Belgian Pinfire Pepperbox - About Excellent
- Product Code: FHG-1669-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The multi-barreled percussion pepperbox designs from the first half of the 19th century provided the first somewhat reliable revolving firearm system for the average citizen to purchase and carry for self protection. While the popularity of the guns was limited to the roughly two decades between the widespread introduction of the percussion cap and the widespread success of traditional percussion revolvers by Colt and other manufacturers, the basic idea was sound and would experience a mid-19th century renaissance with the introduction of the pinfire cartridge. Percussion pepperboxes were inherently slow to load and somewhat unreliable due to the percussion ignition system. They did, however, provide a convenient multi-shot self-protection handgun that was easily carried and concealed. The development of the self-contained, pinfire cartridge by Casimir Lefaucheux in 1836 would dramatically affect the popularity of the pepperbox in coming decades. While Casimir was concerned with the development of pinfire shotguns and their accompanying cartridges, his son Eugene concentrated on the application of the cartridge and the revolving pistol concept to create a successful self-contained cartridge pistol, which resulted in his invention of the famous M-1854 Lefaucheux revolver. The success of the cartridge system and the revolver spawned hundreds of variations, copies, improvements and outright patent infringements on the Lefaucheux design throughout Europe, especially in France and Belgium. It is quite likely that Gilles Mariette of France is responsible for the merging of the pepperbox revolving pistol design and the pinfire cartridge. Mariette held multiple patents related to revolving arms and produced a line of very popular pepperboxes in a variety of calibers. Soon pinfire pepperboxes in calibers as diminutive as 5mm and as large as 12mm (or larger) were being produced across Europe for use as discretely carried self-protection pistols. The guns were typically ring trigger or folding trigger designs, barrel clusters as small as 3 and as large as 12 or more. However, the 5 or 6 shot cluster seemed to predominate, usually in a medium caliber like 9mm. The guns were loaded and unloaded in a variety of ways, with some requiring the disassembly of the pistol and removal of the barrel clusters to access the chambers and more advanced designs using loading gates. Some variants even included a removable single barrel extension that could be screwed into the front of the frame, transforming the pepperbox into a more conventional revolver. The pepperbox with a 9mm pinfire cartridge offered quite a bit more punch and power than similar sized pocket revolvers in .22 or .32 rimfire, and became quite a popular handgun throughout Europe, England and even parts of the United States during the middle part of the 19th century, not being truly superseded until the reliable centerfire cartridges of the 1870s and 1880s made the pinfire system obsolete.
Offered here is a wonderfully fine, NEAR EXCELLCELLENT condition example of a Belgian made 9mm Pinfire Pepperbox, probably made between the latter part of the 1860s and about 1880s. The gun has very few markings to determine its specific origin, but a small oval * / E / LG proof mark on the rear edge of the cylinder confirms that pistol was made in Li’ge, prior to 1893. The rear edge of the cylinder also shows a * / X Belgian controller’s mark, and the same mark is present on the right side of the frame, below the cylinder. The rear face of the cylinder is also marked | T |, the meaning of which is not known, but is probably a workman’s mark. The face of the cylinder (concealed by the front of the frame) is marked with a simple G, again this is probably a workman’s mark. The assembly number “3” is represented throughout the pistol as three file slashes ( / / / ) on the loading gate, the front piece of the frame that retains the cylinder and as the number 3 in pencil, inside the grips. Under the grips, on the right side of the frame is the letter S and on the left side of the frame are the letters JM. This latter mark is probably the initials of the manufacturer of the pepperbox. The pistol is a six-shot, open top pepperbox, with a folding trigger and loading gate. The pistol is about 5 ““ in overall length with a 2 3/16” long cylinder. The barrel cluster is blued, the frame is case hardened and the trigger, hammer, cylinder arbor strut and face of the cylinder are all polished and “in the white”. The frame retains about 30%+ of its original case coloring, which has faded and dulled, but still shows areas of vivid mottled colors, with attractive browns, blues and purples still quite visible, particularly in protected areas. The grip strap and grip frame have a dull, mottled, smoky gray patina. The frame is smooth throughout, and shows only some lightly speckled pinpricking, mostly along the bottom portion under the cylinder. The 6-shot, 9mm fluted cylinder retains about 80% of its original bright blued finish, which shows some thinning and fading. Those thinning and fading areas are starting to take on a plum patina, mixed with the original blue. Most of the actual loss is along the high edges, sharp edges and contact points. There are some lightly scattered patches of minor surface oxidation starting to pop up as a thin layer mixed with the blue in the thinner areas. The chambers of the revolver are mirror smooth and quite bright. The rifled portions of the six chambers are excellent as well; with bright bores and crisp four groove rifling. There is some old dirt and crud that could be cleaned from the chambers, but they are otherwise excellent. The pistol is excellent mechanical condition and the double action mechanism functions flawlessly. The pistol also functions smoothly in single action mode, and the pepperbox times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The loading gate functions correctly as well, opening smoothly and locking securely into its closed positions. The original ejector rod is present, screwed into the bottom of the grip. When unscrewed it allows empty cartridges to be removed from the cylinder through the loading gate. The two-piece walnut grip panels are in EXCELLENT condition, and retain the large majority of their original varnish. The grips show the expected minor handling bumps and bruises from carry and use, but are free of any breaks, cracks, chips or repairs.
Overall this is an extremely crisp example of a 9mm Pinfire Pepperbox in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The gun retains lots of finish, is mechanically perfect and is very attractive. This will be a great addition to any collection of pocket pistols or pepperboxes, especially those that are high condition and are really pretty to look at.SOLD