Original British Revolutionary War Era Cased Pair of Ducks Foot Pistols by Collis of Oxford - Circa 1782
Flintlock Duck's foot pistols were first introduced in the 18th century, most often found in the four barrel configuration, but variations from 3 barrels to 7 barrels have been recorded. Multi-barrel ducks foot pattern pistols were intended for use in a crowd or mob situation as they discharged all the barrels at the same time in a "spread" direction. The 18th century was the era of the single shot or the occasional double shot pistol which was very time consuming to reload. A pair of 4 barrel Duck's foot pistols provided a spread of 8 balls into a mutinous crew making the presence of such multi shot pistols very discouraging to potential mutineers or an attacking mob. Production of such pistols at the time was very expensive and original examples are rare.
Ducks foot pistols are highly prized by collectors most were originally purchased by wealthy owners more often than not by a Naval Officer or his family to discourage mutiny, an all too common event in the harsh Naval times of King George III. Those that do come to the market are typically from a deceased collector's estate which would indicate that such unusual weapons are the last things a collector wishes to part with.
In fact, the lack of original examples and paucity of historical references to them have given cause for some collectors to speculate that they never really existed. We are confident, however, that this is not the case here due to many factors, such as the high quality of work. These pistols are almost entirely hand crafted. This exceptional work includes silver wire inlay, gorgeous steel chambers, barrels perfectly engineered to screw and unscrew with aligned matching numerals or frame and barrel (1-8). All barrels show with clear British proof markings and the locks are signed by a known English gun maker Collis of Oxford. The silver 18th century hallmarks are genuine and further confirm their authenticity and date of manufacture.
Each pistol has four spread barrels is all made of iron/steel with silver mounts in walnut stocks decorated with copious silver wire inlay. The barrels are fitted with four 4 3/8 inches screw off barrels and are 12" in overall length. The bores measure approximately. Each pistol is signed COLLIS / OXFORD who worked from 1782 to 1792. The butts feature grotesque masks in silver with Birmingham hallmarks and letter code E for 1777. Silver mounts for pistols were commonly made by silversmiths and stocked until sold, sometimes years years later, therefore 1777 dated butt caps on pistols manufactured by a maker that opened his business in 1782 would not be unusual.
The pistols are contained in a period custom made wooden case measuring 18" X 11" X 5. Inside the lid is an original paper trade label that reads:
WILSON'S Gun and Pistol Warehouse
No. 1 VIGO LANE, SACKVILLE STREET
Wilson's was a well known gun dealer who manufactured and dealt in small arms from 1730 until 1832. This suggests that Wilson was commissioned to build the case or they sold the pilots with the case as a set. The brass bound case has name plaque to the center of the lid which is unfortunately blank so we have no idea of the original Naval owner.
The case includes a powder flask and bullet mould, some lead balls, and detached flints. In addition, there is a wonderfully hand carved small bone box with a sliding lid laid out as a cribbage board, Inside the box is a game of miniature bone dominoes. Also a hall marked Silver Salt Cellar and a brass circular snuff box decorated with the bust head of Admiral Lord Nelson which on the rear still faintly reads;
CONQUEROR and lists his Battle honors including TRAFALGAR.
Dating from 1782 to perhaps 1790, this is a large spectacular set of Royal Naval Duck's Foot Volley pistols in wonderful condition and directly from the personal collection of IMA's owner Christian Cranmer who has owned this particualr set more than 30 years.
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