Rare Moses Dickson Louisville KY Marked Imported English Pocket Pistol
- Product Code: FHG-2305
- Availability: In Stock
Moses Dickson of Louisville, KY was a gunsmith, gun maker and importer, and dealt in a full array of sporting items. From about 1848-1860 Dickson worked in Louisville, partnered with James J. Gilmore. Together, as Dickson & Gilmore, the pair operated a successful business located at No. 52 Third Street. Their March 18, 1853 advertisement in the Louisville Daily Courier read:
DICKSON & GILMORE, IMPORTERS AND DEALERS IN GUNS, PISTOLS AND FISHING TACKLE, No. 52 Third street near Main, Louisville, Ky., are now opening a large assortment of fine and plain Double-barrel Shot Guns, Game Bags, Shot Belts, Powder Flasks, Percussion Caps, Colt’s and Allen’s Revolvers, Gun Locks, Rifle Barrels, and Gun materials; also a large assortment of fine Fishing Tackle. This, with their large stock on hand, makes the most complete and largest stock that has ever been in this city, which we intend selling at still lower prices than heretofore. Rifles made to order; repairing done in the best manner.
The ad is accompanied by a picture of a pepperbox revolver. By 1858, the print advertisements had been modernized to depict a Colt Root revolver, but in all other ways provided essentially the same information as the earlier advertisement.
One of the products offered by the firm, although not specifically mentioned in the ad, were pocket pistols of a wide variety of patterns, from copies of the famous Henry Deringer “derringer” pistol to imported English (and likely Belgian) made pocket guns. The mid-19th century was not a time in America where it was safe to be alone, unarmed and in a large city, particularly after dark. To that end much of the bread and butter sales by America’s “gunsmiths” were inexpensive, imported self-defense pistols that could easily be carried in a coat or pant’s pocket.
Offered here is an extremely rare M Dickson Marked Imported English Pocket Pistol. The gun is a classic, Birmingham made, mid-19th century self-defense gun made for the middle class market. The gun is 7 ¾” in overall length with a 3” octagonal twist-off barrel with a .48 caliber smooth bore. In the British caliber description system, .48 caliber would be called “42 Bore”, or rather one pound of lead would produce 42 balls the correct size for this pistol. The gun is a single shot, percussion ignition pistol with a folding trigger that extends when the hammer is cocked. The barrel has a Damascus twist pattern and appears to have been browned, with a frame that is lightly engraved with simple foliate designs that was either browned or blued originally. The hammer is engraved with foliate decorations of the same pattern. The bolster includes as small clean out screw, a feature not found on the lowest quality of guns of this style. The gun has a finely checkered, one-piece bag grip that includes a German silver cap box in the butt. A simple set of fixed sights are mounted on the pistol, a fixed notch rear and a dovetailed German silver blade front sight. A diamond-shaped German silver escutcheon is mounted as a thumbpiece on the upper rear of the grip.
The bottom of the barrel is marked with a single post-1813 Birmingham proof mark, while the bottom of the frame has a pair of the Birmingham proofs. The top of the breech is clearly engraved in a Gothic script:
with the barrel further engraved in the same pattern:
The style and quality of the engraving suggests that it was applied in England by the maker, rather than by Moses Dickson or his shop. This further suggests that Dickson likely ordered enough pistols from the maker or wholesaler to make it worth having them engraved as part of the order.
This scarce Moses Dickson retailer pistol remains in near VERY GOOD condition, showing moderate real-world wear. The pistol remains 100% complete, correct and original. The frame and hammer have a mostly even dark bluish-brown patina with some gray mottling. As noted, the Damascus patterned barrel was browned and retains some traces of that finish but shows a moderately oxidized brown patina over much of its surface. The barrel shows some scattered light pitting as well as some scattered impact marks. The barrel is not quite indexed correctly to the frame, with the octagonal breech and barrel not quite aligning perfectly. The barrel is frozen and cannot be rotated by hand, although soaking it in penetrating oil and using a wrench for addition torque would likely break it free and allow the two parts to be more closely aligned. All of the decorative engraved patterns remain crisp and fully visible, as does the retailer information on the top of the breech and barrel. The pistol is fully functional, with the action operating correctly on all positions. The folding trigger deploys as it should and can be folded back correctly after the hammer is released. The percussion cone (nipple) is worn and a hole that has been worn in its side, likely the result of erosion from the hot gasses. The bore is moderately oxidized with evenly distributed moderate pitting along its entire length. The German silver mountings have a moderately dull, slightly tarnished appearance. The one-piece checkered walnut grip rates about near VERY GOOD as well. The grip is solid with no breaks or repairs. There are two chips missing from the grip on the lower leading edges where the grip meets the frame, but otherwise there is no significant damage. The checkering remains fairly crisp, with the expected wear and some smoothing. As would also be expected, the grip shows the usual scattered bumps, dings, handling marks and minor mars typically encountered on a 19th century pocket pistol.
Overall, this is a very nice, solid, and complete example of a very scarce Louisville, KY retailer marked percussion pocket pistol that was imported pistol during the Antebellum period. This rare M Dickson marked pistol would be a fine addition to any Civil War era handgun collection, and since it was sold in a boarder state, this gun may well have gone off to war in 1861 as the pocket pistol for either a Yankee or Confederate soldier. It would also be equally at home in a collection of arms and memorabilia that center around the western expansion, the gold rush era or even riverboat gambling. This is one of those guns that were it able to talk, might well have some very interesting stories to tell, as it is from one of the most volatile and interesting periods of American history.