Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > European Armoury
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 29th September 2020, 02:15 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 7,932
Default Underhammer Boot pistol from Maine

One of the most curious and relatively little known distinctly American pistols is the odd looking underhammer percussion pistol termed as a 'boot pistol' or 'whip socket pistol'. Despite the 'boot' reference, this type pistol, at least the ones from Bangor as this one, were usually worn in a holster.

This is marked Wm NEAL BANGOR ME, which was William Neal of Bangor who worked at a shop near east end of Kenduskeg bridge from 1843.
These single shot pistols were begun around 1835 (probably Ethan Allen) and made until c. 1860.

While these single shot boot pistols were of varying styles, the ones by Neal seem to have been consistently this 'saw handle' type, and typically .31 cal.

The lumber industry in these times in Maine was rugged, as were the equally rugged lumber men who spent winters felling timber then later driving the huge logs down the Penobscot River to the mills at Bangor. Much in the manner of the wild mining towns from the Yukon across America's west, these conditions and the rough and tumble characters led to the familiar streets of debauchery with saloons, bars, brothels with Bangor's being the notorious Exchange Street.

This under hammer was made between 1843 and the death of William Neal in 1853. It is missing the trigger which would have been just behind the hammer bar.
Attached Images
  

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 29th September 2020 at 06:17 PM.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th October 2020, 05:00 PM   #2
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,277
Default

Jim, seems a pity no one has commented on this unusual and interesting item. So despite knowing very little about pistols, I will see if I can get the ball rolling again ...

Presumably Bangor, Maine, USA was named after Bangor in Wales ? To all appearances this odd looking pistol would not be very practical, especially if kept in a holster. A derringer type job (easily concealed), preferably with more than one barrel, or a pepperbox, or an early revolver would be much better. Picture a brawl in a logging camp... some hulking brute coming for you with a pick-axe , you have discharged your single shot and it has either missed or not stopped him ... nasty

Hope some pistols experts can contribute to your post...
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 9th October 2020, 06:44 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 7,932
Default

Colin, thank you so much! You are truly a good sort to come in to support this thread and topic. Too often in the case when readers avoid entering on something if they feel they have nothing to add. The truth is that even coming in as you have and giving thoughts and asking questions creates a context for learning.
The truth is I know little on guns, but as a historian, they hold the same inherent value as swords in that respect, and both present opportunities to learn.

I had no idea there was a Bangor in Wales!!! and not sure of why this city is so named . Actually how I became interested in this unusual pistol was simply because it was from Maine, and I was researching ship building in Maine and a shipwreck. The fact that it was so unusual, from the same place (within 50miles) as well as from a location which I discovered grandparents were from, sort of really set the context.

It was interesting that this lumber oriented place was rough and tumble exactly in the manner of the wild west was intriguing, as well as 'why would a guy wear a single shot pistol in his boot?'.

People always think of these days with 'gunslingers' strapped with guns in holsters on their hip. The truth was, in town, that was simply not the case (even at the OK corral Wyatt was not 'strapped' his revolver was in his coat pocket) as packin' in public was not allowed.

As you have well noted, a single shot spent with one or more guys coming at you in a brawl seems pretty untenable. In the west ,there were small pocket pistols carried in saloons in similar context, which were cheap and unreliable and in fact were colloquially termed 'suicide specials' for the awful situation just described when they misfired.

With the pepperbox revolvers, their big problem was the likelihood that all the chambers would detonate simultaneously, with not too good outcome for the shooter.

I am not sure what the attraction was for the under hammer setup was, it seems to have come about in around 1830s, but the production of these lasted until around 1860.

Thank you again for helping me on this thread, and who knows, maybe somebody out there has seen something like this.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10th October 2020, 12:23 AM   #4
David R
Member
 
David R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 624
Default

Under hammer pistols do seem to be a very American thing. What was in their favour was that they were cheap and affordable, and had a smooth uncluttered line with little to foul on clothing.
One shot, close range and a damn sight better than a knife.....
David R is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th October 2020, 12:28 PM   #5
colin henshaw
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,277
Default

On the subjects of pepperbox pistols, how about this bad boy as a close-quarters self-defence weapon ? With 24 barrels surely one or two rounds would find their mark...
And should by mishap, all 24 barrels go off simultaneously, the resulting explosion would likely dispose of both attacker and defender in one fell swoop !
Attached Images
  

Last edited by colin henshaw : 11th October 2020 at 01:07 PM.
colin henshaw is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11th October 2020, 02:38 PM   #6
Richard G
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 289
Default

Is it a normal cap and nipple set up? I would have thought that without some method of securing the cap there is a great danger it falls off when the hammer is cocked.
Regards
Richard
Richard G is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th October 2020, 03:16 PM   #7
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 7,932
Default

Good digression with the 'pepperboxes' as they are contemporary and most interesting. Now, the 'cannon' or 'Gatling' thing with 24 barrels!! uh, I wouldn't want to be in the same room with that being fired.

The notion of the scatter gun system is pretty sketchy as the shooter is in far more peril.

I would note here that even the six shot revolvers had their moments of multiple detonation. At a small museum which displayed excavated relics (named the 'dug up museum') local archaeologists donated firearms that had been found mostly in Wyoming and Plains states. One was a Colt 'Navy' (if I recall correctly)with of course the cap and nipple system which had so detonated, to the misfortune of the guy shooting it. It was pretty scary to see the remains of this thing. I wish I had taken pics.

Another problem with percussion took place in the Battle of San Pascual (Mexican War 1846). It was claimed that the contingent of US Dragoons was largely wiped out by Mexican lancers (Pico's Californios actually, not line cavalry but vaqueros).
What actually happened was that it was dark AM, their horses were blown, it was freezing cold and had been raining (in rugged terrain outside San Diego).
They were armed with percussion Hall carbines, which used powder charge packets, which it was claimed were wet and unusable, so the men were in effect unarmed.
What really happened was, they could not load the rifles as cold fingers in pitch dark, on rugged terrain unknown with erratic horse movement made it impossible. The Mexicans, knowing the terrain, were skilled with the lance (using them for hunting etc.) so virtually all the casualties were from the lance.

Just some perspective on the issues with percussion guns.

With the under hammer, I think it was simply used in a situation 'up close and personal' where a single shot would end a confrontation one on one, but in a melee, not so good. As always, I think bar fights etc. with literally everybody throwing punches were as much a product of old movies in the same way as the 'gunfight, quick draw showdown'.

An interesting aside with these up close shots is that in many cases the victim's clothing actually caught fire from discharged burning powder.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13th October 2020, 05:32 AM   #8
kahnjar1
Member
 
kahnjar1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND
Posts: 2,570
Default

Very nice and interesting pistol Jim. Right up my alley!!! Attached reference from Flayderman shows your piece. The values shown are around 1980 I think. If not allowed please delete them.
Stu
Attached Images
 
kahnjar1 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13th October 2020, 06:51 AM   #9
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 7,932
Default

Hi Stu,
Thanks very much for that!!! Its been a REALLY long time since I've seen a Flayderman catalog. He was a great guy, and I always enjoyed talking with him. He was always the 'go to' guy for Americana, and I got some great things from him back in the 70s.

I think what I always liked about this and others like it was the 'saw handle' seen on some dueling pistols of the time. Just unique.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 01:36 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.