 16-bore guns August 7, 1860 to Mr Owen Powell, noted earlier in this thread. Powell built his first centrefire breechloader in 1867, and by 1870 Powell was marketing both pinfire and centrefire guns (though probably selling many more of the latter than the former). It is important to remember that pinfires and centrefires were sold and used concurrently in the 1860s, it wasn't a case of makers stopping to make one for the other. Some shooters preferred the pinfire, which offered advantages such as being able to tell easily if the gun had shells in the chambers (by the protruding pin). There was also the matter of availability of cartridges, something we don't think much about nowadays.

The latter point is of relevance to this gun, which was built as a pinfire then converted to dual-fire, to be able to fire either cartridge type. Towards the end of the pinfire period, in the late 1860s and early 1870s, some thought it was a good idea to be able to use both -- because it was not yet certain that the centrefire would prevail (I suppose like some people didn't think the Internet was going to amount to much...). In the case of this gun, converted in 1890, this seems very late, but the owner would have had his reasons.

Gun no. 3690 was first completed on 9 November 1866 for H. W. Lord, who may have been Henry William Lord, barrister and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. However, something happened and this name was crossed out in the company ledger, and the gun was renumbered and sold again on 16 December 1869 under serial number 3790 to "J.B. Dellap", listed as "best patent breech loader, best damascus barrels, 30 in., 7 lb." for £27.50. I believe the original owner was James Bogle Delap of Lillingstone Lovell, Buckinghamshire (born 1847). He was the great nephew of Colonel James Bogle Delap of Monellan, Ireland, whose family wealth came from Jamaican and West Indies sugar plantations. He would have been around 22 at the time of picking up his Powell.

The gun is a good representation of Powell's best offerings, and the conversion was carried out by Powell in 1890. Signs of the conversion are the extractor (not necessary on a pinfire, and in any case pinfire shells had little or no rims), the action bar with recesses cut for the extractor, centrefire strikers fitted to the breech, and metal added to the stems of the hammers to strike the strikers. Unfortunately the cuts on the action bar have obliterated the patent use number, which would have identified how many lifter actions Powell had made up until that point.

Usually conversions were straightforward, though dual-fire guns are rare -- perhaps for good reason. The idea is clever, but how it worked in practice is open for speculation. Would the unsupported base of the pinfire cartridge rupture? Would the strikers uselessly dent the pinfire cartridge base and make the gun difficult to open? Might gases escape from split centrefire cases through the pin-holes? I've not fired the gun, as it is slightly off face, and pinfire cartridges are rare enough.

The gun is in reasonable condition, but it has obviously had much use. Some wood has been replaced near the hinge, not uncommon in bar-in-wood guns. Thin wood on a gun firing thousands of rounds a season is a recipe for cracks and chips.

As a final note, it has been devilishly difficult to find a Powell & Son in the original pinfire configuration. I can only ascribe this difficulty to the soundness of their construction and therefore being good candidates for conversion to centrefire without spoiling the looks of the gun. Like Westley Richards pinfires, I expect, most Powell pinfires were converted to centrefire, and used afield for many more years.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/19/20 11:29 PM
Steve, this is the most amazing line I've read on DGS and you have an incredible collection. It is history, art, gun-smithing, and personalities. Please continue to post. I am compelled to start digging into the UK 19th century press as soon as one of your guns is written about.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/20/20 02:22 PM
Westley Richards again, this time with a snap action with a lateral thumb lever - it looks quite modern!

William Westley Richards's son Westley Richards took over the firm in 1840, four years after Casimir Lefaucheux patented his pinfire cartridge in France. It took a further 18 years before Westley Richards built his first breech-loader, a pinfire, in 1858. In 1862 Westley Richards patented his doll's head and crab-joint gun with the straight-pull top-lever, which I've already covered in this thread. Westley Richards then improved his design by having a laterally-pivoting lever do the same work with less effort, and this pivoting top-lever action was given the patent Number 2623 in October 1864, a month before Abraham Lincoln was re-elected.

From the maker's records, gun number 3509, a breech-loader, was ordered by W. H. Todd on June 27th 1866 and delivered on September 17th. I am fairly certain the gun started as a pinfire. The gun has the centre-fire strikers that Westley Richards developed in 1866 (patent Number 1960), but these were apparently added after the gun was made, as evidenced by the partially obliterated "Westley Richards Patent" markings on the breech face.

One of the problems that very early centre-fire guns had was that hammers at full rest would press against the strikers and risk setting off the centre-fire cartridges if the gun was loaded and the barrels were closed smartly. Westley Richards kept the long-nosed hammers of the pinfire on his centre-fire guns, forcing the user to put the hammers at half-cock in order to open the gun for loading (something that was no longer necessary once the rebounding lock was invented). This safety measure meant that Westley Richards guns of pre-1870 manufacture could be pinfires, dual-fires, centre-fires with pinfire hammers, or conversions from pinfire to centre-fire done by the firm, and all would look pretty similar. What complicates the history of this particular gun is that it has rebounding locks of the type patented by John Stanton. As the earliest Stanton rebounding locks appeared in 1867-1869 and were only commonplace after 1870, that modification to the locks was done after the gun was first delivered. It could be the conversion to centrefire was done then, or it was just an improvement added to an earlier conversion, or even a very early centre-fire gun with pinfire hammers. I wish I could say for certain, but rarely is anything certain in 19th century British guns.

Back to the gun. It is a 12-bore pivoting top-lever snap-action sporting gun, and the 30" damascus barrels carry three sets of Birmingham proofs. To make sure there is no confusion as to who made the gun, the barrels and fore-end iron carry the "WR" mark. The top rib is signed "Patent" and "Westley Richards 170 New Bond St London," and the barrels have an extractor fitted to the breech, numbered to the gun. The bottom breech ends of barrels are left rounded, and bedded against the rounded action body. The top-lever is signed "Westley Richards Patent". It of course has the signature doll's head fastening system and bar-in-wood construction with the "crab joint". The hammers are typically flat-sided (another house style), the fences are beautifully sculptured, and while the well-figured stock is chequered at the hand, the fore-end was left smooth. The fore-end has nice details, with silver cross-key ovals and a carved horn finial. The gun has only line border engraving, which would have been a special request -- the gun itself is quite striking in form, and doesn't need additional adornment. The barrels still have mirror bores, and the gun weighs 7 lb 4 oz.

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Note the striker and extractor work, and the detail in adding a dimple in the action bar for the extractor screw.

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William Westley Richards died in 1865, and Westley Richards retired in 1872. He enjoyed his retirement for another 25 years, something I very much hope to do.

William Henry Wilson-Todd of Tranby Park, Yorkshire, was born in 1828. In The Illustrated London News of September 19, 1868, it was reported that it was hopeful W. H. Todd would be the Conservative candidate for Darlington in the parliamentary election. He skipped that election, and in the 1885 election he lost to the Liberal candidate. He was successful in the 1892 general election, as William Henry Wilson-Todd, becoming the MP for Howdenshire, East Yorkshire, until stepping down in 1903 a year before his death. He was made a baronet of Halnaby Hall, Yorkshire, in 1903, by then his full title was Sir William Henry Wilson-Todd, 1st Baronet.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/21/20 12:53 PM
Here's a Westley Richards, close in serial range to Mr. Nash's gun. This one is still in original pinfire design. I had at one time wondered if the "crab Knuckle" stock design by Westley Richards was a result or solution to using much of the original muzzle loading wood for breechloading conversions. I guess this gun , in original pinfire configuration , sort of disproves my guess.















Posted By: SKB Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/21/20 01:04 PM
Beautiful condition on that Westley Daryl!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/21/20 05:20 PM
That Westley Richards really is in good shape, Daryl, thanks for posting it. I hope readers of this thread will pull out any pinfires lurking in their collections and post pictures and information on them.

Here's the second to last of the snap actions from me, a gun with the S&J Law Patent No 1276 of May 1865, with one of the first snap side-levers. This patent is interesting, as no examples are pictured in Crudgington & Baker's The British Shotgun. However, the real question is whether this gun was from a real gun-making company, or was it just part of a stock swindle...?

With the growing popularity of the pinfire system in Britain in the mid-1860s, a number of new gunmaking firms appeared to fill the demand. One of these was the Breechloading Armoury Company Limited of London, selling guns from their fashionable 4 Pall Mall address for only a short period between 1866 and 1868. One of their guns is shown here, a distinctive twelve-bore game gun with bar-action locks and a slender side-lever to release the breech. The hammers are nicely sculptured, and the thick fences, the radius cut between the action bar and the breech face, and the long action bar are typical features of a later pinfire gun built for improved strength. The top rib is signed "The Breech Loading Armoury Company Limited 4 Pall Mall London", the gun is London proofed, it has 29 5/8" damascus barrels, the bores are fair with moderate pitting, and the gun weights 6 lb 12 oz.

The gun has a high serial number (10244) for a gun produced by a new company that lasted less than three years. This, together with the fact that the firm's name is lacking from the lock plates, suggests that the gun was obtained from an established gunmaker or supplier, with only the company's name added to the top rib. But more on this most peculiar company later.

The very unusual action is a single-bite snap-action worked by a side lever, using part of Stephen and Joseph Law's provisional patent number 2063 of 1865. The original patent belonging to these Wolverhampton gunmakers was for an ingenious design that would release the barrel locking bolt by pulling one of the hammers at half cock. The patent included a pivoting locking bolt whose rounded free end engaged a hook-like barrel lump, with a vertical V-spring applying tension against the bolt. This is the locking system used on this gun, and the action flats are stamped with the inscription "Law Bros Patent." The slender side-lever, when pressed downwards, rotates and disengages the locking bolt. This is slightly different from the patent specification, but it may be that the Law brothers' hammer-release design was too difficult to build or too fragile for heavy use, and was never really implemented. In practice the action works well, though the downward throw required to release the barrels is quite long and, coupled with the fragile build of the lever, one can only speculate as to how many of these levers might have been bent or broken off during a hectic pheasant drive.

Another feature of this particular gun is that it is dual fire, being able to use either pinfire or centrefire cartridges. During the transitional period between the pin-fire and the centre-fire when centre-fire cartridges were still difficult to obtain, some believed such a gun offered the best solution. It appears this gun was built as a dual fire gun, as opposed to being later modified, from the elaborate extractor mechanism. The two-piece strikers appear based on Thomas George Sylven's 1866 patent. Two holes are drilled into the breech face for each barrel, one vertical and one horizontal, meeting inside the breech face. One striker fits in the vertical hole, while the other striker slides in the horizontal hole. The upper striker is retained by a locking screw at the rear of the action, while the horizontal striker is kept in place by a plug fitted flush against the breech face. Upon being struck by the hammer, the first striker moves downwards and its angled tip transfers its energy to the second striker, which moves forward and explodes the cap. Should a pinfire cartridge be inserted instead, the hammer nose would strike the pin and explode the charge before the hammer would reach the centre-fire striker. The gun does not carry Sylven's mark, so it is unclear whether this is Sylven's work, or if this was done by another gunsmith. The centrefire cartridge soon became as readily available as the pin cartridge, and the need for dual-ignition guns disappeared.

The story of the company is quite interesting. It starts with Bertram Calisher and William Terry's capping-breechloader carbine of 1856. It had a very limited service use with the British 18th Hussars from 1859 to 1864, after which the same rifles were re-issued to the Cape Mounted Rifles, until 1870. In addition, some rifles were built by these Birmingham gunmakers for sporting use. In April 1865 Calisher and Terry sold their London and Birmingham premises and patents to a new concern, which was to operate under the name The Breech Loading Armoury Company. The new company was incorporated in May 1865. It aimed to build and market the carbine and other guns, and offered a prospectus to attract investors, making available 6,000 shares at £25 each. The Chairman of the new company was Rear-Admiral Mark John Currie, who had played a significant role in the exploration of Australia and the foundation of the Swan River Colony, later named Western Australia. However, in July 1866 a shareholder took the company to court, accusing it of fraud. While the role or responsibility of the company directors in the matter was never established, the court saw fit to order the winding down of the company in July 1866. In court it was shown that the prospectus shown to investors had a number of gross misstatements -- such as the Calisher & Terry rifles built by the company had been approved and adopted by the government and supplied to the cavalry forces (the British government had only agreed to a trial of the rifles); English, French, American, Austrian and Belgian patents had been obtained (only one English patent had been obtained); several large payments had been made to the company (none had been made); and that 35,000 rifles had been supplied to the Government of New Zealand (which was not the case). Lord Romilly, the judge in the case, stated "I must confess that the statements in the prospectus of this company are beyond anything the worst I have ever met with. The mis-statements are the most wanton I ever saw."

Internet and publication searches tell us that in the short time the company operated, it marketed Calisher & Terry rifles and Beaumont-Adams revolvers which carry the Breechloading Armoury Company name, and, from the example pictured here, at least one sporting gun! While the Terry carbine was a good design, it was never adapted to metallic cartridge use, and was simply superseded by better centre-fire cartridge rifles. The actual maker of the gun pictured here is likely to remain unknown, and if anyone out there has ever seen another Law Bros action, or Breech Loading Armoury Company sporting gun, I'd sure like to hear about it. How a little-used patent appeared on a well-made gun likely built on contract to a company that just retailed the gun is a mystery. Was it a special request? A marketing attempt, to attract clients? Investors? Why use such a little-known patent, when so many others were better, and readily available? The lack of any others turning up makes it impossible to tell.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/21/20 11:40 PM
Not surprisingly, the legal case of The Breech-Loading Armoury Company was covered in the British press at the time. Perhaps of relevance to the gun above is the following notice in The Sportsman of Tuesday 22 October 1867:

"MESSRS JOHNSON AND DYMOND have received instructions to SELL, as above, on Thursday, October 24, at twelve precisely (in the large room, on the first floor), the last of the remaining portion of the STOCK of the late BREECH-LOADING ARMOURY COMPANY, now in the course of winding up ; consisting of patent central-fire shot guns of every description, 120 best regulation muzzle-loading carbines, a selection of sporting rifles, Deane, Hardinge, and Deane's, Colt's, and Lefaucheux revolvers, and miscellaneous stock."
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/22/20 05:33 PM
More than 5000 views on this thread, and climbing...

Here is another snap-action that the authors of The British Shotgun haven't seen in the flesh, and the last in this series of the earliest snap-actions.

It is another bar-in-wood gun. Each maker that tried building them took a slightly different approach, while keeping with the wood-covered action. Some covered the hinge, while others chose to stick to covering the action bar. In any case, seeing a bar-in-wood gun always makes my heart race.

This gun is puzzling for both the maker and the action, and as is often the case with mid-Victorian British guns, many more questions are left unanswered than would be the case with later guns (and better record-keeping). The first breech-loaders were all experimental in their way, some more than others. This one is unusual in having a top lever which isn't the W&C Scott design. It engages the barrel with a small rotating cam bolt, a single bite, which is not very strong compared with later designs. The top lever is quite long, and while effective, it does not feel as solid as other top-lever guns of the period. It is the design of the Birmingham gunmaker John Crofts, patented on 11 April 1866 (No. 1033). John Crofts went out of business in 1868, so the action had to have been made between these dates. In over 25 years of searching and researching, I've not seen another one, or heard of one. Whether the gun was made by Crofts, or the action sold in the white, will never be known.

Crofts is not the name inscribed on the rib and locks. The rib carries the address "27 New Bailey St. Salford Manchester," and the locks the name "Hambling." This is where it gets strange, as the name "Hambling" does not appear in any available references for Manchester. Hambling gunmakers in Blackawton, Devon, include the father, William Bartlett Hambling (1787-1864), and his seven sons William Baker (1812-1862), James (1814-1900), John (1815-1873), Charles George (1820-1878), Hiram Bartlett (1822-1897), Henry (1823-1892), and Reuben (1833-1892), all gunmakers. Reuben Hambling is known to have been in business on his own in 1858 in Brighton, in the South. It appears that Reuben moved to the North of England, and from genealogies and other information, Reuben Hambling was in Manchester in the period of this gun (his daughter, Fanny, was born there in 1869). He would be the only Hambling known to have made guns there.

Further evidence is the local newspaper The Bury Times which published on 14 Oct 1865 a small article titled "Gunpowder Explosion in Salford." The article went on: "On Saturday evening, about half-past seven o'clock, two lads went into the shop of Mr. R. Hambling, gunsmith, Bexley-street, near the Salford Town Hall, to buy a pennyworth of gunpowder. An old man, named Cadden, was serving them out of a small canister, when by a mishap the gaslight from a bracket near the counter ignited the powder, which exploded. The canister contained about one and a half pound. The effect of the explosion was signally destructive. The contents of the shop window, guns and powder flasks, with the window frame and shutters, were all swept into the street. The lads and shopman were burned on the face and hands, but their injuries were not serious." As there is both a New Bailey Street and a New Bexley Street, there is no way of knowing if the paper made an error, or if Reuben Hambling moved from one location to another. He didn't stay long in Manchester and later worked for E. M. Reilly & Co. in London, and finally in Ashford, in Kent. Reuben Hambling died in 1891.

Sadly the gun is not in very good condition, but I'm glad I didn't wait for another to come along. It is a 12-bore pinfire, with 30" Birmingham-proofed barrels. The barrels also carry the mark "Roses Patent." The Rose Brothers (Hales-Owen Mills & Forge) were barrel makers located in Halesowen, Worcestershire, operating between 1860 and 1892. They were well-known for barrels made using a patented method for machine-production of damascus barrels (Roses Patent barrels are worth a post by themselves). The action flats are signed "Crofts Patent" and the back locks simply "Hambling." The top-lever return spring is now weak, the bores are heavily pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 11 oz.

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There are a number of obscure snap-actions that appeared in the timeline covered so far, but most were variations on the same designs, or they simply didn't catch on. Nowadays we don't give much thought to hinge actions, but they are clever designs and part of an interesting evolution of ideas, engineering and practical production.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/22/20 10:14 PM
This line continues to be utterly fascinating.

Steve, as an aside seeing as how I've written a new history of Reilly and am still researching same, this part of the last post is very interesting:

"As there is both a New Bailey Street and a New Bexley Street, there is no way of knowing if the paper made an error, or if Reuben Hambling moved from one location to another. He didnt stay long in Manchester and later worked for E. M. Reilly & Co. in London, and finally in Ashford, in Kent. Reuben Hambling died in 1891."

Could I ask the source of the information on Reuben Hambling's association with Reilly? It may be from Internet Gun Club. I've joined it a couple of times but at something like 10 a week, can't afford to stick around for long. Many thanks.


(Also, could I crib from this post for the Reilly line or should I ask permission from the source?)
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/22/20 11:18 PM
You can Join the Internet Gun Club for about $25 per year. a Great resource and a good price.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/22/20 11:57 PM
Argo44, the information is indeed extracted from the IGC Database. I have been trying to find corroborating information (it may be from census data). You could contact them for the original source material.

Reuben Hambling obviously moved around a lot, and the family was not without mention in the press. In the 2 June 1859 edition of the Brighton Gazette, recounts that Mr Moses Griffith, a journeyman gunmaker working for Reuben Hambling of 112 North St, poisoned himself by drinking barrel browning solution. The Canterbury Journal and Farmer's Gazette of 11 June 1892 refers to Hambling's bankrupcy, due to "slackness of trade both at Canterbury and Ashford" and expenses due to illness (Burgate St, Canterbury and 39 New St, Ashford), leaving debts of £135/2/11. As an insight into the times, the Ashford business was started around 1888 with £60, of which £40 was his savings and a £20 loan from his son. The Canterbury shop was started in late 1891 with a capital of £140 borrowed from his wife. The Birminghan Daily Post of 7 July 1894 recounts Reuben Hambling's widow, Sarah, being accused of stealing £200 from a hearse (!)... in a nefarious scheme with her brother.

It is easy to see these guns as simply objects. It is more interesting to think of them as artifacts of the period, made by people with often colourful lives...

I'm glad you're finding the thread of interest. The pinfire game gun has sat in the shadows for too long, and it is a much larger part of sporting gun history than merely a technological dead-end.

I do have a Reilly pinfire to post, but I need to take some better photos of it.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 02:08 AM
Originally Posted By: Steve Nash
...I'm glad you're finding the thread of interest. The pinfire game gun has sat in the shadows for too long, and it is a much larger part of sporting gun history than merely a technological dead-end...



I am enjoying this thread.
I have a great interest in the fine sporting guns from the era of development of the cartridge gun.

I'd noted earlier that I'd like to show an interesting breech loading cartridge percussion gun.

Hopefully you fellows will see something here.










Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 02:41 AM
Wonderful gun, Tinker. Are there any markings or marks on the gun? Is it French? Is it a Beringer? The combined trigger guard and underlever seems to be in the style of Beringer of Paris. And Ive never seen the rising stud on the action bar on a Continental gun.

Thanks for sharing. Please tell us more!
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 02:51 AM
Steve I'll get more images up for everyone to see
I've had this one for something over ten years, and I haven't gotten into it to make it run - but I will.

My impression had always been that it's a Beringer, or heavily Beringer-influenced, or possibly the inspiration for the Beringer action.
There's no maker's name or mark. No proofs. There is what appears to be a serial number and there's a numerical mark for the barrels.

That opening assist feature, like many "patent" features, likely precedes (by the likely date of it's manufacture) any patent application.

There are some other interesting features.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 03:14 AM
Here's the barrel flats, void of any sort of proof mark.



Here's a top view of the fences. See the dovetail features at the standing breech?
Also, missing here is likely some sort of straddle/mount for percussion cap nipples.



Standing breech and action flats. Also note the lightening cuts in the action bars. I've seen this on British guns and rifles.



I like the engraving on this gun.





The locks. That number is on the barrels too.



Inletting for the locks is very nice



Head of the stock



Action
Interesting features here,
Two bores up high for pins, retainers for the dovetails is my guess.
Lower bore is for a stop-pin for the guard/lever.
Pins are retained via thin steel straps which are retained by small screws.




It really is a wonderful gun, nicely made with beautiful materials. I wonder if anyone here has ever seen something quite like this one.
I have some things to do for it before I run it, but I am enthusiastic about making it bark and taking it to the field
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 03:51 AM
Tinker,
I think what you have is a 'dual fire' gun - pinfire and percussion. I have asked Steve Nash to post a couple of pictures for me. I'll bet your gun either has no ramrod or one that is too short to be of use and/or is not designed to accept cleaning accessories. If so, it was intended to be a 'dead weight' to knock out the percussion cartridges. My Berringer has a trap in the butt for the percussion cartridges. One of my photos will explain how the removable sliding pieces in the standing breech work with the percussion cartridges.
Steve
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:24 AM
Hi Steve

I look forward to seeing the details of your gun.
For pinfire cartridges to work with this gun, the firing pins would have to protude out from the back side (the case head) of the cartridge case, not from the rim and those dovetail features would need to be replaced with parts that would need to have clearance for the firing pins.
I've seen percussion type conversion cartridges for pinfire system, but with these barrels, every pinfire cartridge I've ever seen or handled would/could not breech up in this gun.

There is provision for a ramrod, although it is missing. I'll measure it's ways tomorrow.

Also this gun has no cartridge trap, the buttplate is solid.

Does your Beringer feature the assisted opening stud?

Note the serial number on these locks.
Is it lower or higher (or not even similar) than the number of your gun?
Are these locks similar to the locks in your gun?
The hammer spindles here are hexagonal fwiw.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 02:47 PM
Does the set of barrels on the Tinker gun have the "notches" for a vertical pin like most pinfires ? If so, I cannot see the notches. Then, if no notches I'd suggest that there may have been two sets of barrels. One for a normal pinfire with the breech dovetails set up as they are now. The way I understand the pictures, with the dovetails in place and the pictured barrels in place, there is no means to fire any cartridge.

Then, if the dovetails are removed and replaced by something similar to the Westley Richards conversion that Mr. Nash posted earlier , the gun could be used with this set of barrels as a centerfire. If this set of barrels actually does have the notches for a vertical pinfire pin, then either type of ammunition might be used , depending on which dovetail breech set up is used.

In the scenario I mentioned, the ramrod would serve as the extractor for the "non-pinfire" , possibly centerfire, set up. The pinfire cartridge could usually be extracted by hand or with a small tool designed for same.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 03:14 PM
No notches.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 03:23 PM
I've imagined ways to run it as a pinfire-oid system.
That's not what I'm up to with posting these images.

It's an interesting piece.
I would be excited to see if anyone here has seen something just like this gun.
I'm not expecting to see another one.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:09 PM
Here are the pictures Steve Helsley refers to:


Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:23 PM
The attention to detail on the Tinker gun is interesting. Lots of extra work to store the dovetail pieces when they were not being used. Whatever the plan, at the time it was well thought out and took a lot of work. The effort to store the dovetails when not in use required some disassembly , so the conversion to another mechanism was not a field job.

I have a French Lefacheux [sp ?] actioned pinfire stamped J. Murat on the action flats. The engraving is a similar style [somewhat unusual] as the Tinker gun and the Murat has the thimbles for a full length rod, but too small in diameter to be a cleaning rod. My guess it was used to remove stuck cartridges. Bernard stamped barrels.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:31 PM
The dovetail features look similar to those on my gun, although my gun has no provision for the firing pin of a conventional pinfire cartridge.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:54 PM
Tinker, you have a very interesting gun, one I presume to pre-date British pinfires. Mind, it is devilishly difficult to date French and other Continental pinfires without paper records, as the patterns did not change much until the beginning of the 20th century. However, a gun built as a breech-loading percussion or dual-fire percussion-pinfire would definitely be early. It is remarkable that the pinfire system was in use in France for twenty years before it appeared in Britain.

I'm also taken aback by the assisted-opening stud, a feature I always understood to have been a Hodges/Lang's invention, though never patented. I don't think Casimir Lefaucheux's gun on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851 had this feature, Lefaucheux used a different arrangement to help with opening the barrels and closing the lever. However, Beatus Beringer (6, Rue du Coq, St. Honoré, Paris) also displayed his guns at the Great Exhibition, and the idea might have come from his guns. It seems a bit of a stretch to suppose the reverse, that that Lang first offered the rising stud in 1853, and it was subsequently copied in France?? These Beringer guns have definitely got me thinking in new directions. Similarly, having a removable wooden fore-end might have started with Beringer guns, not the British ones.

I had planned on continuing with British guns, namely Dougall's Lockfast action, but this turn on French guns is a good introduction on how different French/Continental pinfires were in terms of technological advancement and aesthetic designs when the British guns first appeared - with their 20-year head start.

We've just seen the Beringer style. By the mid 1850s the standard Lefaucheux gun had heavy, arching hammer noses, a long forward-under-lever, an iron fore-end (with a small hidden lever to release the barrels from the action, an improvement by the Parisian gunmaker Le Page), a scroll or volute-shaped trigger guard bow, and a straight stock, often without chequering. Engraving styles varied, from open floral scrolls to full-coverage chiselled reliefs, and were usually bolder in appearance than on British guns.

In the flurry of technological advances happening on the Continent, guns were also appearing with push-forward under-levers, side-levers, Beringer under-levers, Bastin-type pivoted under-levers, and many more. These advances were making their way across the Channel, as, for example, Lancaster's slide-and-drop action was a French design by Louis Julien Gastinne, and George Henry Daw's centre-fire gun was designed by the Parisian Francois Eugene Schneider.

While some British makers apparently did copy Lefaucheux's iron fore-end design (I have not seen one, though), at first most favoured Lang's understated forward-under-lever design, after which the lever-over-guard became almost universal. The lines of the British muzzle-loader were followed as much as possible, most evident in the appearance of bar-in-wood guns, with decoration also reserved and understated. That is not to say engraving patterns weren't spectacular when viewed close-up, but they were rarely what one noticed first.

Here is a typical French Lefaucheux-type forward-facing underlever pinfire sporting gun, a 12-bore by Châlet, Père et Fils of St. Étienne, France, serial number 10, made sometime between 1856-1868. It has the Lefaucheux double-bite action with forward-facing underlever, back-action locks signed "Châlet" on the right-hand lock and "A St Étienne" on the left-hand lock, fine chain-pattern double-proof damascus barrels by renowned barrel makers Antoine Heurtier and L. Piney, a scroll-type trigger guard, heavy hammers, minor engraving, and a unchequered walnut stock. The gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz.

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Continuing on the subject of early Continental breech-loaders, here is a Belgian gun. Unfortunately, one can't help but associate 'Belgian gun' with the mass-produced, cheap hardware-store guns, knock-off copies, and otherwise poor-quality guns that were exported in large numbers. The truth is that artisans have been making guns in Liege for over four centuries - that's a lot of experience. Many Belgian guns do not carry a maker's name but are 'Guild' guns produced by one or more artisans.

Here is an example of a good quality Belgian gun, and a reminder that not all Lefaucheux-under-lever guns had all-iron fore-ends. It is a 16-bore Lefaucheux-type forward-facing underlever pinfire sporting gun by Jean-Baptiste Rongé et Fils of 4 Place St. Jean, Liège, Belgium. This gun appears to have originally started as a double rifle, and subsequently bored out to a smoothbore. It has a removable wooden fore-end, and it and the stock are chequered. The metal parts have an attractive deeply etched floral scroll motif. The Lefaucheux lever is iron covered with horn, which is a nice touch. Notice the dovetail on the rib where the leaf sights used to be.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 04:58 PM
Another type of early Continental breech-loader is this peculiar 16-bore Colleye System pinfire sporting gun retailed by August Gottlieb Schüler of Suhl, Germany. The action (and possibly the whole gun) is by Maximilien Nicolas Colleye of Liège, Belgium. The Colleye System is a single-bite pivoted underlever hinge action which, when unopened, has a strong resemblance to the Bastin action (however the barrels rotate, they don't slide forward). The gun has bold acanthus scroll engraving throughout, and the 'island' back-locks (something rarely encountered on British guns) have acanthus scroll and game scenes. The 31" damascus barrels are acid etched, and the gun weighs 6 lb 14 oz.

Maximilien Nicolas Colleye (also spelled Coleye and Coley; also traded as Colleye Fils) was a gunmaker/actioner located in Hoignée-Cheratte, Liège, in business from 1850-1865. He was the son of well-known gunmaker-inventor Henri Joseph Colleye. The Colleye mechanism was apparently popular in Germany, and several large gunmaking firms such as August Schuler of Suhl and Johann Peterlongo of Innsbruck offerred System Colleye guns (Peterlongo had a System Colleye gun on display at the Paris World Fair in 1867). Interestingly, this mechanism never made it to any British pinfire makers, unlike other continental designs like the Bastin and Ghaye system actions, which were offered by several top makers. At a time when there were quite a few competing designs, either it was wasn't popular enough, or Colleye stopped making it.

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Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 05:11 PM
Mr. Nash , the differences in the Continental and British pinfires are interesting. I have often wondered about the choices of gauges. Most Continental, mainly French, Belgian, and German, pinfire shotguns are 16 gauges. I have not paid strict attention to the British gauges, but I cannot recall seeing a British pinfire in 16 gauge. I'm sure there must be some , but rare. We do see British 8, 10, 12, and others.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 05:31 PM
In my experience 16 was an uncommon gauge in British pinfires, as was 14. Another gauge popular on the continent was 24, and I've never seen a British gun with that bore.

I notice in my post on the Colleye System gun, I neglected to show the left side of the action, which has an odd side lever with which the barrels detach from the action. As this is a rare action to encounter, here are two more pictures:




The acid-etching of the barrels is another style not frequently encountered on British guns:

Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/23/20 06:53 PM










28b Lefaucheux pinfire double, damascus tubes and island locks.
This gun is about 2/3 adult size. It's addressed with the inventor's 37 Vivian road address on the rib. Maker's proofs on the barrels and action. Very very good to absolutely goregeous condition.

Thought this might be a fun addition to the Paris conversation
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/24/20 04:29 PM
Beautiful gun, Tinker, thanks for sharing. I have yet to encounter an original Lefaucheux.

I'm going to go back to my comfort zone, the British pinfire. I've already covered the Lancaster slide-and-drop action, but the most famous action of this type seen on pinfires is the Dougall Lockfast, which, like the Powell lifter and the Westley Richards top-lever, carried well into the centre-fire period.

James Dalziel Dougall was one of the first British gun makers to recognise the potential of the pinfire. Initially based in Glasgow, he opened his second premises at 59 St. James St. in 1864, which is when the gun below was made, and marked with the London address. For those who haven't handled a Lockfast (Patent 1128 of 7 May 1860), moving the side lever downwards pushes the barrels forward slightly, disengaging them from raised bosses on the action face and allowing the barrels to swivel for loading. It is not a fast snap-action, but it is immensely strong and suited for both guns and rifles.

Dougall was a tireless promoter of his invention, writing in his 1875 book Shooting: Its Appliances; Practice; and Purpose:

"This is not the place to enter upon personal or commercial matters and I should much prefer in this treatise to sink my identity as a gunsmith altogether, were I not induced to believe that practical experience, honestly expounded, must have weight with impartial readers. I will only say, therefore, that the " Lock-fast" system of breech loaders, with which my name is inseparably connected, is constructed so as to give the old interlocking of the muzzle-loaders to the new weapon. In the Lock-fast it is the stock itself which holds the barrels in their place: the mechanical movement is merely the agent to bring the stock and barrels together. The system also first demonstrated the great fact that the barrels should be held down at their extreme rear, and all genuine progress has since been made on this most important principle. If I knew of a better gun, I should at once adopt it; and feel assured that no unprejudiced reader will blame me for thus frankly stating most honest and conscientious opinions, and the results of experience. Beyond this, however, I will not go, nor carry the war into the camp of the enemy on matters of detail, although this would certainly be commercially justified by the thousand-and-one ridiculous mis-statements which have been set afloat against the Lock-fast breech-loaders, but which each succeeding season sends to the limbo of untruths. It is a fair logical inference, that the complete success of any invention against bitter opposition is the best proof of excellence."

Gun number 1750 is a 16-bore Lockfast sporting gun by James Dalziel Dougall of London, likely made in 1864. The 29 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs and are signed "J. D. Dougall Inventor & Patentee 59 St James St London." The back-action locks are signed "J. D. Dougall" within a banner motif. The Lockfast action conforms with Patent 1128 of 7 May 1860. There is no radius cut at the at root, and the percussion-style fences are thin. However, there are raised bosses on the face of the standing breech and action base, with corresponding indents on the barrels -- making for a very secure connection. The breech flats are marked with "Patent Lockfast" cartouches and London view marks, and the actioner's initials "JMC" on the bottom plate (person unknown). The underside of the action is also signed "J. D. Dougall Patent Lockfast" within a banner. Sadly the bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 6 lb 11 oz.

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Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/24/20 06:00 PM
I enjoy the story that we can stitch together by way of British publications and some remaining shop and sales rocords from these Gunbuilders.

I have a Purdey that features interesting chambers. When I'd contacted the maker they had some information on the commission of the build, but little to no archives on the history and development of the pinfire cartridge type and/or it's application to the build of their guns and rifles.

I was able to find out quite a bit about the customer, and from there I learned about his relationships with some other fellows who were involved in the development of cartridges for sporting and martial guns of the immediate period.

Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/25/20 12:57 PM
That was a wonderful story Mr. Nash published from J. Dougall. It is also noted that Mr. Nash's Lockfast is a 16 bore. First I have ever seen in a 16 bore. Another Dougall design pinfire follows below . This one sold by Richard Jeffery of Guildford. I have seen several Dougall actions retailed by other makers, some with little engraving. This is a 10 bore, but weighs in the mid 7 pound range. Between the action flats the name of J. Wilkes is stamped. Apparently the person who created the action.











Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/25/20 05:02 PM
Mr Dougall is definitely an interesting subject for research, and I hope someone will someday publish a history of his business, inventions and writings. My earlier post focused on his patent Lockfast action, but there is much more to cover.

Around 1840 at the age of 22 James Dalziel Dougall inherited his father's business at 52 Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, with the firm then described as gunmakers, fishing & fowling tackle makers. In 1844 James was admitted as a burgess and guild brother, and in 1845 he was admitted as a fish-hook maker. Not every gunmaker started out only as a gunmaker!

By 1848 the firm had acquired additional premises at 51 Argyll Arcade and James described himself as a fishing tackle maker and practical gunmaker. His business offered "an extensive assortment of Fowling pieces" and "in the workshop department every care is taken in the manufacturing of guns, the best material only being used and superior workmen only employed"; "Guns restocked and bored to shoot close and strong". From 1850 the firm occupied 23 Gordon Street and traded as gun maker and fishing tackle manufacturer. An advertisement at this date stated "Fowling pieces. Rifles etc. made to order to any style or pattern. and their shooting warranted, being bored and tested on an unerring principle." In 1851 the gunmaking part of the business employed 6 men. In 1854 James described himself as a gunsmith and fishing tackle manufacturer.

James Dalziel Dougall is frequently said to have been one of the first English gun makers to recognise the potential of the breech loading guns exhibited by Casimir Lefaucheux at the Great Exhibition in 1851, but he was not without reservations about the system. In his 1857 book, Shooting Simplified: A Concise Treatise On Guns And Shooting, he wrote:

"Another novelty is the rapid introduction of breechloading firearms. These have been in common use in France for the last fifteen years, and are said to have stood the test of that period. It is yet immature to decide upon their merits. They are strongly advocated as excellent by many sportsmen, but the strength of our powder is so much greater than that of the French or Belgian, that they have still to pass through a severe ordeal before receiving the full confidence of British sportsmen. How long the jointing at the breech end may continue to withstand the tremendous vibrations of our heavy charges, time alone can show. It is far from the author's wish to attempt giving an ipse dixit opinion upon these new arms; his only desire is to place the question before his readers. He will not be the last to give his free adhesion to a movement when there is really an increase of quickness or power. It is this word, "quickness," on which the whole question hinges. Is this great quickness desirable in sporting as well as in war? And is it quite an improvement to deprive the pursuit of game of those little rests, while loading, to men and dogs, which preserve their strength throughout the day, and add a zest from the incidental conversation during these pauses? In grouse and partridge shooting can the dogs be so handled, after firing and killing, as to render the quickness in loading advisable ? Were extermination of game the purpose of the sportsman, the use of a gun which can be loaded in a few seconds would certainly be a desideratum. The author is informed by an experienced sportsman that he can raise a hare from her form, place his cartridge in his gun while she is running, and kill her afterwards. On the other hand it may justly be argued that great rapidity of loading is an advantage in many cases, for instance where birds after long unavailing pursuit are suddenly fallen in with. All sportsmen must know what is here meant, the huddling up as it were of game in a corner, where only one or two shots can be obtained, and the remainder of the birds go off before the guns can be reloaded. Such tantalizing incidents must be fresh in the memory of most sportsmen. For the wilder kinds of sport, as duck-shooting, that of rock pigeons on the coast, and of golden plover, rapidity of loading is much to be desired. For woodcock at certain times, when they are found in wisps, breechloaders will also be in request. The reader may desire to know something of the formation of this novelty. Instead of being closed behind with a breech, the barrel is an open tube, working on a hinge at the extreme forward end of stock. The false-breech is a solid mass of iron, with the front perpendicular surface of which the breech end of the barrels, when in position for firing, is in close contact. There is a small notch in the top of each barrel. An apparatus below rapidly fixes and unfixes the barrels. The ammunition is made up in cartridges, containing powder, shot, and the means of ignition, all in one. To load the gun, the barrels are removed from their seat, and playing on the hinge expose the open breech ends. Into these the cartridges are placed, and the barrels restored to their seat. A wire connected with a detonating cap in the cartridge comes through the notch in top of barrel, where it receives the blow of the hammer when fired. Of course no powder flask, shot pouch, wadding, caps, or ramrod are used. When fired, the process is repeated, only withdrawing the empty shell of the cartridge. Many of these shells are so little injured as to be fit for refilling. The barrels are said to keep wonderfully clean during the hardest day's shooting. One of the very best judges of fire arms, a gentleman of scientific attainments in these matters, for whom the author has had the honour to make many guns, writes to him in these terms, " In a few years muzzle loaders will be, as flint locks are now, in the category of things that were." Nous verrons."

He changed his tune rather quickly, perhaps prodded by the business opportunity the breech-loader presented, as in the same year he published in The Field an advertisement which read "BREECH-LOADING GUNS.-In addition to the manufacture of the very superior Fowling-Pieces which have gained the Advertiser so great celebrity as a gunsmith, he has now respectively to state that he is preparing to take Orders for BREECH-LOADING FOWLING PIECES. A few excellent light Double guns on hand, of best quality, will be sold at a very moderate price, as he is now working entirely to order against next season.-J. D. Dougall, 23 Gordon-street, Glasgow. Established 1760." Curiously, Dougall insisted that his clients call pinfire cartridges "douilles", the French term.

On 7 May 1860 James Dalziel Dougall registered patent No. 1128 for his famous "Lockfast" action, where the barrels, rotating on the hinge pin which turned by means of a downward moving lever also acted as a cam, sliding the barrels forward before dropping down, and locking into bosses on the action face when closing.

The 1861 census listed his son, John, aged 19, as a gunsmith. In 1864 John was left to run the Glasgow business while James moved to London and opened a shop at 59 St James's Street. John Wilkes (which Mr Hallquist above mentions as the actioner on his gun) worked for the London business from around 1867, he was also working for Edwin Charles Hodges, the well-known actioner. In 1868 James described himself as a "patent lockfast gun and rifle maker and fishing tackle manufacturer", but by 1871 he described himself as a breech loading gun and rifle manufacturer, having dropped the fishing tackle business. In 1872 James Dalziel Dougall was appointed Gun and Rifle Manufacturer to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), who ordered a Lockfast gun. The firm was also given an appointment to Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh.

As a side note, St. James Street in London is very short in length, yet at some point it housed some of the best gunmakers of the day: Dougall (number 59), James Woodward (number 64), Stephen Grant (number 67a), John Rigby (number 72), Boss & Co. (number 73), and Charles Moore (number 77). Locke & Co., the famous hatters (and inventor of the bowler hat in 1846, originally for gamekeepers) were at number 6, and they are still in business at the same address (since 1686 -- and that's not a typo).

James Dalziel Dougall died in 1891, aged 72. James left behind a number of written articles (under the pseudonym "A Glasgow Gunmaker") and books, including "British Rural Sports", "Scottish Field Sports", "The Shotgun and Sporting Rifle ", "Shooting Simplified", "The Rifle Simplified", and "Shooting: Its Appliances, Practices and Purpose".

I've already covered a Dougall Lockfast pinfire game gun in this thread, so today let's look at a cheaper and less desirable model. It is a standard 16-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun, serial number 1486, likely made in 1863, around the time Dougall ceased making percussion guns. The 30" damascus barrels have London proofs and a barrel maker's mark "W.H.", which I've yet been unable to trace. The top rib is unsigned, and the back-action locks are signed "J. D. Dougall." The gun was probably ordered from "the trade" as a less expensive offering than the proprietary Lockfast, with James and John Dougall concentrating on making the Lockfast action for themselves and other gunmakers (I have seen photographs of Dougall pinfires with bar locks, which may or may not have been done in-house, but this is the only back-action Dougall that I know of). The rounded hammers have forward flanges, a trigger guard bow with a round stud to fix the under-lever, and a long top strap. The figured stock has old repairs at the comb and toe, and the chequering is almost entirely worn off (as is almost all the foliate engraving on the action bar). The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 6 lb 11 oz.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 01:19 AM
Great information you all. I had a Reilly "side-lever" pin-fire in my database, the first "side-lever" Reilly. It had no serial number so was likely only engraved and marketed by Reilly. I can't find the file and advertisement!!!. I only have parts of a photo of it that I put on the Reilly line as a collage of Reilly Pin-Fire hammers. But, reviewing Steve's information on the "Lockfast sporting gun by James Dalziel Dougall of London" (dated 1864), I'm pretty sure that this Reilly was in fact a Dougall.

Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 03:17 AM
And Daryl, didn't we discuss this face once before? Kind of forgotten what was said. Something about an Ent, or a woodnymph, or something.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 04:22 AM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
And Daryl, didn't we discuss this face once before? Kind of forgotten what was said. Something about an Ent, or a woodnymph, or something.



Interesting, I had grabbed the same frame of that photo for an engraving practice exercise.

This fellow appears in the dark arts scenes of a different pinfire gun that I found many years ago.



Along with these critters



And this one on overwatch

Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 12:55 PM
Yes, some time ago we had several opinions about the "face". Interesting things do show up in engraving in this period. I love the dragons, gargoyles , and faces of various, I hope, imaginary types. I have thought the face might be Lucifer creating those interesting fire motifs around the pinfire pin holes in the top of the breech. Whatever, or whoever, it is, it is surely fun. I'll bet the engraver enjoyed creating it.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 01:01 PM
[quote=Argo44]And Daryl, didn't we discuss this face once before? Kind of forgotten what was said. Something about an Ent, or a woodnymph, or something.
[/quote

It`s the face of The Green Man.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/26/20 05:18 PM
Outstanding engraving, and quite mysterious!

Some pinfires had game scenes, but most had acanthus-leaf scroll engraving, a fore-runner of the fine rose-and-scroll or bouquet-and-scroll patterns prevalent on later guns. Acanthus is a group of flowering plants common in the Mediterranean basin. The Romans and the Greeks greatly used the acanthus leaf motif in architectural decoration. This was continued in Byzantine architecture, Medieval sculpture and wood carving, decorations in illuminated manuscripts, in Renaissance works, and on through to the Victorian era where acanthus leaf patterns can be seen almost everywhere. So, it is not surprising that the starting point for decorative gun engraving in Britain was the acanthus leaf. Often disguised as repetitive scrolls, the more open designs show the leaves very well. When done properly, the effect is subtle and discreet, placing the British pinfires apart from more ostentatious decoration on Continental guns.

Some makers made use of the same engravers, and over time 'house styles' developed. Boss & Co always used the Sumner family for engraving. Here are two Boss & Co. pinfires, or should they be called early Stephen Grants?

Boss & Co., "Makers of Best Guns Only," is always placed in the list of top three or four British gunmakers. Famously only producing one quality of gun ("Boss gun, a Boss gun, bloody beautiful, but too bloody expensive!" reportedly said King George VI), Boss & Co. has had an interesting history, and the firm continues to this day.

In 1780 or shortly afterwards William Boss moved to London to work for Joseph Manton, alongside James Purdey. In 1804 his son Thomas was apprenticed to him at Manton's, but when William Boss died in 1809 Joseph Manton took Thomas on for the remainder of his apprenticeship. Thomas Boss finished his apprenticeship in 1811 and continued to work for Manton, after which he set up his own business in 1812 as an outworker for the London trade, doing work for James Purdey, Charles Moore, and Charles Lancaster amongst others. In 1837 he moved his business to very fashionable 76 St James's Street. In 1851 Thomas Boss employed 10 men, and also his nephew, Edward Fields Paddison, as a journeyman gun maker. The firm made about 70 guns annually. Thomas Boss hired on a number of close family relatives into the business, with one exception: Stephen Grant, his workshop foreman.

Stephen Grant had served his apprenticeship with William Kavanagh & Sons of Dublin, from 1835 to 1842. In 1843 he moved to London to work for Charles Lancaster, and in 1850 he started to work for Thomas Boss. Thomas Boss died on 17 August 1857, aged 67, and his widow, Emma, then aged 62, inherited the firm. She made Stephen Grant the managing partner of the business, and during this time the quality of Boss guns was in particularly high regard, though its designs were conservative. In 1866 Grant left and established his own business at 67a St James's Street, almost next door to Boss & Co. which, it was reported, was a great source of friction with his old partner. Stephen Grant went on to become one of the best London gunmakers and his guns, notably his sleek side-levers, are still much sought after. Whether Grant still built a few pinfires from his new address, or started making centre-fire guns exclusively, is not known to me.

Here are two near-identical 1863-dated guns carrying the Boss & Co. name and St. James street address, built a few months apart by the same outworkers' hands, and whose quality was overseen by Grant. In fact, most Boss & Co. guns made during the period Stephen Grant was managing director were pinfires, as Boss & Co. started making them in 1858 (alongside percussion guns), and did not start making centre-fire guns before 1866. The actioning on these guns was by Edwin Charles Hodges, barrels by John Portlock, stocks by Daniel Holliman, screwed and finished by William Byrne, completed with locks by Joseph Brazier, and engraved by John Sumner. They were sold by Boss & Co. from 76 St James's Street, and like most British guns of the period, many skilled hands were involved in their making.

12-bore number 2024 was built for Charles-Cecil Martyn, ordered on 22 December 1862 and completed on 3 April 1863. It has a double-bite screw grip action, 29 7/8" damascus barrels, and weighs 6 lb 6 oz.. Martyn would have been 53 when the gun was purchased. He was a very wealthy man, having inherited £150,000 from his father, who died in India in 1830. Charles-Cecil Martyn was elected to the British parliament in 1841 for the seat of Southampton, but Martyn's election was declared void the following year on accusations of bribery by his agents. Sadly he did not have long to enjoy his gun, as Martyn died in 1866.

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Near-identical 12-bore number 2068 was also made in 1863, built for Sir Sandford Graham, 3rd Baronet Graham, Kirkstall, Yorkshire and Edmund Castle, and Captain, Grenadier Guards. This gun is also a double-bite screw grip action with 29 7/8" damascus barrels, weighing an even 7 lbs.. Sir Sandford Graham was 42 years of age when he picked up his gun, and had more time to enjoy his, passing away in 1875. Of note, his father, the 2nd Baronet, was a close friend and travelling companion of Lord Byron, the English poet, peer and politician. What a circle these people moved in!

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These are good examples of the pinfire game gun as an expression of the wealth and influence of their owners, for whom shooting was an upper-class pastime, on shoots held at fine estates. I wonder in whose presence these guns were used?
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/27/20 01:15 PM
Mr. Nash, it is interesting that you have found the names of those who worked on the Boss guns pictured. Which of those workers were "in house". We know Sumner was not, were the others in that same situation ?

The Boss pair you show were very similar, made in the early 1860s. I assume that Boss had , even at that time, developed his Brand, making owning a Boss something special in the gun ownership world. Without holding those Boss guns, I do not see a big difference in quality as compared to other, less familiar names you have pictured. The lock engraving does not stand out above others. Salesmanship seems a very important part of the industry even that early.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/27/20 03:26 PM
Originally Posted by Daryl Hallquist
Mr. Nash, it is interesting that you have found the names of those who worked on the Boss guns pictured. Which of those workers were "in house". We know Sumner was not, were the others in that same situation ?

The Boss pair you show were very similar, made in the early 1860s. I assume that Boss had , even at that time, developed his Brand, making owning a Boss something special in the gun ownership world. Without holding those Boss guns, I do not see a big difference in quality as compared to other, less familiar names you have pictured. The lock engraving does not stand out above others. Salesmanship seems a very important part of the industry even that early.
Thankfully some makers' records have survived, better still if the names of the outworkers used are noted. In the Boss & Co records, space is provided for the various tasks, with names written in some records, left blank in others. I'm assuming if there is a name it is an outworker, and the absence of a name means it was done in-house (I have another Boss pinfire, a single, for which no names are specified). Barrel makers often sign their work on the barrels (as in this case, JP, confirming the paper record), and the Portlocks (either brothers or father and son, information is not clear) supplied barrels to the best makers. The locks are stamped 'JB' for Joseph Brazier. EC Hodges is known to sign his actioning work, but I have not found his mark (it might be behind the breech face, but I have not removed the stock to confirm this). I expect outworkers used on a regular basis could fulfil their tasks to the required standard, including 'best' work.

You are right, salesmanship was as important then as it is now. Also location of the shop (as I pointed out in an earlier post, short St. James Street housed Boss & Co., JD Dougall, James Woodward, Stephen Grant, John Rigby, and Charles Moore), and royal patronage had a lot to do with a firm's standing. I honestly doubt you could differentiate them in terms of quality (they probably got their locks, barrels and furniture from the same suppliers, and used many of the same outworkers), and the Boss doubles I pictured earlier are fine guns, but with no outstanding features. I believe Boss & Co adopted the slogan 'makers of best guns only' some decades later, and in the 1860s might only have used high prices to enhance their snob-appeal.

From the Sporting Gazette, 19 June 1869:

Boss & CO., Gun and Rifle Manufacturers. --- BOSS & CO. beg respectfully to inform their numerous patrons, and the nobility and gentry generally, that their business is carried on at their old established shop, 73, St. James's-street (next door to the Conservative Club,) and that they have no connection whatever with any other house. N.B.-Several good second-hand guns and rifles for sale by celebrated makers.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/27/20 03:35 PM
There are outstanding reference works on British gunmakers and gunmaking. Some focus on histories of single makers, while others cover the entire range of makers and craftsmen employed in the dizzying variety of trades associated with the gun trade. Nigel Brown's three-volume set British Gunmakers is an invaluable resource of the latter type, as is Geoffrey Boothroyd's Revised Directory of British Gunmakers. Essential on-line resources include the Internet Gun Club database in the UK, records of official censuses, business directories, newspapers, birth-and-death records, and the collective knowledge of experts scattered amongst many discussion boards, such as this one. You would think that between all of these there are few surprises left, but every so often some new information turns up, like an address not previously recognized. It really shouldn't be surprising, as especially in the early days of breech-loaders, businesses were often small affairs where few guns were made in a year, and businesses could move location in between years that business directories were compiled or censuses taken. Barrel rib inscriptions and printed case labels might offer some tangible proof, but these are only as common as surviving guns and cases, and engraving and printing errors did happen to help confuse matters.

Today's gun, a 12-bore by George Fuller of London, is an example of a gun that doesn't quite fit existing knowledge, and is more than what it first appears. I believe it is a muzzle-loader-to-pinfire conversion, and I suspect past owners of this gun might never have noticed all of the scattered clues.

George Fuller was born in 1793 in West Ham, Stratford, London. He started his gun making business at 2 Dean Street, Soho, 1832 to 1834 (after working for or serving an apprenticeship under the great Joseph Manton). From 1835 to 1841 Fuller was at Caroline St, St. Pancras, and in 1845 he was recorded in business at 104 Wardour Street, Soho, where it appears he shared premises with John Evans & Son, Engine Lathe and Tool Manufactory (known to be a supplier of a percussion cap-making machine). George Fuller then moved to 30 Southampton Street in 1846, with additional premises in Maiden Lane. Around this time his son, William Charles, joined him in the business. In 1853 he took over the business of Joseph Wilbraham at 280 Strand, with additional premises at 404 Strand (Wilbraham had himself bought the gunmaking business at 280 Strand from William Child, in business 1826-1850). George Fuller's trade labels from 1857 to 1861 stated "Gunmaker to H R H The Prince Consort", so he was evidently a London gunmaker of reputation and quality to have obtained a royal warrant.

In 1857 and 1858 George Fuller advertised in The Field: "George Fuller, gunmaker, 280 Strand (having heard of the decease of Thomas Boss, the celebrated gunmaker of St James's Street) begs to inform noblemen and gentlemen, that he, having learnt the business of a gunmaker from the school of Joseph Manton, will be found equally competent to carry out every part of mechanical power as well as shape, weight, etc. to the precise model of T Boss's guns."

In 1872 the business moved to 15 Wynch Street, and in 1874 to 6 Newcastle Street. His final move was in 1878 to 3 Waterloo Road, but he continued living at 280 Strand where he died on 28 September 1881. The business was sold to Alfred Woods. Nigel Brown notes only three George Fuller guns are known, numbers 368 and 383 from the 1850s, and gun number 1068 dating somewhere from the 1860s to 1871. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a fourth George Fuller gun, number 245, converted to pinfire.

On the face of it, it is a standard-looking double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun, of typical form. Look more closely, and there is much, much more to this gun. It is number 245, much earlier than the three known Fuller examples (assuming his numbering system was sequential by date). The shortened 26 1/2" twist (not damascus) barrels have London proofs, and the early-style wide top rib is clearly signed "Geo. Fuller. 10. Wardour St. Soho. London." Already this poses a problem, as Fuller is not known at that address. There is a gap in knowledge for the period between 1841 and 1845, and he could have set up at number 10 before sharing premises with Evans at number 104... but that's just a guess. Number 10 is close to Leicester Square and is a much more exclusive location, and perhaps it proved to be too expensive to maintain, considering his next address was a shared occupancy with a machine tool business. The absolutely magnificent stepped back-action locks are signed "Geo.E Fuller", with acanthus engraving and the tails of the plates flawlessly chequered (imagine doing that with hand files!). The only other examples of similarly 'stepped' back-action locks plates I can recall have been on percussion sporting guns by Thomas Reynolds, who either apprenticed with, or worked for, Joseph Manton, which might further connect Fuller to Manton. The trigger guard bow has a worn game scene engraving, and the iron heel-plate has an extended tang and another worn game scene. There is an abrupt mismatch in border engraving where the lock plates abut the breech, suggesting slightly cut lock plates (it may have originally been an 'island' lock). The style of engraving on the action body and top strap does not quite match the style of engraving on the lock plates, trigger guard and butt plate tang, with the latter parts exhibiting more wear. As a conversion the breech parts are very good, with percussion-style fences, a long upper tang, a marked radius (curve) between the vertical breech face and horizontal action bar, a handsome under-lever, and nicely shaped hammers. The figured stock has a silver escutcheon engraved with the letters "F.L" in elegant script, but this is insufficient to trace an owner, which could date from the original gun or the conversion. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 3 oz.

The twist construction of the barrels, their shortened length and wide sighting rib, the trimmed lock plates, the mismatched engraving styles, a game scene covered by the under-lever, an 1840s-era Fuller serial number, early styles such as a long butt tang, and a Wardour St. address all point to the conclusion this gun began as a George Fuller muzzle-loader and was converted to the pinfire system, by him or someone else with considerable skill. I have to say it is the best such conversion I have seen. Conversions of muzzle-loaders to pinfire, and even centre-fire, do exist, some makers specialized in such work, and the ones that have survived to this day often exhibit superlative smithing skill. I encountered this gun on a table at a southern Ontario gun show, and I expect it had changed hands several times previously as a "wall-hanger" before I came along. The seller did claim to having fired it, and I'm grateful it survived the ordeal. From a collector's standpoint I consider this gun a real "sleeper," and it goes to show how much interesting information can be gleaned from just another gun-show curiosity.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/28/20 02:40 AM
Stephen...the Fuller gun and its story is outstanding. That is true gun detective work - an "Ouvre Noir" sort of thing...trench coats, black and white crossing lines from blinds, jazz.. And the gun is still elegant. Nice job, nice find, excellent write up. Your book will be a must have.

In my records, I have an !857 Reilly muzzle loader converted to centerfire allegedly in the mid 1890's but more likely around 1880 ... but virtually the entire gun was replaced, receiver, stock, hammers - the only things that might have survived were the tang, forearm and barrels...not worth looking at IMHO except for the unique label.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/28/20 04:04 PM
Is that Fuller left handed ? I think the conversions are most interesting. I've seen some that were works of art. A friend had a Purdey that went through several conversions. If memory is correct, I think 4 conversions. I'll try to get details if possible.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/28/20 04:43 PM
Beautiful Fuller gun. I have serial number 1162; a centre fire 12 bore double with Jones underlever. Most of the original finish is still visible and has seen little use. It has been re-proofed for Nitro. A friend has a big bore Fuller single tube lock. Fuller was equal in quality of workmanship to both Boss and Purdey but much less well known.

Steve, happy to e-mail you pictures of my Fuller if interested. Lagopus..
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/28/20 07:38 PM
Thanks, Gents. These guns carry interesting stories from a different age. In some cases we can know a bit more of the story than others, and sometimes the clues are simply mystifying. Conversions of muzzle-loaders to breech-loading are of particular interest to me -- sometimes it was a favoured barrel that was re-purposed and a new gun built around it, in other instances as much of the old gun was retained as was possible -- whatever the circumstances, the risk was deemed favourable over the cost of a new gun. Every such conversion I've encountered has used the post-1862 Jones-type double screw grip action with the rearward under-lever.

Yes, the Fuller gun pictured above has the under-lever fitted for a left-hander. And I'm not surprised that a well-made gun could go through several conversions, though the most extreme step has to be from front-stuffing to cartridges. For grouse hunting I use a converted single-barrel muzzle-loader, now a nitro-proofed breech-loader. I don't know if it was converted to the pinfire system before its final conversion to centre-fire, but it could have been.

Continuing on the subject of muzzle-loader conversions, here is another one, where as much of the original gun was retained, using the original barrels, locks, stock, and most of the furniture. A new action and fore-end was fitted to the existing parts, and a "new" serviceable breech-loader emerged.

Spotting a pinfire-to-centrefire conversion is usually easy most of the time, with tell-tale signs such as plugged pin holes, pinfire fences with drilled strikers, awkward extractors, and hammers not quite in perfect balance with the gun's looks, either by their shape or mis-matched engraving styles. However, I suspect there are shooters of vintage doubles that don't realize their gun started out as a pinfire -- they can be that well done. Spotting a muzzle-loader-to-pinfire is, in my experience, trickier. It is also rarely encountered, perhaps an indication that it was not so common a practice to start with. It would take a very good gun, and a very good craftsman. If you could afford a very good gun in the first place, you could probably afford a new gun without so much of a blink. So, it probably involved a gun that had a special significance to the owner, or it might involve a gunmaker who had old stock that might never sell, and it probably made sense to break it down and rebuild it. I will cover examples of each type of conversion, to demonstrate the kinds of clues one might look for in looking for such conversions.

Here is 16-bore which carries no maker's name and address, and at a casual glance it could be a no-name gun built "for the trade" by one of the hundreds of Birmingham back-alley craftsmen, with a post-1862 unmarked Jones-type double-bite screw-grip under-lever. Upon closer inspection, much of this gun doesn't add up. The serial number marked on the trigger guard tang is 11226, a high number usually found on established makers's guns, not small makers. It also has a mechanical trigger guard safety, common on percussion guns but an uncommon hold-over into pinfires. Furthermore the safety is signed "Patent Safety," though again with no name. Such a feature would not be found on a low-cost gun. The barrels are 28 1/16" in length, which may have been cut back from a longer original. The Birmingham proofs partly obliterate earlier proofs, which shows the barrels were sent back to the proof house. The locks are unsigned bar-locks, but the cross-pin, the screw that binds the locks to the gun, has been re-located and the old hole re-filled and re-engraved to hide it. On one side the plug has fallen out, revealing the secret. The bores are now pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 6 oz.

Generally speaking, the 7-lb pinfire game gun is a pheasant, partridge, pigeon and snipe gun, and heavier builds might be used for waterfowl. When guns are engraved with game scenes, they almost invariably picture one of these, along with dogs. Engraving carries a cost, so no more than what is requested or necessary is usually carried out. In the case of underlever guns, the trigger guard bow is normally not engraved where the lever sits over it, as there would be no purpose to hiding the decoration. On this gun, the trigger guard is indeed engraved, with what appears to be a lion no less -- hardly what one would expect to encounter on a local pheasant shoot. The style of the engraving on the furniture is different than on the action and hammers, and is closer to the style found on the Fuller. All of these clues together lead me to speculate the original gun was a large-bore muzzle-loading double rifle, which was subsequently converted to being a pinfire smoothbore game gun. To fit the locks to a new action the lock plates had to be reshaped and the cross pin had to be relocated, the re-bored barrels had to be re-proofed, and the original furniture retained. Quite the job!

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Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/29/20 04:09 PM
To go along with the Fuller and No Name conversions, here's another conversion . It uses many pieces from what must have been a Williams and Powell muzzleloader. The unusual conversion design was by A. G. Genez. His work seems top notch. Notice the Genez patent and the slide forward design. Genez made no attempt to cover up the Williams and Powell origin.









Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/29/20 06:12 PM
That Genez conversion makes your standard boxlock or sidelock look positively dull. The face with the raised bosses resembles the Dougall Lockfast. The long lever is very attractive, and probably very sound mechanically. I've never seen another one. Some makers specialized in conversions, perhaps Genez was one who did? Any American-linked pinfire, in this case involving New York (AG Genez), is a rare find indeed, thanks for posting it. Great pictures!

Another type of conversion is when a maker uses existing or old stock from which a conversion is made. I believe this gun is one of these, an 8 lb 3 oz 10-bore by James Woodward of London, converted from a Charles Moore percussion pellet-lock gun (where detonation involved spherical pellets of mercury fulminate coated with iron oxide, each about 2mm in diameter). The 30 11/16" twist barrels (not damascus) suggest a very early date. The wide top rib is signed "James Woodward 64 St. James Street London," and the duck's head-style bar-action locks are signed "C. Moore Patent". Charles Moore and James Woodward were at 64 St. James Street between 1843 and 1872. In 1827 Charles Moore invented the "isolated" or "bar-in-wood" lock ("island" locks are usually back-action locks, so an isolated bar lock is quite special on a sporting gun). Such locks were found on Charles Moore pellet-lock guns, which pre-date the copper percussion cap, and the words "C. Moore Patent" might refer to patent No. 4611 granted to William Westley Richards for the pellet-lock in 1821, as Moore was building his guns to this patent (or he may have further adapted the patent -- I haven't been able to confirm this). Moore percussion guns and pistols also carry this inscription on their locks, which may indicate their being conversions from pellets to percussion caps. It would appear the gun was re-built by Woodward using Moore isolated locks fitted and adapted to a breech-loading action, perhaps taken from existing stock, or from a gun returned to the makers. Another clue is the style of engraving on the locks is different with a more open foliate design, rather than the tighter scroll elsewhere on the gun.

Charles Moore was the son of William Moore, a maker already covered in this thread. Charles Moore was appointed furbisher to St. James Palace and Hampton Court in 1829, and as gunmaker to William IV in 1836. In 1827 James Woodward joined the firm as an apprentice. He later became head finisher, and in 1843 Woodward was made a partner, and the firm started to trade as Moore & Woodward at 64 St James's Street. Charles Moore died in 1848, and in 1851 the name was changed to James Woodward, becoming James Woodward & Sons in 1872. The firm was sold to James Purdey & Sons in 1949.

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To see examples of Charles Moore island locks and lock inscriptions, a simple Google search should provide results. I found several on a first try, but for copyright reasons I will not reproduce them here.
Posted By: Stanton Hillis Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/29/20 09:33 PM
Steve, the locks on that Fuller are breathtaking. Thanks so much for posting the pics of it.

SRH
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/30/20 01:51 AM
Hey Daryl,

I have a handful of Genez loaded cartridges with his top wads if you need a few.


Full Size



Full Size

Here is what I wrote about A. G. Genez:

The firm of A. G. Genez was a manufacturer of high quality double barrel shotguns. They also made conversions on guns from earlier types of detonation forms, such as pinfire or percussion, to newer formats, such as centerfire. They also loaded and sold shotshells for their manufactured or converted breech-loading shotguns. The company was established by August G. Genez in 1846 on Warren Street in New York City. In 1860 the company moved to 9 Chambers Street and operated there until November of 1880 when it was advertised as succeeded by Vincent Bissig.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/30/20 05:59 PM
Those cartridges are a remarkable find, AaronN, and the information in the advert is intriguing.

Staying on the subject of muzzle-loaders converted to the pinfire system, here is a single-barrel game gun with a repurposed barrel.

We tend to think of single-barreled guns as being inexpensive meat guns, beginner guns, youth guns, and at the other extreme, extra-fancy trap guns. The Victorians also had a varied relationship with single-shot guns, which generally fell within one of several categories. There were the mighty punt and market guns for shooting at rafts of waterfowl; light game guns for shooters with slight frames; specialty guns for natural history collectors on their countryside walks; concealable poachers' guns; and guns re-built around a particularly treasured barrel. The cost of a single-barrel gun was not much less than for a double, so unless there was a specific request, few were made. New single-barrel guns built to order will be the subject for another day.

Before the days of choke, a barrel that shot well and true was highly prized, and muzzle-loaders were often believed to shoot better than the early breech-loaders (rightly or wrongly). It is not much of a stretch to picture someone who did not want to lose the patterning quality of their muzzle-loader, asking a gunmaker to build a new breech-loader around that barrel. Some gunmakers specialized in conversions, one of these being Thomas George Sylven of London. He had begun as a journeyman gunsmith in Scotland, making guns for established makers (he worked a short distance from John Dickson and Joseph Harkom, amongst others). He set up his own business in London in 1863, at 33 Leicester Square and 10 Panton Street, Haymarket, and later moving to 44 Bedford Street, Strand, in 1865.

Around this time he built gun number 399 for a client who wanted to re-use the barrel of a muzzle-loading gun built by Richard Seffens, a gunmaker who was in business at 5 St James, Haymarket, from 1820-1825, and at 10 Orange St, Leicester Square, between 1826-1829. Perhaps that gun had sentimental value, or was just a fine-shooting gun. In any case the client wanted to extend the life of the gun while following the latest fashion. The result is quite balanced, and other than the hexagon shaping of the barrel base and the inscribed top barrel flat, you wouldn't know it was a conversion.

The barrel is 29 13/16" in length, and the action is an unmarked Jones-type double-bite screw grip. It has a number of attractive flourishes, with a prominent percussion fence, an extended top strap, and a toed-in 'dolphin' hammer nose with a stylised cap guard. The back-action lock is signed "Thos Sylven London" within an acanthus cartouche, and the overall condition is very good, with much original colour present. The barrel still has a mirror bore, with only light pitting at the breech. The gun weighs 6 lb 1 oz.

The butt has a skeleton plate, a feature commonplace on later guns but very uncommon on a pinfire. Contrary to muzzle-loaders, pinfires did not have to be held with the butt on the ground for loading. Muzzle-loaders had iron butt plates to protect the stock during this procedure, and this characteristic feature carried over unnecessarily into most pinfire guns. Some makers started experimenting with wood butts, chequered or plain, heel-and-toe caps, skeleton plates, and horn, all of which were common from the 1870s onwards.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/31/20 02:31 AM
Wonderful post ....Never thought about the rarity of single barrel fowling guns from the period. In my entire database from that period, there is one Reilly single barrel wild-fowler 11937 (circa April 1861) - I don't want to have to pull that trigger - but this 4 bore might more likely have been in the punt gun category. Have no idea what it was converted from...muzzle loader or pin-fire:

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/14918/lot/52/
A 4-BORE (4IN) SINGLE-BARRELLED HAMMER WILD-FOWLING GUN E.M. REILLY, NO. 11937
Damascus barrel engraved 'E. M. Reilly & Co. 502 New Oxford St. London Converted by J. Squires 14 New Castle St. London.'
Weight 15lb. 2oz., 14 5/8in. stock, 39in. barrel, 4in. chamber, nitro reproof

Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/31/20 04:47 AM
Heres a couple more Genez ads too.





Posted By: Roy Hebbes Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/31/20 02:57 PM
Steve,
Nice to see the Fuller again!
Best regards,
Roy
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/31/20 04:12 PM
In a perfect collector's world, antique guns would all be in near-pristine condition, in their original cases with labels, and with complete sets of tools and loading implements. Oh, and with the original bill of sale, and copies of the maker's order books and sales ledgers. It's nice to dream.

Interesting guns in high condition do turn up, but affording them is another matter, and cross-border trade is getting to be even more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. For a limited-budget collector focused on a theme, a period, or a specific maker, you have to make do with what is available, and sometimes "interesting" and "condition" are at polar opposites. While it is easy to walk away from an antique gun purchase, it could well be the only one you will see in your lifetime, and putting up with blemishes might be worth it in the end. Today's offering is a case in point. "Rode hard and put away wet" doesn't begin to describe the state this gun is in. It might have been worn out before it was converted to centre-fire, and then used for decades more, repaired when necessary. Then it got neglected, and eventually stripped of useful parts and relegated to the proverbial junk pile. But to prove the point that all pinfires deserve a second look, let's have a look at this one.

This converted pinfire is from Theophilus Murcott of London. Let's stop here for a moment. That name should be recognized by any modern side-by-side fancier, as the inventor of "Murcott's Mousetrap," the first successful hammerless double gun (while remembering that Jean Samuel Pauly and François Prélat together developed in Paris around 1808 the very first hammerless double - firing a central-fire cartridge no less -- but it was a commercial flop).

Theophilus William Murcott was born in 1816 in Birmingham. He appears to have moved to London in about 1837, and managed a wholesale ironmongery (hardware) business in Oxford Street on behalf of his father. There is no record that he served any gunmaking apprenticeship, but later in London as an ironmonger he would have sold guns, wadding, and powder and shot, and probably was a keen live-pigeon shooter. Around 1851 Theophilus Murcott acted as a London agent for the Birmingham gunmakers Tipping & Lawdon, although they had their own London shop (at 26 Bartlett's Buildings, off Holborn Circus, in an area frequented by lawyers). He probably bought guns for his own shop and as part of his wholesale ironmongery business. In 1854 Murcott opened his own gun shop at 16 Essex Street, Strand, and by 1861 he had moved to live and work at 68 Haymarket, under the business name Theophilus Murcott & Co. The 1861 census records Theophilus and his wife Mary living at that address with his children Charles, Elizabeth, Mary and Theophilus, and Charles and Sarah Hanson. Theophilus Murcott, his son Theophilus, and Charles Hanson described themselves as gun makers. It was not unusual for a gunmaker and his apprentice/workman to be living under the same roof. On 15 August 1861 Theophilus Murcott senior and Charles Hanson registered patent No. 2042 for a hinged and rising/falling chamber block operated by an under-lever. In 1866 Theophilus changed the name of the business back to Theophilus Murcott. By this time he was known for his conversions of muzzle-loaders to breech-loaders, skilled work as we have seen.

On 15 April 1871 Theophilus Murcott patented the first successful hammerless gun (patent No. 1003), a under-lever cocking bar action sidelock with either a single bolt engaging with the rear lump or a Purdey double bite, which was nicknamed "Murcott's Mousetrap" by one of his competitors, a name that stuck. Theophilus advertised his gun in The Field and Field and Water magazines as "THE LAST GUN OUT- Theophilus Murcott, Gun-maker, 68 Haymarket, invites the attention of the nobility, gentry and the sporting world generally to the new GUN he has recently patented. The advantages offered by it are rapidity of action, perfect security, nonliability to accident, extreme simplicity of construction. The first is attained by the lever, which opens the barrels to receive the cartridge, also cocking the gun, the second is insured by the bolt on the top indicating whether or not the gun is ready for discharge, the third is exhibited in the entire absence of all external projections, while the fourth is shown at a glance at its mechanical principles. Its shooting powers are guaranteed to be second to none. An inspection of the gun is respectfully solicited by Theophilus Murcott, Patentee and Maker, 68 Haymarket." In 1878 the business was sold to W W Greener. Theophilus Murcott died on 19 May 1893, aged 75.

Today's gun is not one of Murcott's patent actions, and while it is lacking hammers right now (and looking decidedly naked), is not one of his hammerless designs. The cut-off centre-fire hammers the gun came with are sitting in a drawer, as I would rather focus on the gun's origins as a pinfire. It is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun made around 1870, serial number 1194. The 29 3/4" damascus barrels have London proofs, and carry indistinct barrel-maker's marks. A one-piece extractor has been added and fitted to the barrel lugs, with corresponding grooves cut into the action bar (this was no small alteration, and with the pin holes superbly filled in and disguised, the conversion was done with some skill). The barrel rib is signed "Theops Murcott 68 Haymarket London SW" within a scrolling banner, and the non-rebounding bar locks are signed "Theops Murcott," also within banners. The locks are marked "J.S." on the inside, for John Stanton. Stanton, together with Joseph Brazier and Edwin Chilton, all from Wolverhampton, were the best and most famous lock makers at the time. While difficult to see now, this gun was quality. There are two raised clips on the trigger guard bow, and the serpentine fences are well shaped -- though now drilled and tapped for centre-fire striker assemblies. It has the short top strap in keeping with its bar locks, and the starburst detailing at the breech ends where the pin holes were (now filled-in and re-engraved) is particularly attractive, as is the general pleasing quality of the engraving. The stock has a good figure, but the chequering of the stock and fore-end has long since been worn away. The bores are seriously pitted, and what is left of the gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz. It was once a beautiful and resplendent sporting gun.

A bit more information can be gleaned from the initials "T&L" on the barrel flats between the lugs. I believe these to be for Tipping & Lawden, Murcott's old employer, who may have performed the conversion. Thomas Tipping and Caleb Lawden were in business since 1837, and in 1877 the firm was sold to P Webley & Son.

Finally, the silver stock escutcheon has the initials "RBS 28th Regt". The gun was owned, and perhaps first ordered, by Captain Robert Burn Singer of the 28th (The North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot. He became an Ensign in September 1858, purchased his first commission as Lieutenant in February 1864, purchased his second commission as Captain in October 1868, in all serving 19 years in the regiment, notably in India and Gibraltar. A Murcott of London pinfire with Stanton locks would have represented a big financial investment for a Captain, so he may well have had the conversion work done to keep it in fashionable working order.

The gun may be a bit of a wreck, but in more than 25 years of searching I have never seen another Murcott pinfire, heard tell of one or seen one mentioned, or illustrated in print or on-line. I wasn't about to wait for another to come along.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 07/31/20 04:15 PM
Originally Posted By: Roy Hebbes
Steve,
Nice to see the Fuller again!
Best regards,
Roy

Roy, it was the most interesting 'accidental' find I've ever come across!
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/02/20 01:53 PM
Mr. Nash, I particularly enjoy the Sefrens single barrel. I appreciate how the gun might be close to looking like it did when the owner took first possession. Wood to metal fit on the top tang picture, barrel finish, and the unique [at that time] skeleton buttplate. Very fine gun.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/02/20 02:54 PM
Steve, I've sent you pictures of my Fuller gun.

As to conversions I have single 20 bore that says 'Converted by E. Roberts, Birmingham' in the top. Careful examination just reveals that he took a single muzzle loading barrel, brazed on the breech hook and fitted it to an action with top lever and then stocked it. The only original piece from the conversion appears to be the barrel!

I have an interesting Murcott double 20 bore hammerless that is not a 'Mousetrap' but has the general appearance of a box-lock although the cocking is unusual. I showed it to Graham Greener and looking at it it bears some similarities to the Greener 'Facile Princeps' model. It was always though that Greener bought out Murcott for the London address and rights to the 'Mousetrap' although Greener never seemed to have used that patent nor made guns under the Murcott name unlike his use of Needham's name. Could Murcott have inspired the Facile Princeps and this is what interested Greener? Another Gunmaking mystery! Lagopus..
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/03/20 01:37 AM
This is from "The Field" 28 Dec 1856. It is from their anonymous "let-me-answer-your-question" section and is the "Field"'s explanation for the then current state of center-break fowling pieces. - the Beringer under-trigger lever is prominently mentioned. The whole explanation, however, is confusing. And these were the authorities at the time.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/03/20 05:50 PM
The use of cartridges with a nipple and cap instead of a pin - sort of like a removable chamber for a muzzle-loader - is something I've only seen in pictures, such as those provided by Tinker and Mr Helsley on pages 11 and 12 of this thread. I suppose if one ran out of pinfire cartridges, such devices could temporarily turn the gun into a muzzle-loader, but I'm guessing that with the increased availability of prepared cartridges and primed hulls and reloading tools, especially towards the end of the 1850s, such retrograde devices would no longer be needed and would have fallen by the wayside. If you happen to have a copy of Macdonald Hasting's slim book English Sporting Guns and Accessories, there is another picture of one on page 66.

OK, I went back and picked up the single-barrel conversion, and it does feel wonderful in the hand, the weight and balance seem just right. The owner must have been very pleased with the conversion work, and it is always good to remember that these old guns were once someone's pride and joy, and they delivered satisfying days in the field.

A repurposed barrel is one thing, but what about purpose-built pinfire singles? There was a very limited demand, as rarely was one barrel preferred over two. As breech-loading began appearing on more mundane guns, not surprisingly this included single-barrel guns, and the moderate-to-cheap single-barrel pinfire was popular on the Continent, judging from the number that have survived. Singles were popular in France, where walked-up shooting was the norm. Better and best-quality singles did appear on the Continent and in Britain, but in Britain at least, a best-quality single would have been more expensive than a lesser quality double, and a good-quality single would not have cost significantly less than a double gun. I have not encountered many singles in my years of searching.

Here are two 'best-quality' singles to consider today. The first is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun by Boss & Co. of London, ordered by Sir John Harpur-Crewe (1824-1886), 9th Baronet of Calke Abbey and High Sheriff of Derbyshire, on 1 July 1864 and completed on 5 October the same year. I believe the gun was purchased for his son Vauncey, for his 18th birthday (on October 14 of that year). Sir Vauncey Harpur-Crewe (1846-1924) became the 10th (and last) baronet. He was a very avid shooter and collector of natural history specimens (a hobby for which this would have been the perfect gun). The gun has a short sighting rib at the breech signed "Boss & Co. 73 St James Street London," and the back-action lock is signed "Boss & Co.." It has a 30 1/16" damascus barrel, which still has a mirror bore. The gun has a standard LOP of 14", and weighs a very light 5 lb 4 oz. If I'm not mistaken, Boss & Co. only made three pinfire singles in their entire history. Like the two Boss guns covered on page 14 of this thread, it is beautifully made, but understated in its appearance.

The Wikipedia entry for Vauncey Harpur-Crewe notes "...Sir Vauncey concentrated on building up his enormous collection of stuffed birds, bird's eggs and Lepidoptera. His collection included birds shot by himself, and rare or abnormally coloured specimens bought from dealers and taxidermists. By the time of Sir Vauncey's death, the taxidermy collection numbered several thousand cases. Although some of this was subsequently sold to meet heavy death duties, much remained at Calke, only coming to light sixty years later."

Vauncey Harpur-Crewe
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If you take a moment to Google 'Calke Abbey' and 'taxidermy', and I suggest that you do, you will see many specimens which I expect were collected with this gun. The Victorians did like their taxidermy displays!

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The second is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun by John Dickson & Son of Edinburgh, made in 1875, late for a pinfire. It also has a short sighting rib over the breech, and the barrel is signed "John Dickson & Son, 63 Princes Street, Edinburgh," and the back-action lock simply "John Dickson & Son." The fine damascus barrel is 31 1/16" in length and still has a mirror bore. Both the barrel and action carry the maker's mark J.D.&S, leaving no mystery as to who built the gun. In pure gunmaking excess, it has two beautifully-shaped percussion fences, neither of which is in any ways functional. It also has the most beautifully-figured stock of any pinfire I've seen. This is another single with standard measurements (LOP etc) and is not a 'boy's gun', as singles are often characterized. According to John Dickson & Son this gun was made entirely in-house, and at the time of this gun the firm employed 18 men and boys, while using some outworkers in Edinburgh to assist with barrel browning and case-making. Unfortunately the sales ledger no longer exists so it is not possible to trace the original owner. Dickson made 5 pinfires in 1875, two singles and three doubles (of the latter, one was built with a Bastin sliding-action). In all Dickson made 10 single-barrel pinfires between 1864 (when he started making pinfires) and 1875. This gun weighs 6 lb 7 oz.

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The Dickson has a horn butt plate, a rarity on a pinfire.
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Singles being "rare birds," perhaps in a later post I'll cover these in greater detail, with some others. The Dickson in particular has interesting features, in part from being a mid-1870s gun.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/04/20 01:27 PM
Steve, some of the late Dickson pin-fires may have been made for the eccentric collector Charles Gordon. If you have the serial number of the one illustrated I could check that in Donald Dallas's book on Gordon. He was having muzzle loaders and all sorts made long after they were obsolete.

Reference to the Harpur-Crewe family at Calke I can vouch for the large collection of taxidermy. Calke is not far from me and open to the public; or will be again soon when Current conditions allow. Lagopus..
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/04/20 09:27 PM
The single Dickson is number 2820, and using Nigel Brown's book would put it around 1867, which is incorrect. John Dickson & Son informed me that Dickson's built their actions in batches and shelved them to get the build economy when a customer walked in and ordered something obscure. The serial number 2820 was from an earlier batch of actions and therefore out of sync with the the rest of the 1875-dated guns.

I'm told Charles Gordon ordered twelve 12-bore pinfires and two 32-bore pinfire pistols from Dickson's. Thanks in advance for checking the number, Lagopus, I don't have that book.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/05/20 01:41 AM
Stephen could you help with this. This is an under-lever from a Reilly which was originally a single-bite pin-fire...the serial number should date it to March 1858. However, there are a lot of problems with this identification. And this U-L doesn't look like a Beringer. What is it?

Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/05/20 04:45 PM
Steve, I can't find it listed as a Gordon gun but Dallas's book on Dickson records it as a single barrel 12 bore 32" back lock pin-fire sold by them on 17th July 1875. Lagopus..
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/05/20 05:20 PM
Originally Posted By: lagopus
Steve, I can't find it listed as a Gordon gun but Dallas's book on Dickson records it as a single barrel 12 bore 32" back lock pin-fire sold by them on 17th July 1875. Lagopus..

Thanks for looking up the information. Someone must have been very happy on that day!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/05/20 05:57 PM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
Stephen could you help with this. This is an under-lever from a Reilly which was originally a single-bite pin-fire...the serial number should date it to March 1858. However, there are a lot of problems with this identification. And this U-L doesn't look like a Beringer. What is it?

Argo44, here are some random thoughts after looking at your picture. The thin fences do suggest an early date, and I believe single-bite, rearward-facing underlever actions were beginning to be made prior to Henry Jones's double-bite screw grip patent of late 1859. I've presumed that John Blanch may have used a Beringer gun purchased in 1855 as the inspiration for the lever-over-guard design, with the lever fitting over the fixed trigger guard bow instead of Beringer's combining the lever and the trigger guard, shown previously in this thread. I'd be happy to be proven wrong on this, but I haven't come across anything to counter my speculation. As Reilly was with Blanch and Lang among the first to offer British pinfires in the 1850s, a Reilly gun in 1858 with a rearward underlever would not be impossible, even if most guns being made around the time of the Field trials were said to have the forward-facing underlever.

In your picture, the space between the rear of the trigger guard bow and its 'tail' appears filled in. I've gone back to my collection to look if this particular flourish is found on other guns. Normally this interstice is left empty, but I now notice a few guns in which the space is filled or partly filled: a Dougall Lockfast, a James Erskine underlever, and the single Dickson from my earlier post. Having the underlever shaped to fill the interstice in front of the trigger guard bow is uncommon, but not as unusual as the former. Makers had a lot of latitude when it came to shaping metal, and it is the extra, 'unnecessary' flourishes that fascinate me.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/06/20 12:44 AM
Not trying to hijack this excellent line and this will be my last question about this pin-fire. Yes, the off putting part of the under-lever was the space filled in in front of the trigger guard. That took some work. Reilly did make Beringer-style under levers...sketch on p. 1 is from probably Summer 1859 - and actually that sketch appears to show the very same type of under-lever with the space filled in:



But there are other elements of this Reilly pin-fire, however, that have me buffaloed. It is a strange gun with never before seen features and there's a feeling it actually was made after 1860. A key might be the action maker, "S.Breeden." If the gun were indeed March 1858, the action maker, was active probably in Birmingham and that's a lot earlier than we thought for Birmingham made center-break actions or guns. Any idea who S.Breeden was and when and where he worked? (nothing found on the interned, census records, birth records so far.)

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/06/20 03:06 AM
Argo44, Nigel Brown's British Gunmakers Vol. 2, lists a Samuel Breedon, Washwood Heath, Birmingham, 1859-1865. The IGC database lists this name as a 'Gun, Rifle & Pistol Maker'. Perhaps this alternate spelling might turn up some census data or other information.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/06/20 07:44 PM
How did one become a gun maker? There have been a small number of self-taught gunmakers, persons with an affinity towards guns and shooting, and who were inventive and skilled with tools, but these self-taught makers were the exception. In any case, these "gunmakers" might have been more concerned with the business side of things, rather than the actual making of guns or gun parts. Guns were generally built of parts made by specialist craftsmen, and assembled and finished by different specialists. These skills had to be learned, and this was usually done through apprenticeships.

A typical apprenticeship to learn a trade was for seven years, though in some cases could be longer. Such apprenticeships were bought and paid in advance, a welcome source of money for the master. Pay was minimal and might only be in the latter years of the training, a sum less than that for a journeyman (daily paid worker) [Note: a journeyman was a craftsman who although had successfully completed an apprenticeship, could not employ other workers; they were often called jack or knave, and this is where the expression "jack of all trades master of none" comes from]. Masters would be obliged to provide room and board, which is why so many gunmakers had an apprentice living with them at their work address. A typical age to start an apprenticeship was 14, but could be younger depending on the trade. During the 7-year period the apprenticeship could not gamble, or go to the theatre or a public house, and certainly could not marry. Some kept apprenticeships very much in the family, and in the gunmaking business, training their sons who were expected to learn and continue the business. There were other incentives for completing the apprenticeship, for instance an apprentice who had not completed his term would not legally be able to work in his trade for another master.

The first years would involve tedious, repetitive work until a sufficient level of skill was achieved. An apprentice would not be let anywhere near finished parts or a complete gun, lest he make a mistake that would require parts being discarded or work re-done! An apprentice would typically start by making the tools they would be using throughout their working lives. After completing an apprenticeship, the worker would usually continue as a journeyman for four or five years or more. They could then become a Master in their own right by applying to the Guild (The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, a livery company of the City of London established by Royal Charter in 1637), a process involving a fee and the presentation of a "masterpiece" to be judged by the Guild (now you know where the word "masterpiece" came from).

The inter-linkage of master and apprentice, and apprentices becoming masters, means that the educational lineage of gunmakers can be traced through the apprenticeships they went through, and the apprentices they in turn trained. It can be said that British gunmaking as we know it started with Joseph and John Manton, in their style and pursuit of performance and quality. Apprentices of Joseph Manton include such names as James Purdey, Charles Lancaster, Joseph Lang, William Greener, and Thomas Boss. They in turn trained the next generation, and so on. When a former apprentice finally made it on their own, who they had trained under was proof of credentials and often emphasized in their advertising, and on the guns themselves. For instance, when James Purdey started out marking his guns with his name, he added "From Manton".

Frederick Gates was born in 1838. He was apprenticed to Harris J. Holland (of Holland & Holland fame) in about 1852. After his apprenticeship he continued working for Holland, and in the 1861 census Harris J. Holland and his wife Eliza were recorded living at 6 Harlesden Cottage, Willesden, London, and Frederick Gates lived next door at Rose Cottage. In 1863 Gates moved from London and bought the business of Orlando Smith at 14 London Street, in Derby. All of this follows the general practice described earlier, a 7-year apprenticeship, followed by a period of work under the Master, then setting out on their own. In 1868 the business moved to 4 Market Head. An advertisement in the Derby Ram dated October 10th 1868 stated "Frederick Gates, Gun and Rifle Manufacturer, 4 Market Head, Derby, (Late Mr Steel, Jeweller), begs to announce that he has removed his business to more convenient premises as above, where by attention to all orders entrusted to him, he hopes to continue to receive the support which has hitherto been so kindly accorded to him. Breech Loaders from £9 to £35. Every description of sporting apparatus". Shortly after the business was sold to R Dobson, who continued the business under the name Frederick Gates. In 1877 Charles Rosson joined as a partner and the firm became known as Dobson & Rosson. Frederick Gates meanwhile had emigrated to California, where he established a business at 37 Sutter Street, San Francisco. In 1878 he moved his business to Monterey, closing in about 1900.

Today's gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun by Frederick Gates of Derby, and it has no serial number. I am presuming it was sold in the latter years of Gates's business, made by him or the Birmingham trade, but it could also be a gun made or retailed by Dobson. Output could have been small enough that no serial numbers were assigned. The 30" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and an indistinct maker's mark "M&P". The barrels are stamped "roses patent No. 20", so this is another set of machine-forged barrels coming from the Rose Brothers's Hales-Owen Mills & Forge. The top rib is indistinctly signed "F. Gates Derby," and the back-action locks signed "F. Gates". The foliate scroll engraving is quite worn, as is the chequering. From the advertisement information I would guess this would be a £9 gun, and not a more expensive offering. For a provincial gunmaker, a £35 gun would be of 'best' quality, not the standard trade gun like this one. The gun has been heavily used and the bores are quite pitted. It weighs a hefty 7 lb 9 oz.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/07/20 09:14 PM
Here is info on the above Samuel Breeden, alt. spelling Breedon - from a few hours of research - internet is a great thing:

Edited - there are several Samuel Breeden/on's in Birmingham at this time....believe we've got the right one now:
Born in 4 May 1813. Saltey Washwood, Aston area of Birmingham, Warwickshire where lived his whole life.Believe his Father was William Breeden and Mother Mary Breeden
-- 17 Aug 1834 - Married Charlotte Lynol
-- 1849 listed in Birmingham Directory in Saltey Washwood as a Gun Furniture Manufactuer
-- 1851 Census born in Shifnal, Shropshire, England, Saltley Washwood. Married to Charlottte. Son William, Daughter Charlotte, Emma. Occupation listed as gun furniture maker; trigger maker.

-- 1853 notice that Samuel Breedon of Washwood Heath, gun furniture and revolving pistol maker took on an apprentice named Thomas Spencer (the younger) of Washwood Heath.

-- 1855 listed in Birmingham Directory in Saltey Washwood as a pistol and rifle sight maker
-- 1861 Census. Living in Saltey Washwood area. Wife Charlotte. 3 daughters Emma, Charlotte, Luisa. Occupation listed as Breech Loading action manufacturer and master employing 8 men

-- 1862 listed in Birmingham directory as a Gun Furniture maker located at Washwood heath

-- 1862 listed in Birmingham directory as living on Washwood heath
-- 1862 listed in Slaters Royal National Commercial Directory under Gun, Rifle and Pistol Makers as Breech loading located on Washwood heath.
-- 2 July 1865 Samuel Breeden died. William Hill of Birchfield (gun maker) and John Dennison of Birmingham (Confectioner) were executers of the will. His effects were worth under 100. He was buried on 9 Jul 1865.

So as of the 1861 census (in April) he was making breech loading actions. I still think the Reilly was most likely made around this time rather than March 1858. I'll post this on the Reilly line. Thanks for the help,.

Edit: Help needed:
My opinion: This serial numbered Reilly was not made by him...and is the exception to the rule that Reilly did not SN guns he didn't make (double negative - 2nd take - "Reilly only serial numbered guns he made" - clearer).
-- The Barrels are proofed in Birmingham
-- The action is from a Birmingham action maker.
I believe he engraved the gun (very familiar style), and stocked it (very familiar wood used). I also think it is an early pin-fire but not from March 1858 which the serial number would date it to. I would put it to 1860 or 1861... that would explain it having "E.M. Reilly & Co." (It would help to have more information on when exactly Breeden began to make breech-loader pin-fire actions. 1861 Census is the earliest hard evidence available).
-- If anyone has more information on the introduction of breech-loading action manufacturing in Birmingham and dates - help would be appreciated.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/07/20 09:57 PM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
Here is info on the above Samuel Breeden, alt. spelling Breedon:

Born in 1813. Saltey Washwood, Aston area of Birmingham, Warwickshire where lived his whole life.Believe his Father was Samuel Breeden and Mother Mary Breeden
-- 17 Aug 1834 - Married Charlotte Lynol
-- 1841 Census living with his Father Samuel (age 60) buckle maker and mother Mary (age 50) and brothers and sisters
-- 1846 listed in Birmingham Directory in Saltey Washwood as a pistol and rifle sight maker
-- 1849 listed in Birmingham Directory in Saltey Washwood as a Gun Furniture Manufactuer
-- 1851 Census born in Shifnal, Shropshire, England, Saltley Washwood. Married to Charlottte. Son William, Daughter Charlotte, Emma. Occupation listed as gun furniture maker; trigger maker.
-- 1853 notice that Samuel Breedon of Washwood Heath, gun furniture and revolving pistol maker took on an apprentice named Thomas Spencer (the younger) of Washwood Heath.
-- 1861 Census. Living in Saltey Washwood area. Wife Charlotte. 3 daughters Emma, Charlotte, Luisa. Occupation listed as Breech Loading action manufacturer and master employing 8 men
-- 1862 listed in Birmingham directory as a Gun Furniture maker located at Washwood heath
-- 1862 listed in Birmingham directory as living on Washwood heath
-- 1862 listed in Slaters Royal National Commercial Directory under Gun, Rifle and Pistol Makers as Breech loading located on Washwood heath.
-- 2 July 1865 Samuel Breeden died. William Hill of Birchfield (gun maker) and John Dennison of Birmingham (Confectioner) were executers of the will. His effects were worth under 100. He was buried on 9 Jul 1865.

So as of the 1861 census (in April) he was making breech loading actions. I still think the Reilly was most likely made around this time rather than March 1858. I'll post this on the Reilly line. Thanks for the help,.

Wow, great find, Argo44. If Breeden was employing 8 men in 1861 he had quite the business going.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/07/20 10:00 PM
Courtesy of Lagopus, here are pictures of a Frederick Gates pinfire rook rifle:


Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/10/20 05:21 PM
OK, time to keep the thread going.

Gunmaking was not a business conducted in isolation, and it is not surprising that gunmakers often knew each other and knew of each others' work. In the early years of the breech-loader, a prospective maker would learn a lot from examining another's work, and there was certainly a lot of copying in terms of designs and decorative features. Earlier in this thread I wrote about John Blanch and his acquisition of a Beatus Beringer gun, which might have been the inspiration for the earliest lever-over-guard breech-loading guns in Britain. I've also wondered if the underlever fully wrapping around the trigger guard bow (with the interstice filled by an angled projection on the underlever) might relate to the Beringer design and fall into the category of "early" British pinfire forms, like the Lang forward-underlever (though unlike the latter, the former was built into the late 1860s).

Such style of levers appeared first on single-bite actions (with and without the rising stud on the action bar), and on guns with a European influence, like those offered by the Masu Brothers. Argo44 posted a drawing of "Reilly's breech-loader" from 1859, and it appears to have this feature. For those with the patience to scroll backwards, and as a reminder there's a lot to this thread, several guns with the wrap-around underlever (please, does anyone have a better term for this shape of lever-over-guard?) have been shown: a William Moore, page 3; two Harris Hollands, page 5; a Cogswell & Harrison, page 9; a JD Dougall, page 13; Argo44's EM Reilly on page 16, all seeming to take inspiration from Beringer-style guns, such as Tinker's gun shown on page 11. It seems to me that it would be extra work to shape a lever in this way, for a purely aesthetic purpose. Certainly most lever-over-guard levers have a much simpler, and more sinuous shape. Today's gun has this feature, and the maker appears to have a connection to the Blanch family. I wouldn't be surprised if many early builders of breech-loaders were found to have some kind of connection, either professional or social, with Messrs Blanch, Lang or Reilly.

Jabez Bloxham Welch was born in 1786 in Banbury, an Oxfordshire market town located in between Birmingham and London. He was recorded as a gun maker in 1829 in Butchers Row, Banbury. By the 1851 census he was a widower, living with his nephew Thomas Julian Watkins (born 1821 in Leighton Buzzard), also listed as a gun maker. Welch retired in 1852 and Thomas Watkins took over the business. He married Eliza Mortimer (a daughter of one of the famous Mortimer gunmaking families in London), and in 1856 they had a son named Thomas Mortimer Watkins. In 1857 the business moved to 75 High Street.

[Of interest, at the time of the 1861 census Eliza Watkins and her son Thomas Mortimer were recorded visiting with the London gun maker William Blanch (John Blanch's son) and his wife Madaline at 29 Gracechurch Street (the census recorded everyone who happened to be in that household at the time, including visitors); the Blanch gunmaking family was also interconnected with the Mortimer gunmaking family.]

Today's gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun by Thomas Julian Watkins of Banbury, and it has no serial number. The 29 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs, a maker's mark "Z," and the breech ends have starburst detailing at the pinfire apertures. The back-action locks are signed "T J Watkins" and are decorated with dogs, and the action bar has game scene engraving within ovals on each side, all of which is quite attractive. The fences have raised collars, the hammers are nicely rounded and with flanged noses, the action bar is strengthened with a radius, and, as described earlier, the under-lever fully wraps around the trigger guard bow. Without records it is difficult to date a gun, but by the various features it looks to be mid- to late-1860s in build. This was a quality if plain-actioned gun, a fine offering from a provincial maker known to the London gun making community. The gun is quite worn, the bores have light pitting at the breech, and the gun weighs 7 lb 2 oz.

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Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/10/20 07:51 PM
Originally Posted By: Steve Nash
Courtesy of Lagopus, here are pictures of a Frederick Gates pinfire rook rifle:




What an exceptional piece ! Looks in superb condition,bet there aren`t many of these in existance.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/10/20 10:12 PM
Agreed, and what an exceptional and substantive line. I've reread it all several times and absorbed new things each time. Thanks to Stephen and the others, who are making this a bookmark.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/20 01:17 AM
The Rook Rifle is fantastic!

I should fit my Purdey 20 bore pinfire double rifle in here between the fine game guns.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/20 12:45 PM
Mr. Nash, have you noticed any time line for the "peninsula" locks with the rear screw located half in and half out of the lockplate like the Watkins above ?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/20 05:10 PM
Daryl, I've not noticed any particular timeline for the form of attachment or in particular rearward attachment to back-action 'peninsula' locks. Someone with a good collection of muzzle-loaders might be able to help us here.

For those curious about the various types, I have noted three forms of attachment on early breech-loaders:

a) One is with two cross pins, in which both pins screw into tapped holes in the opposite lock plate. Usually the head is on the left side, but occasionally the locks are pinned from the right. I would think this is a strong structural arrangement, though by necessity the hand is drilled through in two places.

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b) The second is the one you asked about, where the locks have a single cross pin at the leading portion of the plate, and the rear is fastened by a shallow pin on each side, against which the lock plate is wedged -- half in, half out.

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c) The third is the neatest configuration, where the rearward tail of the lock plate has a hook that fits into a hidden recess, and the whole is fastened with a single cross pin, usually at the leading edge but sometimes towards the middle of the lock plate.

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Each offers a slightly different look and the various types can be artfully incorporated into the decorative engraving. As a layman I would have thought the two cross pin attachment would be strongest, but the hidden hook attachment seems to be prevalent on higher quality guns. It also seems to be prevalent on European breech-loaders. I'm presuming the maker, when ordering locks from a supplier, would specify what type of lock plate was needed. There must have been a terminology that I'm not aware of, or, it could be that the form of lock plate attachment was a subtle clue as to its quality.

Should a time machine be invented that would allow me to go back to 1860, I will add this to my already-long list of questions I would have in hand...
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/13/20 04:56 PM
Ah, it is near-impossible to follow a time or invention sequence with early British breech-loaders in the 1850s and 60s, everything gets jumbled pretty quickly. There were so many advances and patents, both good and utterly pointless, so many individual craftsmen making their mark, and to confound everything, clients could order whatever their fancy, be it the newest patent or a favoured older design, to whatever grade their purse allowed. Every maker, from high to low, sought custom, and profit margins were tight, especially as annual sales of sporting breech-loaders by any given maker were in the tens, not tens of thousands. With the class system in full effect, a craftsman might be highly regarded and sought after -- but he was still just a craftsman, someone with no social standing or influence. Through my research I've gotten the impression that the French valued their gunmakers much more as gifted artisans, inventors, and true artists, though I have nothing concrete with which to prove that theory. But there has to be a reason why almost every significant technological advance in gunmaking has come from France (the flintlock, percussion, pinfire and centre-fire systems, hinge and hammerless actions, and more -- and German Johann Nicolaus von Dreyse came up with the needlefire system while working in Paris). There are some that debate certain origins, but the French were always at the leading edge, pushing the boundaries. They still are, as Darne and Idéal owners will attest.

As my previous offering to this thread was on back-action locks, here is a continuation with a look at a set of very peculiarly marked lock plates, from a maker with a prestigious history. I've sought information on this gun and its attributes on this board before, but it never hurts to ask again.

The Smith gun making business in London started with William Smith, who was apprenticed to John Joyner in 1766 and then to William Shepherd in 1771. He was later recorded as a gun lock maker in St James's in 1792, and St Pancras in 1800. In 1805 he traded as a gun maker at 34 Tottenham Court Road, moving in 1806 to 2 New Lisle Street. In 1817 William Smith was appointed Gunmaker-in-Ordinary to the Prince Regent, and he moved to 59 Princes Street, Leicester Square. In 1820 when the Prince Regent became King George IV he was appointed Gunmaker-in-Ordinary to the king, and the following year moved to 64 Princes Street. Smith had also been appointed Gunmaker to the Tsar Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, and to Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria. This says a lot about the quality of Smith guns, and the regard in which they were held.

In 1825 William was succeeded by his son Samuel (1794-1855) and the name of the firm changed to Samuel Smith. In 1834 Samuel's brother, Charles, joined him and the firm became Samuel & Charles Smith. Between 1835 and 1837 they were appointed Gun Makers to His Majesty (William IV) and to the Duke of Gloucester. By 1855 both Samuel and Charles had died, and Samuel's two sons, also named Samuel and Charles, took over the firm. In 1867 Samuel (Jnr) patented a breech-loading action (patent No. 1075), which had the curious feature whereby half-cocking the right-hand hammer withdrew the barrel locking bolt. However, it is known only from an incomplete patent drawing, and no examples have ever surfaced. In 1870 the firm moved to 18 Oxenden Street, Haymarket, until 1875 when the business closed and the Smith brothers emigrated to Australia.

The firm has tremendous history and pedigree, and Googling the name turns up exquisite examples of flint and percussion guns, and even a few pinfires. Like most makers of the pinfire period Samuel and Charles Smith appear to have offered different grades of guns, including some with patented actions from other makers. Today's gun is a standard double-bite screw grip action by Samuel and Charles Smith of London, and serial number 6583 places it about 1864 in date. The 29 3/4" damascus barrels are signed "SamL & C Smith Princes Street Leicester Square London" on the top rib, and carry the usual London proofs. The barrel maker's mark "H.S." is still a mystery to me, but earlier percussion guns by the brothers also carry the same barrel maker's mark. The gun has typical percussion-style fences, an extended top strap, and flat-sided hammers, all of no particular note -- this was the entry-level pinfire gun of the mid-1860s, not much different from the offerings of most London and provincial makers. Where this gun becomes highly unusual is with the back-action lock plates. Look closely, the name inscriptions, "SamL& C Smith Princes St. London," are inverted. This is different from other Smith pinfires I've been able to trace, which have normal inscriptions on the locks. The locks are pinned from the right, which is unusual but not unheard of. And after pouring through a mountain of books, and tapping the considerable knowledge base on British guns that resides in the far corners of the Internet (including here), I can say with confidence that no one else has seen, or heard of, the like, which leads me to be equally confident in saying this was not an engraver's mistake, but a special request from the client. In what might remain a gun-lore mystery, the question remains as to why?

Inside the lock plates are the lock maker's mark, "N.B", which I believe to be that of the lock maker Noah Butler of Darlaston Road, Wednesbury, Staffordshire (or an alternate nearby address, 4 King's Hill, Wednesbury). Butler was born in 1827 or 1828, and his trade was a common one in Wednesbury and nearby Wolverhampton, sources of the best gun locks. These are quality locks with nicely shaped bridles, befitting a Smith gun.

The gun, however, is in a very sorry state, with a broken mainspring, parts missing, worn engraving and an overall tiredness that can't be hidden. The bores are heavily pitted, and the gun, minus a few small parts, weighs 6 lb 10 oz.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/14/20 03:19 AM
Steve, please don't say this is the last post in this line. Others need to pitch in. This is historically the most interesting line of the decade....duo-decade.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/14/20 03:31 AM
Quote:
As my last offering to this thread


I think he was referring to his last post not saying this would be his last. I had to reread the beginning of this sentence to as I thought It was heading in a bad direction!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/14/20 03:35 AM
Sorry, bad choice of word, now corrected. I was referring to my previous post.

There is much more to cover!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/14/20 11:06 PM
This is just to reassure readers of this thread I have no intention of stopping just yet.

I admit I have been genuinely surprised by the steadily growing view count, considering the subject matter is a little-appreciated invention that few have ever stopped to examine in detail, or thought about in the wider context of sporting gun evolution. Even more so in North America, which saw very few pinfire sporting guns, period.

In its heyday the pinfire game gun was the plaything of the British rich, and a few ardent sportsmen. With the advance of the railroads there was much more access to the countryside, but shooting, and especially driven shoots, was mostly a landowner's pursuit. The pinfire was never a meat gun as it was to be in France, Belgium and Sweden, and it was overtaken too quickly by the centrefire to be much of an export item. It remained a status symbol of the British upper classes, a toy to fawn over in between pheasant drives and multi-course lunches. We've already seen the New York connection in this thread with the Genez guns, and Poultney & Trimble of Baltimore sold pinfires. The few pinfire guns that made it to Canada were mostly as heirlooms, and ammunition supply was always going to be a big problem. For the most part, North America went from percussion to rimfire/centrefire, largely bypassing the pinfire.

Today's gun is a William Wellington Greener, and it is one of the guns brought over from Britain at some point in the distant past. It is also the only W W Greener pinfire I've ever encountered, and I've only seen one other illustrated in print (see Smith & Curtis's The Pinfire System), along with a low-grade "William Wellington" offered for sale on a US website (more on this grade later). As a renowned supporter of the pinfire system, you would think WW Greener's pinfires would be out there, but the firm in the 1860s was not the manufacturing behemoth it would later become. I have no idea how many, or how few, the firm might have made. If anyone reading this has one, I'd like to hear of it.

But first, a diversion on how guns were being sold in the 1850s and 1860s. It is easy to think back to grainy black-and-white photos we've seen of the James Purdey & Sons Long Room, but that didn't come about until 1883. What did an earlier gun maker's shop look like? Early photographs exist of workers turning out barrels and stocking guns at work benches surrounded by tools -- but what did the retail shop look like? I don't know.

I imagine that in the 1860s you could walk into a British gunmaker's premises and order a gun made to your specifications and measurements, and a few months later your gun would be ready. This can still be done at the firms still in business, though the wait can be much, much longer. But back then a gun could also be bought ready-made and "off the rack," if the maker had a stock of such guns, as well as any second-hand guns that might be available, obtained as trade-ins or sold back to the maker. Some firms also sold newly-made guns of various makers, and second-hand guns perhaps taken as trades or part payment. In some cases, this trade in ready-made and second-hand guns was a very large part of a firm's business, and this was reflected in the trade labels affixed to gun cases, and in newspaper advertisements, in the use of the terms "gun repository" and "gun warehouse". Hardware stores (ironmongers) and occasionally general-goods merchants also traded in guns, ammunition and loading supplies (which will be the subject of future posts). In addition, a number of silversmiths and jewellers devoted part of their trade to dealing in guns, acting as agents for gunmakers. This was a favourable arrangement, as a Birmingham maker wishing to sell guns in London could do so through a well-situated London agent at a lower cost than opening and maintaining a London shop themselves.

In previous posts I mentioned that Benjamin Cogswell started as a pawnbroker (later advertising himself as a "gun and pistol warehouse", before declaring himself as a gunmaker). Westley Richards's London agent, William Bishop, aka "The Bishop of Bond Street", was a jeweller. And William Wellington Greener used Edward Whistler.

Edward Whistler was a silversmith, pawnbroker, and dealer in guns and pistols at 11 Strand, London, from 1844 to 1875. In 1867 his business was advertised as "Edward Whistler, Gun and Pistol Repository", offering new and second-hand guns from "the most approved London makers." Whistler was one of two London agents used by the Birmingham maker William Wellington Greener.

Greener was an early promoter of the pinfire system, which put him at odds with his father, the eminent Birmingham gunmaker William Greener, who had nothing good to say about the newfangled breech-loaders. The elder Greener wrote in 1858 in his book Gunnery that "the French system of breech-loading fire-arms is a specious pretence," adding "there is no possibility of a breech-loader ever shooting equal to a well-constructed muzzle-loader," and "the gun is unsafe, and becomes more and more unsafe from the first time it is used." Perhaps to cement his point, three W. Greener muzzle-loaders were entered in the 1858 Field trial, and all out-performed the competing pinfires. Ouch.

However, the tide of history was on the side of breech-loaders, and William Wellington Greener looked to the future, not the past. W. W. Greener would go on to author several important works, invent (co-invent?) choke-boring, develop the cross-bolt fastener (his "Treble Wedge-Fast"), put forth various other patents and improvements, and build one of the country's largest gun factories. But that is all much later than the period I'm interested in. W. W. Greener built two grades of pinfire guns: lesser guns and export-market guns were signed "William Wellington," and higher grade guns carried the Greener name. Greener had his own trademark or "proof" mark, an elephant's head, that appeared on his barrels (and sometimes actions). This might have been an evolution of his father's earlier "elephant and castle" trademark.

This gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun by William Wellington Greener, retailed by Edward Whistler, 11 The Strand, London, and probably made in the late 1860s. The 30 1/8" damascus barrels have Birmingham proof marks, and a barrel maker's mark "SP", which I believe to be the mark of Samuel Probin of Loveday Street. The top rib is signed "W. W. Greener 11 Strand London." The gun has unsigned bar-action locks, nicely sculpted hammers, a beautifully figured walnut stock with drop points, and the fore-end has a horn or possibly ebony tip. The bores are slightly pitted at the breech, and the gun weighs 6 lb 15 oz.

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A fine quality gun overall, but there is more. The gun is lacking a serial number, and the barrels lack the elephant mark. The story I was told was that when the gun was brought to Canada from Britain, the barrels were still "in-the-white," and were rust-browned locally. Graham Greener, of the current company, W W Greener (Sporting Guns) Limited, confirmed the gun was a Greener and that it would have sold for 30 guineas, but could not explain the marking discrepancies. All of which lead me to speculate that the gun was re-barrelled in Britain during its working life (not uncommon for later guns, but unusual for a pinfire). Greener guns of the period carried their serial numbers on the barrels and not the action bar or elsewhere, so a re-barrelled gun would lack the Greener serial number and trademark. The original rib might have been retained and put on the new set of tubes, or the name and address could have been engraved on a new rib -- I can't tell for sure, but suspect the latter, from the somewhat awkward letter spacing. The fact that the gun was not converted to centre-fire suggests the new barrels were put on at a time when pinfires were still in common use (or it would have made sense to change the hammers, drill strikers and add barrels with an extractor and centre-fire chambers). Why the new barrels would have been left in-the-white is a mystery. So many of these stories will never be known.

The Greener family has quite a remarkable history. William Greener was born in 1806 near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He apprenticed with John Gardner in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and for a short time he worked for John Manton in London. In 1829 he returned to Newcastle to open his own business. In 1835 he wrote his first book, "The Gun", or "A Treatise on the Various Descriptions of Small Fire-Arms". Around this time he invented the first bullet designed to expand in the barrel in order to seal the bore. In 1841 William Greener wrote "The Science of Gunnery". In 1844 he relocated to Birmingham, with three men, the rest of the work done by outworkers. In 1848 the firm was appointed gunmaker to HRH Prince Albert. In 1851 William exhibited at the Great Exhibition, and his guns were awarded prizes. However, his irreconcilable views on the new breech-loaders were said to be the cause of the split with his son William Wellington, who set up his own business in 1855, probably with his financial help. The new firm was named W Greener Jnr. It was recorded in Lench Street from 1858 to 1863, but in 1863 the name changed to W W Greener and he moved to 61-62 Loveday Street, the premises being named the "St Mary's Works". Continuing the family's inventiveness, William Wellington patented in 1863 a sliding bolt single-bite snap-action breech-loader (patent No. 2231). The patent also covered an extractor for pinfire guns. In 1867 William Wellington Greener registered patent No 1339 for a top lever locking mechanism, with a cross-bolt through an extension of the top rib, which eventually became his treble wedge fast grip. He went on to obtain many, many other patents, but these are beyond the pinfire period I've looked at.

William Greener died on 23 August 1869, and shortly afterwards William Wellington bought his father's business, and his operation at St Mary's Works at 61-62 Loveday Street was expanded to St Mary's Square and St Mary's Row. In 1874 William Wellington acquired the business of Joseph Needham. In 1878 he took over the firm and premises of Theophilus Murcott at 68 Haymarket to use as a London base, and opened a shop in Paris at 8 Avenue de l'Opera. On 25 July 1921 William Wellington Greener died at the age of 86. The firm continued and went on to be the largest sporting gun factory in the world. In 1965 the company was sold to Webley & Scott Ltd., which continued making Greener guns until 1979. In 1985 the W W Greener name was revived and the firm re-established at 1 Belmont Row, Birmingham, and guns carrying the Greener name are still being built.

William Wellington Greener surpassed his father as an author. In 1871 he wrote "The Modern Breech Loader", followed by "Choke Bore Guns and How to Load for All Kinds of Game" in 1876. In 1881 he wrote "The Gun and Its Development," which went on to nine editions and reprints in the period up to 1910. In 1888 WW Greener wrote "Modern Shotguns," and in 1900 he wrote "Sharpshooting for Sport and War". In 1907 he and Charles Edward Greener published a book entitled "The Causes of Decay in a British Industry" under the pseudonyms Optifex and Artifex. Finally, in 1908 William Wellington Greener wrote "The British Miniature Rifle".
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/20 12:56 AM
This discussion thread is such a great gift.
I really do appreciate you having made this gesture for us all.
Thanks for your efforts.

One thing that I'm getting from this is a look at some of the engraving patterns and borders, and metal sculpting on the fences, actions, and hammers from this transitional period.
Great stuff!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/20 01:07 AM
Steve, re the famous William Greener (the father) quote about breech loaders and the comment above:

"The elder Greener wrote in 1858 in his book Gunnery that "the French system of breech-loading fire-arms is a specious pretence," adding "there is no possibility of a breech-loader ever shooting equal to a well-constructed muzzle-loader," and "the gun is unsafe, and becomes more and more unsafe from the first time it is used." Perhaps to cement his point, three W. Greener muzzle-loaders were entered in the 1858 Field trial, and all out-performed the competing pinfires. Ouch. "


I'm not sure the three W.Greener muzzle-loaders at the April 1858 trial at Cremorna did out perform the breech loaders. "The Field" in its 16 October 1858 review of the book excoriated Greener on this point, noting that Mr. Reilly breech-loaders shot the equal of one Greener gun and had not at all be humiliated by the others. Here's a portion of the text. Just noting this because "The Field" clearly saw the future after this trial:



Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/20 12:51 PM
Argo, thanks for the article. It is surely interesting on how it relates to Greener's thoughts on the breechloading pinfire. I would guess Mr. Nash will bring to light more on the Greener sourced pinfire.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/20 02:05 PM
From Mr. Nash--------------

"In its heyday the pinfire game gun was the plaything of the British rich, and a few ardent sportsmen. With the advance of the railroads there was much more access to the countryside, but shooting, and especially driven shoots, was mostly a landowner's pursuit. The pinfire was never a meat gun as it was to be in France, Belgium and Sweden, and it was overtaken too quickly by the centrefire to be much of an export item. It remained a status symbol of the British upper classes, a toy to fawn over in between pheasant drives and multi-course lunches. Weve already seen the New York connection in this thread with the Genez guns, and Poultney & Trimble of Baltimore sold pinfires. The few pinfire guns that made it to Canada were mostly as heirlooms, and ammunition supply was always going to be a big problem. For the most part, North America went from percussion to rimfire/centrefire, largely bypassing the pinfire."

I think the above is a good synopsis of the countries relating to pinfires. I may have seen a couple from Sweden, but cannot name a maker or source from there. From my experience, you may add Germany to the list of pinfire producers.

From North America, most of the pinfire double shotguns I have seen seem to be rebranded British guns. Poultney and Trimble, Forsyth [Made for Syms and Bros., N.Y.], and a few others. But, one gun I have seen seems to be mostly, if not all, an American product. It is a double barrel pinfire shotgun marked C. E. Sneider, Patentee, Baltimore. Barrels surely came from Europe, but the rest of the gun is not like European samples. I cannot recall another North American maker of pinfire doubles that did not seem to originate from Europe.

Understanding that we don't want to get too far off of the subject of the British Game Gun, indulge me a bit with the Sneider, the only U.S. double pinfire that I know of. There are probably others. As Mr. Nash stated , the U.S. seemed to jump from muzzleloader over the pinfire, directly into the centerfire breechloading double. This is logical because we are talking about the period of the U.S. Civil war when the citizens were preoccupied with things other than game guns. By the time the effects in the U.S.of the War were over, the centerfire breechloader was starting to bloom in Britain. Soon on to the U.S.

Somehow the Sneider did come out in that period. Sneider , if my memory is correct, did have some British patents. He was also in the forefront of the first American hammerless breechloaders. This pinfire "may" have European locks, but I have not taken them off. It should be noted that Sneider was continually advancing the sidelock design in America, using coil springs quite often. A friend and I compared three different Sneider locks, and the similarity of each was coil springs, but the designs were completely different. The odd almost circular piece on the inside of the bar is a stop/keeper for the barrels. When turned the barrels could not be removed. A later Sneider patent used a crossbar in this area to retain the barrels.

After removing the lock on the Sneider, I think the lock and barrels had a British origin. The stock appears to be American Black Walnut and the receiver and lockup details seem done in the U.S.


















Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/20 05:41 PM
Wonderful additions, Daryl and Argo44! Seeing a Sneider is a real treat.

I re-looked at the results of the 1858 Field trial, and the differences can be argued from either perspective, as they obviously were back then. The differences between muzzle-loaders and breech-loaders were not as clear-cut as either side predicted, or wanted, and this narrowed further in the 1859 trial. Each 'side' interpreted the results that suited their claims, and it is only if you stand far back from the minutiae that you can see both were good, pick which one you prefer!

As I write this I've just made myself an espresso coffee with a certain Swiss coffee machine, pop in a self-contained capsule, and presto, a perfect cup every time. Yes, I can fix myself an enjoyable cup of coffee in myriad ways, but why not use a system that is simple, reliable, without fuss, and equal to the best of any other process? Years ago I objected to the idea of being tied to using one source/brand of capsules. I eventually relented, and there's no going back for me. So I get how, when presented with two ignition/loading options, sportsmen gradually overcame their reluctance to the new system and a limited source of cartridges and tried the new breech-loader, and, having done so, never looked back.

The Old Guard was vociferous and influential, and the elder William Greener did his best to denigrate the breech-loader. That said, I've been shown a photograph of a pinfire game gun built by him, so while he might have disliked them, it did not stop him from filling customers' requests.

To those who don't have a copy of William Greener' book Gunnery in 1858, Being a Treatise on Rifles, Cannon, and Sporting Arms (London 1858), here is the chapter concerning the new breech-loaders. Happy reading!

CHAPTER VIII. THE FRENCH "CRUTCH," OR BREECH-LOADING SHOT GUN.

Sporting in France has never been brought to the same state of perfection as in this country. Grouse-shooting on our wild romantic hills is a very different sport from quail, partridge, or rabbit shooting in the vales and on the hills of the Continent. Wild game requires great energy and perseverance on the part of the sportsman, courage and strength on the part of the dog, and last, though not least, great capacity on the part of the gun. For many years the superiority of the English manufactured gun, as well as of the English gunpowder, and the matchless skill of the English sportsman, have been acknowledged by all the world. All things, however, have their limits- the longest lane has a turning, and a very plausible and insidious innovation has been made to detract from the acquired reputation of the English sportsman, and render his shooting inferior to that of some of our friends on the other side of the Channel.

The French system of breech-loading fire-arms is a specious pretence, the supposed advantages of which have been loudly boasted of; but none of[330] these advantages have as yet been established by its most strenuous advocates. How it is that the British sportsman has become the dupe of certain men who set themselves up for reputable gunmakers I know not. It is certain, however, that by these acts they have forfeited all claim to the confidence of their too confiding customers, and that they never could have tested the shooting properties of their guns. With regard to the safety of these guns, they display an utter want of the most ordinary judgment; and this is abundant proof that they considered neither their safety, nor (what is also of importance) the economy of the whole arrangement, as regards their manufacture or their use.

Guns are perfect only so long as they possess the power of shooting strong and close, with the least available charges. The period has passed when barrels were bored by rule of thumb, without any well-defined intention; the workman being ignorant as to whether he would have the bore of the barrel cylindrical, or (as was frequently the case) in the form of two inverted cones, and thus he continued to bore at the barrel until it was utterly useless, or until by chance he hit upon a tidy shooting bore. Barrels are now constructed so nearly alike, that it is no stretch of truth to assert that ninety-six or ninety-eight barrels out of a hundred can be made so nearly alike in their shooting, as to render it very difficult to discover the real difference between them. Yet, in the face of this high state of perfection certain English gunmakers introduce, and recommend to their patrons as an improvement, a description of gun possessing the following negative qualities: -First, there is no possibility of a breech-loader ever shooting equal to a well-constructed muzzle loader; secondly, the gun is unsafe, and becomes more and more unsafe from the first time it is used; and, thirdly, it is a very costly affair, both as regards the gun and ammunition. Nor are these negative qualities at all compensated for by any of the advantages claimed for these guns by their advocates; this assertion I now proceed to establish.

In the first place recoil has been an important obstacle to contend with, ever since the invention of fire-arms, and the methods of lessening recoil have engaged the special attention of all inventors up to the present day; on this important point, indeed, very much depends. Gunnery is good only when recoil exists in a minimum degree. Force, whether it be that of the gentle "zephyr," or of the mammoth steam-boiler which is capable of moving thousands of tons, can always be measured, and the friction of steam against the tube through which it passes can be measured also.

The time was, when guns were so imperfectly constructed, that the recoil and friction of the charge against the barrel destroyed more than half the force generated by the explosion of the gunpowder; and this loss of force having been obviated, by finely polishing the interior of the barrel, as well as by improving the metal of the gun, has rendered English guns superior in their performance to those manufactured in any other country. Breeches of a conical form offer the greatest resistance to the action of aeriform bodies in a direct line; this is the principle of what is best known as "the patent breech:" to speak of which would be a waste of time, as nothing more is required to support its superiority than the fact, that in well constructed artillery of every country, the interior form of the breech or chamber is more or less conical. Thus we see that by adopting the crutch gun, we have to give up one of the oldest and most universally acknowledged principles in lessening recoil - namely, the conical form of the breech - and to adopt the very reverse of this: namely, the old right-angled, flat-faced breech, upon which recoil can exert its utmost force with the certainty of its reaching the shoulder of the unfortunate user.

Secondly, to enable the gun to be loaded with a cartridge which shall keep its place, a complicated arrangement is necessary. On inspection of the barrel, it will be perceived that a cavity has been formed larger than the bore of the barrel, and that this in some cases only tapers toward the further end. This cavity exactly receives the cartridge, and the gunpowder is inflamed in a space much larger than the barrel, which it has afterwards to pass through. The charge of shot is also started in a larger space than that which it afterwards has to traverse, and the column must of necessity become contracted and elongated before it can escape from the barrel. The first consideration is at what cost of force is all this effected? Thirty per cent. would certainly be a shrewd guess; and who is there conversant with the nature of gunpowder hardy enough to gainsay the fact?

I here present the reader with the measurement of a pair of barrels - bore 12, diameter of the cavity 10, or two sizes difference, -tried at the celebrated trial of Breech versus Muzzle-loading fire-arms, which took place in April last, in the court at Cremorne. The following are the results of the trial:

Class 1 comprised twelve bore double guns, not exceeding 71⁄2 lbs. in weight; the charge for the breech-loaders was three drachms of powder, and one ounce and a quarter of shot; that for the muzzle-loaders, two and three-quarter drachms of powder, and an ounce and a quarter of shot. The question will be asked why were both not charged alike? and the answer is, because the advocates for breech-loaders well knew the loss of power caused by the enlarged breech end would require a larger quantity of powder; yet, with this advantage, the result was a verdict in favour of the muzzle-loaders of nearly two to one. I quote from the Field. The aggregate number of pellets in the targets from breech-loaders was 170, the penetration 19. The aggregate number of pellets put in by the muzzle-loaders was 231, the penetration 48; and this was effected with a quarter of a drachm of powder less.

Few will doubt that this must be the inevitable result. Force cannot be expended and retained: we "cannot eat our cake and have it." If force is destroyed by friction, it is as useless as if it had never been generated. So much, then, for the shooting qualities of the breech-loader.

And now comes the question, of much more importance than the shooting qualities of these guns: namely, can all this force -30 per cent., in fact, of the whole charge be thrown away with no worse result than the mere wasting of the powder? Is there no change taking place in the barrel of the gun every time it is discharged? Iron and its combinations are as certainly limited in their duration as is human life itself. Every bar of iron is capable only of resisting a certain amount of pressure; every successive strain on its fibres deteriorating it more rapidly; and whether it be the mainspring of the lock, or a gun-barrel itself, a certain number of strains will destroy it. This being the case, how much more rapidly must a breech-loader be destroyed where 30 per cent. of the charge is always "absorbed" on the sides of the barrel in the cavity alone. This a lengthened experiment will prove; though the fact is so self-evident, that no experiment is required to demonstrate it.

Caution in gunnery is absolutely necessary under the most favourable circumstances, and disregard of perfection in the construction of a gun is quite unpardonable; then what shall be said of that member of society who, with all those facts before him, can say to his customers, I advise you to have a breech-loader: they are really good guns? In what estimation such a tradesman must be held I will not venture to say. Much more might fairly be said against these guns, but I sum up the whole in the following damnatory sentence: Breech-loaders do not shoot nearly so well, and are not half so safe, as muzzle-loading guns.

It is said, and truly, that a breech-loader can be charged more rapidly than a muzzle-loader; but I hold this to be no advantage, for this reason: all guns can be loaded more quickly than they are fired, and the tendency of all barrels to absorb heat, puts a limit to rapidity of firing; indeed, after ten rapid shots with each barrel, both guns would be about on an equality. Another question is, can breech-loaders be used longer than muzzle-loading guns, without cleaning? My opinion is, they cannot. At the trial already spoken of, after twenty-two shots had been fired from the breech-loaders, the cartridge-cases had to be extracted from the barrels with a hook, and in several cases it was necessary to cut them out with a knife; whilst a muzzle-loading gun without friction would have gone on to a hundred shots without being wiped out. There are few plans or presumed improvements which have not some redeeming points; but in the case of breech-loading fire-arms it is quite a task to find even a resemblance to one. All the advocates for breech-loaders whom I have ever met with yield, with this acknowledgment: I must admit that I never liked them; but so many gentlemen are asking for them that I was compelled to make them, to keep my customers. This is, no doubt, the truth; but it is calculated to lead to serious calamities: for it was apparent to hundreds, at the Cremorne trials, that even the best and newest breech-loading guns permitted an escape of gas at the breech to an extent that I never thought possible; and if this occurs in new guns, what will happen after a single season's shooting, should any one be found sufficiently reckless to use a breech-loader so long?

No fear need be entertained that the use of breech-loaders will become general; manufactures on false principles soon show themselves worthless, however pertinaciously they may be puffed off. The number of accidents arising from the use of breech-loading fire-arms has not been very great as yet; though I have already heard of several very serious cases, from the use of well-made guns: let us consider what would be result if the workmanship was inferior?

There is one other point to which I may briefly allude before dismissing the breech-loader to the "tomb of all the Capulets." The majority of guns on this principle merely abut against a false breech; and, from the fact of there being no connection either by hook or by cohesion, the explosion causes a separation between the barrel and the breech to an extent which would scarcely be credited. This may, however, be satisfactorily demonstrated by binding a small string of gutta percha round the joint, when after explosion the string will be found to have fallen in between the barrel and the breech; thus showing that the muzzle droops in the act of being discharged, which must must materially influence the correctness of fire.

The recoil of an ordinary 12-bore gun, loaded at the muzzle, varies from forty to forty-eight pounds, seldom exceeding the latter; that of a breech-loader varies from sixty-eight to seventy-six! And this quite independently of the enormous force which is exerted on the sides of these enlarged breech guns. The shoulder left in the barrel, too, is a formidable barrier for the charge to pass by; and, in doing this, the circle of shot in immediate contact with the barrel becomes disfigured and misshaped, so as to insure its flight only to a very short distance. In the muzzle-loader an average of 180 shots strike a target of two feet six inches diameter; but breech-loaders of the same calibre will rarely put in 120 shots; showing a clear loss of 60 pellets. This is due to the enormous jamming they have undergone in passing from the greater to the lesser area of the barrel. It is said that the paper of the cartridge fills up this enlargement; but any one who knows what the force of gunpowder is, must also know that paper intervening between the charge and the sides of the barrel would be condensed at the moment of explosion to one-fourth its original thickness.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/16/20 02:23 AM
Excellent post Stephen... William Greener (senior) had such a contempt for pin-fire breech-loaders that to think he would actually put his name on one of them, especially since he didn't speak to his son over the issue for 10 years, would be historically and sociologically and familially interesting.

Since you have obviously have a lot more up your sleeve, this will be an interesting look. I've always regarded William Greener as the curmudgeon of the old-guard...JC Reilly would be included in that crowd.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/16/20 05:53 PM
Sorry, no gun pictures today, just some random thoughts on a rainy day, prompted by William Greener's anti-pinfire opinions.

Of value in understanding the transition between the muzzle-loader and the breech-loader are the views of prominent sportsmen, and how these views changed over time. Thankfully several noted sportsmen put down their thoughts in print (nowadays we would call them "influencers," if my understanding of modern lingo is correct). One such person was Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Hawker (1786-1853), diarist, author, sportsman, and long-time friend of Joe Manton. Hawker served with the 14th Light Dragoons under the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, resigning his commission after having been wounded at the Battle of Talavera in 1809. Hawker first published his influential "Instructions to young sportsmen in all that relates to guns and shooting" in 1814. In the 9th edition of the book (published in 1844) Hawker stated that breech-loaders were "a horrid ancient invention, revived by foreign makers, that is dangerous in the extreme." Presumably he was referring to the original Casimir Lefaucheux guns that first appeared in France in 1835, and his experiences with Napoleon's finest probably impacted his opinion of all things French!

In its 11th edition (published in 1859, six years after Joseph Lang's pinfire arrived on the shooting scene), Hawker was equivocal on the subject, noting "breech-loaders have come very considerably into fashion, and are still on their trial; for although their superiority over the muzzle-loader is asserted by some, it is denied by others equally competent to form an opinion; it is, therefore, not intended to advise sportsmen either to discard the old system or to adopt the new one too hastily." The fact that breech-loaders were being built by British gunmakers probably tempered his views.

Peter Hawker (engraving by H. Adlard of a sketch by Alfred Edward Chalon)
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Peter Hawker (mounted) with Joe Manton (engraving by H. Adlard of a sketch by J. Childe)
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The 11th edition, with its far more conciliatory tone, also provides us with an interesting perspective on the availability and desirability of breech-loading guns at that time. Hawker first described the three main breech-loading systems available at the time, namely the pinfire, the base-fire, and the needle-fire:

"It may be as well to state, that in addition to the principle of breech-loading, the various methods of applying it, merit particular attention, as they are very dissimilar; some being simple, easy in use, and effective in practice, others more complicated and therefore more liable to derangement. Lang, Lancaster, and Needham construct these breech-loaders: the first of the three, combines in its plan, simplicity with efficiency; the second evinces considerable ingenuity in contrivance, and although it seems to work well, in much use it may be subject to get out of order; the third is the most complicated of the three, and has an ugly appearance."

Concerning the pinfire, Hawker saw safety in loading as the main advantage of the breech-loader, writing that the gun:

"...is an adaptation of the principle introduced many years since in France; its appearance and simplicity are equally in its favour; no contrivance can be more easily worked or better answer its purpose, and efficiency is combined with security and the liability to accident consequent on ramming down the muzzle-loader is completely obviated; in fact, you obtain rapidity in loading and firing, without risk. There can be no difference of opinion as to the importance of getting rid of a cause by which many persons yearly suffer serious injury to the hand..."

The rate of fire possible with a breech-loader was of little value to Hawker, as he wrote: "...the advantages arising from firing an additional number of shots may be questioned, as the present system is quite fast enough relatively to the amount of game on many moors and other shooting grounds." The idea of driven shooting had only begun to be possible with the use of breech-loaders, so it is not surprising that the ability to fire several shots to each one from a muzzle-loader was not yet seen as an advantage.

Hawker described the Lang gun and its use in detail:

"On Lang's method, the whole gun is not so heavy as an ordinary muzzle loader; for although the barrels may be somewhat more solid, there is neither ramrod nor heel-plate; the barrels are united to and partially liberated from the stock, by an easy movement of a lever working on a pivot immediately underneath the stock, which, when in a state of repose, from its neat adaptation to the stock, appears as if it were a fixture, and produces no inconvenience or unpleasantness in the handling. A slight effort moves and at the same time securely replaces it. When the lever is moved, for the purpose of loading, the barrels decline by their own weight, and conveniently expose the breech end for the easy insertion of the cartridges. To perform this operation and replace the barrels, is the affair of two or three seconds; and, as the striker or cock would not reach the pin which explodes the cap unless the barrels were properly, i. e. securely placed, no risk is incurred by haste or carelessness."

Little is said by Hawker on the Lancaster base-fire and the Needham needle-fire, though he noted the safety advantage of easily knowing when the pin-fire gun is loaded, by the exposed pins of the cartridges. In the space of 15 years, Hawker's opinion changed dramatically from denouncing breech-loaders as horrid, foreign and dangerous, to writing about the breech-loading gun in very favourable terms:

"In the first place, it is more safely, more easily, and more expeditiously loaded: more safely, because the peril consequent on a discharge, whilst ramming down an ordinary muzzle-loader, is entirely obviated: more easily and more expeditiously, because it requires only a moment to insert a cartridge. It is also more convenient; because cartridges can be removed, for the purposes of safety, or changed, when a different size of shot is required. The barrels are not so quickly fouled, and, when fouled, are more easily cleaned than those of the muzzle-loader. Overloading, and the liabilities arising therefrom, are obviated. The trouble, and occasional risk, consequent on drawing a charge, are removed: and accidents prevented from tow, or any other material capable of ignition, being left in the breech. A further advantage, arising from the insertion of the cartridge at the breech, consists in the certainty as to the amount and quality of the powder, which cannot be the case on a damp and foggy day with the muzzle-loader; when the powder falling from the powder-horn must be deteriorated, not only in its passage down the barrel, but also by the additional amount of moisture which is forced upon it by the wad, which, of course, carries all the moisture within the barrel down upon the powder. Guns on this principle, can be loaded with ease by sportsmen or soldiers lying on the ground."

The main criticism of the pin-fire at the time was over shooting performance, with the belief that the muzzle-loader shot "harder" (see the earlier post on William Greener's assertions). For Hawker, the safety advantages outweighed these concerns, as he wrote:

"The principal objection to the breech-loader urged by its opponents is, that it does not shoot so strong, even when allowed a quarter of a drachm of powder extra. But even admitting the present inferiority of the breech-loader in this respect, it is one so trifling in degree, that it ought to have but little influence when so many weighty considerations preponderate in its favour."

The improvement that finally made the performance of the pin-fire equal or superior to any muzzle-loader was not in the gun design, but in the cartridge -- with the development of the turn-over or rolled-over closure. Again there is uncertainty over who came up with the idea first, or whether the solution was independently arrived at by several inventors. For example, the Parisian inventor Benjamin Houllier is said to have patented a turn-over for his cartridge in 1857, though it is usually the Norwich gunmaker George Jeffries who is credited for his invention in 1859 of a simple tool to roll over the edges of the cartridge's cardboard body over the top wad, which was later perfected in 1861 by James Purdey. The shot charge in a cartridge with a rolled-over top would remain in the cartridge a fraction of a second longer once the powder was ignited, letting the pressure build up to a higher level behind the shot charge, and allowing the full powder load to burn efficiently. This increase in internal pressures drove the charge harder and provided better patterns, finally overcoming the complaint of weak-shooting breech-loaders.

Cartridges are not my area of research, so perhaps AaronN and others can help us with more precise cartridge development timelines?
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 12:41 AM
The cartridge and it's development, the timeline - I'm interested in seeing whatever our friends here can show.

I'd found this rifle, and I was surprised when I had cast the chambers. Very little clearance for case walls.



I'd contacted the maker to ask about some things, including the chambers and the Purdey mentality on cartridge case design from the time of the rifle's construction. Details from my learning venture are seen in this thread

I hope someone here has more to add to the story.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 02:13 AM
Tinker, that is an incredibly interesting line on your Purdey pin-fire rifle.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 03:07 AM
Argo, it's a honey.
I'm fortunate to have found it.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 03:33 AM
Originally Posted by Tinker
Argo, it's a honey.
I'm fortunate to have found it.
That's for sure. Beautiful rifle!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 06:07 PM
Tinker, aren't you glad you picked up that Purdey when you did? It is so easy to pass on a special gun, and wait for another to come along.

In my early collecting days I tried to only add guns that would add knowledge to the collection, either with actions and patents I hadn't seen before, or examples that marked milestones in the evolution of the breech-loader. It meant passing on guns that duplicated or were too similar to what I already had. While it kept me to spending only slightly more than what I could afford, I had not yet realized a Great Truth: every pinfire adds something, even if it isn't immediately obvious. That mistake cost me several guns I dearly would like to own now, as I realize I'll never see another.

Today's gun is an example of a 'typical' pinfire I might have passed up in the past, but is in reality quite a rare gun, while still being 'ordinary' in pinfire terms (i.e. a ubiquitous Jones-type double screw grip). I am much obliged to the very kind gentleman who recently decided to part with it!

In the mid 1860s there were over 500 gunmaking firms operating in the Gun Quarter of Birmingham (an area north of the city centre bounded by Steelhouse Lane, Shadwell Street and Loveday Street). Most are names unremembered today, yet their workshops built the guns the more famous firms got the credit for. When not filling orders for such firms, they could put up sporting guns under their own name, and increase the recognition of their work. But it is worth remembering the annual output of sporting guns from any maker would have been small, in the tens of guns, not hundreds or thousands as with the sought-after military contracts.

George B. Allen established his business in 1828 as a lock maker, furniture forger and filer, and from 1838 advertised himself as a gunmaker. In 1848 he was recorded as occupying 15 Weaman Row, St Mary's Square, in Birmingham. Thomas Birkett had a lock making business at 31 1/2 Whittall Street, having begun in 1855. In 1864 George Allen retired or died, and Henry Allen (presumably his son or a relative) went into partnership (as a junior partner) with Thomas Birkett, trading as Birkett & Allen, from 15 Weaman Row. In 1866 Thomas Birkett left the partnership to open up as a lock and action maker at 2 Whittall Street, and Henry Allen continued to run the business, but under his name alone. In 1880 Henry Allen appears to have closed shop, and Thomas Birkett continued his business until 1894.

Today's gun is marked Birkett & Allen, so this alone dates the gun between 1864 and 1866. It is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun, with no serial number. The top rib is signed "Birkett & Allen St. Mary's Square Birmingham", and the back-action locks are signed "Birkett & Allen". The 30 1/8" damascus barrels have London proofs. Both hammers have tips as stylized cap guards, and the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the right hammer is a replacement, possibly a period one. The gun has an elongated top strap, and bold foliate scroll engraving. While the owner had his initials added to the silver stock escutcheon, these are now too worn to be read, and the owner remains unknown. On the face of it, this is a standard quality mid-1860s pinfire game gun made by skilled -- but not famous -- hands. The actioning work and the locks may have been done by Thomas Birkett, no need to hire outworkers when this work is your speciality! The gun was probably never in royal company at any of the great shooting estates of the day, but it is nicely decorated and it was certainly someone's pride and joy.

As to how many sporting guns Thomas Birkett and Henry Allen may have built together in their two or so years of operation one can only guess, but it will have been a small number, hardly worth the effort of numbering. How likely is it to come across another Birkett & Allen pinfire? Not very.

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Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 10:05 PM
Originally Posted By: Steve Nash
Tinker, aren't you glad you picked up that Purdey when you did? It is so easy to pass on a special gun, and wait for another to come along.


Yes I am Steve.
I always have my eyes open for something similar, and as the years go by I see very few functional and available guns or rifles.

Let's see if any of our fellow enthusiasts can add some more fine detail to the timeline of the design and development of this cartridge type.

I'd still like to hear more from anyone on that cartridge percussion gun I showed earlier in this thread.

It's always great to learn more about these things.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/20 11:48 PM
Tinker, the pictures of you machine-milling and shaping those cartridges were worth the price of admission...(oh wait...it was free). Wish Miller were here to notice your use of tools...excellent post. The cartridge guys really need to take a look...and that's the next area that I really need to get up on in that incredibly fluid era of UK gunmaking 1856-1866. AaronN should be commenting soon.

And Steve, your collection and knowledge continues to astound.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/19/20 12:37 PM
The dust-up between Reilly and William Greener over the 1858 Field trial results reminded me that one of the peculiar aspects of the Field trials of 1858 and 1859 is the absence of any French pinfire guns in the competitions, considering that the pinfire breech-loader was a French invention. However, all six of the British pinfire guns in the 1858 trial used French cartridges, a reflection on the source and availability of commercial pinfire ammunition at the time. The only foreign-made pinfire guns to compete in the trials were of Belgian manufacture, a 14-bore by Adolphe Jansen of Brussels in the 1858 trial, and a 14-bore Bastin action by Auguste Francotte of Liège in the 1859 trial.

Belgium has had a very long history of arms making. The Liège region in particular was renowned for its metal work since the 5th century; cannons were made there from the mid 14th century, and wheel-lock guns from the mid 16th century. Liège gunmakers had a very high reputation in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, building beautifully made and decorated sporting guns, also turning out large quantities of military weapons and lower-quality trade guns. Having two Belgian-made pinfire guns competing in the Field trials suggests that foreign-made guns were available on the market, or that sportsmen brought them back from their travels on the Continent. An illustration of an actual gun used in the trials is in John Henry Walsh's 1859 book The Shot-Gun and Sporting Rifle, of a single-bite, forward underlever pinfire of classic Lefaucheux type by E. M. Reilly & Co., so we cannot know if the two Belgian guns were highly ornamented or more conservative in their build and decoration.

Today's gun is another lever-over-guard gun displaying the wrap-around lever style, built by the Masu Brothers, bringers of Belgian influences to the London gun trade and builders of the Bastin-action gun covered previously.

The Belgian gunmaker Gustave Masu (also known as Gustav Masu) is recorded as a gunmaker in Liège, Belgium in 1845, and in 1864 he established his business in London at 3a Wigmore Street, just when the demand for pinfire guns was increasing. The firm became Masu Brothers in 1865, and in 1869 the firm was renamed Gustavus Masu, moving to 10 Wigmore Street. It appears from examples seen that Masu guns were built in Liège (by the other brother?) and retailed in London by Gustave.

This gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever sporting gun by the Masu Brothers of London, number 2030, made 1865-69. The 28" damascus barrels have Liège proofs, and the top rib is simply signed "Masu Brothers London." This would have been from the 3a Wigmore Street address, and while this gun lacks the street information, guns are known with the rib inscription "Masu Frères à Liège & 3a Wigmore Street London," a detail which might have come along later than when this example was made. The Belgian proofs and lack of English marks is what caused Gustave Masu to run afoul of the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1855 (see AaronN's post on page 3 of this thread), which suggests the gun was closer in date to 1865, before he ran into trouble (and assuming he changed his ways after his £5 fine).

The gun has an elegant elongated top strap, unsigned back-action locks, pleasant open scroll engraving, a very attractive damascus pattern, and a lightly rounded, not flat, action table that fits the contours of the barrels. The barrels have mirror bores with minimal pitting, and the gun weighs 6 lb 14 oz.

However, what is most noticeable about this Belgian game gun built for an English market, is the non-removable fore-end, articulated with the action. This fore-end design gives no particular advantage that I can see, other than you can't drop it or lose it! I'm guessing that repairs to the fore-end wood were the result of someone trying to pry off the fore-end, without realizing it was permanently attached to the action.

The decoration of the gun has a faintly Continental look about it, while trying to fit in with the English styling of the period. Wigmore Street is in London's fashionable West-End Marylebone district, and a stone's throw from Cavendish Square. Gustave Masu was aiming for a well-to-do crowd, and appears to have been successful at it (despite his run-in with the Proof Act), with the business closing in 1892.

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Posted By: SKB Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/19/20 01:31 PM
That is a real beauty!
Posted By: JBLondon Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/19/20 08:08 PM
Steve, my Masu centerfire likewise has the articulated fore-end, as does my George Daw gun. Seems it was a blind alley in breechloader evolution. Those are some nice fences on yours! My Masu has Stanton locks so I would not assume all were made completely in Belgium.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/19/20 10:39 PM
That's a great looking gun.
I have a very nice, very ornate Mahillon cased two barrel set.
Pinfire 16b rifle and 12b shotgun.
It features the same captive, hinged forend design.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/20 12:15 AM
A lot of firms early on used that captive hinged fore-arm, which seems to have been a direct carry-over from Lefaucheux's design.

Here is the sketch of one of the Reilly's at the 1859 trial:


And here is Reilly SN 14469, dated per the chart to very early 1867. So the design continued to be ordered by some customers.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/20 05:19 AM
It would seem quite a logical way to do it for men who had been building muzzle loaders no doubt,just hinge your one piece stock !Wonder who made the first breechloader with a removeable forend???
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/20 01:03 PM
Originally Posted By: Imperdix
It would seem quite a logical way to do it for men who had been building muzzle loaders no doubt,just hinge your one piece stock !Wonder who made the first breechloader with a removeable forend???


I had a Claudin (french) very high grade, with Bernard barrels, double bite screw grip, which featured a removable forend - which was steel.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/20 01:40 PM
Tinker, does that Claudin with the Bernard barrels have a date with the Bernard number , possibly stamped on the under rib ?

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/21/20 08:47 PM
I honestly don't know who was the first British maker to offer a breech-loader with a captive fore-end. I originally thought the removable fore-end was a British development first appearing on the Lang/Hodges gun, but some much earlier French guns had them, I now realize. Yet another subject for someone to study! I've not seen enough breech-loaders with captive fore-ends to understand their source, but the origins might come from somewhere on the Continent.

The Daw snap-action breech-loader might have been the first in Britain to have a captive fore-end. I've seen JBLondon's magnificent Daw, it is a real beauty. Daw's gun was the design of François Eugène Schneider of 13 Rue Gaillon, Paris, which George Henry Daw purchased the rights to. (See? It is very hard to get away from French influences)

The early hand-made breech-loaders drip history like their later cousins exude elegance and finesse. The pinfires were the beginning of the learning curve for the makers that went on to build the guns in the purported "golden age" of shotguns. Pinfires carry their own style, but like the high collars and top hats worn for shooting, they are from a bygone age we have difficulty imagining and understanding.

Outside of fashionable London there was land to shoot over, and local gunmakers tried to get as much of the business as they could. Provincial gunmakers ran the gamut from being mere retailers of Birmingham-made guns, to bespoke makers rivalling their London brethren. They could also be both, moving trade-made guns to middle levels of society, while being able to produce Best-quality guns on special commission - it all depended on the size of the client's purse. Makers outside of London and Birmingham might have been capable of producing exquisite guns, but such commissions would be few, and surviving examples correspondingly rare.

Royals set the trends and fashions in Victorian society, and gunmakers vied for royal appointments. Having a non-London maker obtain a royal patronage is unusual enough, and one doing so would make full use of this in their advertising -- even after their patron's death. Today we can look at such an instance, from a provincial gunmaker who was the favourite of Albert, Queen Victoria's husband.

Edward Paton was born in 1819 in Dublin, Ireland, where his father was stationed at the time. In the 1840s he was an armourer with the 42 Royal Highlanders, and in 1854 he went into partnership with Charles Frederick Walsh, buying the gunmaking business of Ancell & Salmond at 44 George Street, Perth, Scotland, and together Paton and Walsh obtained several patents. Walsh left the partnership in 1858 and the firm continued trading under the name of Edward Paton. In 1861 Paton employed 7 men and 2 boys, and the business was known for their conversions of muzzle-loaders to breech-loaders. At some point Paton was appointed Gunmaker to His Royal Highness The Prince Consort (no small accomplishment), and after Albert's death in December 1861, Paton's label and rib inscriptions were changed to reflect the change. By 1870 the firm had been re-named Edward Paton & Son. Around this time Edward Paton moved to London to open a new shop at 108 Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, and the firm finished guns for Boss & Co.. In 1890 the Perth business was sold.

Here is a 14-bore rotary-underlever double-bite screw-grip pinfire sporting gun, number 2397, made in the mid 1860s. The 29 15/16" damascus barrels have London proofs and the wide top rib is signed "Edward Paton maker to His late RH the Prince Consort. Perth". The back-action locks are signed "Edward Paton." Interestingly it has a perforated trigger guard bow with a corresponding raised button on the under-lever, a feature I had not encountered before. The hammers are nicely done, and the tip of the under-lever is particularly well shaped and finished. This gun is near-identical in build quality and decoration to the Boss & Co. pinfires covered earlier, so it is not surprising Edward Paton finished guns for them! The bores are moderately pitted, and the gun weighs 6 lb 13 oz, befitting the smaller gauge.

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Posted By: SKB Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/21/20 10:04 PM
Nice gun! My Edward Patton & Sons .500 bpe Jones under-lever rifle is clearing Customs right now. Pictures when I get it in hand. Patton guns appear to be beautifully made.
Steve
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/22/20 02:14 AM
As a point of reference, from my Reilly database- SN 10655, under-lever Lefaucheux style break-action shot gun with detachable fore-arm. SN would date it to March 1858. (See the Reilly line - sorry, it's the only database I have):
https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=436538&page=36

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/22/20 02:25 AM
Lovely gun, I always enjoy seeing a forward-underlever. March 1858 is very early! Fantastic.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/22/20 07:42 PM
Hmmm. I'm now wondering if I've misunderstood the subject of royal warrants all along. Argo44's latest addition to his Reilly thread (https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=436538&page=50) brings up the matter of whether a maker who sold their wares to a member of the/a royal family could correctly describe themselves as "Maker to His Highness Etc Etc Etc", as one sees printed on gun case labels or inscribed on gun ribs. I'm now wondering if this is a separate matter than that of royal warrants of appointment, which gives the holder the official right to state "By appointment to HRH Etc Etc Etc" in their advertising and literature. I've long assumed this was one and the same, but now I question this assumption, as this latter phrase was, to my knowledge, not used by any British gunmakers in the 1850s and 1860s, yet it was in use in British commerce well before then. And what justifies the use of the term "Maker to..."? One gun? Several? It is not like these are perishable items, or goods that are constantly replenished!

I've not been able to track down a list of royal warrants officially issued in the mid-Victorian period against which a list of gunmakers associated with royal patronage could be compared. About 2,000 royal warrants were granted to a wide variety of tradesmen during the long reign of Queen Victoria. Such a list could help determine whether gunmakers had to have official recognition from the Lord Chamberlain in order to claim royal patronage, or if simply selling a gun to a member of the royal household was enough to claim "Maker to..." without the grant of a formal Warrant of Royal Appointment.

Gunmakers with royal connections I know about include:

- Joseph Lang, gunmaker to His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia
- Parker, Field & Sons, gunmaker to Her Majesty Queen Victoria
- George Fuller, gunmaker to HRH The Prince Consort (Albert)
- James Dalziel Dougall, Gun and Rifle Manufacturer to the Prince of Wales (1872)
- William Greener, gunmaker to HRH The Prince Consort (Albert) (1848)
- James Erskine, gunmaker to Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (elder brother of Albert)
- Edward Paton, gunmaker to HRH The Prince Consort (Albert)
- Charles Moore, gunmaker to King William IV (1836)
- Samuel & Charles Smith, gunmakers to King William IV (1835-1837)
- Edward Charles Reilly, "gun-maker to the Royal Family," as per newspaper advertisements (1863), found by Argo44

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It would appear that Albert fancied the guns of several makers, and from photographs the Prince of Wales enjoyed guns by Westley Richards. Some of the names mentioned above earned their accolade prior to the pinfire period, or shortly afterwards. If anyone has additional information as to royal patronage in the 1850s-1860s, official or otherwise, I would like to hear about it, please post what you know.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/22/20 08:08 PM
There`s a little bit of info on Wikipedia about the history of UK warrant appointments.Hth.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/23/20 04:44 AM
Stephen - a suggestion: Don't go into this "royal warrant" thing on this line. It's a rabbit warren and will dilute the excellence and concentration on the history of pin-fires, which you have so ably been documenting. - let's make a separate line.

Example:
Reilly 1884 label.
--By special appointment to his majesty the king of Portugal;
--By letters patent to the King of The Netherlands;
--Special Appointment to the King of Spain:


And you could add the dozens of advertisements for Reilly highlighting from 1868 - 1870 - by "Gunmaker to Napoleon III" such as this 1869 ad (Fournisseurs Brevets):


These gun makers were "carpet-merchants" - businessmen. In the modern world they'd have the logo "organic" all over their merchandise. For instance, what's the difference between "Special Appointment to" and "by Letters Patent" (Fournisseurs Brevets)?

That said, the question of how a UK Royal Warrant was issued is interesting. Why was Reilly excluded? I'm wondering about religion. But we'll leave that to the Reilly research. You have done a fantastic job here on pin-fires - and all of us want to see more.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/23/20 05:35 PM
Trying to pin down details of royal warrants and patronage is exhausting, and I suppose in the end it was an element of marketing. To me, that a royal patron would choose a provincial maker as opposed to an established London name, is by far the more interesting point. Would price be a consideration? Though the pinfire game gun was a plaything of the rich and well-to-do to start with, a 10- or 20-guinea or more savings made by choosing a provincial maker versus a London name, for a "best" quality gun, might be significant to a large proportion of one's potential clientele, considering how frequently competitive prices were trumpeted in the advertising of even the most prestigious firms. However it is hard to imagine the higher echelons of royalty worrying about such things -- but perhaps human nature is human nature.

The subject of small-town gunmakers is part of the pinfire story. Most of these probably sold Birmingham-made guns brought in in-the-white or as finished pieces, though some might have built significant parts, according to their skills and apprenticeship experiences. A small-town maker could be creative, inventive, and a builder of high-quality guns, should the right commission come along. As covered with the Edward Paton gun, a local maker could obtain royal partronage and develop a reputation amongst the nobility, British and foreign. Today's gun is from another Scottish maker that fits this description, James Erskine.

James Erskine was born in 1812 near Newton Stewart, in Scotland. He may have apprenticed with Edward or Jeremiah Patrick, before working for a while as a gun finisher for Williams & Powell of Liverpool. James returned to Newton Stewart and opened his business at 61 Victoria Street, though the exact date is not known. James was an exhibitor at the Great Exhibition in 1851, and was awarded a Bronze Medal for a muzzle-loading shotgun with recessed hammers. In 1859 he obtained a patent (No. 1703) for a slide-and-drop breech loading action. He entered at least one gun in the Field Gun Trials of 1866, and received "the highest award" for superior construction. In 1866 he obtained another patent (No. 1585) for a drop-down barrel action. Soon after 1866 James Erskine was appointed Gun Maker to Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (the elder brother of Albert, Queen Victoria's consort), and to an Austrian prince. So, not exactly your typical small-town gunsmith. James Erskine died in 1891.

The gun is not one of James Erskine's patent actions, but a standard 12-bore rotary-underlever double-bite screw grip pinfire sporting gun, no serial number, made sometime in the mid-1860s. The top rib is signed "J. Erskine Newton Stewart," and the bar locks are signed "J. Erskine." The 29 1/16" damascus barrels have a London provisional proof mark only, with no definitive proofs, and no bore stamp. The barrel maker's initials "T.B." could be those of Thomas Barnsley or Thomas Bowen. The action bar is also lacking the usual proofs. However, it is a good quality gun made with attention to detail and styling, with a sculptured action body, flat-sided sculptured hammers, fluted fences, and a well-figured stock with heel and toe plates. As is often the case with guns of this period, it is all about the unnecessary details -- I really like the dimple in the action to accept the raised edge of the fore-end iron when the gun is opened. While most makers leave the trigger guard plain, or with a raised edge or clip to locate the under-lever, Erskine raised both sides to create a channel to center the under-lever, a style I had not encountered before. Also, the trigger plate screw and surrounding is nicely engraved, even though it would be hidden by the closed lever. Detail.

I wish I knew more about the history of this gun, and the reasons why it escaped normal proofing. This is a gun that has seen hard use and the bores are pitted, and it weighs 7 lb 4 oz.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/24/20 06:20 PM
To follow up on the Erskine gun, there is a reason that Newton Stewart is not widely known -- it was, and still is, a very small town. The population in 1861 was 2535, the year the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway opened a railway station at Newton Stewart (in 2011 the population was 4092, and the railway station was closed in 1965). Despite its size and remoteness, its gunmaker, James Erskine, established a good reputation, and the quality of the gun pictured previously is the equal of anything that came out of London. The lack of proofs suggests the gun was built in Newton Stewart, and not Birmingham or elsewhere. I don't know how widespread the practice of selling guns with partial proofs was, I've not encountered any other. Here is 61 Victoria street in a recent Google Street View capture:

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(image capture: 2016 - 2020 Google)

Another reason Newton Stewart was on the map was again due to Erskine, with his patent cartridge loading machine. of 1887 (Patent no. 4294), which arrived too late for the pinfire (photo from the Internet). CORRECTION: Erskine did produce a cartridge loading machine for pinfire cartridges.

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In the period during which a British maker might have built a pinfire breech-loader, @1853-1870, I've compiled a list of 922 gunmakers who were in business at some point during this period, excluding those who advertised themselves as "rifle and pistol makers only." I don't expect all of them built or sold pinfires, some might have kept on making muzzle-loaders through the 1850s and closed shop when demand for them disappeared. Also, many gunmaking businesses did not last very long, and few guns would have been sold. Of the names on the list, 400 are from Birmingham and London, and 522 provincial makers. Of the provincial makers, 353 names are from towns that had two or more gunmakers, and there were 162 towns that had but a single gunmaker during any or all of the pinfire period. It is not surprising that most on the latter list are obscure names today, but a few, such as James Erskine, Edward Paton, and John Perrins of Worcester, are remembered for the fine quality of their guns.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/25/20 10:04 PM
I was wondering when you would get to Erskine!

Erskine definitely made his loading machines for pinfire. I have one and know of others. His patent on them only shows the pinfire variation in fact.

His multiple patents on the guns were for pinfire too.


I recently bought the Erskine patents and will scan them in and post them to my website in the next day or two.


Full Size

Edit: The 1887 Erskine patent was for a different type of machine, not the one you pictured. I didn't buy that patent as it did not have to do with pinfire. Here is the "Abridgments of Specifications" for it.

Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/25/20 10:45 PM
Wonderful, AaronN, especially the 1866 patent for the earlier pinfire loading machine. Thanks for the clarification regarding the pictured machine. I've never actually seen one up close.

I would have liked to have found one of Erskine's patent guns, but the Erskine I acquired is the only one I've ever come across. A handsome gun from a great maker.

One detail I forgot to point out is the "swelling" at the tail end of the trigger guard bow, which is not commonly encountered, and which appears to exist only to balance the visual profile of the gun, matching the thickness of the underlever. If it has any other purpose, I'm not aware of it...

More provincial makers to follow soon.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/26/20 12:13 AM
Great stuff you guys. What an educational and entertaining line. Can't wait for more.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/26/20 05:07 PM
Here is another skilled but largely unknown provincial maker.

Bedford has been a market town since the Middle Ages, located 74 km north of London, 105 km south of Birmingham, and 40 km west of Cambridge. The 19th Century saw Bedford transform into an important engineering hub and in 1832 gas lighting was introduced, the railway arrived in 1846, the first drains and sewers were dug in 1864, and piped water was provided in 1866, near around the time the gun below was made. In the 1860s Bedford had only one gunmaker, Henry Adkin at 11 High Street. He had two daughters and three sons, two of which eventually followed him into the business. In 1861 Henry Adkin employed one man and two apprentices, so he was a fairly typical provincial gunmaker.

While his was a small operation, Henry could put up fine work. This gun, a double-bite screw grip under-lever 12-bore, has no serial number (Adkin probably made less than 10 a year), the 29 3/4" damascus barrels have London proofs and have made it to this day with only slight pitting, and the gun weighs 7 lb 2 oz.. However, it is thoroughly well-made, and with a number of artistic flourishes: the dolphin-headed hammers with flanged noses, a fitted under-lever, the sculpted horn tip to the fore-end, unusually fine chequering, and well-executed acanthus-leaf engraving (it would be decades before the full-coverage tiny rose-and-scroll motifs would appear on guns).

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In 1872 Adkin moved to 54 High Street, having the old building torn down and the new building purpose-made as a gun shop and workshop -- one of only three purpose-built gun shops in Britain. The design was in the Venetian Gothic style, topped with two guns dogs holding pheasants, and Adkin's initials "HA" carved in stone on the front of the building. Adkin's original shop now houses a MacDonald's, and the 1872 purpose-built building still stands, now a Subway's. Henry Adkin died in 1914, aged 93, and the business he started in 1844 closed for good in 1996 -- a pretty good run.

(image capture: May 2019 - 2020 Google)
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Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/27/20 12:24 PM
Interesting , or rather unusual, trigger guard design with the guard screwed into the decorated bottom tang.
Posted By: susjwp Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/27/20 12:46 PM
Steve,

Who would or may have or own records for Adkins guns. I have an SLE, beautiful gun, and would like to assemble whatever information I can. I did track down a trade label with the Bedford address, but given they closed in 1996, someone must have some records.

Beautiful guns.

John
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/27/20 08:21 PM
Daryl, the two-piece trigger guard iron is one of those little details where once you notice it, you realize it appears on other guns. I can't list all the times where I've noticed a design or construction feature, thinking it was a new one to me, only to go back to the collection and find it was not so new... And I too thought the two-piece guard was unusual, and I was surprised to see it was in wider use than I had thought. I have no idea of the benefit, if any, of having a two-piece trigger guard instead of the single piece iron. But it was not an uncommon practice in pinfire game guns. In this thread I've illustrated 10 other game guns having this particular quirk, by Barnett, Birkett & Allen, John Blissett, JD Dougall, WW Greener, Harris Holland, William Moore, Theophilus Murcott, CF Niebour, and TJ Watkins. Yep, it's worth going back in the thread and having another look.

Sort of like the the back-lock plate attachment, unless you look at a number of guns you never notice there are several different ways of fixing the plate. In the case of pinfires, how often does one have the luxury of examining several dozen at once? Another reason to continue following this thread!

Perhaps this 'feature' was short-lived, I don't have other doubles to compare to. Does anyone have a later centre-fire hammer gun or hammerless double with a two-piece trigger guard iron?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/27/20 08:23 PM
John, I'm afraid I do not have any information on surviving Adkin records. Here's hoping a reader of this thread will be able to help.
Posted By: SKB Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/27/20 08:24 PM
Steve,
I think the two piece trigger guard is stylistic more than anything. Check out the vintage Rigby rising bite guns, they have two piece guards. I have seen others as well.

https://www.morphyauctions.com/jamesdjulia/item/52239-1-397/

Steve
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/28/20 02:51 AM
The two piece trigger guard is a standard item on most Powell lifters.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/28/20 05:16 AM
I too was intrigued when you posted the first pic of a two piece guard ,thinking it was a foreign influence but obviously it is not a rarity at all in the p/f era.Did it occur on muzzle loaders previously?
Posted By: damascus Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/28/20 10:28 AM
This Pinfire carries the name Samuel Ebrall Shrewsbury the County Town of Shropshire he was a top provincial maker, strangely it caries London Proof Marks though I am sure it is a Birmingham made gun. The bores are in good condition but it has the ugliest set of hammers that I have ever seen on a Pinfire. It also has the remains of "Russet Browning" a much favored finish for barrels on guns used for Wild Fowling here in Brit land.

Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/28/20 01:45 PM
Mr. Nash, that's a good explanation and comment. It caused me to go back and look at some of my British pinfire doubles. I think I looked at about six. All , including a Dougall Lockfast design, had the triggerguard and decorated tang in one piece. One, a Harkom, had a separate triggerguard and it appears to be attached at the rear with some sort of "blind screw". You are correct , it is really nice to see these guns sort of side by side so that the differences pop out.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/28/20 11:58 PM
Thanks for posting your Samuel Ebrall gun, Damascus. From the thin fences I'm guessing yours is an early gun. The hammers almost look Continental in shape, here for comparison are hammers on a 12-bore Lefaucheux-type pinfire gun by Chàlet, Père et Fils of St. Étienne, France (also on a gun with thin fences).

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Shrewsbury had a population of 46,261 in 1861, large enough to have had three gunmakers at the time: Samuel Ebrall, Henry Jackson (1867), and William Summunds (1862-1868).
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/29/20 12:04 AM
Keeping on the subject of provincial gunmakers, here is one who never achieved much fame, yet a variety of his guns have survived.

Manchester was a city that boomed during the industrial revolution. In the 1850s and 1860s (the population was 1,313,550 in 1861) cotton and finance were the main areas of development. With this wealth came the possibility of country pursuits, and at least 19 gunmakers were active in Manchester during at least part of the pinfire period: John P. Agnew (1849-1868); William Burtinshaw (1830-1865); Thomas Conway (1804-1871); John William Edge (1849-1864); Gasquoine & Dyson (1846-1864); William Griffiths (1855-1906); Griffiths & Worsley (1862-1869); Reuben Hambling (1866-1868); Hamer & Co. (1860); Thomas Hepplestone (1852-1910); John Kaye (1845-1866); Thomas Newton (1855-1906); Charles Pearson (1864-1869); Francis Preston (1858-1872); Francis Robinson (1858-1864); Henry Steel (1857-1859); Robert Stensby (1832-1971); Thomas Warhurst (1867-1869); and Robert Watmough (1854-1869).

We've already looked at a gun by Reuben Hambling, let's look at one by Robert Watmough.

Robert Watmough was born in Lancashire in 1821, and he and his wife Elizabeth had a daughter named Anne on 5 November 1845. Robert worked for the gunmaker Thomas Conway, who operated at 4, and later 15, Blackfriars St. in Manchester. Conway was a well known gunmaker who was renowned for his pistols. Whether Watmough apprenticed under Conway, or was a journeyman in his employ, is not known. Robert Watmough set up his own gunmaking business at 13 Blackfriars St. in 1854, closing in 1869. That is about all than can be traced for this maker.

Thankfully a few of his guns survive. Here is a 16-bore double-bite screw-grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun number 4029, made 1865-1869. The 27 3/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and the top rib is signed "RobT. Watmough. 13. Blackfriars. St. Manchester." The barrels also have a maker's mark "W.M," which I believe is for W. Marshall, gun barrel maker of 10 & 14 Vesey St., Birmingham, who was in operation from 1865 to 1868 -- which helps to date the gun. The back-action locks are signed "R. Watmough" and are nicely decorated with dog and game scenes (curlews and pheasant). The bores are still very good with only slight pitting at the breech, and the gun weighs a slight 6 lb 8 oz.

Despite its obvious attractiveness, game scenes are uncommon on pinfire guns, with acanthus leaf patterns predominating. Price may have been a factor, though I don't think so -- talent came at very little cost back then. A similar Watmough pinfire recently sold at auction in the US, so perhaps game scene engraving was part of a "house style," as it was for John Blissett of London. When executed well such scenes are very attractive and, when done crudely... Um, to paraphrase comments from elsewhere on the board, who wants to look at flying turnips?

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Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/29/20 04:04 PM
I made a new post as a follow-up to the Erskine patents I mentioned:

https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=578890

And here is the direct link to the new article on them:

https://aaronnewcomer.com/the-pinfire-patents-by-james-erskine/
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/29/20 06:32 PM
Superb quality and style exhibited in the Watmough ..lovely!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/30/20 04:51 PM
Great research, AaronN, well explained. Has anyone else come across a Erskine pinfire?

The Watmough is a delight in the details. The game scenes are the best I've encountered on a pinfire game gun, the chiselled engraving is Holland-esque, and I particularly like the fore-end, with the raised lip on the fore-end iron, the full chequering, and the shaped tip lacking the usual horn or iron finial. While it does not have one of the patent snap-actions popular at the time, the overall construction and attention to detail on that gun suggests it would have been one of his better offerings.

For anyone new to this thread, a TJ Watkins gun has similar (though not quite as nice) game-scene and foliate-scroll engraving, shown on page 17 of this thread.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/30/20 10:41 PM
In the 19th century Belfast was a major port and a big player in the Industrial Revolution. It was the biggest linen-producer in the world, and a major centre for tobacco-processing, rope-making, and shipbuilding. With this kind of industrial might came wealth, and the rich class could pursue outdoor leisure activities such as shooting, fishing, and golf. Joseph Braddell started his business in 1811 at Castle Place, Belfast, Ireland, around the corner from the Ulster Club, popular with the local gentry. The firm probably became Joseph Braddell & Son in about 1825, but the actual date in unknown. In about 1850, possibly due to the death of Joseph Braddell, the business was reportedly sold to a Mr. Playfair, who may have been Charles Playfair of Bentley & Playfair, Birmingham. As with so much of the early British gun trade, information can be incomplete, confusing and contradictory. The gun below may in fact have been made by Bentley & Playfair, as the firm of Joseph Braddell & Son is more likely to have been a retailer of guns made for them by the trade, rather than a maker themselves. The firm continued, as a seller of guns, fishing rods and tackle, and golf clubs, until 2014 when it closed for good after a fire. Unfortunately a previous fire in 1895 destroyed the records prior to that date, so no early guns can be traced. It is therefore unfortunate that what is decidedly a fine gun can tell us so little about how it was made, and for whom.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever game gun, retailed by Joseph Braddell & Son of Belfast, number 2500, probably made in the mid to later 1860s. The 29 15/16" fine damascus barrels have London proofs (Ireland did not have its own proof house, so all Irish guns had to undergo proof testing in Birmingham or London), and the top rib is signed "Joseph Braddell & Son Improved Bar Lock Breech loader 17 Castle Place Belfast." One of the more interesting features of this gun is that it was made for a left-hander, where the under-lever swings to the left instead of the right. The bar-action locks are signed "J. Braddell & Son," the action bar has fluted edges, the flat-sided hammers are nicely sculptured, and the trigger guard bow has a slight indent fitted to receive a tiny bump on the under-lever. As with all guns of the period the fore-end is fixed with a cross key, but in this gun it pushes out from the left side, a nice touch to match the underlever. The gun has quality foliate scroll engraving throughout, and there are still traces of colour on the lock plates and the fore-end iron. The gun has mirror bores with only slight pitting at breech, and it weighs a solid 7 lb 5 oz.

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Bar locks, the fore-runner of the modern hammerless sidelock, were preferred by some over the more frequently encountered back locks. Some have argued that bar locks, by the positioning of the mainspring, are ever so slightly quicker to strike, though the difference in reality might be irrelevant. Bar locks usually have flat lock plates and require a squared action frame, and much inletting and fitting of metal. Back locks require significant removal of wood in the crucial hand area of the stock, but allow for gracefully rounded lock plates (hold the edge of a piece of paper at right angles to a back-action lock plate to appreciate just how rounded they are). Some considered bar locks as more traditional (and closer to muzzle-loaders in general appearance), and somehow fancier -- while best-gun maker Boss & Co. built all their pinfires with back-action locks. Guns with bar locks tended to provide a greater canvas for the engraver's artistry, while others (and I include myself here) simply preferred the lines of guns with back locks.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/01/20 07:51 AM
Pinfire guns have 'U' shaped protrusions at the top of their standing breech to help
position and secure the pins. Does anyone know if those protrusions have an agreed-upon name?
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/01/20 12:22 PM
Steve, I called it a keeper, but for no good reason as pinfire guys to talk to are quite rare.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/01/20 05:43 PM
Keepers? That works for me. They vary in shape and prominence, from barely there, to quite prominent and fitting into a squared recess in the barrel rim (an example of the latter is on a Dougall Lockfast). They might act as a gas seal or gas deflector (to reduce the size of the pin hole), or simply to 'round' the pin hole on the barrel, which would otherwise have a 'D' shape.

The Breechloading Armoury gun covered earlier, and seen again here, lacks them entirely, but it was built as a dual-fire gun. I can understand conversions from pinfire to centrefire having the 'keepers' filed off the standing breech, as the pin holes are generally filled during the process. There is no point in doing so for a dual-fire gun, so I have to speculate the Breechloading Armoury gun never had them at all, which is unusual for a pinfire.


Thanks for your posts, gentlemen, I would never have gone back and noticed the difference otherwise!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/01/20 05:52 PM
The previous posts of mine and others have presented some fine guns built or retailed by provincial gunmakers outside of the gunmaking centres of Birmingham and London. Clients in towns and villages that were not from the higher strata of British society would only be able to afford cheaper offerings, of the type put up by "the trade," a catch-all term encompassing the several hundred mostly independent craftsmen operating from Birmingham's Gun Quarter. In the next posts I will be covering guns made by "the trade," but before departing the subject of provincial makers entirely I have to mention how such guns were essential to the makers who did not do their own actioning, lock work, barrel work, and so on. So today's gun is a basic utility game gun most likely made in Birmingham for a small-town gunmaker. What is interesting about this gunmaker is that he was British, but not technically in Britain...

I learn something new every day, such as why I couldn't find any reference to John William Hunt in any of the usual reference works on British gun makers, a maker who operated in St. Helier, Jersey, in the Channel Islands. I was surprised to learn the Channel Islands (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and a number of uninhabited islets), located off the coast of Normandy, France, are not considered part of the United Kingdom at all, though these islands are held by the monarch of the United Kingdom. Specifically, these crown dependencies are island territories that are self-governing possessions of the crown. Jersey, located just 12 nautical miles off the coast, was part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066. After England lost Normandy in the 13th century and the ducal title surrendered to France, Jersey and the other Channel Islands remained attached to the English crown. Jersey has enjoyed self-government since the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204.

The 18th century was a period of political tension between Britain and France as the two nations clashed as their ambitions grew, and the Channel Islands were caught up in the turmoil. Then, after the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815), the number of English-speaking soldiers stationed on the island and the number of retired officers and English-speaking labourers who came to the islands in the 1820s led to the island gradually moving towards an English-speaking culture. The population of Jersey rose from 47,544 in 1841 to 56,078 in 1861, largely due to agricultural development and industries such as ship-building and commodities such as cider and wool, and later the famous Jersey cattle. The parish of St Helier accounted for approximately half the population of Jersey at the time, and the urban portion of the parish made up the largest town on the island (it still does).

The gun maker P. Vincent established his business in 1833 at Royal Square, St Helier, Jersey. In 1847 H. Vincent took over the business and moved to Parade, St Helier. In 1855 his sons joined the firm and the name changed to H. Vincent & Sons. In 1858 the business moved to 23 Halkett Place, and in 1861 to 7 Saville Street. In 1863 H. Vincent was recorded at 4 Hampton Place, Parade, St Helier, but not after that year. It would have been around this time that John William Hunt took over the business from H Vincent & Sons (though one of Hunt's advertisements mentions taking over the business somewhat earlier, in 1860). In 1889 John Hunt was recorded as a gun maker at 69 King Street and 26 Broad Street, and he was also armourer to the Jersey National Rifle Association. It is interesting to note that early local advertisements for the firm appear in both English and French, a reflection of the mix of cultures on the island. Unfortunately, reference works on British gun makers only list those recorded within the territory of the United Kingdom, and therefore gun makers and gunsmiths operating in the crown dependencies have been excluded and there is very little in the way of information on them.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw-grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun signed John William Hunt of St. Helier, Jersey, with no serial number. The 30 1/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs and the maker's marks "C.N" and "HB" (the latter is possibly Henry Bayliss, Birmingham barrel maker 1855-1869, or Henry Boot, Birmingham barrel maker, 1867). There is also the mark "J.M" on the barrel flats. These marks may identify who actually built the gun for John Hunt, as this is a typical utilitarian low-grade pinfire that Birmingham built for the trade in the late-1860s -- and more likely to have been used by a farmer than a wealthy sportsman. From the estimated age the gun may have been retailed from the 4 Hampton Place, Parade, St Helier, address. The top rib is simply marked "J. Hunt Jersey", and the back-action locks are signed "J. Hunt". The gun is in poor, worn-out condition, with evidence of old repairs and part replacements. A curious modification is a simple V-notch sight added between the fences, suggesting the gun was used at some point for shooting ball. As there are no large-game species on Jersey (I'm discounting the mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses last hunted on Jersey during the Ice Age), I have no ready explanation to propose, and it might have been added at any point in its long period of service. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 1 oz.

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Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/01/20 06:43 PM
Used for seals with ball perhaps??
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/03/20 06:05 PM
Seals? Could be, Imperdix. In any case a curious addition, and we might never know why it was so modified.

Continuing on the subject of guns made by 'the trade', we have to move from the shores of France back to Birmingham. The Gun Quarter is a district of the city that was for many years a major centre of the world's gun-manufacturing industry, specialising in the production of military firearms, trade guns, and sporting guns. It was bounded by Steelhouse Lane, Shadwell Street and Loveday Street, and was close to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.

Historically Birmingham had many water mills, and starting in the 16th century mills originally used for grinding corn were switched over to industrial uses. By the 17th century mills were used for grinding blades, for both agricultural and military purposes. In time the aggregation of skilled metal workers led to gun production, and the mills were used for the grinding and polishing of barrels. Gunmaking gradually centered on the Weaman estate around Whittall Street, located near Kettle's Steel Houses, factories dating from the 1730s that processed steel (for which Steelhouse Lane was named). The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was completed in 1789, facilitating the route from the 'Black Country' (the West Midlands region west of Birmingham known for its coal, iron and steel). In 1767 there were 62 workshops involved in gunmaking in the Quarter, but by 1815 there were 125, by 1829 there were 455, and by 1868 there were 578 gun firms operating in the Gun Quarter.

There were also quite a few trades associated with the gun "trade," as the parts, and putting together of the parts, requires specialist attention. In an 1861 directory for Birmingham, the following gun-related trades were listed: gun and pistol makers, barrel makers, barrel smoothers, barrel browners, barrel riflers, break-off fitters and forgers, breech makers, finishers, furniture makers, implement makers, implement and barrel filers, lock makers, nipple manufacturers, rib forgers, gun and rifle sight makers, screwers, stockers, stock dealers, stock finishers, stock polishers and varnishers, and gun wadding makers.

In the late 19th century, Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham (1885) summarized the following: "...it may not be uninteresting to enumerate the manifold branches into which the trade has been divided... till late years most of them being carried on under different roofs: The first portion, or "makers", include stock-makers, barrel welders, borers, grinders, filers, and breechers; rib makers, breech forgers and stampers; lock forgers, machiners, and filers; furniture forgers, casters, and filers; rod forgers, grinders, polishers, and finishers; bayonet forgers, socket and ring stampers, grinders, polishers, machiners, hardeners, and filers; band forgers, stampers, machiners, filers, and pin makers; sight stampers, machiners, jointers, and filers; trigger boxes, oddwork makers, &c. The "setters up" include machines, jiggers (lump filers and break-off fitters), stockers, percussioners, screwers, strippers, barrel borers and riflers, sighters and sight-adjusters, smoothers, finishers makers-off, polishers, engravers, browners, lock freers, &c., &c.

The bottom line is that myriad workers were required towards achieving the end goal of having a named "gunmaker" place a finished gun in the hands of a client, and most of those workers operated in and around Birmingham's Gun Quarter. A famous London firm, or one of any in Birmingham or the regions, could order parts, or a barrelled action, or a gun requiring final finishing work, or a finished engraved gun complete with the maker's name, address, and required serial number. All were available, made to any level of quality. Some craftsmen signed their work, leaving initials or other marks to identify their barrel or lock work, or the critical job of actioning and jointing. But mostly the work was anonymous, the craftsmen content to be paid a fair wage, building guns for social classes they would rarely encounter.

Today''s gun is one such gun "built for the trade." It carries no name or address, or any identifiable markings as to who retailed the gun, for a client probably happy to not pay a premium for a name. Was it sold through a provincial maker? A hardware/ironmonger's shop? Directly from a Birmingham back-alley workshop? Impossible to tell.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun, with no serial number. The 30" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and tight bores (measured as 14- and 13-bore). There are barrel maker's marks, "T.W" and "LC," which I've not been able to trace. The bar locks are unsigned, but together with the fluted action body, this was not a cheap gun and while the current condition is poor, when it left the workshop it would have been a stylish gun. The engraving is above-average, with breech ends with fine starburst detailing at the pinfire apertures, decorated serpentine fences, classic rounded hammers and shaped noses, and engraving in areas normally left hidden. It has the short top strap typically found on guns with bar locks. The stock is nicely figured, and the fore-end has an attractive horn inlay. Not surprisingly in a gun of this outward appearance, the bores are pitted at the breech. The gun weighs 7 lb 8 oz.

Now I know why so many books on antique guns use black-and-white pictures - colour shows off all the imperfections!

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/04/20 09:18 PM
When I was offered a Jeffery pinfire, I was very pleased. The Jeffery family of gunmakers, from Poole, Plymouth, Lymington, Dorchester, and Farnham has always interested me. Having seen examples of their early fine provincial muzzle-loaders, and their later London centre-fire guns, had me imagining what a Jeffery pinfire might look like, with great anticipation. To my disappointment, it turned out the gun was signed Jeffrey, not Jeffery. As I would later realize, confusing the two spellings is common in on-line gun discussions, and even in the 19th century the name caused confusion -- an early business record for a gun maker William Jeffrey in Farnham, Surrey, turns out to have been a misprint of his name.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun of typical form, of the kind commonly made in the Birmingham trade in the late 1860s. It has a serial number, 483, which may be from the original maker, or the retailer. The gun has 30" damascus barrels, stamped "roses patent" and "No. 20," indicating they were made by the Rose Brothers of the Hales-Owen Mills & Forge, under their patent for making machine-forged damascus barrel tubes. These were a cheaper option than hand-forged barrels, and can be found on guns built for the trade appearing under any name. Knowing the Rose Brothers barrels were British-made might have had an appeal, as reportedly most gun barrel tubes in the trade were sourced from Belgium, though British-proofed. The barrels have Birmingham proofs and barrel makers' marks "HT" and "E.C." (the latter possibly for Edwin Cook, barrel maker 1867-1878). The top rib is signed "Jeffrey London", as are the back-action locks. The name is probably as close to London this gun ever got, and adding "London" was a common marketing ploy for selling lesser-grade Birmingham guns in towns and villages, for the big-city cachet. Was the Jeffrey name that of an ironmonger? Possibly. Or was it an attempt to trick a buyer by using a respectable-sounding name? Perhaps, but I suspect I'll never know. In any case there are no recorded gunmakers at the time with the name "Jeffrey", as far as I can find.

While an inexpensive gun with dubious markings, it is nevertheless adequately made, and typical of guns put up by the Birmingham trade. The fences are well shaped, the hammer noses curiously long and smooth, a radius has been cut to strengthen the action bar, and the form of the under-lever, lacking a central fixing screw visible from below, is oddly attractive. The generic "trade" engraving and overall plainness does mark the gun as a basic offering, though when new it must have looked quite handsome to someone with a limited purse. The gun has seen considerable use, the bores are pitted, and it weighs 7 lb 9 oz.

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If anyone has an actual Jeffery pinfire, I'd like to see it!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/05/20 03:42 AM
Steve, this is the most amazing line I've seen on DGS. I learn stuff every day and have to go back to read each post again. And am tempted to delve into the society, politics and war-fighting of the era from the newspapers just to understand the guns.

The problem with writing a book is the amount of information one has. IIs the book a story or an academic exercise? The nice thing about these posts is that they are both!

Please keep it up. This line is a must-have reference work.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/06/20 11:07 PM
Argo44, thanks for the kind words. I strongly believe the only way to understand the pinfire and early breech-loaders in Britain is by looking at the wider picture of society, class, politics, and current events. The arrival of the pinfire coincided with the boom in rail travel, product advertising, and industry, and a growing (but not distributed) wealth. This was wealth often made from the backs of powerless workers, and in some instances derived from slave labour on distant plantations. Against this grimy backdrop was the British desire for country pursuits, for which shooting, either for competition, sport, or the dinner table, was a major pastime.

The view count on this thread is steadily increasing, which I hope is an indication of interest in the subject matter, arcane as it is. I encourage readers that have been silent so far to join in, there must be other pinfires lurking in collections, all are welcome here!

Continuing with Birmingham guns, here is another marked "London," again.

The "London" address has always been the most desirable to have on a sporting gun. It speaks of wealth and prestige, and infers a degree of elitism that other addresses did not attain -- addresses that were a stone's throw from posh members-only clubs, and alongside shops catering to the upper echelons of a highly stratified society. For many gun makers, a London address was de rigeur, situated as closely as possible to their desired clientele, be they nobility, politicians, businessmen, professionals, officers, or just wealthy sportsmen. In truth though, very few "London" guns were actually made in London, or built from parts made in London. As I've covered before, the vast majority of component parts, and a great many of the guns themselves, were made in Birmingham. A London maker could order from a Birmingham supplier anything ranging from individual parts, to a fully finished gun engraved with the London maker's name, address and serial number, and decorated to suit. Some London firms chose to perform most of their own work on the highest grades of guns, with lesser grades built entirely for them in Birmingham workshops. This seemed to be a better use of the more expensive London craftsmen, but if required, the small Gun Quarter workshops could put up "Best" work as fine as any London firm, for a price.

Birmingham also made the guns sold throughout Britain, again supplying anything from parts to finished guns. By my count, over 500 gunmakers were in operation outside of London and Birmingham during all or at least part of the later 1850s and 1860s, all depending on Birmingham to some extent. It would have been tempting to provincial makers to exaggerate one's business credentials, especially if it would help sell wares. A spuriously London-marked gun was simply canny advertising, though untruthful. But then again, what do you call a Birmingham-made gun retailed by a London maker with their name and address on the rib? You could nevertheless argue that the London maker's reputation was on the line with every gun that carried their name, and high standards and quality control had to be maintained.

Today's gun presents what appears to be a white lie, a maker's real name but with what may be a spurious London address. James Bott was born in 1826, and he established a business first at 8 Great Russell Street, Birmingham (date unknown), and in 1853 he set up as a gun maker at 67 Weaman Street (this corresponds well to having apprenticed at age 14, serving 7 years as apprentice, then 5-6 years as a journeyman, before opening his business). His was a successful gun making business, going through various address changes in the 1880s and 1890s, becoming James Bott & Son, and finally being sold to Joseph Bourne & Son in 1903. Bott probably supplied parts and guns to the trade, and he marketed guns under his own name -- which he may have made, or ordered from others. The small-scale sporting gun business was very convoluted in nature at the best of times.

The gun is a 12-bore, and it has no serial number. I'm guessing it was made in the mid- to later-1860s. The 29 15/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and the top rib is signed "Patent Damascus JAs. Bott & Compy. Strand London." Herein lies the problem, as there are no patent marks on the barrels or the gun, and there is no record of James Bott having an address in London at the time, never mind the fashionable Strand thoroughfare in Westminster, central London (though he did obtain a London address much later in 1890, at 38 Lime Street East in the Langbourn ward). There are also no business records of a company, though it is possible that Bott used a London-based agent or partner, perhaps a jeweller or other trader who could move his goods. If he did so, there are no records or evidence of such an arrangement, and furthermore, that level of business was probably beyond the capacity of a small operation employing at most a handful of men. The fact that other Bott arms have been similarly marked (a James Bott pinfire revolver was recently sold at auction, and it carried a "J. BOTT & Co,, PATENT STRAND LONDON" barrel inscription). This suggests it was a general practice to augment his sales, or there is more to the Bott business than has been recorded so far. However, no London business directory has ever listed a "James Bott & Co.," and if such a business had existed, it would have been widely advertised.

The gun has the ubiquitous double-bite screw grip action, and the back-action locks are unsigned. It has a handsomely engraved top strap and nicely shaped hammers, but is otherwise a standard-grade Birmingham pinfire without any remarkable features. The condition is poor and worn, with damaged and missing hammer screws, and the fore-end is missing its horn finial. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 10 oz.

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/07/20 12:44 AM
Great post. Here are a couple of thoughts.

1) This is a letter to the editor (a personal sort of feud) to "The Field" 14 Aug 1855. The author states what was "commonly known": That London gun makers were essentially finishers:


2). However, re pin-fire breech-loaders, we have not yet established when Birmingham actually began to make a breech-loader. Steve, you previously mentioned early 1860's. I posted a census entry from April 1861 re Breedon advertising himself as a breech-loader action maker. But that's the earliest found. So who made those Lang, Reilly, Blanch breech loader actions and lump barrels in the 1855-57 period...or the H. Holland and Purdey pin-fire breech-loaders in 1857-58 etc. if not London?
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/07/20 01:36 PM
I think pictured earlier is a Richard Jeffery of Guildford. Dougall Lockfast action , actioned by J Wilkes. There were others with that "exact" last name.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/07/20 03:14 PM
Originally Posted By: Daryl Hallquist
I think pictured earlier is a Richard Jeffery of Guildford. Dougall Lockfast action , actioned by J Wilkes. There were others with that "exact" last name.

Yes! Beautiful gun, and the real deal.

Spuriously named guns were enough of a problem that by the 1880s gunmakers collectively advertised and published the correct name and address formulations that should appear on their guns, to fight the scourge of mostly foreign counterfeits.

I will get to the subject of store-marked guns shortly, another source of confusing names.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/08/20 03:07 AM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
So who made those Lang, Reilly, Blanch breech loader actions and lump barrels in the 1855-57 period...or the H. Holland and Purdey pin-fire breech-loaders in 1857-58 etc. if not London?

Argo44, I believe the first pinfires by Lang, Reilly and Blanch were made in London, as much as any gun was made in London at the time. The locks would have been sourced from the Black Country, barrel tubes from Birmingham or other local forges, or imported from Belgium, actioned in London, proofed in London, and finished by the aforementioned London firms, and possibly others.

It would not have taken long for Birmingham to start developing its own actioning skills, and perhaps the Field trials marked the point when the pinfire became a viable direction for the industry to take. On the basis there were so few pinfire game guns in circulation prior to the trials, maybe 1859 is the point from which the Birmingham trade started to take notice. It would have had to coincide with an increased demand for the guns from the sporting public, a demand that was being promoted first and foremost by the key London makers.

Here is a modern breech-loading action forging, probably not far removed from what the first action filers obtained from Birmingham forges. Perhaps someone knows how many hours of work with hand tools it would have taken to transform a forging such as this into a finished action?
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/08/20 03:55 AM
That action is powerful statement...which bring me back to the 11 Dec 2019 Gavin Gardner catalog, which offered a bunch of unfinished actions...including one identified specifically as E.M Reilly. Who made them? When? Why were they identified for specific makers? That was history; The seller knew who made them, where, under what contract, why. I never got an answer from Gavin.

Here are the actions he advertise at that auction
http://www.gavingardiner.com/bidcat/cata...&offset=120
-- Lot 143 - a T Bland & sons action casting
-- Lot 144 - Reilly 4 bore action
-- Lot 145 - Parts for a 4 Bore W Tolley action
-- Lot 146 - Parts for a 4 bore W. Tolley action
-- Lot 147 - Parts for a 4 bore Army-Navy action
-- Lot 148 - A pair of 20 bore actions for Henry Atkin type self-opening side-lock

Reilly 4 bore action:


Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/08/20 04:18 AM
But, the barrels with lumps in the time period 1856-60? That had to be a London only innovation. Or did this all come from Belgium? And the actions which were filed in 1856-57? London? Hard to countenance that Birmingham in 1857-58 was paying attention to this foreign stuff - in spite of the dust raised by the press.

This period may open new questions about the relationship between London gunmakers and Birmingham. I'm sort of thinking that in the 1855's London was the crucible - not Birmingham.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/08/20 05:02 PM
Continuing on the reasons why a gun might carry a name that is not to be found in the usual published lists of gunmakers is if it was built by a Birmingham workshop for a retailer of goods, and that retailer's name is engraved on the gun. Here's an example.

Fidele Primavesi was not a gunmaker, and nowhere in any reference lists of gunmakers and gun trade workers will you find his name or those of his sons. He's not in Nigel Brown's books, or in Geoffrey Boothroyd's. This is because he was a general china, hardware and leatherware merchant, and not a guild member of any sort. He was also a wealthy landowner, and an active member of Welsh society. An immigrant born in Italy in 1839, he settled in Cardiff, Wales, around 1850, and built up his business in Cardiff, and eventually to Swansea, Newport (140 Commercial St.), and London. The business was initially named Primavesi & Son, changing to Primavesi & Sons, and it was active until 1915. His wife, Sarah, was the sister of Alfred Thomas, 1st Baron Pontypridd, Mayor of Cardiff and MP for East Glamorgan -- good family connections to have if you're in business! Primavesi's main business was located in at 6 James St., Docks, Cardiff, and he sold anything a person might need, from nautical instruments, to Welsh and Staffordshire pottery, to carriages, to serviceable arms, and much more. Try a Google Images search on the name, and it brings up myriad items marked with the Primavesi name, including china dishes of every description, telescopes and sextants, the Royal Carriage made for the Princesses of Surakarta, Java, and a 12-shot pinfire revolver sold at auction some years ago. As a well-to-do merchant, he did not live in a tiny gunmaker's shop, but rather in a grand house, Pen-y-lan House, in the fashionable Pen-y-lan district of the city (the house cost £5000 to built, a very large sum in those days). The coal trade was the main source of commercial prosperity for Cardiff (with Newcastle second -- which begs the question why the British idiom for futility, "carrying coals to Newcastle," didn't mention that city instead), and in 1881 the 250-ft cargo steamship named the SS Fidele Primavesi was launched to carry coal -- a pretty good indication of the influence and regard the man held in the business community.

As befitting a hardware-store gun built to order from a Birmingham workshop, today's example is very plain. The original quality would have been serviceable, but it was not the status object that so many pinfire game guns were in high British society. This was the kind of gun that you added to your order of household goods before you boarded a ship in the Cardiff docks for distant horizons. As this particular gun was unearthed in the USA, it may well have been carried over by a new immigrant, where having an English-made gun had a certain appeal. I have no idea how many guns Fidele Primavesi might have sold, as no records have survived, and in my research only a handful of Primavesi-marked arms have surfaced to date -- none of them shotguns. Ironically, a low-grade British pinfire is more uncommon than the higher-grade pieces, as they were built from lesser materials and more likely to be shot out and discarded at some point during the last 150 years, rather than kept, treasured and preserved.

The gun is a 16-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun, serial number 3335 (which may be Primavesi's numbering system, or that of the actual Birmingham maker). The 28 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs, and the barrels are stamped "Roses Patent No. 20". The Rose Brothers of the Hales-Owen Mills & Forge were barrel makers located in Halesowen, Worcestershire, operating between 1860 and 1892. They developed, and were known for, a patented method for machine-production of damascus barrels. These barrels were undoubtedly cheaper than hand-forged barrels, even at the low wages paid to the craftsmen of the day. The top rib is signed "F. Primavisi & Sons Cardiff" (note the different spelling of the family name), and the back-action locks are signed "F. Primavisi & Sons." While some trade goods marked "Primavisi" are known, what is unclear is whether this is an alternate spelling, or an engraver's misprint. The wholesale cost of the gun would have been low, and certainly not worth sending it back to the engraver to be corrected! I did consider whether it was a counterfeit, but all other marks are genuine, and if you're going to cheat you are hardly going to use an ironmonger's name to sneak your goods! I'm guessing it was an engraving error.

The gun has plain line border engraving, plain but well-proportioned rounded hammers, and the fore-end has a simple horn inlay. However, the under-lever lacks the graceful fitting to the curve of the trigger guard bow that is found on better guns. With the passing of time wavy lines from the forging process have become apparent on the action body, perhaps as a result of insufficient hardening or inferior steel. It would have been an inexpensive gun, and yet it is not without a certain degree of charm, and the machine-forged barrels are quite attractive. Victorian guns were made for all tastes and all purses. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs a light 6 lb 2 oz.

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As an aside, general merchants have had a long history of putting their name on guns made by others. In Canada, Hudson's Bay Company-marked guns are collector items now, as are guns marked and sold by the T. Eaton company. In the USA, merchants such as Sears & Roebuck had their own brand (JC Higgins), and I'm sure there were many others.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/08/20 05:07 PM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
I'm sort of thinking that in the 1855's London was the crucible - not Birmingham.

I agree. In breech-loading sporting guns in the 1850s, London was the leader, and Birmingham later followed.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/09/20 04:15 PM
This is not a game gun - it's a 15 gauge rifle with 30 Damascus barrels SN 10054 - sent out to India. but it is a pin-fire, now the earliest Reilly pin-fire known, dated per the Reilly chart to Fally 1856, about the tine the first advertisement for a Reilly "Fusils a Bascule" appeared. More info in the Reilly line. For sale at auction tomorrow!!
https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/aucti...66-ac1700a8e2ff
An amazing find!!




Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/09/20 06:25 PM
An amazing find indeed, Argo44. The first Joseph Lang breech-loader might have been produced in 1853 or early 1854; John Blanch stated that he built his first pinfire in 1856, and from your research Reilly began in 1856 as well (unless future research pushes it back even earlier).

What a delight to see such an early British pinfire, cased no less. The long underlever is very interesting. A rare, rare gun.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/09/20 06:37 PM
Moving away momentarily from big-name guns, here is another merchant's gun with a name that is not found in the usual lists of gunmakers, but which has nevertheless interesting links to the gunmaking world.

When one thinks of an ironmongers or hardware-store gun, it is easy to picture one of those rattle-jointed machine-churned "W. Richards" Belgian doubles that can be found on most gun-show tables. But in the mid-Victorian period, a Birmingham gun-making workshop could in one moment be building a gun destined for a respected London firm, and in the next be building a similar gun that would carry a hardware-store name. All guns were built to a pre-determined level of quality, and then it was a matter of engraving whatever name and address the contract specified. This meant that finished guns with a general merchant's name might be just as good as those with, say, a town or city gun maker's name. The difference would be that a gun maker would have a reputation to uphold and would be available to fix and maintain their guns, while a merchant was just in the business of selling. How does a hardware or general-goods merchant get into the gun-selling business? Family connections seems to be one way, and we're sometimes talking about family businesses that can have long and intertwined histories.

Clement Cotterill was a merchant at No. 1, Old Square, Birmingham. He started in business as a leather seller in Edgbaston St., and was established as a hardware merchant and manufacturer by 1780. He founded the firm of Cotterill & Francis, for which the partnership was dissolved in 1790. In 1795 he entering into partnership with Thomas Ketland of Philadelphia, USA, "for the collection of hardwares, buttons, buckles, and all other articles manufactured in this and the neighbouring towns, and exported to the United States of North America and elsewhere." His sons William and Thomas successively joined the partnership, first trading as Ketland, Cotterill, & Son (until 1802), then as Clement Cotterill & Sons (until 1806), and in 1825, following his daughter Mary's marriage to Joshua Scholefield (the Member of Parliament for Birmingham), the firm traded as Scholefield & Sons.

At an unknown date John Dent Goodman became a partner in the business, and in 1861-1862 there was a Scholefield Sons & Goodman operating from Liverpool. In Birmingham the business of Scholefield, Goodman and Son, merchants, operated from 5 Minories, and in 1877-1878 the business moved to 135 Edmund street. At some point the business expanded to 31, Great St. Helens, London. The original Scholefield business may have traded in guns as part of their hardware business, but the involvement of J D Goodman was to link the company to the gun trade. Goodman was the Chairman of the Birmingham Small-Arms Trade Association (formed in 1854 by Goodman, John Field Swinburn, Isaac Hollis, Thomas Turner, Joseph Bourne, Thomas Wilson, John Rock Cooper, William Tranter, Charles Playfair, Benjamin and Henry Woodward, and others).

In 1861 the members of the association decided to establish the Birmingham Small Arms and Metal Company Ltd. (B.S.A.), in order to produce arms by machinery and thereby compete with the government operations at Enfield. Goodman was elected Chairman of the Board of BSA in 1863, a position he held until 1900. Goodman was personally involved in all the trade contracts with the US government over provisions of arms in the period of the Civil War, and Scholefield, Goodman and Son was one of the companies involved in the shipping of Enfield-pattern guns to the US. It was also Goodman that secured for BSA the contract to convert 100,000 Pattern 1853 Enfields using the Snider action. Goodman was also in partnership with Joseph Rock Cooper & Co. of pepperbox pistol fame.

In 1856 Goodman became chairman of the Birmingham Proof House, then in 1867 Abingdon Works was formed, a manufacturing partnership located in Shadwell Street to supply the trade with ready-made guns and gun parts. The partners were Goodman, Thomas Bentley, William Bourne, Charles Cooper, Charles Pryse, Richard Redman, Joseph Smith, Charles Playfair, Joseph Wilson, John Field Swinburn and Fred and Henry Woodward. But, despite Goodman's widespread involvement in the gun trade and being a partner in several companies that made and/or sold guns, his name never appeared on any of them.

Today's gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun of typical form, retailed by Scholefield, Goodman & Sons of Birmingham. It has no serial number, and I estimate it was made around 1867. The 29 13/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and the top rib is signed "Scholefield London" (the "London" reference might be false advertising, but at some point the company did have a London address). There is a gun/barrel maker's mark "J.W" on the barrels and between the barrel lugs, and I believe this gun was built by Joseph Wilson of 67 1/2 Great Charles Street, Birmingham, one of the Abington Works partner gun makers, who either supplied sporting guns to Scholefield, Goodman & Sons directly, or through the Abington Works firm. The gun has an elongated top strap, thin percussion fences, back-action locks signed "Scholefield," and about 30% coverage of foliate scroll engraving. This was a medium-quality gun that was produced by the Birmingham gun trade, but it was nevertheless built by craftsmen. What is unusual about this piece is its condition -- there is still blueing visible on the trigger guard bow, case-colour on the fore-end iron, crisp engraving and chequering, and original browned barrels. Though this gun did not see much use, the bores were neglected and are now pitted. The gun weighs 7 lb 2 oz.

Again through a direct interest by John Dent Goodman, Scholefield, Goodman & Sons supplied Scholefield-marked rifles to the Newfoundland sealing trade (many of which were single-shot Field's Patent side-lever in .450 caliber). Apparently Goodman visited Newfoundland several times, perhaps seeking out new business opportunities. A few Scholefield-marked shotguns are known, but to my knowledge this is the only pinfire game gun so marked. The Newfoundland trade connection might help explain how a Scholefield-marked gun ended up in Canada, but it certainly doesn't explain how it remained in such good condition.

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John Dent Goodman

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William Scholefield

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Posted By: Mark Larson Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/09/20 07:16 PM
I am late to this pinfire party, and I must say, the guns posted here are just mind blowing. If the availability of pinfire ammo weren't such a concern, I wouldn't hestitate to jump in at some point and give one a whirl. I would like to hear more discussion of ammo availability.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 12:15 AM
There's no ammunition available.
This is an advanced "do it yourself" kind of thing.
It's a really fun and rewarding one for sure.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 12:23 AM
Steve and company, looking at that early Reilly pin-fire rifle (in excellent condition), makes me wonder - what is the earliest existing UK made pin-fire center-break gun that you know of?

Is there a serial-number database for Joseph Lang? I've got conflicting reports on this.
-- One website identifies SN 2085, a break action Lefaucheux styleSxS pin-fire, as 1858.
-- Another (Holts) identifies SN 2332, a break action Lefaucheux SxS pin-fire, as 1860. So some data has to be out there.

And as for the cartridges, sounds like an RST-like business opportunity.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 03:24 AM
A previous post indicated that the issue of "markings" would at some point be considered. I have been studying the firm of William Powell & Son for some years and can offer some observations on their practices.

In 1886, the editor of Shooting (a periodical of the gun trade) sent a letter to gunmakers asking how their ribs and locks were marked. The results were published in the 9 March 1887 issue. The response of William Powell dated 5 October 1886 was published and it read "Sir,- In reply to your enquiry, we have to inform you that the barrels of our guns are named "William Powell and Son, 13, Carr's-lane, Birmingham," and on the locks William Powell and Son." His response raises a number of issues. First (excuse me if I seem a bit pedantic) Powell's signature uses an ampersand (&) not an "and." I have never seen a dash between Carr's and lane and "Lane is always capitalized. Now to more substantive concerns.

During the period of 1870 to 1890, the highest grade of Powell's patent action guns seemed to have been made for clients such as W. Richards, Williams & Powell and Barrett.
The ribs and locks on those guns were marked with the client firm's name.

Lower grade guns destined for America and South Africa were marked in a wide variety of ways. Those markings were frequently detailed in the day books.

Finally, in my collection is No.8476, a lever-over-guard 12-bore that was sold on 17 October 1887. The rib and locks are marked only "Powell."

This information isn't meant to denigrate Powell as I am as passionate about that company as Argo44 is about Reilly. Rather, it is a caution that likely applies more broadly to the entire Birmingham gun trade.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 03:14 PM
to help question date of the earliest:
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 03:19 PM
And a couple 15g shells to go with that earlier gun:



Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 03:28 PM
It's a wonderful display, Aaron, and can we assume the number on the Reilly is the date that Reilly began to make that pinfire cartridge ?
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 04:23 PM
Also, Argo44, here is another good 1856 supporting document for you:



This is from the 1856 issue of Dod's peerage, baronetage and knightage of Great Britain and Ireland
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 04:43 PM
The 1856 Reilly 15 bore SxS rifle 10054 went for 2,750 - a lot of money for a pin-fire but that is a historic gun I think. Did anyone here bid on it?

And thanks Aaron. I had that ad but had it dated to the 1857 edition of the Knitage and peerage of GB and Ireland. I'll have to check that out. If the same ad was in the 1856 version, that puts Reilly and "Fusil Bascule" back another 10 months.

Great find on the Law Times...that moves Reilly pin-fire breech loading ads back another couple of months. It'll force me to change the history ...again...but that the purpose of the board. Thanks again.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 04:45 PM
Also, an ad in The Law times on August 16, 1856


Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 08:44 PM
A lot to comment on today...

Mark, welcome to the world of pinfires. Like with any 150+ year-old guns, finding ones in shootable condition is not easy. As you've now read from this thread, they were never made in large quantities, and most were converted to centre-fire, or scrapped for iron.

There are no commercial sources for prepared pinfire cartridges, but some have very good success with all-brass reusable cases, which can be ordered from European sources. I've tried them in the past with varying success, but I blame my limited knowledge of reloading, rather than the cases.

"...what is the earliest existing UK made pin-fire center-break gun that you know of?"

Argo44, the Reilly 1856-dated gun pictured above is the earliest I've seen illustrated, for which a date can be corroborated.

Unfortunately the Joseph Lang records do not go back earlier than January 1858, so it is not possible to know from the records exactly when Lang started building his pinfire, or what number it carried. Looking at photographs in print, the facts get confusing, as it is not possible to know how the authors determined the age of the guns pictured. In Geoffrey Boothroyd's Shotguns and Gunsmiths (1986), there is a Lang pinfire "of 1852" pictured on page 150.

In several books it is implied or stated that Lang's breech-loader appeared shortly after the Great Exhibition of 1851 closed its doors (October 1851), for example, John Henry Walsh, writing in his book The Shot-Gun and Sporting Rifle (1859), stated that Lang's pinfire appeared in 1851. In Richard Akehurst's Game Guns and Rifles (1969), it is stated that Lang's pinfire appeared a few months after the Exhibition --which might be a repeat of Walsh's statement, I don't know.

However, from Lang's own account, he wrote in January 1857 that he had been using his breech-loader for three years -- which would indicate 1854 as the earliest appearance. This is partly confirmed by a contemporary of Lang, Henry Astbury Leveson, "The Old Shekarry", in his book The Hunting Grounds of the Old World (3rd edition, 1865), where he wrote:

"My experience in breech-loading arms for sporting purposes dates back to the year 1855, when my attention was attracted to the La Faucheux [sic] system by that excellent shot and practical mechanic, Mr. Lang, of 'Old Red House' notoriety, to whom the English sporting world is indebted for the efficient carrying out of a principle which is almost as great an era in gun-making as the invention of the copper cap. After two years' experience and repeated trials, in which, to my disgust, I found my favourite Manton, and others of my hardest-hitting muzzle-loading guns, equalled or beaten by breech-loaders made by Lang, my scepticism vanished; I felt convinced the system was sound, and that sooner or later a complete revolution must take place in the manufacture of fire-arms."

If Joseph Lang by his own account was first using his breech-loader in 1854-1855, there cannot be Lang pinfires dating from 1851-1852! I tend to believe 1854 is the most credible date, which would make it possible for a Reilly pinfire to date as early as 1855, to go with AaronN's 1855-marked Reilly-stamped cartridge. Blanch followed suit in 1856 by his own account, and that would account for the three earliest promoters of the pinfire in Britain.

Steve, the variation in gun markings on Powell guns is utterly fascinating -- particularly the part about Powell providing incorrect information on his own guns (if anyone has a copy of Donald Dallas's book The British Sporting Gun and Rifle (2008), the full list of markings provided by gunmakers in 1887 is included in its Appendix Three). Only by research focusing on a single maker is it possible to know such things.

AaronN, as usual your cartridge information really adds to our understanding of the bigger picture.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 09:02 PM
Originally Posted By: Argo44
The 1856 Reilly 15 bore SxS rifle 10054 went for 2,750 - a lot of money for a pin-fire but that is a historic gun I think. Did anyone here bid on it?

Someone picked up a wonderful gun. Pinfire rifles definitely carry a premium, which is why I never collected them. I've seen cased pinfire rifles selling for a lot more, and a 1856-dated British pinfire is highly unusual. I've never encountered any pre-1858 pinfire game guns myself, and now that I'm retired there is no way for me to afford any that might come up.

I have a few British pinfires in my collection for which I am fairly confident date from around 1860 or slightly earlier, but none that can be proven as such. The number of pre-1860 pinfires made was probably in the low hundreds, and maybe even less than 100 prior to the Field trial of 1858.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 09:07 PM
Originally Posted By: AaronN
to help question date of the earliest:

AaronN, do you know if these were made for Reilly on contract by Gevelot? I'm not aware of any British-made pinfire cartridges before 1857?? My information might be wrong on that.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/10/20 11:56 PM
I would think the best source on Lang is Lang's own pamphlet one would think. Early 1854 for Lang's first center-break gun would fit with urban legend.



I've asked Diggory Hadoke for his observations on where early pin-fires might be squirreled away in museums or something. Still, that rifle (and given the number of "marker dates" and "sanity checks" grouped around it, I'm very confident that it's dated to within a couple of months), was something.

I'm really curious about AaronN's observation on the Reilly cartridge above. I also will start with an assumption that it was contracted from France. But Aaron has come up with a lot of very good investigative reporting.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 12:57 PM
Diggory sent this re oldest known UK-made pin-fire center-break:

"Mark Crudgington knows of two Langs that date from 1854- they have bill of sale."

Perhaps someone could contact Mark and get photos and history?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 02:37 PM
1854 it is then, until a verifiable Lang from1853 turns up, which seems unlikely. 1854 appears to fit the best information And Langs own account, and the 1851-1852 dates Used by other authors were probably assumptions that made sense at the time. Little by little, the picture becomes clearer.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 03:28 PM
The pictures are becoming more clear. We were wondering about the first pinfires in Britain coming from London. Lang ,Reilly, and H. Holland were mentioned as early contributors. It seems to be commonly believed that Hollands made before 1892 when they built a factory were made by others. Maybe some finishing by Holland. Scott is mentioned as a source for years. I am wondering if guns started by others might have been involved in the first pinfires by Holland and maybe others. Then why exclude Birmingham, or possibly Belgium as contributing sources ?
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 04:45 PM
The date on the bill of sale could add additional information. For John Rigby & Co.
the time-lag between the assigning a serial number and the sale of a bespoke gun
was at least 3-months. I assume it would have been roughly the same for Lang. Thus
the date on that bill of sale may indicate manufacture in 1853.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 04:55 PM
I'll get an email for Mark and ask. But Diggory was clear that the date of the Lang's was on the bill of sale....

And Daryl, I'll let Steve comment more but my $.02:
-- I don't believe Birmingham began making barrels with lumps or center-break pin-fire actions until about 1861. They couldn't have made those guns.
-- As for importing barrels and actions from Belgium, that's always been a possibility. Trantor was doing that for revolvers in the mid-1850's. But my understanding is that imported barrels have to be stamped in a particular way. I don't know about actions but until a Belgian connection can be proved, would prefer to put the credit for making these early guns on London craftsmen - and that appears to be who Blanch was talking about when he wrote about the change over from breech plugs to lumps, etc. and the lessons his men had to unlearn and learn.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/11/20 07:48 PM
Argo44 - let me clarify the point I was trying to make.
If, for instance, the date on the bill of sale was January 1854, then manufacture would
have begun, and likely completed, in 1853.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/12/20 12:12 AM
Sourcing of barrels... Now there's an interesting subject. The easy answer is that both British and Belgian tubes were used in British gunmaking. Regardless of source, the tubes (for a double gun), were brazed together, barrel lumps and loops brazed or soldered on, and ribs soldered on, and sent to the proof-house. Akehurst notes that in the 1870s, John Marshall (Monway Iron and Steel Works, Wednesbury, Staffordshire) "supplied the majority of damascus shotgun barrels to the Birmingham gun trade, and while generally of sound quality, they contained a lot of "greys." These greys were caused by small pieces of scale becoming embedded in the metal during the fire welding. They did not materially effect strength, but they left marks when the barrels were polished, which rendered them unfit for the barrels of best guns." In muzzle-loaders you could not see down the barrel, so greys were of no consequence; with breech-loaders, it was another matter. It was because of greys in British barrel tubes that the trade sourced barrel tubes from Belgium (mostly) and France. They were much clearer of greys, but were softer. To quote J. H. Walsh in The Modern Sportsman's Gun and Rifle (1882) regarding the use of Belgian tubes:

"We were, in common with our competitors, excepting for first and second quality, using a large proportion of these tubes; in fact, we think that quite three-fourths of the tubes used in Birmingham are Belgian make, and nearly all the London trade use them, with this difference, that they use the best quality, which are no doubt harder than the cheaper kinds, but are still softer and less durable than those of English make, and cost as much."

"For many years we have been almost entirely dependent upon one maker for Damascus, stub Damascus, and laminated steel iron; he, having a monopoly, has not cared to trouble himself to keep his iron up to its original good standard, notwithstanding the fact that, in consequence of its high price and want of clearness (freeness from greys), his trade has been gradually leaving him and going to Belgium."

"One reason for the cleaner forging done by the Belgian smiths was that they used a smaller forge fire composed of a mixture of powdered clay and small coke that kept the work cleaner than the big coke fires of Birmingham."


It would seem that the most beautifully figured Damascus tubes used in British pinfires were of Belgian origin, made into finished barrels by British smiths and proofed in Britain. The Rose Brothers of Halesowen, with their patented machine-Damascus barrels were British tubes, strong, but not as attractive as the imported barrels.

In trying to determine where the first British pinfires were put together in the mid-1850s, I think the answer is London. If a London firm had the capacity, it could add lumps and loops to the brazed barrel tubes, and the first outworker actioner, EC Hodges, was London-based; Lang, Blanch and Reilly were London-based. Post-1858 I think Birmingham would have been quick to adapt to changing demand and develop the skills necessary to produce barrelled actions, for a demand that really only started after the Field trials. Subsequent to the trials, it might also have been cheaper for the London firms to have much of the work done to order from Birmingham workbenches. Perhaps we'll never know, but I'm going with this hypothesis for now, and will happily be proven wrong by new data!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/12/20 02:39 AM
Back to the guns.

From a gunmaking perspective, the breech-loader changed a few things. Parts makers adapted, and the new trade of actioning appeared. Conservative craftsmen retained as many of the old patterns and designs as possible, while adding clever barrel fastening methods and other features. Existing firms flourished, new firms came and went, with the better ones built businesses that would continue into the 21st century. A case in point is W & C Scott & Son.

By 1865 Birmingham was producing most of the country's pinfire game guns. The larger operations wanted in on the action, and W. & C. Scott & Son was one of these, starting in that year. They might have built some 2000 pinfire game guns in all before producing centre-fire guns only, perhaps more than any maker, but I have only ever encountered one.

William Charles Scott was born in 1806. William reportedly worked on the farm with his parents until he was 21 years old, and then obtained an apprenticeship as a gun finisher in Bury St Edmunds, possibly with Benjamin Parker or William Young. The reason his apprenticeship started late (instead of at the age of 14) may have been due to having been needed on the farm. His brother, Charles, may also have been apprenticed to Benjamin Parker. In 1834 when his apprenticeship finished, William married Mary Susan Middleditch and moved to Birmingham where he established himself as an outworker gun finisher at 11 Lench Street. In 1840 Charles joined William in the business, and the firm of William & Charles Scott was established as "Gun and Pistol Makers". In 1835 William and Mary had a son, William Middleditch Scott, and 1836 they had another son, James Charles Scott. In 1842 the firm moved to 33 Lench Street and took additional premises at 21 Loveday Street, and in 1849 the firm moved again to Court, 4 Shadwell Street. According to the 1851 census William Middleditch Scott (aged 15) was working in the firm as a gun finisher, James Charles Scott (aged 14) was employed as a gun engraver. In 1855 the firm moved into larger and more prestigious premises at 94-95 Bath Street.

In 1858 William Middleditch Scott was made a partner and the name changed to W & C Scott & Son. In the 1861 census, William Scott was recorded employing 18 men and two boys. By this time, James Charles, aged 24, was employed as a gun engraver and another son, Frederick M Scott, 22, was employed as a gun engraver and gun stocker. In 1861 William Scott was appointed a guardian of the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House, a position he held until 1865. In 1864 the firm opened a showroom in London at 7 Dorset Place, Pall Mall, which is where today's gun was sold. From 1864 to 1895 the firm occupied premises in Bagot Street, in Birmingham. To give an idea of the size of the company in the 1860s, they were producing about 2000 sporting guns a year, dwarfing most other firms by a factor of 20 or more. London makers such as James Purdey and Harris Holland bought guns from W & C Scott & Son, for grades lower than their "London best."

In 1864 and 1865 Westley Richards joined Moore & Harris in a partnership established to save the manufacturing business of Moore & Harris from closure, but this was not successful. Moore & Harris had a fairly substantial business exporting to the USA and this attracted the interest of W & C Scott & Son, who bought the business at auction. The W & C Scott & Son business kept growing, as did their access to distant markets.

On 25 October 1865, William Middleditch Scott obtained his first patent (No.2752) for the famous Scott Spindle. This patent was used by Purdey in conjunction with their double bolt (Patent No. 1104 of 1863) and this combination soon became the standard opening mechanism for double barrelled guns. In 1866 William Middleditch Scott was appointed a guardian of the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House, he retained this position until 1894. In 1869 William Scott retired and William Middleditch Scott took over the running of the business. In 1871 the Dorset Place showroom in Pall Mall, London, moved to 10 Great Castle Street, Regent Circus (now Oxford Circus) where it remained until 1899. In 1883 William Scott, founder of the business, died. In 1887 William Middleditch Scott retired (aged 51) and James Charles Scott took over the running of the business. By this time the company employed about 200 men. In 1897 W & C Scott & Son amalgamated with P Webley & Sons to form Webley & Scott Revolver & Arms Co Ltd.. William Middleditch Scott died in 1916, and James Charles Scott died in 1917.

Today's gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun by William and Charles Scott and Son of Birmingham, number 11617 made in 1866, the second year the firm had been making pinfires. The 27 7/8" damascus barrels have London proofs, and a barrel maker's mark SP (possibly Samuel Probin, a gun barrel maker at Court, 11 Loveday Street). The top rib is signed "W. & C. Scott & Son 7 Dorset Place Pall Mall London" and the back-action locks are signed "W. & C. Scott & Son". The gun has beautifully chiselled hammers (the same hammer design appears on other Scott pinfires, evidently a house style), an elongated top strap, thin percussion fences, a trigger guard bow with prominent raised clips for the under-lever, and attractive 30%-coverage foliate scroll engraving. W & C Scott & Son pinfire sporting guns were made in three qualities, A (fine), B (medium) and C (plain), and within these were differing grades. "A" guns combined the best workmanship and materials and often incorporated patented features, such as the Purdey thumb snap-action and the Dougall Lockfast action. Such guns generally had a gold name escutcheon and full coverage engraving. "B" guns had a sterling silver escutcheon and could also incorporate patent actions, 22-lines-per-inch chequering, and 50 to 75% engraving, often with game scenes. "C" guns had a silver or nickel-silver escutcheon, somewhat less-figured wood, coarser 20-lines-per-inch chequering, and less than 50% engraving coverage. Today's gun represents a higher grade of the plain "C" quality. If only plain-quality entry-level guns of today had this degree of fit and finish, let alone wood figure and engraving! The bores are pitted and the gun weighs 7 lb 2 oz.

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For those of you with an extensive collection of the Double Gun Journal, I can direct you to Issue 2 of Volume 14, Spring 2003, for excellent photos and descriptions of two other Scott pinfires, including one with a Lockfast action.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/13/20 01:44 PM
Diggory made an on-line introduction to Mark Crudgington. I sent a query to him about Reilly SN 10054 and the Lang's Diggory referred to. Here is Mark's first reply - interesting.

(edited: Mark has asked that our correspondence be private. One must respect his requests. He is a well known gun maker from a long and establish gun making family.)
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/14/20 02:41 AM
Knowledgeable words to help us understand the early days of the pinfire, Argo44!! Thanks for sharing.

So many contemporary advertisements in The Field refer to makers having guns in stock, your letter helps explain why.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/14/20 10:07 PM
Temperatures are steadily dropping, and I must work on bringing in the winter's firewood inside (my only source of heat) -- so I might not be able to add much to this thread for the next days. But I've time to add another game gun today.

I suppose it is hard to think of the name Scott without the name Webley, as the two are intertwined when it comes to shotguns, but it was not always so. Each started out on their own, and both produced pinfire game guns.

The Webley name is a famous one in gun making, though it is best known for revolvers and air pistols, and the last shotgun carrying the Webley name was produced in 1991. Today's example is a much earlier one, either built as a dual-fire gun, or converted to dual-fire.

Philip Webley was apprenticed in 1827 at the age of 14 to William Ryan at William Ryan & Son, 32 Whittall Street, in Birmingham. That business had been started in 1783 by Benjamin Watson in Catherine Street, the original name for Whittall Street. In 1813 William Ryan helped fund the building of the "Gun Barrel Proof House of the Town of Birmingham". Ryan was a member of the proof house governing body, and later became a Guardian of the Proof House (his business would eventually become Rowland Watson, and Thomas Wild & Co). After his apprenticeship with Ryan ended in 1834, Philip Webley and his brother James established a partnership as percussioners, lock filers, and gun makers at 7 Weaman Street, in the old premises of William Davis. William Davis was born in Birmingham in 1790 and was apprenticed in the gun trade at the age of nine. In 1806 he joined the army and served in the Peninsular Wars and at Waterloo, and in 1817 he returned to Birmingham and established his own business as a gun implement maker, mould and tool maker at 7 Weaman Street. Davis died in 1831, and the business was continued by his widow, Sarah, and his daughter, Caroline, at 84 Weaman Street. Philip Webley married Caroline in 1838, and they lived at that address.

In 1853 Philip Webley obtained a patent (No. 335) for a hinged revolver, followed by patent No. 2127 for an improvement. This percussion cap-and-ball revolver was known as the "Longspur", and though faster to load than the Colt, it was more expensive. In 1859 Thomas William, aged 21, was made a partner in the firm and the name changed to P Webley & Son, described as "Gun and Pistol Makers and Patent Revolving Pistol Makers", for Philip Webley's patent. Philip focussed on his revolvers, and Thomas managed the shotgun side of the business. In 1863 and 1864 the firm's address was given as 83-84 Weaman Street, but from late 1864 to 1875 their address was 84 Weaman Street. On 4 August 1865 Thomas William Webley took out a provisional patent No.2030 for a centre-fire cartridge with a dummy pin which acted as a loaded indicator, and for conversions of pinfire guns and revolvers to centre-fire, though very little is known about this patent and what these conversions might have looked like. In 1866 Thomas William Webley patented a spring assisted rotary under-lever, patent No. 3022. In 1867 the firm made the double-action .442 revolver adopted by the Royal Irish Constabulary, and in 1869 Thomas William Webley became a Guardian of the Birmingham Proof House.

It was around this time this gun was made. It is a 12-bore double-bite screw-grip rotary under-lever dual pinfire-centrefire gun by Philip Webley & Son of 84 Weaman Street, Birmingham, serial number 1999. This tired-looking gun has over-bored chambers, and it may possibly have been made to use with Thomas William Webley's centre-fire/pin cartridge adapters described in patent No. 2030 of 1865 - though I think it was originally built as a dual-fire gun, capable of firing both pinfire and centre-fire cartridges. I don't believe it was an after-market conversion, as the extractor acts on a fixed projection on the hinge pin. It would seem an over-complication to re-build the gun just for an extractor, as other extractor designs used in after-market conversions are integrated in much simpler ways. The two-piece vertical-and-horizontal strikers, missing in this example, would have been similar to Thomas George Sylven's patent No. 806 of 1866, and the chamber over-boring remains a mystery. I've never encountered another Webley pinfire with which to compare, and the only illustration I've been able to trace is of Thomas Webley' snap-action underlever, in a 20 January 1994 issue of Shooting Times (this weekly British sportsman's magazine was first published in September 1882, and it has not missed a single edition since -- despite several wars getting in the way, demonstrating how seriously the Brits take their shooting sports -- though it is now a monthly publication, available in print and digital).

As is often the case with pinfires, the condition is 'tired and neglected' to put it mildly. The 26 5/8" damascus barrels (likely shortened) carry Birmingham proofs. There is no visible name and address on rib, and the back-action locks are signed "P. Webley & Son". The left hammer screw has been replaced, the left mainspring is a replacement, and the two-part strikers are missing. The gun has minimal border and foliate scroll engraving, and other than the dual-fire feature, it is a very standard, plain, and inexpensive Birmingham gun. The bores are pitted and the gun, missing a few parts, weighs 6 lb 14 oz.

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This is what the original dual-fire strikers might have looked like:

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/18/20 09:56 PM
Taking a rest from moving firewood, and having thoughts about hammers...

When do we look closely at such things? Hammer guns have a certain charm and are "from another age." Flint locks seem like such contraptions, and percussion locks, with hammers meant to focus the strike on the cap, keep it in place, and deflect flying bits of copper away from the shooter, follow a certain form, and are attractive to be sure. With the appearance of the pinfire, the role of the hammer was to drive in the vertical pin to strike the internal cap, but not too much so as to allow the extraction of the case by the still-extruding pin. Because of the different arc, hammer noses tended to be longer than with percussion hammers. And later centre-fire guns could have more vertically-compressed profiles as the noses did not have to push down vertical pins. Low-profile centre-fire hammers could also disappear from the sight plane when cocked, while the tall "rabbit-eared" pinfire hammers were always in sight.

However, just because they do the same job doesn't mean they have to be identical. Hammers were shaped by hand with files, and even from the same maker, no two sets might be wholly identical. Combined with differences in engraving styles and decorative flourishes, there is actually a fair bit of variation in hammers when you stop to look. So let's look at a bunch of them, and for this I'm copying Argo44's clever idea of creating a montage of hammers.

All have high thumb-pieces, and a under-stop that keeps the hammer from hitting the pin flat. Some retain a design hold-over from percussion days, with a raised 'shield' or extended lip meant to deflect pieces of copper cap, now reduced to a stylized flourish. Most are rounded, others have flat sides, and some with both. Some are decorated with 'dolphin' features, a common Victorian motif. Others are plain, plain, plain. And if hammers aren't your thing, you might notice instead the wide variation in the fences, another part where the filers could really express themselves.

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By the way, amongst these British examples are three Continental guns.

Back to moving wood, will come back to entire guns later in the week. But by all means keep the discussion going in the meantime!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/18/20 11:09 PM
Great collage Steve and an educational tour de force. If we can guess which 3 are continental, can we get a prize? Maybe one of the guns?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/21/20 07:33 PM
No prizes, I'm afraid. But feel free to decide which set of hammers looks best.

How did the maker decide what pattern looked best on the gun? Even working from a forging, stamping, or casting, I'm not sure which was typical), I can't imagine how hard it must be to produce a pair of mirror-image hammers, and sizing and shaping the holes for the tumbler spindle to have the hammers sit just right, and provide the strongest strike. I suppose that's what apprenticeships are all about: practice, practice, practice...

Here is a iron casting of a pinfire hammer, crudely shaped but not finished, with the hole drilled but not squared. A far cry from the sinuous beauties above!



Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/23/20 02:04 AM
My favorite #46 with the teeth and eyes.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/23/20 09:51 PM
Thanks, Hal. Yes, those are very attractive hammers, on a Belgian gun made for a German clientele. I prefer the dolphin motifs myself, only because of their quirkiness to the modern eye. Dolphin designs were popular in Greek mythology and through the Middle Ages, when they were considered a form of fish. A hold-over from heraldic designs, the dolphin motif is also said to reflect Lord Nelson's maritime victories at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and thus popular in Victorian art, architecture, furniture-making, and guns.

On those Belgian hammers, and on several other British ones, are the vestiges of the cap guard on percussion hammers, to deflect flying bits of copper caps. This makes me ponder on the subject of hold-over, non-functional features.

In gunmaking the original design of a part might change in its function, such as the flint cock becoming a hammer, or a flint pan fence becoming a nipple fence, but all are functional. However, merging earlier functional designs into non-functional ones is a repeated theme in gunmaking. There is even a term for such a practice, skeuomorphism, and it is not limited to gunmaking. Skeuomorphism is a concept first identified by the archaeologist Henry March in 1890, and it generally refers to hanging on to aspects of an object's design that no longer have a function, or items pretending to be something they aren't. Examples of skeuomorphism on a pinfire game gun includes features such as decorative fences patterned after percussion fences, the afore-mentioned cap guards on pinfire hammers, and fore-end finials evolved from ramrod throats.

Another term used in design circles is path dependence. This is when design is limited by decisions made in the past, even if newer and better alternatives are available. Path dependency occurs because it is often easier or more cost effective to simply continue along an already set path than to create an entirely new one. A pertinent example is the iron butt plate. This is necessary on a percussion gun, whose butt must be placed on the ground for re-loading, but wholly unnecessary on a pinfire game gun -- yet it is present on almost every single one. In later pinfires you can see the eventual evolution towards heel-and-toe plates, skeleton plates, horn plates, or leaving the wood as-is, but until the mid-1860s, the iron butt plate is there...because.

How necessary is chequering? The French often dispensed with chequered hands on their pinfires, leaving the wood untouched to best show off its figure. How effective is English flat-topped chequering, beyond its attractiveness? Is any chequering really necessary on a splinter fore-end? Really? Again, the original Lefaucheux pattern fore-end is iron, and a French gun does not fly out of one's hands when fired!

Perhaps the best example of trying to retain as much of the previous design as possible is the bar-in-wood gun. Masterpieces of the breech-loading gunmaker's art, such guns try to emulate the form and sweep of the muzzle-loader and hide the hinge pin and action parts beneath as much wood as possible. Hardly a practical solution, leading to chipped wood and uncertain action strength, but remarkably beautiful when executed well, in a nostalgic kind of way.

I mentioned skeuomorphism not being limited to guns. It is commonplace all around us, and pervasive in the world of computing. To answer a call on your smartphone you press an icon in the shape of a phone that no longer exists; I saved this document by clicking on a floppy-disk icon, a technological feature no longer found on most computers today. We instinctively know its purpose, and it helps us deal with the new.
Posted By: graybeardtmm3 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/24/20 12:03 AM
a great deal of human behavior can be explained and best understood by referencing habits...or as i like to state it...inertia.

down south there is a folk saying...that marks a person's expression when confronted with something new..."like a calf looking at a new gate"...

i have enjoyed the presentation of beautiful and historic guns that have graced these pages...guns that many of us have no access to - or understanding of, beyond the most rudimentary...and i thank you for your willingness to share...
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/24/20 03:50 PM
More fun and interesting history and perspectives on this group of posts. I like hammers 1,8, and 21, all for different reasons. Maybe 21 seems the most graceful. Who used it ?
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/24/20 04:11 PM
Coincidently there is an article in the last National Review titled
"The Death of Public Beauty" that dwells on the loss of classic beauty in public places like plazas, squares, courtyards, and memorials and how modernism continues to work against our sense of form and spatial order as it evolved over the centuries, bringing on feelings of disorientation and un-unitedness amongst our fellow men.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/24/20 09:40 PM
Originally Posted By: Daryl Hallquist
More fun and interesting history and perspectives on this group of posts. I like hammers 1,8, and 21, all for different reasons. Maybe 21 seems the most graceful. Who used it ?

1 = Barnett (but possibly Joseph Brazier?)
8 = James Dalziel Dougall
21 = Harris Holland
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/25/20 02:07 PM
Thanks, Mr. Nash. Interesting to apply the makers to the shapes. I noticed your #8 Dougall and it brought to mind a couple of Dougall centerfires from ca 1872 or 1874. Dougall seemed to like a fairly unusual hammer shape for the centerfires. If one squints hard enough at your #8 , taking off the forward part of the hammer that reaches the pin, leaves a hammer shape not unlike these two centerfires from Dougall.



Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/26/20 05:07 AM
Welcome to the discussion, Graybeardtmm3, on the evolutionary oddity that is the pinfire game gun. Those who bought one at the time did not know their treasured gun was going to be obsolete in record time -- no one knows such things. For a few years they were the best game guns in the world, and they were made with skill and artistry. Now they are cultural relics from another age.

Those are beautiful Dougalls, Mr. Hallquist! And the hammer work is quite impressive. I have to concede hammerless guns are a technological improvement, but... I much prefer the style of a hammergun.

Decorating one's hunting weapons is amongst the oldest expressions of human art. Colouration is believed to be the oldest, but engraving is perhaps the next-oldest form of decoration on weapons, and can be found on weapons and hunting tools dating as far back as the Stone and Bronze Ages. From the fifteenth century onwards, it has been (and continues to be) the favoured means of decorating firearms.

The pinfire game gun offered a greater potential surface area for metal engraving than the muzzle-loader, and this was often used to great effect, within the relatively constrained and conservative boundaries of British tastes. The typical British gun decoration of the day was exemplified with the subtle application of acanthus-leaf scroll, border patterns, occasional bucolic hunting scenes, and horn inlays on the fore-end. Some engraving motifs are bolder than others, with deftly-hidden fantastical designs that only appear upon close inspection (as we've seen in this thread), or starburst/lightning flash motifs added around the barrel pin holes, a hold-over from the decoration surrounding flint-lock priming pans. British tastes generally did not go for the chiselled relief engraving, flashy precious-metal, bone and ivory inlays, carved stocks, and other visual distractions popular on the Continent. And yet, while the British game gun was an example of artistic restraint, some clients went further in choosing or ordering guns with the most minimal decoration. Not absent of decoration, as might be expected on a working tool or martial arm, but the merest application of lines, shaped contours, and enhanced screw heads to remind the owner that skilled artisans produced the gun, but which hid nothing in the process. Was such a gun chosen to reflect one's personal philosophy? Or was it to save a few shillings? I doubt it was the latter, as it is often fine guns by respected makers that carry the least decoration. Some makers, such as W & C Scott & Son, used engraving coverage as one of the indicators of grade, but the difference in cost between grades would have largely been due to the qualities of barrels and locks employed, and the use of different action designs. Westley Richards guns are frequently encountered with minimal engraving, so it must have been an option by that maker, or maybe even promoted as a feature. And it is not like the guns were devoid of any character, with oiled or lacquered and polished stocks, case-coloured metal, and polished browned barrels displaying damascus patterns at their best. No, I presume the amount and style of engraving was part of what attracted the client to the gun in the first place -- some preferred more, some less.

Today's gun is one of the plainest I've come across, yet the construction quality is evident. It is signed E M Reilly & Co., so this is where Argo44's voluminous research comes in handy!

I would encourage readers to read Argo44's detailed history of the firm. In the broadest terms, it all started with Joseph Charles Reilly, who was born in Ireland and moved to London. In 1814 he opened a business as a jeweller at 12 Middle Row, Holborn and, typically for jewellers at the time, he also traded in guns. In about 1832 Joseph's son Edward Michael joined the firm, and in 1833 the business was entirely about guns. In 1835 the firm moved to 316 High Holborn, trading as J C Reilly until 1840, then as just Reilly, probably when Edward Michael became a partner. In 1847 the business moved to 502 New Oxford Street, and in 1857 Joseph Charles Reilly retired. The business was re-named Reilly & Co in 1858, and in 1859 was re-named again as E M Reilly & Co, moving to 315 Oxford Street, at premises formerly occupied by Joseph Manton, nearby to the premises of James Purdey.

According to Argo44's serial number timeline, today's gun, number 14672, dates from 1867, one of the 450 serial-numbered guns Reilly produced that year. How many pinfire game guns were included within that number is anyone's guess, but Reilly was, with Joseph Lang and John Blanch, a prominent London advocate of the pinfire system. If comparable to other prominent gunmakers at the time, I would fathom the annual number to be about 100 pinfire guns, or fewer.

It is a 12-bore rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun with fine 29 7/8" barrels signed "E. M. Reilly & Co Oxford Street London" on the top rib, Both barrels are marked with London proofs, and a barrel maker's stamp "S" that I have been unable to trace. The unmarked double-bite screw grip action has London proofs, and a very slight radius at the breech/bar junction. The arcaded fences are left plain, as is the extended top strap. The back-action locks are signed "E. M. Reilly & Co London", the rounded hammers are left plain, and the metal parts have a plain border engraving only, with some detailing around the screws. Befitting a quality gun, the chequered butt has heel and toe plates, not a common feature at the time. Despite the fine condition of the gun overall, the bores are moderately pitted, and the gun weighs a light 6 lb 15 oz.

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Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/26/20 03:43 PM
Were some hammers made differently for those who preferred to cock by thumb rather than by edge of hand?
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/26/20 09:02 PM
Hal, as far as I know, all pinfire hammers were designed to be pulled back by the thumb. They would be at half-cock for loading, and using one's thumb to bring the hammer at full cock leaves the hand gripping the stock, barrels pointing forward, in preparation for shouldering the gun to fire. I believe Mr. Diggory Hadoke demonstrates the technique in a recent video of his, using a centre-fire hammer gun with non-rebounding locks (to my knowledge all pinfires had non-rebounding locks)
=


I can't imaging using the edge of the hand to do so (actually, I just tried doing so with several guns, and couldn't do it).

The geometry of hammers on later centre-fire guns can be quite different, but I really can't speak to those, my two centre-fire hammer guns are from the same time period as the pinfires.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/28/20 12:50 AM
1867, 09 Feb - Stanton patent 367 - rebounding hammers
1869, 30 Dec - Stanton patent 3774 - rebounding hammer modification

It took awhile for the invention to take hold but it was so logical and good, a lot of older guns were subsequently modified. Given that pin-fires dominated the market up to 1870-72, it's entirely possibly that there were pin-fires with rebounding hammers.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/28/20 03:49 AM
Argo44,

I have complete information on 750 of Powell's patent action pinfires. The guns were sold
between 1864 and 1891. None of them are described as having rebounding locks. Some conversions to CF were equipped with rebounding locks but there was an additional cost of 1. Centerfires overtook pinfires c.1868-69.

Powell started supplying rebounding locks in 1867.

I haven't examined the Rigby books with these questions in mind but my impression is
that Rigby would closely mirror the Powell experience.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/28/20 01:41 PM
A pinfire with rebounding hammers would seem odd, since the rebounding arc would not be large enough to allow the pinfire hammer noses to clear the barrels when opening the gun. Then, what would be the point of a rebounding pinfire lock ? It took a firearm with firing pins in the receiver to make use of rebounding locks.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/29/20 02:24 AM
Self to self - duhhh. You guys are right of course
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/01/20 02:54 AM
One of the realities of narrow, obscure, thematic collecting is that you rarely find affordable pieces in high condition, let alone ones in their original case, with tools and label. Sometimes you come across a bit of a wreck, but it might have unusual features that make it worthwhile to acquire, and learn from. While the Internet is a wonderful marketplace, sometime you are sometimes buying almost sight unseen and you don't know what you have until you get it in hand. And when you are starting out in your collecting adventure, it is tempting to say "I'll wait for a better one to come around!" Years later, you realise the ones you ignored are likely the only ones of that type/maker you'll ever see. I can remember every pinfire I've passed on, with remarkable clarity.

So when a clapped-out pinfire single turned up, I decided to go for it regardless. It is a 12-bore, made sometime in the 1870s, probably in a Birmingham back-alley. It has a pitted 31 1/8" damascus barrel, no serial number, and the maker's or retailer's name inscribed on the short sighting rib is too indistinct and hieroglyphic to make out ("J. & - -.N"). I might figure it out eventually. It has the Birmingham proof reserved for single-barreled guns, and the fairly generic foliate scroll engraving has seen much better days. The action is a single-bite swinging side-lever and sliding bolt, which I had not come across on a pinfire before (but is commonly seen on cheap Belgian-made centre-fire guns into the 1880s). The side-lever return spring and mainspring were broken, and a crude replacement hammer had been welded (welded..?) on to the tumbler stem. Still, it is a pinfire single, and I'd learned my lesson, I wasn't waiting for the next one to come along. Next will be to figure out when this action type started to be used on inexpensive guns, and, with a ruler to help, figure out the number of missing letters in the name.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/01/20 11:47 PM
All good things come to an end. I started this thread with the triple aim of shedding light on the pinfire game gun for those who had encountered few of them before, sharing information on pinfire guns and their makers, and gathering new information from followers of this board who have pinfires in their collections. As I've reached all three of my objectives, this is as good a time as any to stop with the regular posts to this thread, before interest in the subject matter wanes entirely. I shall go back to concentrating on finishing the book, for which my posts can be considered a hint of what's to come. Indeed, the book will delve into a more complete history of Britain's role in the development of the pinfire system, starting with Charles Howard's experiments with fulminates. The book will look at specimen guns in greater detail, about 60 or so in my collection, and possibly others. The book will also look at the cultural and historical influences of the time that influenced the adoption of the breech-loader, and reflect on the evolution of the gunmaking world as it threaded through the political and social changes of the period.

I hope others will keep adding to this thread to keep it going and I will be around to contribute and comment as I can, and answer questions and queries should they come up. Thank you to all who have contributed to the discussion so far and who have kept it on-topic, and thanks to the silent readers for having built an astounding (to me) view count on this thread of over 48,000 views. I never thought such a narrow and esoteric subject would have engendered such an interest.

Posts are always more interesting with pictures, so here are random images that show off well the gunmaking skills of the period.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
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To finish, it is proper to return to Mr Casimir Lefaucheux, the inventor of the pinfire system. I do not have one of his guns, but I do have one of his cases... As is typical with Continental cases there is no printed paper or leather label, but the maker's name, in gold, is pressed on to the inner baize, over padding. Though faded and with letters missing, the lid inscription should read: "Lefaucheux Inventeur 37 Rue Vivienne Paris". Casimir Lefaucheux moved to this address in 1850, and died in 1852. The case likely dates somewhere from 1850 onwards, and is quite likely earlier in date than any British pinfire.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/02/20 01:26 AM
Beautiful and educational line, Steve....and it will be read again and again. Thanks.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/02/20 01:23 PM
Agree with Argo. Each morning when I turn to the computer I look for the pinfire posts. Really the best of the best on Double Gunshop.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/02/20 03:25 PM
Really interesting and enlightening. It's sparked my interest in looking out for more pin-fires; I only own one by Thomas Newton of Manchester. I asked a dealer friend who looks out for certain guns for me to tell me if he gets any pin-fires in only to be told that he had bought in three, all 16 bores one English and two continental for just 250 the lot but had sold them on. Drat! He knows better now! Thanks for all your hard work and please contact me when the book is available. Lagopus..
Posted By: JBLondon Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/02/20 09:11 PM
Thank you, Stephen.
As one of the silent followers of this thread I suspect like most that I had little to contribute and so we sat back to admire the examples you presented to us while learning about the origins of the modern sporting gun.
With much admiration,
John
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/20 05:24 PM
Rainy-day boredom? Withdrawal? Or curiosity to see if squeezing in another post will take the thread over the 50,000-views mark?

I was taking a break and casually looking at the pinfires arranged on the wall, was reminded of a recent comment on another board concerning the Henry Jones under-lever. It is the most classic action design for pinfire game guns and later hammerguns, and it is ergonomically sleek or clumsy depending on one's point of view. Then I noticed that all Jones under-levers are not alike... Some have the projecting knurl aligned with the forward trigger, some with the rear trigger, some clearly in-between, and one was even behind the rear trigger. Maybe it has no real effect, as a shooter would get used to their gun regardless. But I found it interesting that I had never noticed the variation in the alignment of the knurl, and perhaps others hadn't either. So purely for interest's sake and an appreciation of the endless variability in British gunmaking, here are 30 Jones under-levers side-by-side for comparison.

If you look at numbers 2, 4 and 6, all are Boss & Co. guns, made roughly around the same time, and possibly by the same hands -- yet there are subtle differences. Purely cosmetic? Artistic licence? Perhaps. But it does make me wonder why there was no "standard" with respect to the design. Would a longer or shorter lever make a difference, or not? Or does the length, and shape, fall into the "just cause" category of design?

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

PS. Yes, there appears to be variability in trigger shapes, too. Possibly the same as for the levers, i.e. no reason, just is.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/06/20 01:21 AM
Were any single-trigger hammer doubles produced?
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/06/20 01:37 AM
Great collage Steve. I've just gone over an 1886 gun with a really good gunsmith and now start to understand what "hand-made" means. The "American System" didn't arrive in UK until the 1860's and not in Birmingham until the 1870's and it was more expensive than hand-filing.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/06/20 01:48 AM
Originally Posted by Hal
Were any single-trigger hammer doubles produced?
No, the single triggers were on single-barrel guns. I don't know exactly when single triggers on doubles first appeared, but definitely after pinfires.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/06/20 02:27 PM
I have seen them on double hammer guns but only on centre fires and very very rare at that! Lagopus..
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/06/20 11:14 PM
Thanks Lagopus.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/20/20 03:39 AM
Originally Posted By: Hal
Were any single-trigger hammer doubles produced?


Slightly off topic, but I was just thinking about the single trigger question. One of the very earliest pinfire guns made by Casimir Lefaucheux actually has a single trigger that fires whichever hammer is cocked.

But its a pistol! However I dont see any reason why someone couldnt have used this idea on a shotgun.

This is the very first pinfire pistol made for a pinfire pistol cartridge. (And the first pinfire pistol cartridges were made for this pistol.) There was an earlier pinfire pistol but it was basically a small shotgun and took cut down shotshells.








Posted By: MrCrockett Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/20/20 07:03 PM
"But feel free to decide which set of hammers looks best"

1, 46, and the fox/squirrelesque/mammalian hammers next.
These pinfires you have so excellently and interestingly presented are to me, the most elegant shotguns certainly that I've ever seen, and I only vaguely new of their existence. Thank you, and I look forward to more, and the book (with color photos I hope).
I have a newfound respect for the cartridges and their place in history as well.
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/21/20 04:19 AM
AaronN,
Are the barrels rifled?

Have you studied the twist rate for pinfire rifles?

The Powell day books mention "8 ft 8 inches."
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/21/20 03:48 PM
Thanks for the interest in my query. Would like to see an image or drawing of a single-trigger hammer shotgun or rifle said to be so rare. Would almost have to be selective if chokes were used or if on a buschflinte.
Posted By: Mark Larson Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/22/20 02:40 AM
Originally Posted By: Steve Nash
When executed well such scenes are very attractive and, when done crudely Um, to paraphrase comments from elsewhere on the board, who wants to look at flying turnips?



I happen to love the little stubby winged flying turnips found on Parkers and such. Personally, I find them to be a highly stylized, beautiful adaptation, like a mannerist painting of a woman with an absurdly long neck. In my opinion, representation should be the starting point of imagination, not the end.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/22/20 05:12 PM
Originally Posted By: Steve Helsley
AaronN,
Are the barrels rifled?

Have you studied the twist rate for pinfire rifles?

The Powell day books mention "8 ft 8 inches."


They are Smooth.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/22/20 09:57 PM
My information is that Purdey developed a functional mechanical single-trigger in 1890; Holland & Holland in 1891; Boss & Co. in 1894, with a perfected design by John Robertson and William Adams -- the pinfire game gun was history by then. Most guns at this point would be hammerless, but a few clients might have preferred external hammers, but were willing to try a single trigger? If anyone can refer to a published image, that would be useful.

The recoil-activated single-trigger came much later, with Val Browning's patent in 1940.

If someone has volume 3 of Crudgington & Baker's The British Shotgun, there might be more detailed information on who came up with the first single-trigger mechanism on a double shotgun.

That pistol is quite interesting, AaronN!

As to gun decoration, Mark, to each their own, I guess. I still marvel at how a scrappy Mediterranean weed ended up being the inspiration for most gun engraving.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/23/20 01:05 PM
The only sporting double hammer shotgun I have examined is in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Greener; The Gun & its Development illustrates a Greener double hammer gun with single trigger and refers to a double Flintlock pistol with one. He mentions the first English patent being 1864. Not much New under the Sun in Gunmaking terms. Lagopus..
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/24/20 04:46 AM
On the Reilly line, I have posted a riposte to Diggory Hadoke's article on Reilly SN 10054, dated per the Reilly SN chart to Fall 1856.
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/the-earliest-reilly-breech-loader-

Per the commentary, Mark Crudgington has seen two Lang center-break pin-fires whose receipts allegedly date them to 1854. We've yet to see photographic proof. For now, 10054 Is the oldest existing UK made pin fire. Welcome refutations and additions.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/31/20 02:01 PM
Really nice Reilly SxS 20 bore for sale at Amoskeag. 13033, formerly owned by Terry Buffum, would date to last quarter of 1863 per my chart.
https://live.amoskeagauction.com/m/lot-details/index/catalog/54/lot/29699



serial #13,033, 20 ga., 29'' barrels with bright very fine bores showing remnants of some light scattered oxidation and light remnants of pitting, the left tube showing an old professionally raised ding about 8'' from the muzzle. The barrels show lovely star damascus pattern their full-length with a bit of fading nearer the muzzles, a bit of very light oxidation and very light pinprick pitting at right of muzzles. The rib is neatly marked ''EM Reilly & Co. New Oxford St., London'' and shows a bit of nice scroll at its rear with small engraved ''explosions'' around the ignition pin holes at the breech. The frame and back action lockplates are primarily a pewter gunmetal gray patina showing some trace case colors in the protected areas, more prominent on the left plate. They feature tight English scroll on the radii of the frame with gamebirds on the lockplates, each also maker marked in-turn and with nice scroll at their rears and the sides of the hammer; the hammer noses are neatly engraved in a dolphin head motif. The long tang triggerguard shows some nice engraving with solid blue on the bow beneath the opening lever, the long upper tang as well with the same nice quality scroll and a small gamebird. The length of pull to the smooth steel shotgun buttplate is 14 1/4'' with a bit of light scroll at the top of the heel. The English walnut buttstock rates very good to perhaps near fine with some nice grain figure and coarse checkering and the expected light dings and handling marks that come from the years. The splinter forend is near fully checkered and has a small horn tip insert and a tiny flake at left side rear near the iron. The locks are crisp and mechanically functional and in time for the most part, the right hammer sits just a tiny bit rear of the left, the right side small raised edge flare to the rear of the standing breeches shows a small chip. The screws show nice slots with the bottom lever screw slot showing just a tiny bit of wear and could easily be dressed. The arm is tight on face and comes in a nice walnut case with brass corners and Reilly makers label on the interior. The green baize is an older replacement and is rather nice, the case likely being adapted to this arm. There is a nice nickel oil bottle, a maple wad ram, some rod end accessories and three paper 20 bore pinfire shells which fit the chambers very well. A very handsome EM Reilly shotgun that likely could still go afield once a few more shells are secured. (39894-3) {ANTIQUE} (1500/2000)
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/31/20 04:53 PM
A 20-bore British pinfire is unusual, I've never come across one.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 11/01/20 12:55 AM
Terry tells me that when he sold it at Amoskeag (about 2016 per my records) he had 100 paper cartridges for the gun....looks like three are left.
Posted By: Robert Hodges UK Re: The pinfire game gun - 01/07/21 03:57 PM
Atkin Grant and Lang have the only remaining records. They start with SN 2085 in 1858 as you say. Nothing earlier remains.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 01/07/21 05:00 PM
Originally Posted By: Robert Hodges UK
Atkin Grant and Lang have the only remaining records. They start with SN 2085 in 1858 as you say. Nothing earlier remains.

Robert, thanks for this.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 01/07/21 10:07 PM
Diggory Hadoke told me that Mark Crudgington knows of two Langs with sales receipts from 1854. I asked Mark about this. He has never provided further information or confirmed their existence. The last exchange we had, he also said the earliest extant Lang which can be dated is 1858.
Posted By: Tinker Re: The pinfire game gun - 01/08/21 02:44 AM
Hm

That Reilly 20 bore didn't sell.
For the $1500 I might have bought it.

If anyone here knows who has it, let me know.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 01/08/21 03:03 AM
https://live.amoskeagauction.com/m/lot-details/index/catalog/54/lot/29699


I would start with querying Amoskeog. Amoskeog generally will not give you the name of the owner (or the buyer). But they will forward a message from you.

And when all else fails, send them a snail-mail letter with a text and a stamped envelope "to whom it may concern." This is how I got to the owner of the pair to my Reilly 16 bore side lever.

Somehow my post on how I finally found the buyer doesn't seem to exist

I'll add that any gun collected by Terry Buffum was solid.

https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=557230
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 02/04/21 10:47 PM
It was a minor annoyance that the update to the board did not like my use of quotation marks, assorted punctuation, currency symbols, and the occasional French character, leaving in their place tiny black squares like so much black powder residue sprinkled over the texts... This detracted from the reading experience and as some may wish to re-read the pages someday, or others may come across this thread for the first time and might otherwise be deterred by the texts' appearance, I'm happy to say that my 100 or so posts on this thread have now been cleaned up.

Thanks again to all who have contributed to the thread and, of course, I hope it will keep going.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 02/05/21 09:38 PM
Raimey sent this to me: Hedeline, Paris 16 gauge pin-fire with dated barrels by Bernard dated 1870 in excellent shape. Thomas Woodword of Colorado apparently loads his own pin-fire guns:
https://www.gunsinternational.com/g...uch-original-finish.cfm?gun_id=101594911
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Ad states the entire ensemble, gun, case, accruements are in near original condition. He wants a lot for it. He also states it is very late for a pin-fire. Close. but not quite true since the majority of extant Reilly shotguns in my database continued to be pin-fires until 1872 - 73.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 02/05/21 10:09 PM
Thanks, Argo44. I note that even for an 1870-dated gun, the fences are very thin in profile.

The snap underlever is reminiscent of a design found on Beringer guns, I believe. Related to my query on another thread, are the various scroll-shaped underlever designs and the common scroll-shape of the trigger guard bow linked? It would seem the scroll-shaped trigger guard pre-dated the Beringer underlever, and Beringer (or someone else) fashioned a forward snap underlever that resembled the scroll shape of the trigger guard bow - or I could be wrong and it is the other way around - or simply unrelated. Trying to get to the origins of these designs is frustrating.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/16/21 11:51 PM
I would like to post the text of Reilly's letter to "The Field" published 26 Dec 1857 here because it has a lot to do with the history of pin-fires in UK. The text was sent by "The Field" to Vic Venters...who forwarded it to me. My comments on it can be read on the Reilly line. I'll post the original and then a typewritten version for easier understanding (If "The Field" objects, and I don't anticipate this), I'll delete.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

The Breech Loader

Sir, - Your correspondents writing against breech-loaders all show by their own letters how little they really understand the principles upon which these guns are made.

This system differs from other novelties inasmuch as it has been extant about a quarter of a century and it has been in operation in some sporting circles these twenty years. All the patents have long ago fallen in; anybody who does not object to the expense of the necessary tools and machinery, and who can teach his workmen, may set to work and make these guns. The great facts of safety and durability have been fully established by the wear and tear of a long period than a good fowling piece is generally supposed to continue serviceable in hard shooting; and the breech-loader, which requires less care in cleaning, etc., exhibits less appearance of deterioration than the capper cap-gun after the same length of time in hard wear.

The only objections worth of any notice that have been adduced are those imperfections known to exist in the very worst specimens – the cheap Belgian and French guns, many of which kill very well, and last a fair time, inferior as they may be. The objection upon which such stress is laid – the relative sizes of the bore of the barrels, the interior of the cartridge – has had ample consideration ere this; and it does not necessarily follow, if errors have been made in early attempts, that they are to be continued. The point at issue with the few experienced London makers is not simply whether the bore of the barrels should be the same size as the wadding used in loading the cartridges, but as to whether the bore should be a size smaller to fit the wadding still tighter. It is obvious, if the calibre of the barrels be larger, the charge passes through them too freely, and there will not be sufficient friction to give strength to the shooting; on the other hand, by making the gauge of barrels to small, recoil will be increased; and the shooting, though excessively strong, may not be regular and close. The happy medium has to be arrived at; and this may be most effectually done in the trials before finishing, which guns of every construction turned out by any careful maker should be submitted.

Very few of the barrels for breech-loaders actually made in this country have been chambered with an abrupt termination, or shoulder, to meet the inner end of the cartridge-case; almost every one has been eased off at a moderate angle. Cutting or reducing the length of cartridge-cases is a waste of time; it is better to fill up with waddings. When using light charges, a thick felt wad over the powder, and a thin wad over the shot (both ungreased), and the closing tool then used to turn over the edge, the charge will be held sufficiently tight without any gum or cement, if the cartridges are taken out in a proper kind of carrier; but if it is intended to knock them about in the pocket, or if it is likely one may walk about for an hour without getting a shot, the wadding must be fastened in more securely. Nr. 15 (16 and 14) cartridges will only contain 3 or 3 ½ drams if powder and 1 1/4 oz. of shot with thin wads (in fact barely so much; No. 12 loaded with the same quantities, fills up well with a thick felt wadding over the powder. Under any circumstances there is no necessity for cutting cartridges shorter than they are made.

Some of the arguments which the opponents of the breech-loading system bring forward against its soundness and stability might have been received ten or fifteen years ago, when the originality of the design and curious simplicity of the construction rather took us by surprise. It had not then been so undoubtedly proved, as by the long experience we have had since in extensive and constant use, that the solid flat false breech which the breech ends of the barrels close against is as sound, as durable, and for all purposes of resistance of the charge, as secure and perfect as a breech permanently screwed into the tubes themselves; and they undergo the same proof as muzzle-loaders.

The explosion of this charge in the breech does not cause such a severe strain upon the mechanism holding the barrels in position as may at first be supposed; the expansive force finds the point of the least resistance, upon which it unites all its efforts; therefore it is an ounce of shot and the air to be displaced from the barrel, opposed to the whole weight of the piece. No other gun can possibly concentrate so fully all the force of the powder up in its charge of shot, nor so completely in the rifle give the spiral motion to the bullet.

Doubtless the facility with which the barrels can be reloaded, the breech ends held up to view, and a clear sight obtained through the bore, exposing this entire action in a manner so much at variance with previously-conceived ideas, has been and must continue to be a cause of distrust until actual proof and frequent trials reconcile one to these peculiarities. It may require the attestation of intimate friends ocular demonstration in the field and something beyond the recommendations of the manufacturer to carry conviction to the minds of sportsmen, upon a matter without precedent to guide their judgement, and on which they have been left so thoroughly in the dark. Until quite recently purchases were made from sheer curiousity, in the most disbelieving spirit as to their utility, but admitting the ingenuity and apparent goodness of this workmanship. The desire was to possess something new, taking its merits upon trust; and it has often been, with no less surprise than gratification that all doubts were dispelled, and the new gun found to be more agreeable to use and possessed of greater power than those on the old plan.

Practical experience, beyond our most sanguine expectations, gives the palm to these breech-loaders for carrying their shot both close and strong. Estimating their powers by the French and Belgian guns that have passed through out hands many years ago, we thought they would be covert guns for short distances; but it soon became apparent with superior workmanship and finer qualities of metal for the barrels, that extraordinary shooting powers might be achieved with the breech-loader; so that they not only came up to, but surpassed the ordinary fowling-piece, and delivered their shot closer and stronger than any other gun we have ever made. Of testimony to this effect we have abundance, some of which is conveyed to us per letter may be referred to. It is to actual and continued experience we should give our confidence not to vague surmises and unfounded theoretical deductions.

Everything that disturbs existing interests is due to meet with opposition at its early introduction; the difficulties it has to encounter are some proof of its value, should it survive. There must be intrinsic merit and sterling worth in this particular system of breech-loader, otherwise it could never have made good its way under such adverse circumstances as it has had to contend against. There have been good grounds for prejudices for it has has been badly made, though richly ornamented and, in fact has not been properly understood by the manufacturers until of late years... Moreover, there has been until recently considerable difficulty about obtaining an ample supply of cartridge-cases, and no one knows better than myself the persuasion it required to induce our apathetic English to undertake their manufacture, although a model was put into their hands that they had only to follow a pattern without the least exercise of the inventive faculty.

. . New Oxford-street, Dec. 15 . . . . .E.M. Reilly
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/16/21 11:54 PM
I'll add my observations on the Reilly letter because I think they are apt....note how early UK gunmakers were looking at pin-fires, how up until about 1857 they were regarded as novelties. how barrels were being imported from Belgium early on, etc.

==============================================================================
E.M. Reilly letter to "the Field" 26 Dec 1857 on Breech Loaders


Vic Venters managed to obtain the E.M Reilly letter to "The Field" on breech loaders published in the 26 December 1857 edition. He obtained this through his contacts at the magazine - but because there may be copyright issues, the entire letter will not be literally posted as yet. However, here are a few comments on the points made in the letter:

. . .1) Reilly began looking at French and Belgian breech loaders as early as 1847 possibly earlier:
"This system differs from other novelties inasmuch as it has been extant about a quarter of a century and it has been in operation in some sporting circles these twenty years."

"Some of the arguments which the opponents of the breech-loading system bring forward against its soundness and stability might have been received ten or fifteen years ago, when the originality of the design and curious simplicity of the construction rather took us by surprise. It had not then been so undoubtedly proved, as by the long experience we have had since in extensive and constant use, that the solid flat false breech which the breech ends of the barrels close against is as sound, as durable, and for all purposes of resistance of the charge, as secure and perfect as a breech permanently screwed into the tubes themselves; and they undergo the same proof as muzzle-loaders."

"Estimating their powers by the French and Belgian guns that have passed through our hands many years ago, we thought they would be covert guns for short distances; but it soon became apparent with superior workmanship and finer qualities of metal for the barrels, that extraordinary shooting powers might be achieved with the breech-loader;"


. . .2) Reilly apparently invested in machinery to manufacture the guns and he seemed to have an intimate familiarity with the manufacturing process (though the article was basically couched as a counter-point to anti-breech-loader diatribes - in particular safety, durability, power).
"All the patents have long ago fallen in; anybody who does not object to the expense of the necessary tools and machinery, and who can teach his workmen, may set to work and make these guns. The great facts of safety and durability have been fully established by the wear and tear of a longer period than a good fowling piece is generally supposed to continue serviceable in hard shooting; and the breech-loader, which requires less care in cleaning, etc., exhibits less appearance of deterioration than the capper cap-gun after the same length of time in hard wear."

. . .3) The breech-loaders were originally bought by UK shooters as something of a novelty; It subsequently came as a surprise how easy they were to shoot, clean and how reliable they were:
"Until quite recently purchases were made from sheer curiousity, in the most disbelieving spirit as to their utility, but admitting the ingenuity and apparent goodness of this workmanship. The desire was to possess something new, taking its merits upon trust; and it has often been, with no less surprise than gratification that all doubts were dispelled, and the new gun found to be more agreeable to use and possessed of greater power than those on the old plan."

Comment: First Extant Reilly pin-fire breech loader is 10054, made probably late summer 1856. There is an extant Reilly breech loader 10354 made in summer 1857. This indicates the E.M. made about 300 guns during this period (J.C. made another 100...see the chart). Probably at most 10% of the 300 made by EM were breech loaders = 30 guns - probably a lot less - 15 guns maybe? The Extant SN Reilly guns are pictured above.

Note: By December 1857
-- Lang had been producing breech loaders for nearly 4 years (estimate maybe 70 guns?)
-- Reilly for 1.5 years (estimate 15 guns?);
-- Blanch for a year (estimate 5 guns?)
-- Haris Holland for 9 or 10 months (5 guns?).
-- The technology was still 3 years away from infiltrating Birmingham.
-- There were a few other gunsmiths making them - Henry Tatham had made a couple per letters to the Field
etc.
In other words there were not that many UK made breech loaders being shot in the country at this time (Dec 1857) - maybe 100? if that many?


. . .4) Reilly did not have a high opinion of some of the guns imported into UK from Belgium and France at the time.
"The only objections worth of any notice that have been adduced are those imperfections known to exist in the very worst specimens – the cheap Belgian and French guns, many of which kill very well, and last a fair time, inferior as they may be."

"There have been good grounds for prejudices for it has has been badly made, though richly ornamented and, in fact has not been properly understood by the manufacturers until of late years"


Comment: There is something odd about the tone of Reilly's comment; i.e. - "Isn't the quality of those ornamental Continental guns awful but they sure do shoot well and should be fine once British quality takes over." i.e. The obligatory nod to British parochialism while supporting the concept and promoting the innovation .

. . .5) He had a belief at the time that the chamber should taper at the cartridge end and should not end "abruptly" at right angles as were found on European breech-loaders.
"Very few of the barrels for breech-loaders actually made in this country have been chambered with an abrupt termination, or shoulder, to meet the inner end of the cartridge-case; almost every one has been eased off at a moderate angle."

Comment: Apparently Lang originally followed the Lefaucheux chambering model touting this as an "advance." UK gunmakers filed off the chamber "shoulders." Lang then claimed he was the origin of this change. Lang apparently had a character that inspired a lot of upset in the UK gunmaking fraternity).

. . .6) He spent a lot of time discussing the wadding of reloads and the fact that cartridges did not need to be cut, etc.

. . .7) He seemed to believe that in late 1857 a lot of barrels used in UK breech loaders were imported from Belgium.
"Very few of the barrels for breech-loaders actually made in this country"

. . .8) He thought the British cartridge industry to be lazy or very conservative.
"Moreover, there has been until recently considerable difficulty about obtaining an ample supply of cartridge-cases, and no one knows better than myself the persuasion it required to induce our apathetic English to undertake their manufacture, although a model was put into their hands that they had only to follow a pattern without the least exercise of the inventive faculty."

Comment: Shortly thereafter Reilly decided to begin manufacturing his own breech loading pin-fire cartridges.

If I get permission from "The Field" I will post the letter. It can be interpreted in several ways - as an advertising brochure, an advertisement for his guns, a promotion for breech-loaders, etc. The fact remains that at the time, no-one in UK challenged the fact that Reilly was making breech-loaders at New Oxford Street.

(A letter to the field in early Jan 1858 in response to Reilly's above letter was published above- reposted below):
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/17/21 04:00 AM
Great additions, Gene.

And I’ve just got my hands on a pinfire game gun by Robert Ringer of Norwich. Interestingly, it has the ring-tipped underlever in the style often favoured by E.M Reilly. Pictures will follow soon.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/17/21 02:17 PM
Robert Ringer, Great Orford Street, Norwich; in business there 1868 to 1890. Look forward to seeing it. Lagopus…..
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/17/21 04:45 PM
I may as well post this gun from the Reilly line. I believe this may well be the oldest datable extant UK made center-break pin-fire.

==========================================================================================
10054 - Vintage Gun Journal comments


Double gun enthusiasts are passionate about their history. Per posts two pages earlier, Diggory Hadoke forward an advertisement for a Reilly pin-fire SN 10054. It is absolutely the earliest Reilly center-break gun found to date and would date to early fall 1856 per the Reilly chart.
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Diggory published the following article in September "Vintage Gun Journal" on the gun:
https://www.vintageguns.co.uk/magazine/the-earliest-reilly-breech-loader-

A few comments:
-- The dating of the gun is far more complex than is presented in the article, and is far more precise. Please read the serial number dating chart and go over the p.44 list of extant guns. (I need to move both history and list forward)
-- Mark Crudgington was introduced to me by Diggory, and I have had an on-going conversation with him about Reilly; we disagree on a number of points - he has been extremely helpful on others. Some of the comments he made to me are included in Diggory's article.

10054 is still the Earliest Reilly center-break ever found. It may be in fact the earliest extant UK made center-break pin-fire.

Mark said that he knows of two dated Lang pin-fires from 1854 per the receipts. (Per Lang's own essay we know he began to make them about early 1854). Mark like David Trevallion and Robert Dollimore in New Zealand, are the historical repository of knowledge of gun making from the 1950's - 60's and in Mark's case because of his father Ian Crudgington stretching back to the 1940's. However, over the years I've learned to wait for the physical evidence.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/19/21 05:16 PM
As promised, here is another pinfire to add to the mix, with a feature that so far had eluded me.

Born in 1821, Robert Ringer began making guns under his own name in 1852 in Watton, near Thetford, in the rural county of Norfolk. He appears to have taken over the premises of William Burton, who started the business in 1839. Prior to 1852 Ringer was a journeyman gunmaker in the market town of Swaffham, working for either William Parson or Abigail Sutton. Where he completed his apprenticeship is not recorded, but it may well have been with Burton, Parson, or James Sutton. Ringer must have been successful in Watton, as he was able to open premises in Norwich in 1868, closing the Watton premises shortly afterwards. Around this time he employed one man and one boy, a fairly typical arrangement for a provincial gunmaker.

Norwich is the county town of Norfolk, established as a city in the 10th century, and from the 11th century onwards the second largest city after London. A thriving commercial centre into Victorian times, Norwich was built on the wool and textile trade, and as a gateway to mainland Europe (before the rail line established in 1845, it was said to have been quicker to travel to Amsterdam than to London). The county was also very good shooting country, for partridge, and later for pheasant – many storied shooting estates were located in the county, where by the middle of the 19th century, over a hundred Norfolk families owned estates greater than 2,000 acres in size.

Norwich was therefore a good location for a talented gunmaker, and in 1868 the pinfire game gun still ruled. In that year there were four other Norwich gunmakers in operation, with the best-known being George Jeffries (in business from 1841 to 1899, who had obtained in 1860 patent no. 1900 for a turnover tool which improved the performance of the pinfire cartridge; this invention was overshadowed by James Purdey’s patent no. 302 of 1861, a better turnover tool). The other three Norwich gunmakers, Robert Norton Dale, Robert John Howard, and John Ottway, were short-lived, open only in that year. Like Jeffries, the Ringer business survived until around 1890, and would have turned out percussion guns, pinfires, and centrefires, in due course.

Terry Wieland’s book, Vintage British Shotguns: A Shooting Sportsman Guide, tantalizingly illustrates a beautiful Robert Ringer pinfire, a single-bite underlever 12-bore, made from the Watton address. I say tantalizingly, because the underlever is not fully visible, and I would have liked to see its distal end, to see if it has a ring-shaped knob.

On page 30 of this thread I presented a comparison of 30 rearward underlevers, to show the range of shapes, lengths, decoration styles etc. on pinfire guns, but did not have the elusive ring-tip to include. That shape of knob/finial, as seen on E. M. Reilly’s pinfire of 1859, as shown by Argo44 on the first page of this thread, is unusual. In fact, I have only seen it on Reilly guns (if you have DGJ vol. 15 issue 2, look at page 150; also Reilly’s 1871 advertisement, on page 48 in Argo44’s Reilly thread, or the photo on page 30 of that thread). Not all Reilly underlever guns had this feature, but I don't recall having come across this design on other makers’ guns – until this game gun by Robert Ringer fell into my hands.

It is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever, serial number 796, signed “Robert Ringer Gt Orford St Norwich” on the top rib. The 30” damascus barrels have London proofs, and the thin fences and lack of a radius between the action bar and the breech face are consistent with an earlier design, as might be found on provincial guns. The Great Orford Street address means its manufacture cannot be earlier than 1868, and a lack of records and surviving Ringer guns makes it difficult to date precisely – but I’m guessing 1868-1869. It is a well-made gun, with signed back-action locks, an elongated top strap, rounded dolphin-headed hammers, good foliate scroll engraving, and a raised clip on the trigger guard bow. The well-figured stock suffered a catastrophic break at one point, and the period repair at the wrist kept it in the shooting field. It is a very trim and slim gun, light for a pinfire 12-bore at 6 lb 13 oz. The stock escutcheon has the letters “LHS” in script, unfortunately not enough to trace its ownership. And it has the enigmatic ring-tipped underlever. I can’t see a purpose for this design feature, it may be just for looks. I had believed the ring-tip was perhaps part of a Reilly house style, but now I’m not so sure. If anyone has an example of this type of underlever on a pinfire game gun by a maker other then Reilly, I would like to hear of it.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 03/31/21 11:35 PM
Steve asked a question in another line about Reilly's use of "ring" type under-levers. I went back through all the center-break shotguns to the Lefaucheux U-L era. Here is a collage of 46 of them dating from a drawing in late 1859 to SN 18797 in 1874 at the close of the pin-fire era. There is no consistency in what type of under lever, ring or solid fill ring, that Reilly used during this time. Towards the end of the 1870's and on into the 1880's (after this chart) he more often than not used the solid fill rings but there are still ring levers found.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Details on these guns are found on p.44 of the Reilly line - Dated List of Extant Reilly's
1 - 1859 Book Illustration
2 – 11537
3 – SN Unknwn
4 – 12527
5 – 13033
6 – 13081
7 – 13224
8 – 13688
9 – 13816
10- 14115
11- 14469
12- 14983
13- 15285
14- 15129
15- 15255
16- 15255
17- 15283
18- 15318
19- 15625
20- 15964
21- 16015
22- 16139
23- 16257
24- 16341
25- 16442
26- 16585
27- 16720
28- 16768
29- 16808
30- 16810
31- 16830
32- 17204
33- 17244
34- 17261
35- 17391a
36- 17391
37- 17552
38- 17556
39- 17626
40- 18533
41- 18550
42- 18593
43- 18688
44- 18763
45- 18766
46- 18797
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/02/21 02:13 AM
Gene, thank you very much for taking the time to put together the collage of Reilly levers. The ring (or torus) tipped under-lever is clearly a common pattern used by Reilly, though not universally. It fascinates me that so much effort went into the lever tips, with convex and concave profiles, rounded and squared, chequered and plain, and the ring tip. They must have all started as rough forgings, before being put to the file, all for a part that is rarely looked at in detail.

As we don’t know the reason some Reilly’s have the ring tip and some don’t, it either comes down to the client or the gunmaker’s preference. I now have an example of another gunmaker using the ring tip, which gives me two avenues to explore — did all Robert Ringer guns have the ring tip, and how many other makers used this decorative feature. One question answered, two more questions emerge...
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/02/21 04:32 AM
Steve, there are a couple of other observations from the Reilly Collage (and this is only observations of surviving Reilly's):

-- The last noted Reilly pin-fire is 17566 dated to spring 1872 by my chart. After that...no pin-fires
-- Center-break pin-fires really did not appear to become predominant until 13033 (mid 1863).

Up to that time for Reilly's there was a lot of competition on what would sell. Reilly was also making Enfields, other muzzle loaders, breech loader rifles (Prince patent, Green Patent, etc.). This was in the midst of the bonanza from the War Between the States for UK gunmakers. So Reilly made pin-fires...but from that list of extant guns,1863 was the date they really took over the market - 1872 was the denouement.

(Of course pin fire guns were made by Reilly from 1855...but the above analysis is based on the percentage of the types of surviving guns.)
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/03/21 03:37 PM
Certainly the Thomas Bland 'Keeper's' model hammer gun had the ring lever. It was a plain low grade model. I previously owned one but regrettably sold it some years ago. Very plain but it shot well. Lagopus…..
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/03/21 05:21 PM
Originally Posted by lagopus
I previously owned one but regrettably sold it some years ago.
How many times do we end up saying this? We never learn...
Thanks, Lagopus.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/05/21 01:46 AM
I'd like to add this to the pin-fire line. Here's a 19th century shotgun shell chart (can't actually date it) showing Kynoch shells from the period but since it has pin-fires and center-fires it has to be around 1870:
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/05/21 03:08 PM
I have an I.C.I. Eley Kynoch catalogue from 1936. They were still advertising the Eley "Brown Pin-Fire" capped cases for home loading in 12 bore and 16 bore then. I would suspect that the War ended any further availability. The illustration above will date from Kynoch's first catalogue issued in January 1882 until their final listing of this blue quality case in pin-fire which was in 1886 when only 12 bore and 16 bore were then offered. Kynoch was certainly still listing pin-fire cases and cartridges in their 1891 catalogue but in Brass, Brown Quality & Green Quality and they only seem to be in 12 bore by then. What he produced prior to 1882 isn't clear but certainly you illustration is from that 1882 catalogue. Well worth framing up. Very interesting. Lagopus…..
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/09/21 06:25 PM
Hi, By strange coincidence, I stumbled back across this site (which I had joined some years ago, but thought I,d lost it), when I returned home today, after dropping off 3 of my pinfires at Ryedale Auctions, here in the UK. They are to be sold on April 24th. I have been a keen collector of pinfire shotguns since 1976, when I bought my first one a Pape of Newcastle 12g. It had an unusual fitting on the left side of the action, held in place by 2 screws (with identical engraving to the rest of the gun, ) which I believe was made by the maker.Difficult to describe, this part ad a slot in it, and a thumbscrew which went into the slot.............trial and error (and my own affliction!) lead me to believe eventually that it was to hold a small item up to block off vision from the left eye! A master eye device! This was confirmed by Geoffrey Boothroyd, and a member of Sothebys gun dept. at a Game Fair at Chatsworth House, in the 1980,s........since 1976, I have collected pinfires, and English hammerguns. Not having deep poickets, my collection grew slowly, and I had to focus on what I found interesting, rather than on buying the very best. I looked for interesting patents and designs.
However, if I tried to talk about all I have owned, or handled, or seen, this post would take me forever to write! So I hope to keep adding to it over the next few weeks. I have been slowly disposing of my collection over the last 9 years, as no one in my family has the same interests as me. The 3 I sent to Auction today were 2 by John Blanch
and one by Masu Brothers. One of the Blanch guns had a grip safety, a hangover from percussion days. I believe it may have started life in Blanch,s workshop as a percussion, but it was converted to pinfire by Blanch. I hope this is of interest, I have hundreds of Boothroyd articles on shotguns going back to the early 1970,s. I also have over 1,000 gun catalogues, by all the UK auction houses covering the same period. My last 3 pinfires (a Purdey, a Perrins side lever, and a Mortimer) will be going to auction in July. Soirry this is all a bit jumbled, but when I came across this site, I just had to talk to someone about this subject, all my old collector friends have now passed on. David````````
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/09/21 07:57 PM
Originally Posted by ivanhoe
Hi, By strange coincidence, I stumbled back across this site (which I had joined some years ago, but thought I,d lost it), when I returned home today, after dropping off 3 of my pinfires at Ryedale Auctions, here in the UK. They are to be sold on April 24th. I have been a keen collector of pinfire shotguns since 1976, when I bought my first one a Pape of Newcastle 12g. It had an unusual fitting on the left side of the action, held in place by 2 screws (with identical engraving to the rest of the gun, ) which I believe was made by the maker.Difficult to describe, this part ad a slot in it, and a thumbscrew which went into the slot.............trial and error (and my own affliction!) lead me to believe eventually that it was to hold a small item up to block off vision from the left eye! A master eye device! This was confirmed by Geoffrey Boothroyd, and a member of Sothebys gun dept. at a Game Fair at Chatsworth House, in the 1980,s........since 1976, I have collected pinfires, and English hammerguns. Not having deep poickets, my collection grew slowly, and I had to focus on what I found interesting, rather than on buying the very best. I looked for interesting patents and designs.
However, if I tried to talk about all I have owned, or handled, or seen, this post would take me forever to write! So I hope to keep adding to it over the next few weeks. I have been slowly disposing of my collection over the last 9 years, as no one in my family has the same interests as me. The 3 I sent to Auction today were 2 by John Blanch
and one by Masu Brothers. One of the Blanch guns had a grip safety, a hangover from percussion days. I believe it may have started life in Blanch,s workshop as a percussion, but it was converted to pinfire by Blanch. I hope this is of interest, I have hundreds of Boothroyd articles on shotguns going back to the early 1970,s. I also have over 1,000 gun catalogues, by all the UK auction houses covering the same period. My last 3 pinfires (a Purdey, a Perrins side lever, and a Mortimer) will be going to auction in July. Soirry this is all a bit jumbled, but when I came across this site, I just had to talk to someone about this subject, all my old collector friends have now passed on. David````````

Welcome to the pinfire discussion, Ivanhoe, I (and I expect readers of this thread) would very much like to hear of your pinfire experiences and collection, past and present!
Posted By: KY Jon Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/09/21 10:00 PM
Ivanhoe, please share as much knowledge as you can about what you have learned. If not here then perhaps in a couple on line articles. We have lost too much knowledge lately if you consider the number of poster we have lost all took their knowledge base with them. Pity you are not on this side of the ocean. Some of us can come to the mountain for knowledge.
Posted By: Stanton Hillis Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/09/21 10:18 PM
Thank you for posting again, Ivanhoe. Please feel welcome, and continue to share what you've learned over your years of collecting and researching pinfire (spellcheck tried to replace pinfire with pinafore crazy) guns.

Stan
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/10/21 03:25 AM
Ivanhoe, welcome back. As soon as Ryedale puts up its catalog for 25 April, I'll post pictures of your guns here. That would be of special interest to this comprehensive history of pin-fires which Steve Nash has put up.

And those 1,000 catalogs are amazing! I try to assemble information on all known serial-numbered Reilly guns for a history I'm writing. Most of those pre-2000 catalogs are not on line and I rely on old-timers remembering that this gun was sold in this auction and forwarding the references.

For now Reilly SN 10054, pretty firmly dated to late summer 1856, is the oldest known extant datable UK pin-fire (argueable). But it would be a treat to spend a week browsing through your catalogs. I hope you consign them to a library or to some historical society. Really someone should scan them and put them on the web. There are companies that do that sort of thing.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/10/21 08:29 AM
Just woke from my sleep, and was amazed to find some of you had actually read my somewhat garbled post! It gives me impetus to carry on talking about my passion for pin-fires, something that I had lost when my 2 closest friends passed away. Let me say that I am NOT an expert on the technicalities of the pin-fire shotgun, I collected them for their graceful appearance, and the history behind them.

Argo, I sold a Reilly, at Ryedale a couple of sales ago....I,ll try to find if I still have any relevant info on this one......

I hope to be dropping in and out of this thread over the next few weeks, as I look back at the guns I owned, and the guns I handled, but could not afford! :-)
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/10/21 08:36 AM
Thank you for those kind words! I only wish I was a mountain of knowledge......more like a mountain of jumbled up, half forgotten knowledge! And age does not help memory........but I will try over the coming months.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/10/21 08:37 AM
Thank you, I hope I can add something useful to this terrific thread! I was beginning to think that I was the only pinfire nut left .......
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/12/21 08:29 PM
Welcome, ivanhoe. There are at least a few of us!

I just picked up a couple neat excavated English pinfire shotshells:

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/19/21 03:43 PM
Hi, Take a look at Ryedaleauctioneers.com I have 3 pinfire guns for sale there this coming Saturday. Lot Numbers 117, 118and 119. 117 has a very unusual grip safety. I have only come across 3 others in the last 44 years. One was a Purdey, back in 2015, which was sold at Christies, London. I hope to post some pictures of my last 3 remaining pinfires shortly.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/19/21 03:47 PM
Hi, I have 3 pinfires up for sale at Ryedale Auctioneers this coming Saturday. 2 by Blanch, one by Masu BrothersThe lot numbers are 117, 118, 119. The 117 is a very nice Blanch, with a very rare "grip" safety. A leftover from the dying days of percussion. I have only ever come across 4 in 44 years. One sold at Christies London in 2015. A Purdey. Take a look at Ryedale online catalogue, let me know what you think? Dave
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/19/21 03:51 PM
Hi Steve, I have 3 pinfires for sale at Ryedale Auctioneers this coming Saturday, you might take a look? Their photographs are somewhat sparse. They post the results of their past auctions, too, so you might find the pinfires I sold there over the last 2 years. Dave
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/19/21 05:27 PM
Ivanhoe, I hope your sale is successful and these fine guns find new homes. I see two J. Blanch & Sons, and a Masu Brothers, in the sale. Early in this thread I pictured a J. Blanch lever-over-guard, number 4696, similar to one you have at action. The earlier Blanch you have in the sale, with the single-bite, forward-underlever and the grip safety, is a nice early example and very interesting (sadly the auction house did not list the serial number). Here is the picture of lot 117 off the auction site:

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Grip safeties are an interesting hold-over from the percussion era, and they are unusual enough on pinfire guns that it is difficult to determine just when makers stopped incorporating this feature. A grip safety makes sense if you are spending time around the muzzle end of loaded barrels, as one might do when loading/unloading a percussion cap gun -- but not so relevant on a breech-loader.

I've encountered three pinfire game guns with grip safeties in about 26 years of searching, so adding your 4 in 44, makes for 7 encountered in 70 combined years of digging... rare indeed. For those not wishing to scroll back into the pages of this thread, here are the three I described earlier:

Harris Holland no. 824
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Hugh Snowie no. 3277
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Unknown conversion
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/19/21 05:51 PM
Steve, the serial number of the Blanch is 3626. The other Blanch shows no serial number, except for the number 307on the fore-end hook. I doubt this is it,s serial numberI I sold a H Holland pinfire, a nice example, last year, straight - forward, no grip safety
Have you ever trawled the jblanchdatabase.co.uk lots of pinfires there, some with photographs, and one of them, a 10g has a grip safety !
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/20/21 01:43 AM
I have Powell patent action pinfire and centerfire guns in my collection with grip safeties.
The latest installation I've located in their records was 1909.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/20/21 09:36 AM
That.s very late for a grip safety, which was really a hangover from percussion days. All the ones I have seen were made before 1868. Can you show pictures of them?
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/22/21 10:06 AM
Did you take a look at the 3 pinfires I have for sale at Ryedale Auctioneers on Saturday? What did you think to them Dave
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/22/21 08:11 PM
Dave, I had a look at all three, and if I were still living in the UK, I probably would have bid on all of them. Alas, the severe financial limitations of retirement precludes any idea of my taking part in overseas auctions!

However, I've learned, somewhat late, that each pinfire game gun can teach me something I didn't know before. Examining several guns by the same maker can be particularly illuminating in understanding the different grades on offer, and changes in designs and manufacturing techniques. How difficult it must have been to maintain levels of quality, when sourcing of barrel tubes and outsourcing of parts and work were important variables, amongst many.

I have two Masu Brothers pinfire guns, already covered in this thread, I've examined another some years ago, and more recently I've examined a Masu centre-fire. I've heard rumors of another Masu pinfire that I might be able to obtain here in Canada, but so far no luck. Yours is very similar to the one I have, number 2030, but as the pictures below show, there are differences (this is like the old kid's game of having side-by-side drawings, and trying to spot all the differences). I would be curious to know the number of yours, whether it carries the 3a Wigmore St address, or 10 Wigmore St., and whether it has Liège proofs only, British proofs, or a mixture of the two. Yours looks like it has the permanently-attached fore-end, an interesting feature. If I was hopeful, yours would have some clue as to who the elusive Liège-based brother was, a fact that has so far eluded me -- records only identify Gustave Masu, the one who ran the British side of the operation. Despite the reluctance of the British shooting public to accept European-styled guns, the Masu Brothers appear to have had a good business selling to the monied class, from a fashionable location, with guns that combined conservative British styling with a touch of European flair.

Spot the differences! (top picture adapted from the auction site)
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Your forward-underlever J. Blanch & Son is interesting by being an earlier gun, of the single-bite Lang design. So few of these guns were made compared to later pinfires. I would be curious to know if yours has Lang's rising stud feature on the action flats, and if there was any indication on the action as to who performed the actioning work -- E.C. Hodges? Brazier? The rearward-underlever Blanch has again similarities and differences with one I have, and I'm sure it would be interesting to put them side by side. As yours is not numbered, was it made by the trade for Blanch? Might it have been a less-expensive gun? Whereas with effort it is possible to put together a series of centre-fire guns from a single maker or manufacturing business, it is so much harder to do the same with pinfire game guns.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/23/21 04:37 AM
Interesting comparison! I see different lockwork,hammer shape,leverwork and yet the same action body and note that the triggers are filed up to exactly the same shape at the rear.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/23/21 04:20 PM
Hi Steve, I,ll try to answer your queries in order......Masu Brothers at 3a Wigmore street. London proof. Yes, you are right, the fore-end is fixed to the action.
I will try to post some details of an interesting Masu Bros pinfire that I owned, and which was sadly stolen, ( a long story).

Yes, the Blanch did have the stud on the action flats. There was no indication as to who did any work on the gun. The serial number on the Blanch with the grip msafety was 3626. The only number that could be found on the other Blanch was the number 307 on the fore-end hook. Clearly, not a serial number. The silver disc on the stock had a now-defunct coat 0f arms, believed to be Marquis of Hertford, but not 100% sure of that.

More later. Dave
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/25/21 07:06 PM
Hi Steve, sadly, the quality of the rest of the stuff at the auction was not very good, and most of the dealers / collectors stayed away, hence the low prices.
Looking through some old boxes in my garage, I found 2 pinfire actions, one almost certainly a Blanch, the other I was lead to believe, came from a Thomas Boss. I will try to photograph them, and post them on here.
Back in the early 90,s the number of pinfires coming onto the market dropped quite dramatically, so to compensate for that, I started looking for hammer guns converted from pinfires.....quite successfully! With my gunsmith friend,s expertise, we managed to "re-convert" them back to pinfire. They were all out of proof hammer guns, heading for the breakers, so I had no second thoughts about doing this. Removing the centre-fire bits was easy, as was tig welding the action face and dressing it off. Again, opening the "slots" on the breech end of the barrels was easy, the hard bit was in finding the right hammers, which involved quite a bit of searching through lots of catalogue photographs of similar guns. I quite enjoyed this, as it gave me lots of good information on the original makers. A visit to the Proof House for an Exemption Certificate, and a quick check by the local firearms officer, and I had another one for my collection. Many of them were by provincial makers, and many more were "trade" guns from Birmingham, with a local gunsmiths (or ironmongers!) name on the rib, but I did find quite a few gems.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/26/21 09:34 PM
Converting a conversion? There are some that convert percussion conversions back to the original flint, so why not? I admit I've never encountered such a pinfire conversion, but I understand your logic. I've searched for a variety of conversions, always amazed at the skill of the work involved. I am most impressed by a conversion of a Horsley pinfire to centrefire, where the standing breech was strengthened by the addition of a steel slab, and re-engraved to hide the work (the mis-matched right hammer is surely later work).

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/27/21 07:10 PM
Steve, that is a remarkable job from Horsley on the conversion. I have never seen that idea. I many times wonder and appreciate some of the Westley Richards conversions. So well done on some. On the American/English side I really appreciate a Genez conversion to pinfire of a Williams and Powell gun. Genez patent and beautifully executed.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 04/30/21 07:39 PM
On this rainy, glum day, my spirits are brightened by seeing this thread has been viewed some 100,000 times. That this is far beyond my expectations is a major understatement.

Trying to understand the pinfire game gun, its role in firearm history and its place in Victorian society, has led me to search through many contemporary writings. Obviously I can't go back in time, but there is no need -- the writers of the day recorded their observations on the printed page. In this thread there have been a number of quoted passages from sportsmen and gunmakers, relevant to the discussion. But there are many others, and these shed light on the gunmaker's world and that of the shooting enthusiast. For today, here is a clipping from none other than Charles Dickens.

That he would be familiar with the subject should not be a surprise, as he lived for a while on London's High Holborn Street, a stone's throw from the establishments of John Blissett, Parker, Field & Sons, and others, and he moved in high society circles, the kind of people that had shooting estates. Dickens published a weekly literary magazine, All The Year Round, in which he serialized several of his works, and that of other notable writers. The magazine also published articles on varied subjects, and while authorship of the various articles is not known, Dickens was known to have vetted (and corrected) everything that was published within its pages. In the July 30 issue of 1864, a useful and informative article was published under the title "Gunning". Reproduced below is the text concerning gunmaking, the cost of guns, and yes, the pinfire, while omitting the sections on shooting manors, gamekeeping and dogs, and finishing with advice to not party too hard before a day's shooting (!).

GUNNING is my theme; not the patronymic of those three beautiful sisters who fired the hearts (if the dried-up integuments can be so called) of the court gentlemen in the time of the Regent, but the great art of shooting; on English manor or Scottish moor, from the back of a pony or the bows of a punt, in solitary ramble or grand battue; indulged in by My lord with his party of friends, his keepers, his gillies, and his beaters, by Bill Lubbock the poacher, known to the keepers as an “inweterate” with his never-missing double-barrel and his marvellous lurcher, or by Master Jones home for the holidays from Rugby, who has invested his last tip in a thirty-shilling Birmingham muzzle-loader, with which he “pots” sparrows in the Willesden fields. Gunning, which binds together men of otherwise entirely opposite dispositions and tastes, which gives many a toiler in cities pent such healthful excitement and natural pleasure as enable him to get through the eleven dreary months, hanging on to the anticipation of those thirty happy days when the broad stubble-fields will stretch around him, and the popping of the barrels make music in his ear; gunning, a sport so fascinating, that to enjoy it men in the prime of life, with high-sounding titles and vast riches, will leave their comfort able old ancestral homes, and the pleasant places in which their lines have been cast, and go away to potter for weeks in a miserable little half-roofed shanty, on a steaming barren Highland moor, or will risk life and limb in grim combat with savage animals in deadly jungle or dismal swamp. Gunning, whose devotees are numbered by myriads, the high priest whereof is Colonel Peter Hawker, of glorious memory, who has left behind him an admirable volume of instruction in the art. Not unto me to attempt to indue me with the seven-league gaiters of that great man; not unto me to attempt to convey hints, “wrinkles,” or “dodges” to the regular gunner: mine be it simply to discourse on the inner life of the art, showing what can be done, in what manner, and for how much, and giving certain practical information in simple and concise form to the neophyte.

And first to be mentioned in a treatise, how ever humble, on gunning, are guns. A muzzle-loading double gun by a first-class London maker costs forty guineas; or, with its cases and all its fittings, fifty guineas. The leading provincial makers, and those of Scotland and Ireland, charge from thirty to forty pounds complete; most of their guns are, however, in reality manufactured in Birmingham, where the price of a double gun varies from twenty pounds to two pounds five shillings, or even less, according to quality. The second class London makers charge from twenty-five to thirty-five pounds, but most of their work is made at Birmingham, and only “finished” in London. The London work is much the best; for, as the wages paid are much higher, London attracts the best workmen from all parts of the country. Another reason, is the greater independence of the workmen in London. In Birmingham especially, between trade agreements on the part of the masters, and trade unions on the part of the men, a man who can work better or more quickly than his fellows is continually hampered, and he generally makes his way to London, where he finds a fairer market for his labour, and fewer restrictions. The situation of Birmingham, near to the coal producing districts, renders the cost of fuel much less than in London, and all the operations which require a large expenditure of fuel, such as the welding and forging of the barrels, &c., are done at Birmingham, even for best guns, and it is frequently asked, since all the materials, barrels, &c., come from Birmingham, why pay the much higher prices of London makers for the same thing? meaning that as the London makers get their barrels (the chief portion of the gun) from Birmingham, the prices they charge are extortionate. Now, what the London barrel-maker really does get from Birmingham is simply two rough tubes of wrought iron, not fit m their then condition even to serve as gas-pipes. All that makes them of any value as gun-barrels— the boring, filing, putting together for shooting, &c. — has to be done in London, at four times the cost, and generally with ten times the accuracy, of Birmingham work. The fallacy lies in supposing that “the same thing” is obtained in both cases. If what a man buys when he purchases a gun be merely the six pounds of wrought iron and steel in the barrel and locks, and the half a foot of walnut plank in the stock, the value of these materials at twenty pounds a ton for the metal and a shilling a foot for the wood is less than five shillings for the whole, and he may well consider he is overcharged if he pay a pound for the complete gun. But what he buys is really the time and technical skill of the contriver, the time and skill of the workman, the waste of manufacture (and how enormous this frequently is, may be judged from the fact that ninety pounds of rough metal will be consumed in making a pair of Damascus gun- barrels weighing about six pounds when finished): these are the real things purchased, and whether the buyer pay ten or fifty pounds, he will generally get only the value of his money, and no more. Skill and time can never be brought to the same close competition as the price of raw material, and the tendency of both is to become dearer instead of cheaper every day.

During the last four or five years the use of breech-loading guns has become common in England. The system adopted is called the “Lefaucheux,” from the name of its inventor, and it has been general in France for many years. Twenty-five years ago some guns of this pattern were brought from Paris by Mr. Wilkinson of Pall Mall, who endeavoured to introduce their use into England, but without success; and they were finally sold at one-fourth their cost, as curiosities only. The price of breech-loading guns of best quality is five guineas more than muzzle-loaders; they are sold in Birmingham at from eight pounds to thirty pounds. The advantages of a breech-loader to young sports men are, principally, that the guns cannot be over-loaded, two charges cannot go into the same barrel, the charge can be taken out in an instant, and though, if the gunner be clumsy he may shoot a friend, he cannot by any possibility shoot himself. This little distinction is highly appreciated, since accidents in loading from the muzzle were by no means unfrequent.

.....

Finally, do not imagine that you can leave the London season, the jolly nights in the Club smoke-room, the heavy dinners with ingoted East Indian uncles, the twenty-one dances winding up with a never-ending cotillon, indulged in night after night; and then go down to Norfolk, or wherever may be the manor to which you are invited, and shoot. The thing is impossible; you must be, to a certain extent, in training; at all events, your wind must be decent, your muscles braced, and your hand and eye steady. A long waltz may be good for your wind, but it will shake your arm; and a pipe of Cavendish or a couple of extra cigars will spoil your sport for the day. So do not be down-hearted at first if you fire wild, or if the squire and his country friends grin a hit as the birds fly away unharmed: wait; let your faith be “large in Time,” as Mr. Tennyson has it; and very soon you will feel your hand getting in, and you will find that, as sweet Will, who has something on everything, says, “Your shooting then is well accounted.”


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Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/01/21 11:44 PM
Bought this little no-name 16 ga pinfire toay. My first. Works good, but bores dirty and hope I can clean them up a bit. Start with a little vinegar perhaps?

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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/02/21 12:31 AM
Hall...copy the code in the first box and post that:
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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/02/21 03:26 AM
Hal, glad you have joined the pinfire rabbit-hole! By all means, please post more pictures.

Unmarked Belgian/French guns are hard to place and date, but the proof marks and any other markings under the barrels might help. It is frequently easier to identify the barrel maker than the gunmaker.

For a gentle cleaning I usually start with a toothbrush and soapy water, and a normal bore brush for the barrel tubes. All too often the bores on pinfires look like sewer pipes, from corrosive primers, black powder, and cumulative neglect. To preserve patina on external metal parts, I also use a cotton rag and olive oil, and “elbow grease.” The mild acidity of the olive oil does a reasonable job of cleaning old grime while keeping the patina, and the cotton rag is non-abrasive - a trick I learned from museum restorers.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/02/21 04:00 PM
This is one of those with no forearm wood above the underlever. I don't know how to remove the barrels for cleaning. Please advise. The only marks I can find are three digits on the rib just forward of the lever mechanism.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/02/21 06:55 PM
Hal, I believe the following screw has to be removed to release your barrels from the action (I suggest picking out as much grunge as I could from that slot before trying):
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Many Lefaucheux-type actions incorporate a small lever on the fore-end piece to more easily remove the barrels (an invention of the Parisian maker/inventor Jean Lepage), but yours does not have it. Once the barrels are off, the various proof marks should then be visible, and barrel maker's marks, if any.

The screws/pins on your gun seem to be in very good condition!
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 01:40 AM
Thanks. System makes sense to this old barrel-gripper. Who needs furniture behind? But slow loaders for sure. Was wondering why the checkering went back underneath almost to the buttplate and can see how it would help hold the stock close to the body when reloading.

I'm stopping the exploration till I find a proper turnscrew. My three dozen are mostly junk. Can't see well enough to grind one to fit. The screw heads are widened very slightly, but retain fit and finish. Certainly a sign barrel removal was infrequent.

A couple more notes. bbls 30.5" and retain nearly all original blue finish.
Both hammers hold half and full cock.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 02:12 PM
Originally Posted by Hal
This is one of those with no forearm wood above the underlever. I don't know how to remove the barrels for cleaning. Please advise. The only marks I can find are three digits on the rib just forward of the lever mechanism.

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

This is an earlier style. It is actually this pin shown here that needs popped out.

ie:
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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 07:44 PM
AaronN, I think Hal is just looking to remove the barrels from the action, and not the fore-end piece from the action bar. I imagine undoing the single screw will do the trick. It would be easier if his gun had Mr Lepage's innovation, seen here:

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

I have to say, though, the notion of having a hinge pin that can be easily drifted out and replaced would make the task of keeping the barrels on-face that much easier. That said, I haven't come across many quality pinfires that are loose.

Those are nice thick fences on your gun!
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 09:09 PM
Nope, that front metal piece and what that screw removes is pretty much just for looks.



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Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 09:42 PM
Originally Posted by Steve Nash
Mr Lepage's innovation


Also, that's also originally a Lefaucheux invention in 1849 I believe.


[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 09:59 PM
Originally Posted by AaronN
Nope, that front metal piece and what that screw removes is pretty much just for looks.



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How very interesting! I guess we'll hear back from Hal at some point on how his gun is configured. I'm very curious now.

I recently saw photos of an Austrian-marked pinfire made by Auguste Francotte, with an odd barrel fastening flip-up 'lever' on the attached fore-end, apparently the invention of a Mr Eugène Armand of Liège, which was new to me. Unfortunately none of my continental examples have that form of attachment, or the version in your picture.

The apparently captive hinge pin in your picture is reminiscent of the hinge pin arrangement on the Needham sidelever. Does it push out with finger pressure, or does it require tools?
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/03/21 10:49 PM
Originally Posted by Steve Nash
The apparently captive hinge pin in your picture is reminiscent of the hinge pin arrangement on the Needham sidelever. Does it push out with finger pressure, or does it require tools?

This is just the very latest examples of the original 1832 Lefaucheux patent. I am actually working on an article for the Double Gun Journal on exactly this! As kind of a followup to the Pauly articles last year.

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

Also, see the evolution of the pinfire versions on my other post:
https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=591098

And it definitely needs tools. Some are very hard to remove.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/04/21 05:57 PM
AaronN, the barrel release mechanism my comments are based on is different from yours, the second lever engages a notch on a small barrel lump. The hinge pin does not need to be removed to remove the barrels, which is a lot less of a headache, I expect! I was led to believe this minor improvement was Lepage's design, but I may be wrong on that. I find the fog around early French and Belgian designs often impenetrable, and I'm happier with the British side of the story. Continental guns are a whole area of study I'm not familiar with, other than having a few examples to examine first-hand. I look forward to reading your DGJ article!

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Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/05/21 02:55 AM
The hinge pin as a slot so it must be threaded. Just seems so small! Looks like it has not been moved. I put a drop of Fluid-Film on both while I wait for friend to bring over his turnscrews. Will give both a couple very light taps before applying any force.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/06/21 07:47 PM
Only the front screw needs to come out. Not a bit of rust inside! I can't see well, so let me know if more pics are needed. I don't know what the small screw near the lever bold does. Could be to adjust lever tension when closed? Nice to see a serial number. Now for the bores.

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Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/06/21 08:31 PM
That's great news, Hal. Your pictures are great. Unfortunately I can't help with the revealed maker's or actioner's marks, someone with more knowledge of Belgian marks might offer some light.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/06/21 09:02 PM
Hmm. Masquerading as an earlier style! I thought for sure you were going to have to remove the pin.

Based on the proofs it was made sometime over a 40-year period after 1853 or so.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/06/21 11:15 PM
Thanks. Now that we know it likely is a low-grade Belgian, I am curious about the steel used for the frame. The front section I loosened looks looks like a casting from the inside. I noticed two little bosses that protrude forward on top of the breech face. Would they be to help protect it in case a cartridge pin broke or the hammers fell on empty chambers? The breech faces have some pitting. What is the accepted term for this type of action?
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/07/21 09:33 PM
What does the "NL" above the "H" stand for? How about the "8" in the "16.8"? Chamber length is 2 9/16". Cleaned the barrels. Looks like light pitting throughout, but little in the chambers.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/07/21 11:01 PM
Hal, the 16.8 refers to bore size in millimeters, which is 0.661 inches, or 16 gauge. As to the stampings, it could be "NL" or, reversed, "TN". Either way, with the "H" mark, I've not been able to trace these to any maker or craftsman with the resources I have. Perhaps someone who recognizes these from their own research will chime in, one can only hope! Your pictures were very clear. Unfortunately the letter stampings were not.

To your earlier questions. If you are referring to tiny protrusions at the top of the breech face that are lined up with the pin holes on the barrels, one frequent contributor to this thread named them "keepers", as they help line up the pins and keep them perfectly upright. They vary in shape and prominence, from barely there, to quite prominent and fitting into a squared recess in the barrel rim on some guns. They might act as a gas seal or gas deflector (by reducing the size of the pin hole), or simply to 'round' the pin hole on the barrel, which would otherwise have a sideways 'D' shape. Here is a picture where you can see them protruding from the top of the breech face:

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Not all pinfires have them. In my mind filing a perfectly flat breech face is hard enough, but leaving two small protrusions? Too much work!

Yes, the fore-end does look like a casting, as do mine.

As to the accepted term for this kind of action, I suppose it is most commonly referred to as a "Lefaucheux" action, as per its inventor. However this is far from precise, as Casimir Lefaucheux designed quite a few actions, and his pinfire creation underwent an evolution by his own hands, as AaronN has shown us, let alone all the minor variations introduced by other gunmakers of the period.

From the Liège proofmarks, your gun was made after 1852, but that's about as much as can be told.

Light pitting in the bores is good news. The insides of pinfire barrels are often quite horrific from neglect.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/09/21 03:07 AM
Thanks again. I see the coincidence on the mm measurement now as a 12 bore would be marked 18.5.

I am positive on the serifed "N L" letters. In light of this, the mark that looks like an "H" is very unusual. It looks more like an object than a letter, as the inward-pointing portons of the serif have been removed, leaving only the outward-pointing ones. Note there is also a "V" o the same size font as the "H".

The 'keepers' are rectangular, but fit into a V-shaped recess on the barrels.

Now I can casually mention to my buddy that the gun is a "Belgian Lefaucheux" and really impress him.


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Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 05/18/21 01:44 AM
Searched a bit and found a Belgian steel fabricator in business since 1830 named New Lachaussee that could account for the "N.L." mark on my gun. Sent them an email asking if they knew what the strange-looking "H" logo might represent, but have not heard back. Still in business making detonators.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/06/21 07:54 PM
Ivanhoe has kindly passed on some pictures of two pinfire actions he found 20 years ago in a box of old spares at a village auction, and he has requested they be included in this thread. One can never see too many pinfire actions.

The first is a single-bite, forward-underlever action, in 12-bore. It is by John Blanch & Sons, according to the vendor. It has the serial number 2360, which, if a Blanch, would make it a very early number. The Internet’s Blanch database (http://www.jblanchdatabase.co.uk/) has Blanch’s muzzle-loader serial numbers ending around no. 2100, and Blanch breechloaders starting around no. 3100. The data on early guns is sparse, so it may be a Blanch action. If I’m reading it correctly, it appears to have view marks from both the London and Birmingham proof houses?

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The second action is unmarked. It is a single-bite rearward underlever action, possibly in 14-bore, with the Lang-type assisted-opening rising stud. There is a London view mark. I notice a lack of radius between the breech face and the bar; it could be an early action.

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Interesting items. Well spotted, Ivanhoe!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/07/21 02:04 AM
Great into and pictures.....this is surely part of the dawn of pin-fire breech-loaders in UK. Wondering about the Birmingham proof marks (if they are there). This Blanch may well be 1856-57.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/07/21 06:32 PM
Hi Steve, many thanks for posting for me. I spent an hour today browsing through some old (relatively!) Southams catalogs, and found some pinfire lots. I will put them all on here, as they did not have accompanying photographs. Some will be very scarce on info, but if I use the lot description, perhaps you can weed out the wheat from the chaff? Regards Dave


14b Pinfire D/B shotgun by Ebrall, Shrewsbury. This would have been Samuel Ebrall ?. Southams 19th September 1996. No Visible Number.
14b pinfire D/B shotgun by Erskine ,Newton Stewart. S/No. 1619 Southams 19th September 1996.
14b pinfire D/B shotgun by Wiggan & Elliott (built on Elliotts patent action, pat. 1782 of 1863). Whitworth Steel Barrels. NVN. Southams March 1998.
12b Pinfire D/B shotgun by Harvey of Exeter. Re-staocked. browned damascus barrels, NVN Southams March 1998.
12b Pinfire D/B shotgun by S W Berry. (That would be Sharman West Berry, Woodbridge, Suffolk) NVN. Southams March 2000. (I had, until recently, a Joseph Berry, Worksop, pinfire).
12b Pinfire D/B shotgun by Jos. Harkom. 30" damascus barrels, game scene engraved, Jones Underlever, S/No. 563. (No.1 of pair) Southams September 2000.
14b pinfire D/B shotgun by Smith & Alden, . NVN. CASED, with accessories. Southams 21st June 2001.
12b pinfire D/B sporting gun by H. Holland. NVN. Southams 21st March 2002. (I sold a H Holland pinfire at Ryedal auctions in the last 18 months, will try to retrieve the full info on it).

My apologies for the very scarce info, but sadly the smaller auction rooms treated old pinfires, and hammer guns, as merely wallpieces! Hence the lack of detail. Most of these little catalogs did not have photographs in them. As we move on to better stuff, I,m hoping my wife will help me scan the catalog entry, and any pictures.

Regards dave
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/07/21 08:06 PM
Ivanhoe, that information is useful. Whenever I hear mention of a British pinfire game gun, I try to match the information to my list of potential pinfire makers. The list has been derived by dates, including gunmakers in operation between 1853 and 1870 who did not identify themselves solely as pistol or rifle makers. The list is but a starting point, as it will indeed include firms of this period that ended their business making percussion guns and never transitioned into the breech-loading era. It will also include firms that began in the 1860s, which started making central-fire guns only. Some makers on the list barely lasted a year, and their output is unknown. So I find it satisfying to find a match between known pieces and this list, which currently includes 922 names.

I note on your list a 14-bore pinfire by James Erskine of Newton Stewart, number 1619. The number is interesting to me, as the Erskine gun I have is not numbered. Also, the gun I have has provisional proofs only and no bore stamp. Did Erskine only number guns submitted to the proof house? How did he get away with selling a gun only partly proofed?

Also of interest in your list is William James Harvey of Exeter, in business between 1855 and 1870. In 1860 he patented a sliding-barrel action, which appears to have been made in two versions, one with an underlever rotating backwards, the other forwards. Without examining Harvey's sliding-barrel actions, it is impossible to be sure, but looking at photographs of these, they seem identical to the actions of the Bastin Brothers (lever rotating backwards) and Lambert Ghaye (lever rotating forwards), all of Liège. James Purdey built pinfires on the Harvey patent, and these look identical to the Bastin design. The sliding-barrel actions marketed by Henry Egg were of the Ghaye design. It may be that Harvey made slight modifications or copied the Belgian patent, which was not protected in Britain. The Bastin design was one of the first seen by sportsmen in Britain, taking part in the Field trial of 1858, on a gun carrying the Auguste Francotte name. It would have been interesting to see any other types of pinfire guns Harvey was making, as the catalogue listing you give does not denote an unusual action.

Here is the Bastin Brothers action:
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

The Smith and Alden name clears up a matter. I had Thomas Smith, gun and barrel maker at 13 Little Compton Street, London, in my list. His earlier partner, Robert Alden, was not, as he died in 1836. I was not aware that Smith had continued the Alden & Smith name (also appearing as Smith & Alden), so this helps.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/08/21 01:28 PM
Here we go again......these are from fairly recent catalogs (only 20+ years old!)
12b pinfire by E Adkins 30" damascus barrels. NVN. Jones U/Lever. Evans & Partridge 18/4/2000
12b pinfire by J. & W. Tolley. Serial No. 1326. Jones U/Lever opener, Cross bolted forend. 30" Damascus barrels. Evans & Partridge 11/4/1995
20b pinfire by D Egg. NVN. Jones U/Lever opener. 29" Damascus barrels. Cross bolted forend. Evans & Partridge 27/3/2001
10b pinfire by T>R>T> Gooch (Hertford). NVN. Jones U/Lever. 30" Browned Damascus barrels.

12b pinfire / centre fire by Westley Richards, New Bond St. London. S/N 10.750. Black Powder Proof. A very rare dual system! Made to fire both pinfire and centrefire cartridges. Twist barrels, with dolls head rib extension. wood bar locks, with dolphin hammers. Nicely engraved with panes of foliage. The breech faces incorporating floating strikers which bear against the breast of the hammers. Patent top lever, and walnut straight grip stock. Barrels 30". Weller & Dufty 11th July 1972. (I had a rare dual ignition system, A Masu Bros. London. It was a genuine 14b. Sadly, stolen from me. I will list it separately on another occasion).

An Extremely rare and high quality fullstocked military style .577 calibre pinfire rifle by Alexander Henry Serial No. 1292 The barrel retained by a front band and single cross bolt. Heavy octagonal barrel with 8 groove Henry rifling, the underside marked " Pope & Henry's Patent No4" Probably Henry M. Pope,famous American rifle maker, of Jersey City! The top flat marked "ALEXR. HENRY 12 SOUTH ST. ANDREW ST. EDINGBURGH. PATENT NO. 763". Hooded bead foresight,and tangent rearsight. the barrel band with bayonet bar and sling eye. Rearward sliding breech block with inset lift up release catch. the top of the breech block border engraved and marked "PATENT". bolted, detented lock signed "ALEX. HENRY" and border engraved, the hammer nose with small spigot which locks into a recess in the breech block at the moment of discharge. Walnut stock with steel furniture, chequered wrist & forend, and horn forend tip. Complete with steel cleaning rod , very similar to the Enfield ramrod, but with brass head. Barrel 28". In fine condition. Weller and Dufty 11/7/1972. Lot No. 490.

Steve, these may start to come thick and fast this week, as I have a bit of spare time. Just discard any that is of no use. Regards Dave.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/09/21 02:37 AM
This is great stuff. But, here is a suggestion. Not all pin-fires are significant to this history. Why not have David correspond via PM on with Steve on his catalogue findings...then the two could decide which guns are worth taking note of and discussing? Otherwise, the line will get overwhelmed with journey-man guns that might not mean much historically.

This is just a suggestion. David has become a great researcher....but raw data might better be selective to be pertinent. Gene
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/09/21 03:54 PM
Argo, I feel differently about Dave's posts. Maybe some will not help Steve's book, but even those are of interest to many others of us. I shoot pinfires in the fall and enjoy any information I can get. I think Dave should keep on posting anything he finds as many out there will enjoy them and maybe get some information on a gun that he owns.
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/09/21 06:08 PM
I agree ,the more information that is in the public view is for the better! Too much knowledge of the sporting past has gone with the men who had it......
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/09/21 07:04 PM
When I first started researching the pinfire game gun, the few available mentions and illustrations in print gave me the erroneous impression that only a select handful of makers had made them. In a book that might illustrate but one pinfire, not surprisingly, it would be an exquisitely preserved example from a top maker that would be chosen.

Ivanhoe’s research might offer raw data, but it is data nevertheless, and the more names that can be acknowledged as makers of pinfire guns, the better. In his latest post, he lists a 20-bore pinfire marked Durs Egg. An unusual size for a British pinfire, to be sure, but I hadn’t realized guns under his name were sold as late as 1865 (and possibly 1874), as Durs Egg died in 1831. His nephew’s son, Henry, is the usual Egg I associate with pinfires. I know a little bit more today than I did yesterday!

If anyone knows of examples of pinfire game guns, a mention in this thread is good; pictures even better. I have a wholly selfish reason to see more pinfire maker's names listed here, as anyone looking up the names on the Internet is more likely to end up reading this thread.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 12:35 AM
I bow to the cognoscenti. Looking back it was a silly suggestion. Data is what we need and the more the better.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 12:37 PM
Thanks for all your comments, guys. My love affair with the pinfire is as much about the makers, as the guns themselves. I resent the fact that many of the smaller salerooms did not do the research, and failed to give more details of the maker, and the gun. Digging back through my vast array of catalogues means I am reading the descriptions of guns I saw, and often handled, up to 45 years ago. Sometimes I made note in the catalog margins, but often did not, as under pressure to view a lot of other stuff for my colleagues shop. It,s a trip down memory lane (my memory does need refreshing these days), my hope is that I can complete it. I apologise for not posting details of all the Continental pinfires that are catalogued, many of them of fine quality, I just do not have the time. These old catalogs, especially those from Weller & Dufty, are absolutely packed with information of all kinds. Indeed, at the top of the frontpage of their catalogs, it stated," Not just a catalogue, But a reference book"! Should anyone want one, from any particular decade, I would be happy to post one on. At the end of our research on pinfires (and Reillys!) I hope to sell this catatlog collection as one lot. Going on current Ebay prices, they should be collectively worth £3 - £4,000. The first to offer me £350 takes them all.

However, That is a long way off, my research for you guys is only just starting.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 12:51 PM
Back to research,

12b Hammer shotgun by Purdey, S/No. 1 - 6974 (the one means 1 of a pair). 30" damascus barrels. Rotary u/lever , Scroll engraving with Dolphin Hammers. Figured stock.Black powder proof. The makers confirmed that this gun was made in 1864, and converted from PINFIRE to centre fire in 1889. Jardine (Auctioneers Ltd) Dumfries. 30/09/1996.
12b Hammer Shotgun by Purdey, S/No. 6704. 30" Damascus barrels. Rotary U/Lever. Scroll engraving, with Dolphin Hammers, Highly figured stock. Black Powder Proof. Again, this came from 1864. I only got a fleeting glance at this, as the vendor withdrew the gun, after dispute with the cataloger.....it was my opinion then, that this gun also was a PINFIRE conversion to centre-fire. Jardine (Auctioneers Ltd) Dumfries 30/09/1996.

This small auction house only issued small catalogs, with no illustrations. I hope to be able to post you pictures in the near future, as we get into more modern catalogs
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 01:53 PM
Steve, to save me time, and to help focus on what you have not found, can you tell me if you have the results of the London Auction houses, and Southams,from 2000? Dave
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 03:15 PM
12b D/B Pinfire shotgun, By Wm. & Jn. Rigby. NVN. 28" Damascus barrels. Back action locks, signed and engraved with florid scrollsd and game dogs. The action scroll engraved en suite; some wear & light pitting, and left hammer missing. Generally very good. Weller & Dufty 07/11/1972
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/10/21 05:19 PM
Hi Steve, not sure wether I already sent you this one................]


"A high quality double barrelled 28 bore pifire RIFLE by Edward Paton, damascus 30" barrels, with 4 leaf express rear sight, bolted back action locks, nicely scroll engraved. Serial No. 2436. Grip type guard, chequered forend and wrist, nicely figured stock with cheekpiece, hammers not original, and tumbler pins missing. Otherwise very good crisp condition and working order" Weller & Dufty 07/12/1966

12b Double Barrelled pinfire shotgun by Wiiliam Moore & Grey. U/Lever NVN. 29" barrels. Scroll engraving Good quality, but worn and pitted. 03/10/1972 Weller & Dufty

12b Double Barrelled pinfire Belgian shotgun by MASU BROS. London & Liege.U/Lever Very good quality. Serial No.2775. Browned curly Damascus pattern 30" barrels, engraved with Makers name on rib. The locks and action body engraved with panels of scrolling foliage Figured stock with chequered wrist and forend. the guard and lever blacked. In fine and crisp condition.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/12/21 03:56 PM
12b Westley Richards "Conversion from pinfire" . Bar in wood action. Serial No. 4437, on barrels. 30" nitro proof Damascus barrels. Westley Richards Patented Top Lever
&GRIP SAFETY. Dark Figured Walnut stock polished chequered forend with horn tip. Reproofed London 1992, and recent full service.

16b Pinfire shotgun by Westley Richards.London Serial No. 2956 U/Lever. Twist barrels, borderline engraved back action locks, walnut straight hand stock, . Old repair to wrist. 30" barrels. Weller & Dufty 30/01/1973

Fine quality 70 bore double barrelled pinfire rifle. Serial No. 2508 by J. LANG. Browned barrels, the rib with three folding leaf rearsights and signed "J. LANG COCKSPUR STREET, LONDON. The under lever action, signed back action locks and Dolphin hammers engraved with best quality foliage. Engraved double grip trigger guard, figuered walnut stock chequered at the wrist and butt. Minor pitting to barrels etc. Barrels 30". Weller & Dufty LOT 777 10/09/2003. ILLUSTRATED
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/12/21 10:09 PM
Ivanhoe has kindly provided scanned images from Southams auction catalogues. Here are some pinfire game guns, to add to the guns already pictured in this thread and to our collective knowledge. Unfortunately, the catalogues do not list much information, but it is something. Some lucky persons now have these in their collections!

12-bore signed Robert Watmough of Manchester, 30" barrels:
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

12-bore signed Richard Jeffery of Guildford, 30" barrels:
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]


12-bore signed Henry Tatham of London, 30" barrels (twist?). A fine looking gun with border engraving; Henry Tatham died in 1860 and the business closed then, so this is an early gun with the Beringer-inspired rearward-facing underlever, presumably with a single bite.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

12-bore signed Westley Richards, 30" barrels. This is gun No. 11146, number one of a pair, completed on 6 October 1865 for Lord Mahon. Both the lateral top lever and the fore-end are numbered "1". It has the 170 New Bond St. address on the rib.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Thank you, Ivanhoe!
Posted By: Drew Hause Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/12/21 10:34 PM
The Tatham barrels are Stub Twist and the WR "English 2 Stripe" Steve.

Interesting gun with unusual (for a British maker) Bernard barrels, and I encouraged the poster to share here
https://www.shotgunworld.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=534176
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/13/21 12:09 AM
Dave (Ivanhoe) is an excellent researcher and he has a library of 50 years of gun catalogs that need be preserved for research somehow, somewhere.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/13/21 10:10 AM
The Watmough was one of mine sent for sale to Southams. If only I had known of this site years ago, I would have photographed every pinfire (and Reilly !) that I ever handled. C,est la vie! :-(
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/13/21 10:11 AM
The Watmough was one of mine sent for sale to Southams. If only I had known of this site years ago, I would have photographed every pinfire (and Reilly !) that I ever handled. C,est la vie! :-(
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/13/21 11:21 AM
Not sure if I have already sent you this info................?

16b D/B Pinfire shotgun by Westley Richards Ser. No. 2956. Twist 30" barrels. U/Lever. Borderline engraved back action locks Figured walnut stock. Old repair to wrist, otherwise good condition. Weller & Dufty 30th Jan. 1973.

Her,s another W R :

Weller,s Catalogue description, " A scarce, high quality double barrelled 12 bore Pinfire shotgun Serial No. 10804 by WESTLEY RICHARDS, 170, NEW BOND STREET, LONDON. Bar in wood action, curved to the shape of the barrels, and extending to cover the hinge joint. (see "Game Guns & Rifles" by Akehurst plates 44 & 50 for a very similar hammer gun) The top of the action with Westley Richards Patent sliding breech catch which engages the dolls head of the rib extension. Wood bar locks, with graceful Dolphin hammers, nicely scroll engraved, the lockplates signed and scroll foliage engraved, engraved steel trigger guard,. Walnut stock, with chequered wrist and forend, horn forend tip and silver escutcheons, the forend shaped to fit the hemispherical surface of the hinge joint. Refinished, bores pitted. VGC. Barrels 30". WELLER & DUFTY 20/03/1973

14b Pinfire D/B Shotgun by Matthews of Kendal. U/Lever opener. No visible serial no. Twist 26" barrels. Scroll foliage engraved back action locks and and furniture. Some wear. Generally good.


MORE TO COME.................
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/13/21 05:35 PM
Thanks, Ivanhoe. Westley Richards No. 10804 is interesting in that it has the pull-lever, and from the serial number dates from 1865. WR patented his lateral lever in 1864, but was clearly still making the pull-lever action in 1865. Another example of this action on a 1865-dated gun is shown on page 6 of this thread (https://doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=576857&page=6)

Joseph Matthews of Kendal (1847-1869) is on my list, but I'd not seen any mention of pinfire guns by him.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/18/21 01:39 PM
Hi Steve, did you get the catalog pages I sent to you? Dave
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/19/21 08:51 PM
Here are the latest findings by Ivanhoe, scanned from Southams auction catalogues. These add to the names and types already discussed in this thread, though unfortunately, the catalogue listings provide little information and the scanned images are not always clear. These are all squirrelled away in peoples' collections now.

Bond (possibly Edward and Philip Bond; or Henry Bond, Diss, Norfolk; or William Bond, Thetford, Norfolk) 12-bore, locks signed BOND; 29 ¾” barrels.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Stephen Grant of London 12-bore single; 30” two-stage part octagonal barrel; top flat inscribed “S. Grant 67A St James’s Street London.” Not surprisingly, this is very similar to the Boss & Co. single covered elsewhere in this thread, which was made under Grant's oversight. Grant left Boss & Co in 1867, and I've wondered if he still made pinfires, or went straight into centre-fire guns.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Joseph Smith of Birmingham, 27/28 Loveday St; 12-bore; bar-in-wood side-lever (showing J. Smith’s patent no. 3171 of 1863); 29 3/8” barrels. Unusual action, little seen. Looks like a Needham lever, but isn't.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Alfred Lancaster of London, 14-bore; 29” barrels; No. 3766; patent thumb-hole action; 27 South Audley Street address; converted to centre-fire, possibly by Lancaster.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

William Pountney of Birmingham, 12-bore; 29 ¼” barrels; No. 525; half pistol grip; plain metal.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

James Purdey & Sons, 12-bore; single-bite underlever; the 29th pinfire made by Purdey.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Richard Jeffery of Guildford, 12-bore; 30” barrels.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/19/21 08:52 PM
Here are a few more, courtesy of Ivanhoe:

Westley Richards, 16-bore; 26 ¼” barrels; rotary underlever; with percussion cartridge inserts; No. 9805; 170 Bond St address.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Westley Richards, 12-bore, lateral top lever; 170 Bond St. address.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Edwin Wilson of Horncastle, 12-bore; 29 ½” barrels; No. 385.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

E & G Higham of Liverpool, 12-bore; 30” barrels; No. 2465.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

John Young Potter of 52 High Street, King’s Lynn; 12-bore; 27 ¾” barrels; signed “J. POTTER HIGH St. LYNN NORFOLK; border engraved; stock with heel and toe plates; No. 176.
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/20/21 02:00 PM
Would you tell us a bit more about those percussion cartridge inserts? Seems like they would require a very heavy head and leave little space for ignition of the powder.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/20/21 07:18 PM
Hal, I can’t say much from personal experience, as I don’t have one of those guns fitted with ‘movable chambers.’ On pages 11 and 12 of this thread are Beringer guns equipped to operate as pinfires or with cartridges/removable chambers and percussion caps. I’ve only seen photographs of metal cartridges with an external nipple that could fit in a pinfire gun (page 66 of Macdonald Hasting’s book, English Sporting Guns and Accessories, if you have it). Loading such a cartridge or ‘second breech’ would be like loading a primed hull by hand. I have used brass ‘everlast’ pinfire cases, and inserting a percussion cap and pin in one of these is probably more fiddly than using a case with an external nipple.

The type of chamber insert depicted in the Westley Richards above would seem to offer the choice between using a cap, loose powder and shot, and a pinfire cartridge. I can understand the reasoning for such a choice at the beginning of the pinfire era, as one would not be sure if pinfire cartridges would be available on, say, an extended hunting trip to distant lands. However, the pin holes in the barrels are much larger than with a typical pinfire and would not necessarily keep the pins perfectly upright, an immediate cause for a misfire. Again, however, without examining such a gun first-hand, or reading contemporary accounts of their use, I’m just speculating.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/21/21 01:15 PM
Thanks. I assume these would have been made of steel and very expensive, although having the advantage of being reloaded almost indefinitely compared to any pinfire cartridge.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 01:52 AM
These percussion inserts go back pretty far! I have been acquiring all the Lefaucheux ads I can find and one of them mentions:

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
PERFECTIONNEMENT.
FUSILS LEFAUCHEUX, 10, rue de la Bourse.
MM. les CHASSEURS sont prévenus que dorénavant les FUSILS LEFAUCHEUX pourraient, à défaut de cartouches, se charger à la baguette comme les fusils à piston, an mayen d’un CULOT DE NOUVELLE INVENTION que maison Lefaucheux délivrera gratis avec chaque arme sortant de ses magasins.
On trouve dans la MAISON LEFAUCHEUX un assortiment complet de toute espèce d’armes à feu à charger par derrière ou ordinaires à piston.

This advertisement is from the August 15, 1842 issue of the Journal Des Débats. Here Jubé (guy who owned Lefaucheux's company from December 17, 1835 until January 1, 1845 ) advertises an improvement. He mentions to hunters that they no longer need to worry about running out of pinfire cartridges as he will provide a new invention of a reusable cartridge that can be loaded with percussion caps free with every gun purchase.

The Westley Richards one however looks like it was never a pinfire and could never be a pinfire unless there were some additional kind of insert. I had a pistol that could take similar cartridges or an insert would screw in to allow a pin to be held in the giant square hole.
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

But guns were definitely made that only worked with these adapters. Even Eugene Lefaucheux made a revolver as such which I once owned:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
The hammer itself is even a bit hollow and there is no way it would work with regular pinfire cartridges. He even advertised it as so (You can see the ad here: https://casimirlefaucheux.com/t/revolver-marked-lefaucheux-fils-next-to-come/176 )

And here's a little more history on other percussion adapter cartridges in this little article I wrote some years ago:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 02:30 AM
Thanks, AaronN, very useful information.
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 02:45 PM
So it seems like the concept of a cartridge with a nipple that accepted a regular percussion cap post-dated the pinfire system where the primer was internal. One would think the opposite would have occurred during the transition from muzzle-loaders.
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 04:07 PM
Hal, the pinfire in France was more than a decade ahead of England. I think the "cartridge with a nipple" was in answer to the more complicated reloading process of a pinfire in the field.

From AaronN's post.

This advertisement is from the August 15, 1842 issue of the Journal Des Débats. Here Jubé (guy who owned Lefaucheux's company from December 17, 1835 until January 1, 1845 ) advertises an improvement. He mentions to hunters that they no longer need to worry about running out of pinfire cartridges as he will provide a new invention of a reusable cartridge that can be loaded with percussion caps free with every gun purchase.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 04:15 PM
No I would say the concept pre-datated it.

The Pauly guns, after Henry Roux owned the patents and companies modified the design to take a cartridge with a nipple:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
And then Picherau who bought the patents and company from Roux continued with some of those as well as another modification to make it more like a typical percussion gun with an external nipple.

Lefaucheux would later buy the company and continue with the external nipple percussion gun design before making his pinfire cartridge.

But still before these you have Clement:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]


And Lepage:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]


Then after Pinfire you still had people exploring this option:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

[img]https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-SZgGZ4L/0/3572e26d/X3/i-SZgGZ4L-X3.jpg[/img]

[img]https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-xzmsdjG/0/b68572bf/X3/i-xzmsdjG-X3.jpg[/img]
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 05:02 PM
Aaron, great information. From looking at the Morse cartridges and similar, I wonder why the pinfire was even considered . The Morse seemed easier to load and did not have the Pin like the pinfire. My thought in the previous post was that , given you had a pinfire gun, the alternate cartridge was an assist the pinfire owner. It appears to be much easier to reload and possibly could have been loaded like a muzzleloader.
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 05:34 PM
Well, cartridges like the Morse one didn't come until 20+ years later. A big reason why pinfire was able to take off is that the lock mechanism was so similar to what everyone had always used with percussion or even flintlocks.

Plus it was always a selling point for the water/moisture resistance that came with a self-contained cartridge. And cheaper to have 20 paper cartridges with you than 20 reloadable cartridges I am sure played a factor.

Additionally there was less steps for not having to load the cap and etc.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 06:56 PM
Hi Steve, just stepoping aside from the ammunition debate for a moment.....24th June, Ryedale Auctioneers, here in UK have a small militaria auction. Lot 77 is one of my Blanch guns...with pictures.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/22/21 07:49 PM
Ivanhoe, that Blanch is a lovely gun. The acanthus spray on the fences seems to be a Blanch style. Do you recall the serial number? I'm guessing it is a Lang-type single-bite action with the rising stud. The auction site does not provide much information. I hope it brings you a good price.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Hal Re: The pinfire game gun - 06/23/21 01:33 AM
Thanks for all the information on early cartridges. Many people consider central ignition a great improvement on an older rimfire system. Not only are they off by decades, but your collection shows central fire led the charge to replace muzzle-loading firearms.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/10/21 03:05 PM
It must be time for a new pinfire post...

In studying the origins of the breech-loading game gun in Britain, the same questions keep popping up. Were French and other continental guns competing with British ones at the same time? Were some British makers importing continental guns or actions? Was there diversity in the types available, and if so, what were they?

There is very little information concerning the earliest years of the pin-fire game gun in Britain, the space in time between Joseph Lang’s gun of 1853, and the Field trials of 1858 and 1859. One might presume that the guns of Lang, along with those of the earliest London-based proponents of the pinfire system, John Blanch and Edward M. Reilly, would have dominated the market at that time. The Field trials of 1858 and 1859 indicate what was available to sportsmen of the day, showing various patterns on the market.

In the 1858 trial, there were pinfire guns by Christopher Penryn Aston (Birmingham), Moore & Harris (Birmingham), Ladmore (Hereford), E. M. Reilly (London), Fletcher (Gloucester), and Adolphe Jansen (Brussels). However, the guns are not described, though reportedly all were of the forward-underlever type. In John Henry Walsh’s 1859 book, The Shot-gun and Sporting Rifle, written under the pen-name ‘Stonehenge,’ he illustrates two guns from the 1859 trial, a forward-underlever gun by Reilly and a ‘lever-over-guard’ mechanism from Prince and Green (the latter being novel enough to rate a mention). At least two other action types were present in the 1859 trial, a Joseph Needham side-lever and an Auguste Francotte gun with a Bastin action with sliding barrels. What is not helpful is that anything other than patent systems was referred to as “Lefaucheux Breechloaders.”

John Blanch obtained a Béatus Beringer (Paris and St Etienne) gun in 1855, not long before he started offering pinfire guns from his London shop, presumably for study and analysis. I’ve not found evidence that Blanch copied the action, but the classic ‘lever-over-guard’ design was probably inspired by Beringer, if not directly copied.

My earlier post on the Robert Ringer gun got me thinking about Norwich, Norfolk shooting grounds, wealthy patrons, and the fact that in the 1850s, it might have been faster to trade with the continent than overland to London. If continental guns weren’t appearing in London, could they appear elsewhere?

So I was curious when a query about a pinfire game gun turned up on another forum, concerning a 16-bore signed Robert Marrison of Norwich, which looked to have a typical Beringer action. Correspondence ensued, and I’m happy to report the gun is now part of my collection.

The IGC Database gives part of the history. The Marrison gunmaking family started with Samuel Marrison, born in 1796 in Norwich. In 1821 he established his business in St Benedict’s Street, and by 1843 the business had moved to 50 Great Orford Street. In the 1851 census records, Samuel described himself as a gunmaker employing one man and one boy. This may refer to Samuel Ray Marrison, 24, and Robert Marrison, 20, recorded in the census as an engraver. Benjamin Marrison, 17, was listed as a gunmaker’s son. Around 1855 Samuel died, and Robert continued the family business in his name. The 1861 census records Robert as a gunmaker and ornamental engraver. On 17 December 1863, Robert Marrison registered patent No. 3185 for a forward sliding and side opening breech action, so he was a capable inventor, too. The 1871 census records Robert employing three men and three boys. In the 1881 census, Robert was a gunmaker and manufacturing chemist employing two men and two youths. The 1891 census recorded Robert as a gunmaker, but the 1901 census records him as a 70-year-old cement manufacturer and Benjamin as a retired gunsmith. The Orford Street business had closed in the 1890s.

The press of the day records a much more entertaining history. In 1855, Samuel’s widow published an advertisement informing the public that all stock was being sold off "at a very small per centage above cost price." She further recommended her sons Samuel and Robert “as being fully qualified to carry on the business" and that the firm would continue under the name Robert Marrison. I wonder what the elder son Samuel thought of being passed over. Also, in 1855, Robert Marrison took out several newspaper advertisements announcing his father’s death and that he would be continuing the business. He assured customers that “orders would be attended to with the utmost punctuality, and the work executed in the first style of the trade.”

However, in July 1858, Marrison was bankrupt. His entire stock was sold off at less than cost price, including ‘very superior Breech Loading Double Guns, made upon the newest and most approved principles.’ The business continued, but in late 1860 Marrison suffered another setback when his shop blew up, possibly from a gas leak, an error concerning a large quantity of black powder, or both. Tragically a young man was killed, and walls and part of the street were demolished.

Marrison went bankrupt again in 1867. He declared ‘losses arising from the bursting and in the manufacturing of guns, and in the invention of a breech-loader, and other losses in my business, and badness of trade.’ Marrison was again before the courts in 1870 for selling fireworks without a license. In 1873 Robert Marrison published a notice in the Eastern Daily Press claiming his skill, knowledge and inventiveness, and that ‘all the Patterns and Principles of the various BREECH-LOADING INVENTIONS in GUNNERY were made by himself’ and whereby ‘it is left to the Public to form their own conclusions as to the value of the unjust references by which his brother attempts to injure the reputation of Robert Marrison.’ I could not find out if this referred to slander emanating from Benjamin or Samuel Ray.

But the final chapter is the most bizarre, when in 1891, Robert Marrison was convicted for fraud, involving several lurid bait-and-switch schemes about hunting dogs, and guns, using advertisements in The Field. Quite the history, all in all.

But let’s go back to this most interesting gun. In outward appearance, it looks like a typical Beringer gun, with a short wooden fore-end and a rearward under-lever that doubles as the trigger guard. By the 1850s, the Beringer patent appears to have run out. This particular action was made by ‘M. Godin,’ presumably Jean Louis Mathieu Godin, of Herstal, Belgium. The action bar is marked “M. Godin 1865” and “brevete 603”, which I presume to be patent no. 1865, and patent use no. 603. I have tracked down photos of a few examples of Godin-marked guns, all of which have the “M. Godin 1865” patent stamp. I do not know what the patent refers to, as guns with this mark are found with both Beringer-type underlevers and ‘lever-over-guard’ actions. The gun has grip-safety variation, where a small stud behind the triggers has to be depressed by the returned underlever before the triggers can be pulled – clever! I thought the patent might have been for this variation, but other guns with the mark don’t appear to have grip safeties.

The top rib is signed “R. Marrison, Great Orford Street, Norwich, No. 2281,” though no records have survived against which the serial number could be compared. The 29 11/15” damascus barrels have a Liège provisional proof and bore size in mm (17.2), but no Perron mark. There is an unknown barrel maker’s mark, a crown over ‘HV.’ The barrels have London proof marks and bore size (15), and a London view mark on the action bar.

The fore-end is permanently attached, similar to a Belgian-made Gustave Masu gun illustrated early in this thread, and the wood is left unchequered. Sadly, like all early doubles with fixed fore-ends, the delicate edging to the sides has been damaged by attempts to pry off the fore-end by persons unfamiliar with the design. The Lefaucheux-style double-bite barrel locking mechanism is of typical form. The combined rearward under-lever and trigger guard bow is identical to Beringer guns, locking in place with a stud on the distal end of the grip finial. The back-action locks are of Belgian form, inset to the scalloped action back, and are signed “R. Marrison.” The rounded hammers have stylized cap guards, the action and fittings are decorated with simple border and open scroll engraving (similar in pattern to the Masu). The stock has a sling swivel attachment, though the matching barrel attachment is missing. The bores are moderately pitted, and the gun weighs 6lb 10oz.

Dating this gun is a challenge. It would have to be 1855 or after, but I can’t imagine the demand for such a gun would have been high once more typically British guns were available. The fact that so few of these guns appear to have survived supports the theory of their limited appeal. I can’t find any mention in the shooting press of British sportsmen using Beringer-action guns (though obviously, some did!).

Was it sold in the early experimental years before the Field trials? Was it sold off in Marrison’s first bankruptcy sale? Did it survive the blast? Did it linger, unsold, until the second bankruptcy? While these questions remain unresolved, at least the gun provides evidence that provincial British makers were importing continental guns for re-sale, and there were more action types available to the British market than previously supposed.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/10/21 10:06 PM
Wonderful write up Stephen. I'd like to make a couple of comments:

Here is the earliest reference to a Beringer under-lever I can find in the UK press. "The Field" 20 Dec 1856:
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

In Dec 1857 Reilly wrote a letter to "The Field" in which he stated that "until very recently breech loaders were regarded as a novelty." (Reilly's full page letter is published earlier in this line):
"Until quite recently purchases were made from sheer curiousity, in the most disbelieving spirit as to their utility, but admitting the ingenuity and apparent goodness of this workmanship. The desire was to possess something new, taking its merits upon trust; and it has often been, with no less surprise than gratification that all doubts were dispelled, and the new gun found to be more agreeable to use and possessed of greater power than those on the old plan."

In looking a Serial Numbers on Extant Reilly pin-fires the following observation was made:

Comment: First Extant Reilly pin-fire breech loader is 10054, made probably late summer 1856. There is an extant Reilly breech loader 10354 made in summer 1857. This indicates the E.M. made about 300 guns during this period (J.C. made another 100...see the chart). Probably at most 10% of the 300 made by EM were breech loaders = 30 guns - probably a lot less - 15 guns maybe? The Extant SN Reilly guns are pictured above.

Note: By December 1857
-- Lang had been producing breech loaders for nearly 4 years (estimate maybe 70 guns?)
-- Reilly for 1.5 years (estimate 15 guns?);
-- Blanch for a year (estimate 5 guns?)
-- Haris Holland for 9 or 10 months (5 guns?).
-- The technology was still 3 years away from infiltrating Birmingham.
-- There were a few other gunsmiths making them - Henry Tatham had made a couple per letters to the Field
etc.
In other words there were not that many UK made breech loaders being shot in the country at this time (Dec 1857) - maybe 100? if that many?

In other words, by summer 1857 I'd reckoned that Reilly had made under 30 breech loaders and that the others not that many more.

Well...Check out this advertisement for Reilly 20 June 1857 "The Field": Reilly flat out stated that purchasers could select from close to 100 guns then in the state of manufacture with finishing to order. 100 GUNS BEING MADE!! Talk about a turn-around in demand. No wonder JC retired in Sep 1857... Also no wonder Reilly could make a gun in a month when others took 6 months....he obviously planned ahead and put money into the planning.
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]
Posted By: HomelessjOe Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/21 12:07 PM
There is a really nice Westley Richards pin fire sitting in a local gun shop....not sure I think he wants $2500 for it.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/21 01:06 PM
Thanks for that information, Gene, it really helps towards clarifying the situation that existed before the trials. Now I wish a British-marked Lefaucheux would miraculously turn up...

jOe, a surprising number of Westley Richards pinfires have survived, and I've never really understood why. Yes, they are very well made, and their action designs made good candidates for conversion to centre-fire (most were). Being the favourite of the Prince of Wales (and later King) was surely good advertising. Starting in the pinfire business later than some, and having good facilities might have allowed WR to cash in on the rising demand in the mid to late 1860s. In my experience, most WR pinfires are of the lateral top-lever design (patented in 1864), while the pull top-lever design (patented in 1862) is much rarer, owing to fewer guns of that type having been made. Both types appeared in this ever-lengthening thread, on pages 6 and 10. Even their first centre-fires had pinfire hammers for looks (what looks like a conversion of one of their guns might not be). Maybe no one wanted to scrap bar-in-wood guns!

I've seen a few Westley Richards pinfires advertised in the US, all at about the same price. Too rich for me, despite my obvious obsession.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: HomelessjOe Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/11/21 01:57 PM
That's looks just a like the one for sale....(not sure if it has a case most likely does) ......they look like a muzzle loader with a hinged stock....the wood is darkened more on the one the guy has for sale he imported it out of England looks untouched by the hands of man since manufacture....except for his importers mark.
Most pin fires I ran across were in good condition what that tells me they weren't used much...you could speculate on why.

I think it's most likely they were left in the dust by the centerfires.
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/14/21 06:32 PM
The majority of pinfire "survivors" had badly pitted barrels, due to the corrosive nature of blackpowder. Many pinfires exported to the USA had their barrels internally "cleaned" up by being honed......something I doubt the prospective purchasers were told. It left many barrel walls too thin to pass a British Proof House examination. Anyone intending to use a imported pinfire should check the wall thickness first.
My experiences with pinfires leads me to believe that a greater percentage of bar in wood actions survived conversion to centre-fire. They were usually (but not always) a better quality gun.
Posted By: HomelessjOe Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/21 04:08 AM
Are they allowed to export British guns that are not in proof ?
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/15/21 07:08 PM
Joe the short answer is; No!

And now for the long answer: 'The Proof Acts lay down that no small arms may be sold, exchanged or exported, exposed or kept for sale or exchange or pawned unless and until it has been fully proved and duly marked. The maximum penalty is £1,000 for each offence, but with provision for higher penalties where, for instance, the sale of a number of guns constitutes one offence.'

That was taken from the Notes on the Proof of Shotguns & Other Small Arms issued by the Birmingham Proof House. The last edition I have is from 1992 so the penalty might have gone up since then. Lagopus…..
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/17/21 06:17 PM
What sellers of these should have done, and what they did, are two different things! I knew of someone who did hone some barrels out, to get a sale! However, after almost 30 years, it would be impossible to now prove it. But I do know that a couple of well respected dealers at the time would not deal with him.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/21 07:48 PM
Trying to figure out who made pinfire game guns during the years they were in fashion in Britain is a multi-layered process. Simply going by years in business is no guarantee, as some makers saw their muzzle-loader business gradually dwindle and they ceased operations without making the switch to breech-loaders, while others might have jumped straight from building muzzle-loaders straight to centre-fire, or just started making centre-fire guns. While there were 930 or so self-identified gunmakers and gun sellers in business at some point during the period of the late 1850s to about 1870, not all would have been making and/or selling pinfire game guns. Hard evidence can be had from the guns, and this thread has illustrated a good number of examples. I had hoped more would have come out of the woodwork, as it were, but this thread is a work in progress and I remain ever hopeful more pinfires will be posted here.

Another source of information is auction and sale listings and catalogues. Ivanhoe has graciously gone through his Weller & Dufty catalogues for 1974-1975 and pulled out the pinfire game gun listings. How I wish I was in the UK and collecting then!

Here is a list of names appearing on pinfire guns from Ivanhoe's trawl effort, for which I am very grateful. They are in no specific order, but by adding them here I hope that anyone searching the Net for information on pinfires by any of these makers will find their way to this discussion thread. Several of these makers have already appeared on these pages.

Stephen Grant, London
Charles Ingram, Glasgow
E. & G. Higham, Liverpool
E. Dodson, Louth
George Jeffries, Norwich
William Golden, Huddersfield
Williams & Powell, Liverpool
Harris Holland, London
Daniel Petts, Ripley
George O. Wilson, York
Benjamin Cogswell, London
Cogswell & Harrison, London
William Powell & Son, Birmingham
William Andrew Beckwith, Birmingham
Francis Brebner, Darlington
Isaac Hollis & Son, Birmingham
John Rigby & Co. / William & John Rigby, Dublin & London
John Blanch & Son, London
John Dickson & Son, Edinburgh
Charles Frederick Niebour, Uxbridge
J. Erskine, Newton Stewart
Manton & Co., London & Calcutta
James Beattie, London
Robert Marrison, Norwich
Robert Spring Garden, London
Masu Brothers, London & Liege
William Butler Barratt, Burton-on-Trent
Joseph Lang, London
G. T. Adcock, London (dealer)
Westley Richards, London
David Nixon, Newark-on-Trent
J. D. Dougall, London
Gasquoine & Dyson, Manchester
William Green, London
William Dooley, Liverpool
Joseph Harkom, Edinburgh
Thomas Horsley, Yorkshire
William Wellington Greener, Birmingham
Henry Beckwith, London
Thomas Robert Hasdell, London
Thomas Chard, Croydon
Thomas Johnson, Swaffham
William Robert Wallis, London
Edmund Morris, Bridgewater
Peter Powell, Tonbridge
Thomas Edward Kither, Sevenoaks
Joseph Smith, Birmingham
William Pountney, Birmingham
James Purdey, London
Richard Jeffery, Guildford
Henry Tatham, London
Robert Watmough, Manchester
Edwin Wilson, Horncastle

In addition, there were a few listings that were mysterious either through lack of details, or perhaps from typographic errors (of which I noted a few). These include the three names Bond, F. Boss, and R. Townsend of London, for which I was not able to find any reference.

As an illustration of the usefulness of the above information, I have a case with a label for Thomas Hasdell, Clerkenwell (Islington, London), minus the gun. The age and the fittings seemed right for the period (the case contained a Boss & Co. pinfire), but without the original gun, I could not confirm this maker made pinfires. Ivanhoe's data settled it.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/21 08:29 PM
Steve,
Time to 'pick nits."

When you say "definitive maker" - more precision is necessary. William Powell & Son
made their pinfire 'lifter guns' for about 50 'makers' - some of whom are on your list.
For instance - is William Golden the "definitive maker" of a gun made by Powell but
marked "Golden."

Technical point - you have two entries for Rigby. Same company but different dates of manufacture.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/21 08:51 PM
Thanks, Steve, for pointing out my misuse of language! And for stressing 'maker' is an awfully loose term in British gunmaking...

It is better to say that pinfire guns are associated with these names, though it can't be broken down as to who actually made the guns, or retailed them, without a close examination of the guns themselves, if at all.

It is a shame that the catalogue listings are vague in their descriptions, mostly concerning outward condition rather than technical details. There are so many variations in guns with 'side-levers' or 'under-levers', at the end of the day the terms don't mean much. Not that anyone was paying much attention to pinfires, in any case.

I've corrected my post. Nits reduced!
Posted By: Steve Helsley Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/20/21 09:57 PM
Perhaps the safest approach is to say "marked" or "signed."
Posted By: Parabola Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/21/21 05:16 PM
https://i.imgur.com/n2nse4r.jpg

[img]https://i.imgur.com/41T5VK5.jpg[/[img]https://i.imgur.com/tUgCQQ4.jpg[/img]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]


Steve,

I have a couple of other candidates for your list of pinfire makers.

My wife’s Uncle has a pin fire gun marked “S. Leech and Son” on the lock plates and “G.T. Bartram, Braintree “ on the top rib.

The action and Barrels bear a single set of 13 bore 1855 to 1868 Birmingham proof marks.

I had always assumed it was built as a pinfire by Leech (Leach/ Leetch - they seem to have been undecided on the spelling for a while) of Chelmsford but re-barrelled by Bartram.

Thinking about it , given the very short number of years that pinfires were in demand, it occurs to me that it may have been converted from a Leech muzzle loader by Bartram.

It has a one piece iron butt plate, as you would expect on a muzzle loader, and the pinfire barrels show signs of much use, but not a lot of cleaning.

Leech were certainly building guns in the muzzle loading era, and it seems Bartram were in business earlier than Nigel Brown’s book suggests.

I will try to post some more images,

Keep Well

Parabola
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 08/21/21 06:14 PM
Thanks for posting, Parabola.

According to the IGC Database, the Leech family gunmaking business in Chelmsford possibly dates as far back as the 1770s. In 1839 the business name was changed to James H Leech; in 1858 James’s son, William, was a journeyman gunmaker under his father, and after 1862 he became a partner in the business and it was re-named Leech & Son. The Jones-type double-bite mechanism was widely copied after 1864. So, your gun fits in nicely with the pinfire timeline, and I don’t see signs of it being a converted muzzle-loader. George Thomas Thorpe Bartram came later, and while in the gun business he was also a china merchant. He may not have made guns himself, but rather bought guns from ‘the trade.’ It could be that Bartram bought the gun from Leech & Son for re-sale, though re-barrelling is also a possibility. Either way, you have an interesting gun in quite decent condition, with names that have not so far appeared in this ever-lengthening thread.

Always a pleasure to see surviving pinfires!
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/04/21 01:17 AM
This is not a "game gun" but might be of interest:

J.C. Reilly pin-fire pistol at Rock Island - and they almost got the date right it would have been made between summer 1856 (about the time Reilly made his first pin-fire) and September 1857 (when J.C. retired). This pistol is very interesting for one reason - I didn't know that J.C. ever marketed a center-break gun.. He surely never made one. 49 bore = .45 caliber. London proofs. Where is the "Joseph Charles" - there is only "Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London" on the barrel.

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/1038/4156/engraved-pinfire-pistol-by-reilly-of-london
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Pinfire Pistol by Joseph Charles Reilly of London
Manufacturer: English
Model: Pinfire
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45
Barrel: 8 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip:
Stock: ebony
Item Views: 15
Serial Number:
Class: Antique
Rating:

OE - GOOD - some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal legible; lightly scratched, bruised or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.
Description:

Manufactured c. 1848-58. Engraved "REILLY, 502 NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON." on top of barrel.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/04/21 05:41 PM
Any British-marked pinfire from 1856-57 is interesting, as those were early days for the system. That is a fine target/gallery pistol.

The study of pinfire pistols and revolvers is a field in itself, on which I've spent little time and energy. Most research to date seems to have focused on them, rather than on sporting guns.

I will soon add a few more game gun examples to this thread, having secured a second Thomas Horsley, and a Charles Osborne. I just need to find the opportunity to take some pictures.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 09/26/21 08:05 PM
I haven't posted in a while, but a few more guns have turned up. Here is a plain pinfire, but there is always something to be learned from one.

When thinking of the great names in Birmingham gunmaking, Charles Henry Osborne might not make the first cut. Born in Birmingham in 1819, he apprenticed under his father, James Osborn, and by 1838 was in business as a gunmaker and factor (selling guns made by others). However, in 1858 Osborne was appointed a Guardian of the Birmingham Proof House, so he was a significant member of the gunmaking community. Osborne was also listed as a beer-house keeper and retail brewer, so he was a versatile fellow.

In 1855, Charles Henry Osborne moved his gunmaking business from 1 Lichfield Street to 12 & 13 Whittall Street. The business and family became intertwined with the Ellis family of Birmingham gunmakers, though the records are unclear. Charles Francis Ellis, the son of a metal dealer, was listed in the 1861 census as a “Commercial Traveller To Gun Maker.” The gunmaker in question may have been Charles Henry Osborne. Ellis’s brother Alexander was a ‘factor’s apprentice, ’ and one of Ellis’s sons was named Charles Osborne Ellis. By 1871 Charles Henry Osborne had retired, and Charles Francis Ellis continued the business. In 1877 Charles Osborne Ellis ran the firm, and he would go on to obtain several gun-related patents.

The firm both bought from the trade and produced for the trade; probably quite a few London makers bought guns from Charles Osborne, placing their names and addresses on the locks and ribs. A few Osborne-marked pinfire game guns have survived, so the firm made them, but I don’t know how many were made or when they started doing so.

Today's gun is a very standard example, a 12-bore made some time after 1862. It carries no serial number, suggesting this was a gun bought from the trade. The top rib is signed “Chas Osborne London” as is usual with his guns, though Osborne did not have a London address. He may well have had an agent in London, but none has been identified so far. The 29 ¾” damascus barrels have Birmingham provisional and definitive proofs and bore size (13), and a barrel maker’s mark “J.G,” which I haven’t been able to identify. The gun has an unmarked double-bite screw grip action, and the action bar lacks a radius. The rounded hammers are plain, the back action locks are signed “Chas Osborne” within decorative scrolls, and the rest of the gun has simple line and border engraving only. A few details are not found on the cheapest guns, such as the raised clips on the trigger guard bow.

Overall it is the type of standard pinfire game gun produced in Birmingham workshops in the mid to late 1860s, or possibly later. As the breech-loader gained acceptance, it was no longer the plaything of the privileged, and guns were made in a range of prices. Lower-cost guns might have been carried afield to the colonies, possibly explaining this one turning up in Canada. The Osborne firm went on to specialize in big-game guns destined for Africa and Asia, so their eyes were always on distant markets.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/04/21 10:07 PM
I have not written much lately, but this thread still seems to attract readers – though not much discussion of late. Here is a new post on a best-quality game gun from Thomas Horsley, with a story attached – you can glean a lot from a stock escutcheon! As to the sparsity of photos, the gun was incorrectly ‘restored’, with hot-blued barrels and furniture. I will cover this gun in greater detail once I’m able to address the incorrect finishing.

Henry Walker's Horsley

What are you to do if you are a Gentleman who is a distant sixth in line to the family title? A life in the military is a good prospect, and Papa can afford to buy a good commission. This appears to have been the case for Henry Stephen Walker, son of Sir James Walker of Sand Hutton, Ryedale District, North Yorkshire. Sir James held various posts as High Sheriff of Yorkshire, Deputy Lieutenant, and Justice of the Peace, and would later become 1st Baronet of Sand Hutton (the Baronetcy would be passed on to his first son, James). Henry would have to make his way in the world, albeit with a helping start.

Choosing a regiment would have been difficult, but Henry and Sir James chose the 13th Hussars, purchasing in November 1863 the rank of Cornet. Cornet was the lowest grade of commissioned officer in a British cavalry troop, the modern equivalent being a second lieutenant. As the 13th Light Dragoons, the regiment performed well in the Peninsular War and later at the Battle of Waterloo. In the Crimean War, the regiment was part of the light brigade under the command of Major General the Earl of Cardigan, first at the Battle of Alma. Then the regiment was the first line of cavalry on the right flank during the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. Not entirely done with that, the regiment also took part in the Battle of Inkerman and the Siege of Sevastopol. In 1861 the regiment was renamed the 13th Hussars. After the Crimean War, Henry joined, and the regiment moved around Ireland, Scotland and England. In 1866 the regiment happened to be stationed in York, about 5 kilometres from the Sand Hutton estate.

This point is where the story becomes relevant to this thread, when in 1866, Henry purchased a best-quality 12-bore bar-in-wood pinfire game gun from Thomas Horsley, number 1507, from Horsley's shop at 10 Coney Street. The gun is signed "Thomas Horsley Maker York, Patent 2410" on the top rib, the 30 1/16" damascus barrels have London proofs, and the action bar has an unnumbered "Horsley's Patent No." cartouche. The non-rebounding bar locks are marked "Thos Horsley Patent," and the pull-top-lever snap-action is Thomas Horsley's patent No. 2410 of October 1863. There is fine foliate scroll engraving throughout, a well-figured walnut stock, and the silver stock escutcheon is marked "HSW XIII Husr" in Old English script. Take note of the very thin breech face.

Whether Henry had a chance to use his new gun on Yorkshire pheasants is unknown, as the regiment was ordered to embark for Canada to defend the country from a Fenian uprising, sailing from Liverpool on three steamships on the 11th and 12th of September 1866. Two troops were posted to Montreal, and the rest went to Toronto. The 13th Hussars' time in Canada was mainly spent establishing a cavalry school to instruct Canadian Mounted Volunteers. Moving up in rank, Henry purchased his Lieutenantcy on the 12th of October, 1867.

The regiment departed for England in June 1869, arriving in Liverpool on the 13th of July. However, before returning, Henry visited the studio of the famed Montreal photographer William Notman to have some portraits made, shown below. Back in England, Henry retired from the army and sold his Lieutenantcy in June 1870. He returned to Canada, settling down in the town of Cobourg along the shores of Lake Ontario, about halfway between Toronto and Kingston. He married Emma Mason in 1870 and raised two sons and a daughter. Whether Henry's prized Horsley returned to the UK and then back to Canada, or remained in Canada the whole time, is unknown.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
© McCord Museum
[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
© McCord Museum

How great it is to be able to put a face and history together with an interesting gun.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 01:19 AM
Great gun, good story..and always interesting to put both into historical context. Thanks Steve
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 09:27 AM
Excellent as always Steve. The gun shows signs of quite a lot of good honest usage. If in Canada; were pin-fire cartridges loaded by any Canadian or American companies do you know? Or would it have to have been imported? Thanks. Lagopus.....
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 11:55 AM
As a general rule, pinfire shotshells were manufactured and sold to sporting goods stores as new-primed empties.

People would then buy loaded ones from their local store loaded with what they needed based on what they were shooting. Or some people would even load them themselves.

I talk about a few of these that were loaded by American companies here: https://aaronnewcomer.com/american-companies-who-loaded-pinfire-cartridges/

Also, a few of the ads shown in my article about James Erskine and his loading machine are from stores that advertise that they load cartridges to order via his machines: https://aaronnewcomer.com/the-pinfire-patents-by-james-erskine/
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 04:27 PM
Thanks Aaron, I have an Eley cartridge catalogue from 1936 which still lists pin-fire cases for loading. I'll log into the links above. Lagopus.....
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 04:49 PM
Great to see that Horsley ! I have 1547 also built as a pinfire of the same pattern in 1866 but subsequently converted to c/f.
I now know how it looked originally!!!!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 05:17 PM
I have never seen a Canadian advert for pinfire cartridges, but it is not difficult to imagine gun dealers in Montreal and Toronto importing primed cases. Most complete cased gun examples I’ve encountered included loading tools of some sort, so loading one’s own must have been commonplace. With the pinfire system remaining popular in France, there would be regular trade with Lower Canada, so probably a ready supply. Unlike in the US in New York and Baltimore, there does not seem to have been any local gunmakers making pinfire guns in Canada.

There is an auction coming up here that includes a great many early Canadian-made percussion guns, no pinfires:

https://live.millerandmillerauctions.com/
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 06:24 PM
There was at least one Canadian patent for a pinfire gun and cartridge though I am not sure it was ever made:

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

Also, here is an ad from a Canadian gun dealer that offered pinfire cartridges for sale. I also have seen many many Eley advertisements in many Canadian newspapers listing cartridges including pinfire for sale wholesale only, from London.

[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/05/21 06:44 PM
Fantastic, thanks AaronN!
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/07/21 08:15 PM
Courtesy of Steve Helsley, here is a page from a 1925 Nobel catalogue that mentions pinfire cartridge cases, including the possibility of ordering them loaded with black powder, or with smokeless powder (!), though it was not recommended. Thanks, Steve, for a great find.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/08/21 05:29 AM
Intriguing that they offered them loaded with smokeless powder ! I wonder if there was ever a pinfire nitro proof or re-proof???
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/08/21 01:26 PM
I've never seen one nitro proof but I do have two factory loaded cartridges; one with Shultz and one with Smokeless Diamond according to the top wad. Lagopus....
Posted By: Imperdix Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/08/21 03:29 PM
Perhaps just from more pragmatic times ! Very interesting nevertheless !
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/08/21 04:30 PM
Originally Posted by Argo44
This is not a "game gun" but might be of interest:

J.C. Reilly pin-fire pistol at Rock Island - and they almost got the date right it would have been made between summer 1856 (about the time Reilly made his first pin-fire) and September 1857 (when J.C. retired). This pistol is very interesting for one reason - I didn't know that J.C. ever marketed a center-break gun.. He surely never made one. 49 bore = .45 caliber. London proofs. Where is the "Joseph Charles" - there is only "Reilly, 502 New Oxford Street, London" on the barrel.

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/1038/4156/engraved-pinfire-pistol-by-reilly-of-london
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

I ended up winning this. $950 before fees and shipping. Should be about $1200 or so all in. I'll be sure to take more pictures when I get it.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/09/21 11:02 PM
Post was meant for a PM. Sorry
Posted By: keith Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/18/21 09:35 PM
You Pinfire guys might want to take a peek at this one. The seller thinks it is a Lefever:

https://www.gunbroker.com/Item/913537484
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 01:29 AM
I got my Reilly pistol in. I think it is definitely English made. London proofs on the barrel and frame. Nothing else anywhere.

It is interesting though as out of my thousands of cartridges I don't have a cartridge that fits it. It takes a "smaller diameter" 12mm cartridge and the early French ones fit fine but the pins are not close to being long enough. If I move forward a decade+ there are Eley cartridges which do not fit it quite right even though they made a long-pin example. Carbine-length cartridges that sometimes have a longer pin do not fit either.
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Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 02:59 AM
Aaron....that is a very fine pistol. I have never ever seen a J.C. Reilly name on a center-break pistol or center-break anything. It is beautiful. It has to be before September 1857....but what an unusual gun! There is UK history here someplace.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 03:11 PM
Interesting pistol to be sure. Also interesting to see the centered, vertical arrangement for the pin. On single barrel game guns, the hammer nose is toed-in, but the pin is slightly canted off-centre, to give a clearer sighting plane. AaronN, from your picture with the cartridge with the long pin, does the pin act as a ‘sight’ to be lined up with the sight at the muzzle?
Posted By: Daryl Hallquist Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 04:41 PM
I cannot add anything of substance, but what a pleasure to have good photos. Thanks
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 07:11 PM
Well, that long pin Eley cartridges does not fit in it all the way. It sticks out a bit and doesn't close. However, I do not think you would see the pin very well as the hammer would be in the way unless you were pointing at the ground, looking under the hammer.

Also, trying some more cartridges in it, it seems there are variances in the angle of the pins on some of these eley cartridges and far back on the case they are which is why some do not not fit.

Eley Cartridges:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]

Comparison of Pins:
[Linked Image from photos.smugmug.com]
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 09:32 PM
The spur on the trigger guard/lever suggests the pistol is to be carefully aimed… what constitutes the rear sight? And isn’t the protruding pin in the way?
Posted By: AaronN Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 11:25 PM
Originally Posted by keith
You Pinfire guys might want to take a peek at this one. The seller thinks it is a Lefever:

https://www.gunbroker.com/Item/913537484


Hi Keith,

It’s a pretty high price for that gun( like 2x - 3x too high). It’s a model 1849 Lefaucheux. If they took the barrel off it may actually be dated (many of this model were) which could tell if it was made by Lefaucheux before he died or by the company after.

I actually just owned a similar one for a single day this past weekend: https://casimirlefaucheux.com/t/lf-501-casimir-lefaucheux-model-1849-with-cripple-stock/421
Posted By: keith Re: The pinfire game gun - 10/19/21 11:43 PM
Yeah AaronN, I thought it was kind of pricey too, even considering the amount of deep relief engraving. We see the same thing with ornately engraved German and other Continental shotguns, simply because the number of collectors is too small to create the demand that translates to high prices.

But I can just imagine what it would cost to have a gunmaker duplicate that work today. Anyway, I do appreciate the information and photos you guys post about pinfires. It is an interesting part of the evolution of firearms.
Posted By: Steve Nash Re: The pinfire game gun - 11/04/21 06:16 PM
Thanks to Ivanhoe's continuing trawl effort through his Weller & Dufty catalogues 1970s, the following British pinfires were listed. It also adds a few names to the list previously compiled from Ivanhoe's efforts, which is helpful. There are a few single-barrel game guns on the list, always a rare item. I wish I was in Britain collecting pinfires back then, some of these look like superb pieces.

George William Bales, Ipswich; 12-bore underlever, back-action locks.

John Blanch & Son, London; 16-bore underlever No. 3589, back-action locks; 16-bore No. 3729, forward underlever, back-action locks; 14-bore forward underlever No 4495, grip safety, back-action locks.

Benjamin Cogswell, London; 12-bore underlever No. 4116, back-action locks.

Cogswell & Harrison, London; 12-bore underlever No. 6250, back-action locks.

John Dickson & Son, Edinburgh; 12-bore underlever double rifle No. 2587, back-action locks.

J. D. Dougall, London; 16-bore Lockfast-action double rifle No. 2596, back-action locks.

William Dooley, Liverpool; 12-bore underlever No. 2316, back-action locks.

Gasquoine & Dyson, Manchester; 12-bore underlever No. 1579, back-action locks.

William Golden, Huddersfield; 12-bore, horn-covered push underlever in front of the trigger guard.

William Green, London; 16-bore underlever, back-action locks, 138 New Bond St. address.

W. W. Greener, Birmingham; 12-bore underlever No. 7851, fitted with percussion chamber adaptors, back-action locks.

Joseph Harkom, Edinburgh; 16-bore underlever double rifle, bar-action locks.

Thomas Robert Hasdell, Islington (London); 12-bore game gun.

Isaac Hollis & Sons, Birmingham; 14-bore double rifle No. 6851, bar-action locks.

Thomas Horsley, York; 28-bore double-barrelled pistol; and 16-bore No. 894, forward underlever game gun, back-action locks.

John Ilsley, Salisbury (converted by); Robert Rhoades, Salisbury on barrel (1854-1866); 14-bore conversion from percussion; back-action locks, birds-eye maple stock; Ilsley in business 1867-1885.

Geo Jeffries, Norwich, turn-over action (pivoting and side-opening barrels), No 1144, 12-bore, back-action locks.

Thomas Edward Kither, Sevenoaks; 16-bore single barrel, Lefaucheux underlever and metal fore-end; back action lock signed Peter Powell (Tunbridge), twist barrel, in Powell case.

Joseph Lang, London; .500 forward underlever double rifle made in 1857, back-action locks, Plate 37 gun in Akehurst’s Game Guns & Rifles.

Leech & Son, Chelmsford; 12-bore underlever, back-action locks.

Daniel Leonard & Son, Birmingham; 12-bore underlever, back-action locks. In business 1866-1900.

Masu Brothers, London & Liege; single 90-bore rook rifle; back action lock, “Masu Frères A Liege & 10 Wigmore St London” address.

William Rochester Pape, Newcastle-on-Tyne; 15-bore underlever No. 1291, barrel marked “Winner of the London Gun Trials 1858, 1859 and 1866, back-action locks.

James Purdey, London; 12-bore underlever No. 6146, made 1861, converted to C-F.; and .450 underlever double rifle No. 6549 made 1863, trigger guard as underlever; Plate 36 gun, Akehurst’s Game Guns & Rifles.

John Rigby & Co., Dublin and London; 12-bore Needham side-lever No. 12762, bar-action locks.

J & T Snow, Market Drayton (unknown?); 12-bore underlever, back-action locks. (Local reseller?)

Robert Stanton, Oswestry; 12-bore underlever, back-action locks. (Stanton in business 1827-1867)

F. Sharp (unknown?); 12-bore single barrel underlever, back action lock. (Possibly a worn R, not F?; there is a Richard Sharp, Worthing, 1838-1869; also a William Sharp, Cranbrook, 1844-1866.)

Westley Richards, London; 12-bore pull-top-lever No. 3396, bar-action locks; and 12-bore double rifle No. 10866, pivoting top-lever, bar-locks.

Benjamin Woodward & Sons, Birmingham; 12-bore single barrel No. 5353, back-action lock.

***

Thanks, Ivanhoe.
Posted By: Argo44 Re: The pinfire game gun - 11/04/21 11:02 PM
Joseph Lang, London; .500 forward underlever double rifle made in 1857, back-action locks, Plate 37 gun in Akehurst’s Game Guns & Rifles.

Very interesting list. Thanks to Ivanhoe for the heavy lifting.

Re the above gun, I've been told repeatedly that the first existing Lang pin-fires are from 1858. This gun would be the earliest (Mark Crudgington did say he had heard of a couple of Lang's with paperwork from 1854....but no confirmation of this received.) It would be interesting to know how Weller & Duffy dated that gun and what was its serial number.
Posted By: lagopus Re: The pinfire game gun - 11/05/21 04:38 PM
Steve, I'll have a look through some of my old catalogues when I get the time to see if I can add any more to the list. I did find this one that might be of interest in a Holts December 13th. 2007 catalogue. No illustration but I'll give you the description. Lot. 912. An American 8 bore pinfire double barrel lift up top lever wildfowling gun signed J.E.EVANS, PHILA. Serial No. 435. 34in. re-browned twist sighted barrels signed 'J.E. EVANS. 230 SOUTH ST. PHILA.' brushed bright border and scroll engraved single bite action with serpentine fences and back action locks, the latter each signed 'J.E. EVANS. PHILA.', blued top lever engraved with scroll work and a hound, well figured walnut stock with chequered grip and forend, blued trigger guard engraved with scroll work and a pointer, blued butt-plate. Birmingham black powder proof marks. £2,000 to £2,500 estimate. Holts did mention that there was an illustration on their web site so maybe they still have a picture they could supply. Sounds an interesting gun and at the price expected would have been a nice one too. Looks as if the barrels at least may have been sourced form Birmingham. Hope it's new one to your listing. Lagopus.....
Posted By: ivanhoe Re: The pinfire game gun - 11/11/21 02:48 PM
You are welcome. More to come
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