Excellent & Rare Rifled US Navy M-1842 Pistol by Deringer
- Product Code: FHG-1692-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a fantastic, investment grade, example of one of the rarest of the US martial single shot pistols, the Rifled US M-1842 Naval Pistol by Henry Deringer. The US M-1842 Naval Pistol has always been a sort of mysterious poorly documented pistol. In fact for many years arms historians labeled it the M-1843 Naval Pistol, but research has shown that the initial contract for the pistols was dated September 1 of 1842, and there are a few extant examples that bear 1842 dates, settling that argument once and for all. The M-1842 is credited with being a revolutionary arm, in that it was the first US military pistol to utilize the percussion ignition system, and on an extremely limited basis, it was the first US military pistol to be produced with a rifled bore. In one respect this is not exactly true, as the C.B. Allen produced Elgin Cutlass Pistol pre-dated the arrival of the M-1842 by about 5 years, and it used the percussion ignition system as well. However, that pistol was produced in extremely small quantities (only 150), most of which were specifically bound for the US Navy’s Wilkes South-Seas Exploration Expedition. Those guns did not see general issue. This makes them experimental or special purpose, allowing the Ames produced M-1842 pistols to be the first US Naval (or US military) percussion pistols to see general issue. The overall design profile of the M-1842 is dramatically different from all pervious (and subsequent) US military single shot pistols. It is also quite obvious to 19th century military arms students that the pistol is quite similar to the British M-1842 Naval Pistol from the same period. The coincidence is hardly that, and the heavy British influence on the design has a clear explanation. During the early 1840s, Nathan P. Ames Jr. of the famous Ames Manufacturing Company was commissioned by the US Government to travel to England and Europe and visit the leading arsenals and military arms manufactories of the world. This was a time when most of the European military powers were in the process of transitioning to the percussion ignition system, or at the very least were experimenting with the system. While Ames was in England, he more than likely visited with George Lovell, the newly appointed Inspector of Small Arms for the British Board of Ordnance. Lovell was in the midst of trying to modernize the small arms of the British military, by adopting the percussion system and updating and improving existing arms patterns. One of his first designs to go into production was the M-1842 Naval pistol, which was a compact, conventional front action lock percussion single shot pistol with a one-piece walnut stock, brass mountings and a 6” round smooth bore barrel of .56 caliber. The stock had a unique flat butt, a dramatic change from the bulbous, rounded, club-butt designs of earlier English (and American) Naval pistols. The design also incorporated a captive ramrod that swiveled under the barrel. Clearly this design made an impression on Ames, as the US M-1842 Naval Pistol was nearly a carbon copy of Lovell’s design. The other English gun design that was apparently impressive to Ames was Henry Nock’s “Inside Lock” or “Box Lock” design, where the hammer was contained inside the lock plate. This left the exterior of the pistol relatively smooth and snag free, and made it much handier to stuff into a waistband, belt or sash, as seamen often did when boarding an enemy vessel. This allowed the conventional belt hook to be omitted from the design, a feature that had been synonymous sea service pistols since the introduction of handguns to sea going vessels. The US Navy obviously liked what Ames had seen and subsequently designed, and on September 1, 1842, the Navy placed an order with Ames for 3,832 of his newly designed M-1842 Naval Pistols at the price of $5.00 each. The guns were single shot, percussion smoothbore pistols in .54 caliber with a 6” round barrel, a captive ramrod, a one-piece stock with a flat butt, brass furniture and a flat, Henry Nock inspired “box lock”. The contract specified that the arms were to be delivered over the course of one year, but production difficulties slowed the delivery significantly. Only 300 were delivered in 1842, with an additional 1,700 delivered to the Navy over the next three years. It is believed that Ames only completed some 2,000 of the pistols for the Navy between 1842 and 1845. A small handful of the Ames production specimens (likely less than 400) were also purchased by the US Revenue Cutter Service, who are often thought of as the predecessor to the Coast Guard. While the Revenue Cutter Service eventually morphed into today’s Coast Guard, their 18th and 19th century mission was to stop smugglers and collect taxes and tariffs on imported goods. This makes their 19th century mission more like that of today’s IRS or any of the current enforcement arms of the Department of the Treasury. On July 1, 1845 the US Navy issued a second contract for the M-1842 Naval Pistols. This contract was for 1,200 guns, and it appears that it was an attempt to obtain the balance of the guns due from the original Ames contract, which was probably modified from 3,832 to 2,000 and the additional guns that were delivered to the Revenue Service. This second contract was awarded to Henry Deringer of Philadelphia. Deringer purchased all of the machinery to make the pistols from Ames, resulting in a nearly identical product. The primary difference was that rather than bearing Ames markings, these arms bear the markings of Henry Deringer. Three variants of the Deringer lock marking are known, with the first being a small two line stamp that reads: DERINGER / PHILADEL’A. It is believed that this is the same marking stamp used for Deringer’s M-1817 Common Rifle contracts. The second variation carries the same two line marking, with a large U.S. over it. The third variation has the same two line lock marking, but is also stamped U.S.N. / 1847 in two lines, vertically, at the tail of the lock. It is believed that most of the guns produced by Deringer were never delivered to, or at least never accepted by, the Navy. In general, it is believed that the pistols with the U.S.N. marking on the tail of the lock were acquired by the Navy, and that the ones with the large U.S. were probably acquired by the Navy as well (or possibly the Army). Those with neither the US or USN markings are considered commercial guns that were sold to the general public. A very small number of extant Deringer contract guns are known today with rifled bores. The bores have the same style of deep, 7-groove rifling found on Deringer’s Common Rifles. It is generally believed that less than 200 of these pistols were produced, and it is likely that less than 40 of them exist today. These guns are very significant to the history of US martial small arms as they were the first handguns produced for the US military with rifled bores. There is still debate among scholars as to whether these very scarce pistols were acquired by the Navy, or purchased by the US Army. In either case it appears that they were strictly experimental to study the effectiveness and suitability of the use of rifled bores in handguns. All known, authentic examples of the rifled Deringer pistols have the lock marking with the large U.S. over the Deringer markings, which indicates that these pistols were absolutely acquired for US military service. Establishing the history of these unique pistols is somewhat difficult, as the major texts on the subject of US Naval Small Arms tend to leave this model out. William Gilkerson’s seminal work Boarder’s Away II “ Firearms of the Age of Fighting Sail ends with the age of percussion arms, and only mentions the Elgin Naval Cutlass Pistol in passing, with no commentary at all on the M-1842. Likewise, John McAulay’s definitive work Civil War Small Arms of the US Navy and Marine Corps starts in the 1850s, after the M-1842 was obsolete and the percussion revolver was becoming the standard handgun in Naval service. Frederick Winter’s US Naval Handguns: 1808-1911 was somewhat more helpful, but is somewhat dated as well, and Robert Reilly’s United States Martial Small Arms 1816-1865 was helpful as well, although some of Reilly’s information and Winter’s information do contradict each other, making it necessary to interpret what the reality of the situation really is. I hope the foregoing has provided some clarity on the subject of a pistol that is not well covered in most books on 19th century martial arms, but is known as a difficult gun to find in high states of preservation, and even more difficult to find with a rifled bore.
Offered here is a truly fantastic example of the US M-1842 Rifled Naval Pistol by Henry Deringer, in about EXCELLENT overall condition. This is truly an investment and museum grade example of an extremely scarce pistol. The gun is wonderfully crisp and sharp throughout and is 100% complete, correct and original in every way. The lock of the pistol is clearly marked in three lines with a large U.S. over a much smaller DERINGER / PHILADEL’A. As is common with the rifled examples of this pistol that are known, there are no additional external markings on the gun. The pistol retains about 70%+ of its original lacquer browned finish on the barrel, with some thinning and wear. The majority of the thinning and loss is around the breech and bolster of the pistol, and along some of the high edges and contact point. The finish becomes thicker and deeper the further you get from the breech and the closer you get to the muzzle. There is some lightly freckled surface oxidation scattered around the breech area, and some very lightly scattered pinpricking scattered along the barrel. The lock has a medium pewter gray patina with some very light and muted traces of case colored mottling. The lock is mostly smooth, with some lightly scattered pinpricking, peppering and freckled surface oxidation on its surface. The hammer retains about 30% of its original vivid case coloring, with the balance of the hammer having the same pewter gray color as the lock, with some wispy traces muted coloring here and there. The largest area of vivid case coloring is present on the reverse neck of the inside lock hammer, where it has been protected. Most sources list the locks of these pistols as being finished “bright”, but it is clear that this lock was originally color case hardened in brilliant colors. The lock is mechanically EXCELLENT and functions crisply and correctly on all positions. The bore of the pistol is in VERY FINE condition. It retains excellent, crisp 7-groove rifling and is mostly bright. The bore does show some lightly scattered pitting along its length and a couple of small patches of more moderate pitting. There is no doubt that this pistol, even though it is in excellent condition, saw some real world use and was fired a number of times; possibly as a military trials or experimental gun. As it typically encountered on rifled M-1842 pistols, the gun has a small, fixed rear sight on the top of the barrel tang, and a small brass post front sight near the muzzle. Both are original and in excellent condition. The brass furniture of the pistol is in wonderful condition as well, and has a slightly muted, golden tone that is as attractive as the day it was manufactured. The brass does not appear to have been cleaned, but rather seems to still have its original cost of light protective lacquer that was typically applied to 19th brass military furniture to protect it, allowing the brass to maintain much of its original factory luster. All of the screws remain in very nice condition with crisp heads and little slot wear noted, with the exception of the tang screw, which shows some minor slot wear. The screws all retain some traces of their browned finish on their heads as well. The original swivel ramrod is in place on the pistol and functions smoothly and easily. The rammer appears to have been left bright from the swivel back, and browned forward of the swivel (when it is stored in the ramrod channel). The front portion of the rod retains about 50% of that original lacquer brown and the swivel mechanism retains about 80% of its original browned finish as well. The stock of the pistol is in truly EXCELLENT condition and is simply gorgeous. It is free of any breaks, cracks, chips or repairs and has never been sanded. All of the edges remain sharp and crisp throughout the pistol. The stock retains about 90%+ of its original lightly varnished finish, which shows only some light wear and thinning along high edges and contact point. The stock does show some lightly scattered handling marks and a few minor dings, most of which are around the breech tang, the lock mountain screw and to the rear of the hammer. For any US military single shot pistol, the condition of the stock is really amazing and is simply a fantastic example of how these guns looked when they were new.
Overall this is really stunning condition example of an extremely scarce US marital single shot pistol. US Naval weapons are always scarce, as they were procured in much smaller numbers than their Army counterparts. The Rifled US M-1842 Naval Pistol by Henry Deringer is one of the hardest of the US Naval handguns to find for sale on the market, and is extremely hard to find in such a wonderful state of preservation. For any advanced 19th century US martial pistol collector or an advanced US Navy collector, this is a gun that you simply can’t have missing from your collection. It is worthy of being the centerpiece of a fantastic display.SOLD