Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3263: Cased Pair of Forsyth & Co. Patchlock Percussion Dueling Pistols

Auction Date: December 3, 2017

Documented Only Known Pair of Presentation Cased Pair of Engraved Forsyth & Co. "Patchlock" Percussion Dueling Pistols

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $40,000

A) Forsyth & Co. Dueling Pistol

Manufacturer: Forsyth
Model: Patchlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 52
Barrel: 9 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: brown/casehardened/niter blue
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 3115
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 118
Class: Antique
Description:

These pistols were manufactured by Forsyth & Co. which was initially founded by Reverend Alexander Forsyth in 1808 as "The Forsyth Patent Gun Company" to produce and sell firearms based on Forsyth's inovate patented locks using a variety of early percussion systems of his design. He is widely considered to be the originator of percussion firearms and thus was highly influential in the transitional period from flintlock to percussion firearms and ultimately the early cartridge firearms which built off the success of various percussion primers. Forsyth & Co.'s production levels were very low and all of their pistols were manufactured in "London Best" quality. Only approximately 4,500 Forsyth guns were manufactured by the company, and all are valuable collectibles that are justly cherished by private collectors and museum curators. This pair is pictured as figure 41 and discussed on pages 27 and 49 in the included second revised edition of "Great British Gunmakers- Forsyth & Co.: Patent Gunmakers, 1806-1852" by Major David Back and Keith Neal. They are identified as manufactured around 1828 using patchlocks, and the authors note: "This is the only pair of pistols on this system we have traced made by Forsyth. All other known examples are either by Joseph Manton or Samuel Nock." Instead of percussion caps, the pistols fire using paper primers which fit on the hammer rather than nipple. It is an alteration of the Manton pellet lock invented in 1816. The authors also note, "The use of 'London' on the lockplate in place of 'Patent' is of interest." The latter refers to the fact that nearly all Forsyth & Co. pistols have "PATENT" below or following the company name on the locks. The exterior of the locks have "FORSYTH & Co/LONDON," scroll engraving, sliding safeties, and hammers with detachable strikers. Both locks are numbered "3509" on the back sides, and the lock for B also has an additional "1." The smoothbore Damascus barrels have minuscule fixed blade front sights and dovetailed notch rear sights (opposite of most dueling pistols) and are marked "FORSYTH & Co PATENT GUN MAKERS LONDON" followed by a foliate motif on top and "3508" and "3509" respectively flanked by London proof and view marks on the bottom. The breech plugs have matchings serial numbers on the bottoms (also "1" above the number on gun B), dual platinum bands, and platinum blow out plugs. They are equipped with concealed set triggers. The upper tangs and squareback trigger guards have coordinating engraving patterns. The stocks have checkered "bag" wrists, silver forend caps and wedge escutcheons, and "WK" inscribed silver thumb plates. The mahogany case has a round brass escutcheon inscribed "To Wm Knight Esq/From PK" in Gotchic script and contains most of the accessories that are pictured in the book. The following are included: a lead ball, oiler bottle, cleaning rod attachment, cleaning rod, mallet head, screwdriver, nipple wrench, brass powder flask with two compartments in the bottom, "XXVI" marked bullet mold, brush, and a cap tin. William Knight ( d. 1847), Esquire, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and Member of the Camden Society is recorded as having served as the magistrate for St. Albans just north of London and as one of the governor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. He is known to have been a collector of books on angling and missals. A separate William Knight (d. 1832), Esquire, also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, worked as an architect on the construction of the New London Bridge (used 1831-1967) and reportedly aided John Rennie with the initial designs. Given the presenter's last initial was also "K," he may have been a relative.

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel has light original finish, distinct Damascus twist patterns, some faint pitting, mild edge wear, and some minor marks and scratches. The lock and upper tang retain the vast majority of the original case colors. Subtler original case colors remain on the plug. 70% of the bright original blue finish on the safety, ramrod entry pipe, and trigger guard remains. The silver has attractive even aged patina. The stock is also very good and has attractive grain, crisp checkering, some minor dings, general mild scratches, very subtle repairs on the left side along the upper edge of the forend (including a 1/2 inch spliced chip), and smooth oil finish. Mechanically excellent. The case has had the lock mechanism removed and is otherwise very good with general mild storage type wear including some tearing of the lining and a few cracks.



B) Forsyth & Co. Dueling Pistol

Manufacturer: Forsyth
Model: Patchlock
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 52
Barrel: 9 1/2 inch octagon
Finish: brown/casehardened/niter blue
Grip:
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 3115
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 119
Class: Antique
Description:

See A.

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel displays strong original Damascus patterns and a mix of light original brown finish, light gray and brown patina, minor spotting, light edge wear, and some mild marks. 75% plus original case colors remain (strongest on the lock plate), and more than half of the original bright blue finish remains on the small parts, ramrod entry pipe, and trigger guard. The silver has attractive even aged patina throughout. The stock is very fine and has smooth oil finish, attractive grain, mostly crisp checkering, a few nicks and dings, and some mild scrapes. Overall, this is a stunning and highly desirable set of scarce Forsyth & Co. pistols. The fact that they are the only known pair of pistols by the firm with patchlocks and are presentation inscribed certainly makes them among the most desirable Forsyth firearms ever brought to auction.



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