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British P-1842 Sea Service Pistol with Experimental Rifled Bore

British P-1842 Sea Service Pistol with Experimental Rifled Bore

  • Product Code: FHG-1623-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a wonderful example of a scarce, experimentally rifled British Pattern 1842 Percussion Sea Service Pistol. The P-1842 Sea Service Pistol was one of the first designs by George Lovell to be adopted by the Board of Ordnance. Lovell had been made Inspector of Small Arms in 1840, and set about to standardize and modernize the small arms in use by the British military. His first project was to develop percussion arms to replace the flintlock arms that predominated the various British services at that time. One of the goals of the newly designed arms was to create standardized regulation calibers for the arms in service. This would simplify the acquisition and distribution of ammunition. The 1840s found Great Britain in a period of peace, with limited funds being appropriated for the use of the military and Board of Ordnance for the acquisition and manufacture of small arms. With an eye towards economy, Lovell attempted to design arms that would utilize existing stocks of small arms parts in the various Board of Ordnance storage facilities. His pistol design for the use of the sea services (both Royal Navy and Coast Guard) was originally designed to allow for the use of parts on hand. As such, the early production guns tend to utilize flintlock lock plates and parts where possible, even though the guns were assembled as percussion arms from their inception. This was similar to the use of left over musket parts with the Pattern 1839 musket, which for all practical purposed was an upgraded India Pattern (aka “3rd Model”) Brown Bess. As the stocks of small parts were used up, and pistols assembled from newly manufactured parts were set up, the P-1842 pistol evolved to more closely resemble Lovell’s P-1842 Musket series of arms. The P-1842 Sea Service pistol was a fairly squat and compact pistol that in many way resembled the US M-1842 Naval Pistol of the same era. The gun utilized a conventional side mounted lock and hammer, while the US pistol used a “box lock” action. The P-1842 pistol was about 11” in overall length, with a 6” round barrel that was secured to the stock with a single screw through the breech plug tang and a single round iron stock pin. The pistol was revolutionary in many ways for the Sea Service. It was not only the first percussion ignition pistol, but was also the first reduced bore pistol, being only .56 caliber (versus earlier .58 and larger pistols), and had a much shorter barrel than earlier models. Like its predecessors, the pistol had a 5 ““ long iron belt hook attached to the flat, opposite the lock to allow the pistol to be easily thrust into the pants, belt or sash of a sailor, leaving his hands free to handle ropes or other weapons while boarding (or repelling the boarders from) an enemy ship. The P-1842 retained the brass furniture and mountings that had typified English military pistols for more than a century, and introduced a captive rammer system that would remain in use on many British military small arms for the next 20+ years. The pistol had a flat butt with a large, swiveling iron lanyard ring. As the pistols were smoothbore, they had no sights as originally manufactured. The P-1842 Sea Service Pistol remained in use with the Royal Navy for an extended amount of time, long after percussion revolvers had proved to be reliable for military use. The Royal Navy did receive about 9,000 Colt M-1851 Navy revolvers during the Crimean War (1854-1856), but the guns did not become standard issue, with the single shot P-1842 remaining the typical service pistol. Amazingly, as the British Army adopted the P-1853 “Enfield” rifle musket and the associated family of long arms, including rifles and carbines and even a rifled cavalry (lancer’s) pistol, the Royal Navy remained content with the smoothbore P-1842 pistol. Interestingly the Navy experimented with rifled long arms and utilized a number of various patterns, but paid no additional attention to improving their smoothbore pistol. This may be because the British military had a generally biased view against the carrying of pistols in military service (other than by officers, sergeants major and trumpeters, only Lancers carried pistols), or because the close combat quarters found in the confines of a ship were believed to render the advantages of a rifled pistol moot. Eventually, the Board of Ordnance looked at the potential of upgrading the P-1842 pistols by rifling them. In January of 1864 experiments began at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock (RSAF) with the rifling of the guns. The first examples were bored to .577 caliber and rifled with 5 grooves (as was the P-1858 Naval Rifle), with a relatively fast twist of 1 turn in 30”. Very few of these pistols are known to exist other than in British public institutions. According to Dr. C.H. Roads, author of The British Soldier’s Firearm From Smoothbore to Smallbore 1850-1864, a few additional examples of rifled P-1842 pistols are known, including one in his personal collection. These guns were rifled with 3 grooves and a much slower rate of twist. Based on the example offered here, it appears that the rate of twist is about 1 in 48”, which was the standard rate of twist in the P-1858 Naval Rifle, as well as the P-1860 and P-1861 rifles. Any rifled P-1842 pistols are extremely scarce, and based upon extant examples, are considered to be only experimental, and to have been issued only on a trial basis. Eventually Royal Navy single shot percussion pistols were superseded by the revolver, but it appears that the P-1842 remained in at least limited use through the early 1870s, long after the guns were completely and utterly obsolete.

This example of a very scarce Experimental Rifled Pattern 1842 Sea Service Pistol is in about FINE condition. The pistol is 100% complete and correct in every way, and remains very crisp and sharp throughout. The lock of the pistol is clearly marked with the usual (BRITISH CROWN) / VR) to the rear of the hammer, and is marked 1855 / TOWER forward of the hammer, along with a small (CROWN) / (BROAD ARROW) British military ownership mark. The lock is smooth and free of any pitting, and retains some traces of its original mottled case hardened colors, which have faded to a smoky gray patina with bluish undertones. The lock operates crisply and correctly on all positions and is mechanically excellent. The pistol is one of the later production P-1842 pistols with an “Enfield” style lock and snail (bolster) profile. The hammer also retains traces of coloring and has the same smoky gray patina as the lock. The spur of the hammer has the classic curled tip that is associated with Lovell’s P-1842 musket and the 1st model of the P-1853 Enfield. The breech of the pistol is marked with multiple British military proof marks in two rows, consisting of various view and inspection marks, having been inspected by Birmingham military inspectors number 9, 42 and 44. The barrel retains strong traces of its original blued finish, which has blended with an attractive plum brown patina. The barrel surface is quite smooth and is free of any pitting, with only some very lightly scattered pinpricking present. The bore of the pistol is in VERY FINE condition and measures about .57”. The bore remains mostly bright with excellent 3-groove, slow twist rifling. The grooves are approximately half the width of the lands. The bore shows only the most minor scattered areas of light pitting, and would probably shoot very accurately today with the correct load. During the modification process when the pistol was rifled, a rudimentary set of sights was added to the barrel. A simple notched rear sight was added to the breech tang, and small front sight blade was added about .37” from the muzzle. The original captive ramrod is present in the channel under the barrel and it functions smoothly. The rod is marked on the end with both Birmingham military inspection marks and file slash assembly marks. The original iron belt hook is present on the left side of the pistol, attached to the flat opposite the lock. It is also clearly marked with Birmingham military inspection marks. The brass furniture of the pistol (butt cap, triggerguard and ramrod pipe) has an untouched golden patina that is very attractive. The original lanyard ring is present in the butt of the pistol, and still swivels smoothly. The right side of the grip is marked just behind the lock with a crisp (BROAD ARROW) / BO Board of Ordnance storekeepers mark. Three additional inspection marks are present along the right side of the grip. The stock flat, opposite the lock is marked T. TURNER and A. TERRY. Both marks are upside down, with the Turner mark closer to the muzzle and the Terry mark closer to the grip. Abraham Terry was a Birmingham based gun and pistol maker during the 1830s, and Thomas Turner was one of the largest and most successful members of the Birmingham gun trade. Turner was born in 1805 and entered the gun trade in 1834 as a “gun barrel maker”. By 1838 he had become a “gun & pistol maker” and quickly developed a reputation for making high quality arms. His innovations and designs resulted in the registration of several British patents, and by the late 1850s he was one of the most imported of the British military arms contractors. It is likely that Tuner was the master contractor for this pistol, which was probably assembled (or actually built) by Abraham Terry, who may have been doing piece work for Turner at the time. The stock is in VERY FINE condition. It is complete and solid with no breaks, cracks or repairs. The stock retains the large majority of its original varnish. The stock is extremely crisp and sharp with excellent lines. It shows no signs of having been sanded or cleaned. The stock does show a handful of minor bumps and dings from handling, service, use and storage, but nothing significant. The only issue worth mentioning, and it is extremely minor, is a tiny chip of wood missing at the lower rear edge of the lock plate, about 3/16" in size. This is the result of the improper removal of the lock. Other than this minor blemish, the stock is really in fantastic condition.

Overall this is a really wonderful example of a very scarce, experimental rifled M-1842 Sea Service Pistol. The gun is in great condition, retains some original finish and has a gorgeous patina. The gun is mechanically excellent, is crisply marked, and has both a fantastic bore and stock. The pistol was manufactured in 1855 and could well have seen Crimean War service, and likely continued to serve until it was rifle in 1864. At that point in time it was almost certainly returned to service for field trials, likely remaining aboard ship until the P-1842 pistols were removed from service. High condition smoothbore P-1842 pistols are hard enough to find on the market today, but the rifled examples are extremely scarce. This is a great example of a very rare rifled Royal Naval pistol in wonderful condition, which will be a fantastic addition to any collection British military arms, especially one of Crimean era items and British Naval arms.


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Tags: British, P, 1842, Sea, Service, Pistol, with, Experimental, Rifled, Bore