Affairs of honor used to be settled by gentlemen with single shot, smoothbores like our these Manton flintlocks. British master gunsmith John Manton created this exquisite pair of .57 caliber flintlock pistols around 1820. The finely checkered grip allowed for firm control while aiming and the long barrel balanced best when it reached a horizontal level. As for the accuracy lost by employing smoothbores, duelists felt it provided equality for both parties.
This miniature Harpers Ferry M1807 flintlock pistol, whose size is revealed by the accompanying coin, is one of our smallest wonders. In times of old, a journeyman gunsmith would construct a miniature to show that he had mastered the large and small challenges of metal and woodworking techniques. The diminutive piece would also be easier to transport when the time came to strike out on their own.
Browning’s Medalist .22 pistol was one of several rimfire models offered by the company, but this semi-automatic could also be procured as a limited satin chrome Renaissance engraved edition. About 382 examples were made from 1970 to 1975. One unique feature on the Medalist design is that ejected spent cartridge cases encounter an upright pin next to the right grip panel that serves as a deflector.
Big or little, the National Firearms Museum exhibits firearms that tell stories about our nation’s past. While this miniature Colt Single Action Army revolver isn’t much wider than a dime, the original model (in full scale) was to see over a hundred thousand examples made in less than a decade. Like many arms in our collection, the Colt single-action story covers both military and civilian themes. Handmade collector items like this miniature, once offered through the United States Historical Society are diminutive pieces of history.
On battlefields not so long ago, the aerial signals sent by flare pistols like the one above heralded attacks or called retreats for armies locked in combat. Webley & Scott, a firm that produced thousands of double-action .455 revolvers during WWI, also manufactured these sturdy bronze alloy break-open pistols in that same time frame. The lower pressure of flare cartridges, compared to regular bulleted ammunition, allowed the use of non-ferrous alloys for flare guns. Still in use around the globe, these single-shots are sometimes seen with a flared muzzle extension giving them a “blunderbuss” profile.
While some mystery writers insist that the revolvers in their stories have a manual safety, this one actually does. Sauer, a firm later known for a variety of semi-automatic pistols, got into the manufacturing of Reichsrevolvers under military contracts in the early 1880s. This 10.55mm caliber Model 1879 Commission Reichsrevolver is characterized by its 7-inch barrel, opposed to the later Model 1883's 5-inch barrel. Our example was made during the partnership of Sauer with Spangenberg, a relationship that ended in 1885. These robust revolvers continued to be used by the German military through WWI.
The Winchester Model 1897, better known as the "Trench" shotgun, was respected by both sides in the First World War. Capable of discharging 12 ga buckshot cartridges as quickly as the action could be cycled, this short-barreled smoothbore was ideal for prisoner control and could be pressed into service in the tight confines of trench warfare. There are even stories of capable wingshooters using these shotguns to blast thrown grenades back towards the German lines.
NRA Museums shows off one amazing firearm from their world class collection every day on their Facebook page. But in case you're not on Facebook, or just want to see some amazing guns again, we round them up at the end of each week here on NRABlog.
Want to see these guns in person? Visit any of their three locations: the NRA National Firearms Museum, NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at BassPro, or the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest. You can even browse some of the collection's more notable pieces online at www.nramuseums.com.