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Rare US Model 1813 Army Pistol by North

Rare US Model 1813 Army Pistol by North

  • Product Code: FHG-2092-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $0.00

Simeon North has been called the Patriarch of US Pistol Makers by a variety of US martial arms researchers and collectors. The irascible North had been born in Berlin, CT on July 13, 1765, the same day as inventor Eli Whitney. It is ironic that the futures of both men would be intertwined in the birth and development of New England manufacturing, the production of arms for a country that would not exist until more than a decade after their birth, and by pioneering the concept of manufacturing with interchangeable parts.

Young Simeon attempted to join the Continental Army in the fall of 1781, but the fall of Yorktown in October of that year had convinced most that the Revolutionary War was essentially over (even though it would technically continue for two more years), and Simeon was rejected. In 1795, rather than pursue the traditional and expected career as a farmer, he purchased a water driven sawmill and then refitted the mill to the manufacturing of farm implements, most notably scythes. During this time Simeon also formed a friendship with a local gunsmith names Elias Beckley, who likely had a significant influence on the young and impressionable entrepreneur and budding manufacturing mogul. By 1799, North felt sufficiently confident in his ability to manufacture firearms on a large scale that he solicited and received the first United States contract for the manufacture of military pistols. In cooperation with his brother in law, clock maker Elisha Cheney, North undertook to produce an Americanized copy of the French Model 1777 flintlock pistol, which will forever be known as the US M1799 North & Cheney Pistol. North received two contracts for the manufacture of the pistols, the first in 1799 for 500 guns and the second in 1800 for another 1,500. In total he delivered 2,000 of the pistols between 1799 and 1802, successfully completing his first military contract and establishing himself as the primary US pistol contractor. The next pattern of US pistol, the Model 1805, was produced at Harper’s Ferry, and North was not involved in the manufacture of that gun. However, in 1808, North contracted to provide what would be called the US Model 1808 Naval Pistol. This time, Cheney was not involved, and his name disappears from the story of Simeon North’s gun making. By this time North had also expanded and modernized his manufacturing facility and had been experimenting with the concept of making parts to such a tolerance that they were essentially interchangeable, or significantly more so than most items produced in the early 19th century. North applied his industrial knowhow and inventor’s eye to the modification, improvement and application of his interchangeable parts process to the sample pistol provided to him for the production contract. North improved and strengthened the pistol by including an iron backstrap that ran from the breech to the buttcap. He reasoned that since a naval boarding pistol was as likely to see as much service as a club as it would as a pistol, this modification would increase the survivability and service life of the pistol. US Naval manuals of the Federal Period even included instructions for how seamen should throw pistols as a weapon once they had been discharged. Obviously, all of those Hollywood movies that show idiots throwing an empty gun at their assailants are really tipping their hats to the seamen from the era of “Old Ironsides”! North also made some minor modifications to the furniture and fittings in an attempt to make the parts more “interchangeable”. The final version of the pistol was a full-stocked, single shot, smoothbore flintlock pistol with a nominally 10 1/8” round barrel that was secured to the pistol with the breech screw and by pins through the stock. As with his earlier North & Cheney contract arms, the barrels tended to vary by as much as a 1/8” in overall length. While the contract called for the pistols to be .64 caliber, most specimens encountered today show some minor variance in caliber. The pistol was brass mounted with a brass buttcap, triggerguard, side plate and rammer thimble, and was reinforced with an iron backstrap of North’s design. An iron belt hook was attached to the reverse of the pistol to allow a sailor to carry it securely thrust into his trousers, belt or sash, leaving his hands free to climb and clamber onto an enemy ship, and carry his primary weapon, the cutlass. The lock was a flat, beveled affair that included on of North’s innovations, a removable brass flash pan with a fence at its rear. A rounded reinforced cock completed the lock. Interestingly, while the M1808 pistols were serial numbered and assembly marked by North (mostly internally), they did not receive external inspection marks or proofs. So favorably was North’s pistol received that he was granted another contract on November 11, 1811 for what would be known as the Model 1811 pistol. The contract called for 1,000 pairs, and these were the first of North’s pistols to be marked with inspection and proof marks from the Ordnance Department.

North followed up on his M1811 contract with the Model 1813 pistol, which has the notoriety of being the first pistol manufactured for the US government on the principle of interchangeable parts, and with that specification included in the contract. It was at this time that North moved his primary manufacturing facility to Middletown, CT, leaving his son to operate the Berlin facility to manufacture parts. For nearly next two decades North would serve as the primary US military contract pistol maker, and would manufacture large quantities of M1816 pistols, M1819 pistols and M1826. He also entered the rifle manufacturing business by producing US M1817 “Common” Rifles on contract for the US government. When the M1826 pistol contract was completed, North acquired the contract to produce Hall’s Patent Rifles and Carbines for the US government. As Hall’s arms were manufactured on the principle of interchangeable parts, North was uniquely qualified to handle their manufacture. It is almost amazing to realize that during the 30 years that North served as the primary US contract pistol maker, from 1799-1829, he produced some 50,000 flintlock pistols. These guns saw service in every US conflict from the “Shores of Tripoli” through the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars, the Blackhawk War and even during the Civil War; though as typically as percussion conversions. North was a pioneering arms maker, who left an indelible imprint on early US martial arms design and manufacturing techniques.

North’s Model 1813 contract has the distinction of being one of the shortest duration US arms contracts, in which the weapon was altered, modified and essentially redesigned before 10% of the contract was fulfilled. The Model 1813 had its genesis in the Simeon North Army Contract Pistol of 1811. This pistol was contracted for on November 18, 1811 and the contract was for 1,000 pairs of .69 caliber single shot flintlock pistols with pinned barrels and brass furniture. During the production run, it was decided that the pistol should be modified and instead of relying upon pins to secure the barrel to the stock, a double strapped barrel band, secured by “Wickham’s Improvement” (a spring loaded stud retainer) be incorporated into the design. It was in fact US arsenal sub-inspector (and later arms contractor) Marine T. Wickham who suggested the barrel band modification to the Ordnance Department. The last of the M1811 pistols were manufactured in this fashion, and the subsequent model, the M1813 pistol also incorporated the new double-strapped barrel band and Wickham’s stud into its design. The M1813 was contracted for on April 16, 1813 and was a direct result of the United States involvement in the War of 1812. The contract called for 20,000 of the pistols to be manufactured, at the price of $7.00 each. The pistol was an improved version of the previous M1811 with iron furniture instead of brass but retained the massive .69 caliber “musket” bore of its predecessor. This excessively large caliber became problematic almost immediately, and production was temporarily halted in June of 1815 to allow the pistol to be re-designed in .54 caliber. During the period, pistol caliber was often referred to by the comparable caliber for the long arm of the same bore size. For example, the English used a nominal .65-.66 caliber for carbines, thus many British cavalry pistols were produced in “carbine bore” or .65-.66 caliber. For naval service the British used a nominally .56 caliber pistol, which they referred to as “pistol caliber.” In America, muskets were nominally .69 caliber, thus “musket bore” and rifles were nominally .54 caliber, or “rifle bore”. The decision was taken during 1815 that pistols should be “rifle bore” (.54 caliber), rather than “musket bore.”

Only 626 of the M1813 pistols had been delivered up to this point, and the remaining parts on hand were used to complete a contract of 1,000 .69 pistols for the US Navy, which would become known as the Model 1816 Flintlock Naval Pistol. On January 8, 1816 the original contract for 20,000 pistols was officially renegotiated and remaining 19,374 .69 caliber pistols that were due under the 1813 contract were to be delivered as the .54 caliber US Model 1816 Flintlock Army Pistol, at the newly negotiated price of $8.00 each. Many of the parts from the original M1813 pistol production were utilized in the manufacture of the new Model 1816.

The Model 1813 Flintlock Army Pistol actually went through some minor evolutions during its very short production run. There were some variations in lock markings and inspection marks during the brief period of deliveries, but these are minor. There were two major physical differences in a few of the guns. One group of about 85 guns were delivered after an arrangement was made with the Ordnance Department to deliver the last of the guns that were almost finished, even though they were still in the older, now abandoned .69 caliber. These guns had flat locks, rather than the usually encountered lock plates with beveled . The other obvious physical difference is the handful of final delivery pistols that have slightly longer stock forends that extend past the front of the barrel band. These stocks were being produced for the new M1816 pistols and were used on a handful of the later delivery .69 caliber guns. Otherwise, the features of the M1813 pistol were very consistent. The guns were nominally 15” in overall length, with nominally 9” barrels with an octagonal breech area that often varied as much as 1/8” +/- in overall length. The bores were .69 caliber and smoothbore. The pistols had 5 ½” long locks that usually had beveled edges and a convex tail that terminated in a point. The lock had removable fenced brass flash pan and a rounded, reinforced cock. The barrel was retained by the double strapped iron Wickham’s barrel band with the Wickham’s improvement stud. All mountings, other that the pan, were of iron. A wooden rammer made from hickory with a metal ferrule at the end was included as well. The metal end was slotted for cleaning patches and had female threads for the attachment of cleaning and ball pulling implements. The heavy duty pistol weighed in at a hefty 3 ¼ pounds. The very first of the M1813s delivered were inspected by Henry H. Perkins and have his initials stamped on the right side of the barrel near the touchhole, as well as over a “V” in the counterpane of the stock. Some of the HHP inspected barrels were also used on later pistol deliveries as Perkins inspected more finished barrels than completed pistols. The later deliveries were inspected by Luther Sage and are marked with a V/LS cartouche on the counterpane and most of these guns do not have the HHP mark on the barrel. All of the barrels were further marked with a P/US inspection on the left angled breech. Despite the fact that North intended the M1813 pistols to be interchangeable, mating and assembly marks are typically encountered. Mating marks that match the barrel to the stock and the lock stock are often encountered, as well as other small mating marks that indicate the various parts of the pistols go together. The Model 1813 design did not include any form of sights, although a brass blade front sight was introduced in the subsequent M1816 design.

This example of a Simeon North US Model 1813 Army Pistol is in about NEAR VERY GOOD overall condition. With only 626 of these “army” pistols being delivered, they are very scarce. The large majority of these pistols were altered to percussion at some point during their lifetime, and this gun is no exception. It has, however, been skillfully re-converted to flint and the work is very well done, capable of deceiving even many advanced collectors. As original flint examples of the M1813 pistol can easily reach the low five-figures in price, it is essential to know if you are buying an original flint M1813 or a reconversion. This gun offers the collector a chance to own one of the rarest of the US marital single-shot pistols at a very reasonable price, with the appearance of being in original flint, but without having to spend $10,000 to do it.

The pistol is crisply marked on the lock with the standard Model 1813 lock marking: S. NORTH / U {EAGLE} S / MIDLN CON. No “HHP” mark is present near the touchhole, so this is not one of the early Perkins inspected barrels. The left angled barrel flat is clearly inspected with usual P/US proof mark. The weak outline of the V/LS cartouche is present on the counterpane of the stock, with minute traces of the initials visible under magnification with good light. The bottom of the barrel is mating marked to the stock with two different marks. The first are four slashes, | | | |, which are also found in the barrel channel. The second is the number 42, which is also found stamped into the lock mortise. The breech plug and barrel have matching dot mating marks. Nearly every piece of furniture, along with the accompanying screws are marked with a small punch dot and two file slashes, indicating that all of these parts go together. As mentioned, the lock is a high quality reconversion to flint. It appears to use a number of original parts, probably from a US M1816 pistol lock, as many of these parts were the same between the two models. The pan is an original pan, probably from a North 1816 pistol and has a touch mark underneath similar to those found on the small parts of the gun. The hammer appears to be an original hammer as well; again, likely from an 1816 lock. The top jaw screw has been repaired and it is not clear if the screw and top jaw are high quality replacements or 1816 parts as well. The steel (frizzen) appears to be a quality reproduction, although it may be a worn original with some roughness around the hinge. The screws that secure the external flint battery are replacements as is the steel (frizzen) spring. This spring is not well tempered and took a set during the dismantling of the lock to inspect the various parts. As a result, it does not correctly tension the steel (frizzen), and the steel is a little loose. The lock remains fully functional and operates as it should. The metal of the pistol has been lightly cleaned, and the iron barrel and furniture now have a medium pewter patina. There is light pinpricking scattered on some of the furniture and on part of the barrel, with the most obvious areas being the at breech and on the upper band, where some light pitting is also present. The metal also shows some scattered lightly freckled surface oxidation and some scattered age discoloration. The smooth bore of the pistol is in about VERY GOOD condition. It is evenly oxidized and somewhat dirty, with light pitting evenly distributed along its entire length. The bore would likely improve somewhat with a vigorous cleaning, as it is free of major pitting or significant wear. The hickory ramrod appears to be original to the period and is complete with a well-worn and lightly pitted iron cleaning ferrule at the end with functional internal threads for the attachment of implements. The stock of the pistol rates about VERY GOOD as well. It is solid, full-length and complete, but does show a couple of cracks as do most pistols of this style. There is an old crack that has been skillfully repaired in the grip, at about the height of the joint between the butt cap and the backstrap. This is clearly shown from both sides in the photos. The crack is tight and stable and is no longer a structural issue. There is also a very short, tight grain crack at the rear lock screw, running to the barrel channel. This crack is found on the majority of two-screw forward action lock stock. It is quite minor but mentioned for exactness. The stock also shows some scattered bumps, dings and impact marks. The most noticeable of which is a ding on the bottom to the left of the triggerguard. A handful of small chips are missing as well, mostly around the lock mortise and in front of the triggerguard. Again, these are minor and well documented in the photos. The stock was lightly cleaned long ago and was likely lightly sanded, but still retains good lines. The edges are slightly soft, but not excessively so. There is some small added finish on the reverse of the butt, where the crack was repaired. The stock is marked in ink on the interior of the backstrap cut out: Peter Newman 4/78. It is not clear if Mr. Newman owned the gun or was the person who performed the repairs and reconversion of the gun in April of 1978. Despite the fact that the gun is more than 200 years old, it remains in very nice and very presentable condition.

Overall this is a very nice example of one of the rarest of the US martial single shot handguns, a gun produced specifically for the War of 1812. With only 626 of these guns produced and delivered to the army, they are exceptionally scarce today. If even 10% of these guns have survived more than 200 years to remain in collections, that means that only about sixty of these pistols are extant. Despite the fact that this one has been reconverted to flint, the work is so well done with parts primarily original, that it would pass the inspection of most collectors and many dealers. However, it is priced at less than half of the price of an original flint example. When the rarity of these pistols is considered, the price of this solid, well-marked and very attractive example is really a bargain.


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