This is a very nice example of the classic English percussion “over coat” pistol from the mid-19thcentury. Once the percussion ignition system was adopted, pistol of this form were produced in some quantity for self-defense use. These mid-sized, larger bore pistols were effective for protection against foot pads and were easily carried in the outer pocket of an over coat.
This example measures 11 ¾” in overall length with a 6 5/8” octagonal barrel and a 30-bore (about .54 caliber) smooth bore. The barrel is of the hooked breech design and is retained by a single iron wedge in the forend with a German silver escutcheon. The pistol has a browned barrel, blued iron hardware and a walnut stock with checkered grip. The lock is a traditional front action percussion lock, secured by a single screw. The 3 3/8” flat beveled stepped lock includes a sliding safety behind the hammer. This is a design holdover from the latter part of the flintlock period. The safety is slid forward as the hammer is raised to the half-cock position, locking the hammer into the half-cock notch and preventing it from cocking or releasing until the safety bar is withdrawn. The lock is moderately engraved with simple foliate scrolls and the hammer is engraved en-suite. The hammer is secured to the tumbler with a slotted bun nut. The iron triggerguard and ramrod entry pipe are blued and are lightly engraved with similar foliate motifs. A brass tipped wooden ramrod that appears to be original to the pistol is present in the channel under the barrel. The ramrod has a brass jag at the reverse end that unscrews to reveal an iron ball screw to unload the pistol. A lozenge shaped German silver escutcheon is present on the wrist of the stock. The lock is engraved with the name PETHER along the lower edge of the lock plate, below the percussion bolster. William Pether was an Oxford, Oxfordshire based gunsmith who worked circa on St. Aldate’s Street circa 1829-1852. According to DeWitt Bailey’s research, six of the fifteen gunsmiths that he lists as working during the 19thcentury in Oxford were on St. Aldate’s Street, suggesting that it was the central hub of the Oxford gunmaking community. The next largest group of gunsmiths were five men who worked on High Street. The overall design of the pistol is not dramatically different from the flintlock pistols that were being produced during the 1820s and 1830s and is simply an early percussion era evolution of those pistols, which likely dates from the 1840s. The bottom of the barrel is marked with a pair of post-1813 Birmingham commercial proof marks.
The pistol remains in about VERY GOOD condition. It appears to be 100% complete, correct and original in every way, including the ramrod. The barrel retains about 80% coverage of an old, thinning browned finish that is probably from after the period of use, but that has some good age and an attractive appearance. The barrel is mostly smooth with some scattered areas of light surface oxidation and some scattered light pitting here and there. The bore is about GOOD to VERY GOOD and is mostly bright with scattered light pitting with some small patches of more moderate pitting. The lock and breech have been cleaned to bright and are dulling down with a lightly oxidized medium pewter patina with a smoky tone. The engraving remains clear on the lock with the name PETHER somewhat light and worn. The lock shows some scattered light pitting and some oxidized age discoloration. The breech has the same overall appearance as the lock. The triggerguard retains some strong traces of its blued finish, with the entry pipe showing only minimal traces of blue. The lock remains fully functional in all respects and works very well. The hammer nose has a small chip missing on the left side from the cone skirt, but this does not affect the function of the pistol or the display and appearance of the gun. The stock is in about FINE condition and remains solid and complete. It is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. As would be expected, the stock shows scattered bumps, dings and mars from handling and use. The checkering of the grip remains crisp with only some light wear and a few minor dings.
Overall, this is a solid and attractive example of an English percussion pistol from the mid-19thcentury that would be a nice addition to any collection of percussion pistols. It is very reasonably priced and is certainly “a lot of gun for the money”.