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Old 3rd February 2021, 02:00 AM   #1
M ELEY
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Default A large 19th century flintlock pistol

Here is an overly large flintlock pistol made by ELG in Belgium. This type gun was popular with sailors and is listed in multiple publications as such. It has a large bore barrel and a lanyard wing at the butt. This feature allowed a sailor to attach a cord to his wrist so as not to lose it in the heart of battle on a crowded deck. I believe the wood is walnut? The 'ELG' mark is an early form pre-dating 1830 if I recall. There is a V under a crown mark and an indecipherable stamp to the barrel as well. Note the lack of ramrod, which was deemed pointless as no reloading in the melee of a boarding.
One question I have is whether there is any truth that these pistols were also used by British cavalry in Africa?? It is close to the size of their so-called howdah pistols. Horsemen would also have little opportunity to reload and not need a ramrod.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 05:34 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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This is an outstanding pistol!
From what I have found, these have been termed 'Belgian Sea Service' pistols and were made in Liege for export, with England being a heavy purchaser of them. The example I found has a 14" barrel, 25" overall, and .69 cal.
It has the same narrowing stock at end with no ramrod, and at all points seems identical.
The ELG stamp is of course Liege, and apparently was required to be placed n the barrel. used 1811-1892.

The crowned 'V' is the viewers mark , Gunmakers of London, and was placed on the lock for all guns either made there or any imports brought in.

These seem larger than the East India Co. flintlocks which were produced 1820-1840, being one of the last military flintlocks for England.

It is noted that these Belgian sea service pistols were known to have seen service in the War of 1812.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 01:51 PM   #3
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V nice solid looking pistol.

According to my British books of proofs, this Liege proof marks is still in use for black powder muzzle -loaders.
The book says "used since 1968" But!.. of course that does not mean it wasn't in use Prior to 1968!... just that it Continued in use later than..
If it has English view marks, it should also have an English proof mark.

Would it be possible to show the marks please, M Eley?

British cavalry regiments used British Ordnance marked weapons, and British cavalry pistols by this time period had swivel rammers.

Thanks for showing!

R.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 02:08 PM   #4
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I find it interesting it has no ramrod because there would be no time to reload in a melee, and yet there is a lanyard to stop you losing it in said melee.
I think I would have been inclined to dump the pistol once fired and grab something more useful.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 02:56 PM   #5
Fernando K
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Hi there

I ask if it is a V crowned, or a W crowned, because I have seen Belgian weapons with the W crowned, in the same place, the lock plate

Affectionately
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Old 3rd February 2021, 03:35 PM   #6
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Thank you gentlemen for all replying.

Jim, thank you for providing the caliber of the barrel, .69! A big barrel that could put down any mutiny! There is a pistol exactly like mine in the Greenwich Maritime Museum as used by the Brits...

Richard G, I would agree if in a land battle. But considering that all firearms were one-shot and melee combat on the deck made reloading almost impossible (these boarding actions were often completed or repelled in mere minutes!), I don't think it would be a poor choice. I also hate to bring up lagrage, as I know many point out this ruins the gun, but there are instances where this did take place. A smooth barrel such as this could fire whatever was crammed down the barrel (think 'partridge shot'), making a mess of a group of charging sailors. It is a very heavy piece and would have made a good club afterward, which sounds archaic, but think about the belaying pins and blunt cutlasses often used in such dust-ups.

Pukka, you bring up a good point! Really, with the exception of the EIC over the star mark, illegible small stamp and V(?) over crown, there isn't any other marking, so perhaps this wasn't an exported example?

Which brings us to Fernando K's question as to whether it is a V or W? The stamp isn't very clear. I guess it could be a W, meaning strictly a Belgian mark.

My question is if it is only Belgian marked, could it still be a sea service 'private purchase' weapon? Weapons carried by non-naval frigates and such didn't have ordinance marks, did they? I know that is the case for edged weapons/axes, but not sure about fire arms??? I'll have another look at that marking with a magnifying glass...

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Old 3rd February 2021, 06:47 PM   #7
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Very nice pistol. As for reloading it can be done in seconds but does require a ramrod. Air space in a barrel between charge and ball can burst a barrel.
Having a ramrod secured in your belt or holster works. If a ramrod is not tightly housed in the pistols stock it can quickly be removed/lost upon firing.
I do not think the lack of ability for the pistol to house a ramrod in the stock is done believing there is no time to reload. If this were the case many would choose a pistol with a ramrod, having the ability to fire again is what all firearms designers strived for.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 08:08 PM   #8
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You made a good point, Will, one that I had overlooked. I guess I had read somewhere that the lack of ramrod meant no need for one, but that does defy logic. Your comment that a ramrod could have just been carried separately makes total sense. I know of those Turkish pistols (which often served corsairs!) made both in the Mediterranean and in Turkey had a 'false' decorative ramrod that didn't actually come loose from the gun. These type pistols indeed had a separate and very distinctive rod carried separately.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 08:09 PM   #9
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It seems to me that in all the entries I have found, these flintlock pistols with the 'rounded off' terminus of the stock void of ramrod attachment, are stated 'Belgian sea service' . In some cases they are noted as Dutch.
Whatever the case, they were apparently produced in considerable volume and as I noted earlier, England was a key client in supplying her navy.

Most of the examples are dated from 1800-1820, and are described by well regarded dealers and auctions.

This is an interesting discussion on the dynamics of combat in which these were used and why the absence of ramrod. The purpose of these pistols was to create havoc and injuries amidst a mass of opponents, much as with the blunderbusses and deck guns.
This was the reason for the heft and large bore barrels, effectively 'scatter gun' tactics. These were most likely loaded with 'buck and ball', that is varying dimension shot, or whatever ball was available to create a barrage in a single shot (as Mark well describes as partridge shot).

Just as in a cavalry charge, once the gun was spent, it became either a bludgeon or was released. As with cavalry, these weapons would be better kept than lost so the lanyard was intended to keep the gun at hand, not inaccessible or lost overboard.

As Will has mentioned, the idea of reloading in haste or in a charge or melee is typically doomed to disaster. Also as he notes, in excessive movement etc. the ramrod could be lost, which is why later there were swivels designed that kept them attached on many percussion guns.

A very salient point Mark brings up, private purchase, as with merchant vessels would be exempt from many required markings.

Attached several other examples of 'Belgian Sea Service' pistols, in one instance in a pair, hence 'two shots' (a la' Blackbeard with his 'brace' of 'Queen Anne's'. ).

An analogy: my Caucasian percussion pistol, note the large ball butt for use as a bludgeon, the lanyard, and noticeably, no ramrod.
This was likely made in Liege as well.
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Old 4th February 2021, 05:39 AM   #10
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Thank you for these great pics, Jim. I love that pistol with the butt cap you posted! As noted, I have seen multiple examples all listed as 'naval', which makes sense. I had a look at that mark and I'm almost 100% positive that it is a V and not a W under the crown. British private purchase, I'm assuming. British ships at this time were forming privateer vessels to attack both French (Napoleonic Wars) and American (War of 1812) shipping. Likewise, English ships needed defense against enemy privateers. Napoleon had already taken Denmark and even that nation had pirates out attacking English shipping!!

Some questions still remain, however. If Leige (Belgium) was the maker, could they still be selling to the Brits against Napoleonic France? Who controlled Belgium at the time? Would they be independent contractors and sell "to the enemy" anyway, much as some English cutlers sold to the colonists during the Revolution?

Here are some Leige markings, the earliest resembling a candlestick? Mine appears of the dating 1810. Of course, if this pistol was made after those two conflicts, it still would have been of use to 'discourage mutinies', or defend a frigate, tea clipper, etc, from hostiles in the ports of Indonesia, South Seas, etc.
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Old 4th February 2021, 08:11 AM   #11
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Some time ago I wrote an article on such a pistol used in the Persian Army,
mmay be some of you are able to understand the German text.
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Old 4th February 2021, 09:05 AM   #12
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Fascinating article, Corrado! Unfortunately, my German is very limited. From what you mentioned about Persian usage in the army, this is some of what I've heard about this type pistol. It served in other branches of the military and Leige shipped them out to the Middle East and possibly Africa(this last part not fully substantiated, but reported by several sources). Did your gun have a stamp to indicate Persian Empire? Was the ELG of the earlier or later stamp?
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Old 4th February 2021, 09:41 AM   #13
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The "W" under a crown at the pistol in question stands for one of the Dutch kings William I-III who reigned one after the other between 1815 and 1890. So an exakt date of manufacture can not be stated.

The pistol in my article shows an mark "CD" under a crown which stands for Coquilhat & Digreffe, a Liège firm between 1853 and 1858. Over that the pistol shows the Perron-mark of Liège, so used since 1830. The lockplate shows a weak or badly cut mark of the arsenal of Isfahan/Persia, I added the same, but clearer mark of a same pistol and a British paget carbine. This means, that this pistol has been made at Liège between 1853 and 1858 under attendance of a Persian acceptance officer who stamped the lockplate befor it got hardened.

Very interesting is that lots of these pistols showed up between 1905 and 1925 in the catalogues of the US firm of Francis Bannermann, New York, where they have been offered at a price firstly of 3,50$ and lastly US$ 6,25.
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Old 4th February 2021, 11:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
...I had a look at that mark and I'm almost 100% positive that it is a V and not a W under the crown. British private purchase, I'm assuming.
Private purchase ... 'one' possibility; as not an official contract. I wouldn't see the Brits importing guns from Liege with their local oval mark ... and later missing their own proof marks. The (imprecise) V under the crown on the lock plate, to my humble view, would hardly be the British proof mark created around 1670. I dare say ir is the mark of a Liege lock maker ... or spurious suff ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
controlled Belgium at the time?
Napoleon controlled Liege in 1810.It was under his rule that the mark LG in the oval was created ... and strictly enforced.

Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
... Here are some Leige markings, the earliest resembling a candlestick?
The famous Perron (meaning steps ... of a tower). It was Liege's own mark, but it had no such strict enforcement.
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Old 4th February 2021, 05:09 PM   #15
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Hi,
Bought a couple of these some time ago and they weren't in the best of condition.
Regards,
Norman.

P.S. More to come.
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Old 4th February 2021, 05:15 PM   #16
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Hi,
The top one was Liege manufactured and the inspectors mark ,crown over H, would date it to between 1853/77. The hammer has obviously been broken at some time hence the brazed repair. If anyone could i.d. the other marks both on the barrel and the underside of the stock I would be grateful.
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Old 4th February 2021, 05:22 PM   #17
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Hi,
The second one I believe to have been manufactured by local tribesmen most probably in Afghanistan. The lock has a date 264 (1264) equating to 1848. The workmanship is not as precise as the Belgian example e.g. half cock will not hold but all in all a serviceable pistol.
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Old 5th February 2021, 12:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Here is an overly large flintlock pistol made by ELG in Belgium. This type gun was popular with sailors and is listed in multiple publications as such. It has a large bore barrel and a lanyard wing at the butt. This feature allowed a sailor to attach a cord to his wrist so as not to lose it in the heart of battle on a crowded deck. I believe the wood is walnut? The 'ELG' mark is an early form pre-dating 1830 if I recall. There is a V under a crown mark and an indecipherable stamp to the barrel as well. Note the lack of ramrod, which was deemed pointless as no reloading in the melee of a boarding.
One question I have is whether there is any truth that these pistols were also used by British cavalry in Africa?? It is close to the size of their so-called howdah pistols. Horsemen would also have little opportunity to reload and not need a ramrod.
Hi Mark

An interesting pistol topic, thanks for posting. Certainly your reasons for a lack of a ramrod make sense and are plausible. I can't comment about British Cavalry of the period, but certainly Russian Cavalry made use of flintlock pistols without attached ramrods. Here is an image of the Russian 12 bore M1809 flintlock cavalry pistol.

Regarding pistols in Africa (slightly off-topic) I can state that archaic flintlock pistols were used by Arab slavers/traders and their African allies in the latter half of the 19th century in Central and Eastern Africa. But whether these were with or without ramrods ... who knows ? Probably they used just whatever they could get. There is also evidence for old flintlock pistols being used by the Mahdists in the Sudan in the late 19th Century.

References :
The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
"Armies of the 19th Century, Central Africa" by Chris Peers
The Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent
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Old 5th February 2021, 12:43 PM   #19
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Hi,
Has anybody got any concrete sources for the use of these pistols in the early part of the 19thC specifically the Napoleonic Wars or as Jim has intimated the North American War of 1812. I was always under the illusion that they were in use from about 1830 although I can give no reason that I can remember for this allusion. The crowned V in Marks example would indicate a date of post 1853 as from what I can gather this was when the crowned letter mark was introduced. https://www.hunting.be/wp-content/up...roof-Marks.pdf I am not convinced of the dealers intimations regarding the dating of these pistols.
Looking forward to your thoughts.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 5th February 2021, 12:45 PM   #20
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Hi Mark,
Is it possible for you to dismount the barrel on your example in order to see the marks underneath.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 5th February 2021, 02:13 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
...Has anybody got any concrete sources for the use of these pistols in the early part of the 19thC specifically the Napoleonic ...
Hardly Norman; the French had their own style, a completly DIFFERENT THING, as reported all over.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
... The crowned V in Marks example would indicate a date of post 1853 ...
So, if this was a real Liege crowned V mark, do you find it normal that in 1853 they were still producing flintlock pistols ? maybe for some specific reason ?
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Old 5th February 2021, 02:39 PM   #22
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Flintlock arms were made up to the 20th century. African colonies and such places where trade was limited sourcing percussion caps and cartridges could be difficult if not impossible. With flintlock arms all you need is BP. and your arm still usable.
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Old 5th February 2021, 02:40 PM   #23
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Hi Fernando,
On my Liege pistol there is a crowned H and according to the proof mark list I attached a crowned letter was an inspection mark initiated in 1853.
As far as still producing flintlocks when better alternatives were available see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ght=birmingham I would suggest there was still a market for basic firearms in many parts of the world in the second half of the 19thc.
Thanks for your thoughts as always.
My Regards,
Norman.

P.S. I see Will beat me to the same conclusion.
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Old 5th February 2021, 03:11 PM   #24
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My bad; wrong perspective. I was influenced both by the approach on the Napoleonic period possibility and also thinking of flintlock guns out of their etchnologic evolution period as weapons having ceased production, in an European context; not minding they had, or even have, further use, an area i confess not being much of a fan.
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Old 5th February 2021, 03:42 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi Fernando,
On my Liege pistol there is a crowned H and according to the proof mark list I attached a crowned letter was an inspection mark initiated in 1853.
As far as still producing flintlocks when better alternatives were available see http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ght=birmingham I would suggest there was still a market for basic firearms in many parts of the world in the second half of the 19thc.
Thanks for your thoughts as always.
My Regards,
Norman.

P.S. I see Will beat me to the same conclusion.
Yes, very true - there was a market for basic muzzle-loading firearms in Africa in the late 19th century particularly. However, as well as the specifically made lower quality "trade" guns, large amounts of obsolete flintlocks and percussion guns were shipped to Africa when they became outdated in Europe and breech-loaders and cartridges were introduced.
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Old 5th February 2021, 04:58 PM   #26
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My Belgian sea service pistol is marked with the ELG - no crown and does not appear to have an inspectors mark.

With reference to the lack of a ramrod in some pistols. Pistols were of limited range and generally issued to seamen for boarding actions. The boarding party were probably handed a pistol previously loaded by the armourer and a cutlass and as has already been stated the chances of stopping to reload during a melee would be non-existent, even if they had been trained and carried the right equipment.

Lieutenant Green who fought at Trafalgar and went on to write a training manual for improving the weapons training of the crew noted that it was commonly reported that as soon as the sailors boarded they fired the pistol, chucked it at the enemy and then got to work with a cutlass.

He promoted reversing the grip after firing so that the barrel ran along back along the forearm of the left arm so it could be used as a guard to deflect cutlass blows to the head. It does not say how well that was adopted - my guess would be the sailors carried on throwing them away as as soon as they could.
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Old 6th February 2021, 01:05 AM   #27
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Wow, this item did open up a can of worms! Apart from my wanting it to be an earlier piece, there are similar examples in the Greenwich Maritime Museum of these types with provenance to the time period originally suggested (ca. 1810 and on). I looked again at the mark on my pistol and although my pic of it wasn't so great, it is without question a V under crown and not a W, which was a Leige mark I assume?

In regards to private purchase, I have seen all manner of strange, one-off marks for these. I used to own a cutlass of the standard m1840 Brit pattern marked 'RN". The seller told me "Royal Navy"...don't think so! No other marking. I've seen a lot of m1803's with no marking whatsoever and listed as 'after-market' for private purchase frigates.

Thanks for those great pics of your pistols, Norman! The Arabic example was particularly interesting! Corrado's example was another fascinating piece from a Leige maker.

Thanks, Fernando, for the clarification of Napoleon's control of the region. It still befuddles me unless these pistols were used by French privateers or after-market private purchase. Or only for foreign markets?! (Sudan, Middle East)

Norman, a great suggestion. I am not a firearms collector, so usually leery about taking guns apart. This example, however, with its pin system makes it easy to remove. I'll get to it hopefully soon.
So...still no clear answers to me as far as these marks. My ELG looks like the earlier mark, but what is the significance of the V under crown. If not British but Leige, is this a post 1850 mark?
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Old 6th February 2021, 04:06 AM   #28
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From Blackmore, "British Military Firearms", 1962,
"...but with the end of the war the demand for arms dropped dramatically. The Birmingham branch was the first to suffer. In 1814 the staff was halved and in the following year Miller, the Inspector of Small Arms returned to London. Finally in 1818, the premises at Birmingham were closed".
p.272
In Appendix D, p.280, the marks of private Birmingham proof houses are shwn 25-30.
#27 is a crowned V.

In the detail on Marks pistol (OP) the Liege mark is shown as an oval ELG over star. This was the mark used from 1810-1853 in Liege.

In 1812 England was not only at war with France on the Continent, but with the American colonies in the war of 1812. The demand for arms was considerable and delays with contractors caused issues for makers. As the navy, according to Blackmore, often got the run of the mill weapons,it would not be surprising that imported pistols from Liege might have been brought n viewed at the Birmingham location.

The barrel mark was in use at Liege in 1812. The crowned V was in use at Birmingham in that year and at least until 1814.
The markings on this pistol would seem to correspond to the period of its use being contemporary to the suggestions of use in War of 1812, as well as Napoleonic campaigns. It seems quite possible these might have found use on privateers, if not on ships of the line.
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Old 6th February 2021, 05:36 AM   #29
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Very nice example of your gun, David! Thanks for posting it for this discussion.

Great information, Jim! Thank you (and Mr. Blackmore!). The Birmingham angle makes perfect sense regarding an immediate need for private purchase and a quicker way to restocking the ship's defenses. I'm not disputing that this style of pistol wasn't around for a long time (quite amazing that it didn't change form much after nearly a century!). My main argument (and obviously from the records, others who study maritime artifacts) is that many of these pistols saw action during the mentioned events. Here's one from the esteemed London Museum collection-


https://www.diomedia.com/stock-photo...ge6852418.html
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Old 6th February 2021, 12:07 PM   #30
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Hi Jim,
The ELG and star in a cartouche was used from 1810 until the present. I have attached a copy of London and Birmingham proof marks from The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers of the City of London and The Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House. This shows that a crowned V is a London proof and not Birmingham and if the gun was foreign made the V would be circled with the crown on top. All the charts I can find relating to Liege state that a crowned letter is the inspection mark from 1853 to 1877. I have also attached another chart with more specific dating.
Hope you are keeping well in this time of uncertainty.
My Regards,
Norman.
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