Join Date: Dec 2004
Nice, clean example! Hard on the knees...
Great find, congratulations.
The term "knee pistol" is an odd one. I remember an explanation of it in an old arms catalog, it may have been one of those issued by dealer Norm Flayderman back in the 1960s. Be that is it may, it was surmised that the butt was shaped like this so a cavalryman could brace it against his knee while he was in the saddle, to shoot any foot-soldier who was approaching alongside. Sounds a bit outlandish to me--the idea of the recoil smacking me on the kneecap isn't too appealing. What do you think, Rick? Have you perhaps tried this style of shooting yourself at the range, on or off a horse?
I think that from a functional standpoint, these things can be pointed and fired just like any other pistol. They're a tad heavy but they balance OK in the hand.
Designing the grip after the butt of a shoulder-fired gun is a stylistic touch that has a north Italian precedent. There is a group of pistols, mainly Brescian, of the first half of the 17th cent. that have this feature; the grips mimic the shape of gun stocks of the same place and time. These are invariably fitted with wheellocks. Nolfo di Carpegna, in his book Brescian Firearms, refers to the style as the "Farnese" pistol stock. There is a magnificent pair of this type, attributed to King Felipe IV of Spain, in the Armerķa Real de Madrid (K90).
In Europe, this butt style (on pistols) seems to have been in vogue for just a few decades, and its popularity was fairly localized. The concept was undoubtedly exported to the Balkans and Turkey, most likely in the extensive Venetian trade networks, and it really took off after that. The Ottomans updated them to flintlocks, and adopted a more generic European shape for the butt (albeit a somewhat caricatured version), producing them well into the 19th cent.
This is another case of a European firearms innovation that had a far longer shelf life in Oriental countries. The longevity of the Anglo-Dutch snaphaunce and the Catalan agujeta miquelet lock in North Africa are other examples that we've discussed on other threads.