Antique Duelling Pistols
Antique duelling pistols arer duelling pistols that were produced before the middle half of the nineteenth century.
Brief history and description
A duelling pistol is type of pistol that was used in duels from the mid-eighteenth century. Typically, the pistols were single-shot flintlock firearms that fired a lead musket ball.
In the mid-eighteenth century the advent of the pistol replaced the sword as the weapon used for duels. Initially, travelling or holster pistols were used, but soon specialised weapons were developed for the sole purpose of creating fair and equal contests. Duelling pistols were sold and manufactured in pairs, which were identical in appearance, accuracy and reliability. Unlike sword duels, the pistol paid no attention to a man’s strength or size, merely his skill with a pistol.
London was the centre of duelling pistol production and boasted the most innovative and famous manufacturers of the times, including Purdey, Nock, Mortimer, Manton, Durs Egg and Wogdon & Parley. However, there were also many outstanding firearms companies in Europe, most notably in Germany, Austria and France, that produced fine examples of duelling pistols. Regardless of where they were manufactured, duelling pistols were renowned for being a weapon of the highest calibre.
Guide to collectors
Antique duelling pistols are extremely collectable and there is a highly competitive market for these items in both America and in Europe. Duelling pistols are some of the most aesthetically elegant antique firearms on the market and collectors and historians alike are seduced by their bloody history and outstanding workmanship.
Antique duelling pistols that have retained their original fitted cases are very valuable to collectors. They are also extremely rare, as the corrosive effects of gunpowder, mishandling and improper storage leaves the majority of examples in poor condition. Collectors should look out for pairs that are clearly marked by their maker and avoid pieces that show general signs of age and deterioration.
There are many variables to take into account when pricing a set of antique duelling pistols. Paramount is there condition, but their ornamentation, quality of materials and significance of the maker all contribute to the price.
Instances of antique duelling pistols are relatively common at international auction houses, such as Bonhams and Christie’s, but prices vary considerably, ranging from as little as $500 up to $30,000.
A rare cased pair of 48-bore Forsyth patent sliding primer duelling pistols were sold through Christie’s, London, in October 2001 for a realised price £7,638. The pistols were made circa 1823 and were produced by Forsyth & Co. Patent Gun Makers, who were one of the leading British firearms manufacturers in the early-nineteenth century.
In December 2006, a rare cased pair of Forsyth second model of sliding primer duelling pistols, made by Forsyth & Co. Patent Gun Makers in 1828, fetched a price of £19,200 when they sold at Christie’s, London.
A cased pair of 54-bore percussion duelling pistols, made by J. Purdey in 1830, realised a price of £8,604, when they sold through Bonhams, London, in April 2004.