© copyright Michael Barnett 2016
investment Firearms International
A little gun with a very big story This absolutely stunning little percussion over/under tap-action pistol has an awful lot to tell us, it won’t tell us everything it knows but it will tell us a lot. I purchased this gun from the US as “Maker Unknown”. At first I thought it was made in Belgium by one of the many anonymous Liege artisans working from their workshop at home. I have several pocket pistols made by Liege workers, they are beautiful little guns and stand up in their own right but they are not in the same league as this little pistol.                                                                          A closer examination of the photographs told me the gun was made, or at least proved                                                                          in London; the letters “GP” interlaced in a cypher and surmounted by a crown is the                                                                          definitive London proof mark. The letter “V” surmounted by a crown is the London                                                                          gunmakers’ viewmark. The letter “R” surmounted by a crown drew a blank with the experts I discussed it with and after searching through my extensive library but the gun was so beautiful and the London marks had me intrigued so I bought it. The breakthrough came thanks to Alain Daubresse’s superb source of research, littlegun.be, in Belgium. It was on Alain’s site that I found the same makers’ mark, crown over “R” on a pistol                                                     made by J. Richards of London. There was no doubt in my mind that these pistols were made by                                                     the same maker; the proof and makers’ marks are identical and the style of the pistols equally                                                     similar. littlegun.be Also the letter “R” is stamped on the frame under the butt of my pistol. That should have been the end of it but for one tiny little thing; this is a percussion pistol and Mr. Richards was long dead by the time percussion was embraced: - Gunmakers of London 1350-1850 Howard L. BlackmorePage 168 John 1   From Birmingham (?), free of Gunmakers Co., by redemption, 1781. Gunmaker, 114 Strand (corner of the Savoy Steps), 1775-7; 25 Strand, 1778-80; 4 Ball Alley, Lombard St., 1781-3; 54 Strand (near the Adelphi), 1782-1808; 55 Strand, 1809-21. d. 1821. Admin. (PCC). British Gunmakers Volume 1 – Londonderry Brown Page 196 JOHN RICHARDS (d.1821), gmkr (pons. from B/ham), 114 Strand, 1775-77; 25 Strand, 1778-80, 4 Ball Alley, Lombard St, 1781-83; 54 Strand, 1782-1808; 55 Strand, 1809- So, what to think? I got my magnifying glass out and discovered something very interesting. The gun was originally made as a flintlock, the conversion to percussion is the best I have ever seen but there are a couple of give-aways. 1. There is a hole next to the percussion nipple where the sliding safety would have locked the frizzen (batterie) in the safe (closed) position. 2. The sliding safety operates but has no useful purpose, it does not lock the hammer and the original linkage to the frizzen lock has been skilfully removed.
So, there you have it, we now have all the answers – well no, not really, there are still some puzzles to solve: - 1. If the gun was designed as flintlock, and it clearly was, why would it have a compartment in the butt-cap for a spare nipple or percussion cap? The butt-cap is a perfect fit to the butt, as you can see,                                              but I suspect it wasn’t made for this gun because the hole where the screw                                              fastens it to the butt is threaded, why? 2. The inside of the hinged butt-flap is stamped “W”, is this the engraver, the person who converted the pistol, the person who cast the butt-cap?                                                                             There you have it; many questions answered and a few                                                                              that probably never will be. One thing we do know, this is a beautifully made and                                                                               engraved gun.                                                                               The conversion, which almost certainly was done after John Richards death, was done with consummate skill. I doubt we would even know the gun had been converted if it wasn’t for original safety slide (which, I suspect was not removed because it is beautifully engraved)  and the hole in the pan where it would have engaged the frizzen.
 It has been suggested to me, and I think I agree, that this pistol was never finished as a flintlock. John Richards could well have finished the gun as  percussion because his gun-shop was operating up to 1821 and flintlocks were being converted to percussion around that time.  I would really welcome any comments on this theory because the gun really does not look like a conversion.