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Old 22nd September 2019, 08:06 AM   #1
corrado26
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Default Russian cossack pistol

Just to look at and for information:
A Russian miquelet pistol probably made in Georgia. The stock is made of two separat parts and interesting is the bulbous butt with an overcoat of red leather what I think is of a snake. The barrel bands are from silvered brass. The backstrap with niello decoration. The lock in good working order with a length of 69mm. Barrel length is 355mm and its calibre 14mm. Total legth of the pistol is 515mm
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Last edited by corrado26 : 22nd September 2019 at 08:19 AM.
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Old 22nd September 2019, 04:43 PM   #2
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Does appear to be snake skin that's been (perhaps interestingly) properly upholstered on. Though it would be nearly impossible from looking at it to identify the exact species, given that any patterning has been obfuscated by heavy lacquering (likely with a linseed oil and ferric oxide lacquer) and cuts have made it impossible to accurately scale count. But they are rhomboidal non-keeled scales (matches for snake and not so much for other reptiles).

I say lacquering as apposed to dyed. Because any through-tan on snake skin, while making the color uniform, would still show darker and lighter areas of pattern. Lacquering makes more sense here because it imparts uniform color whilst making it smoother, so that the hand griping it doesn't peel up scales as much (scales of snakeskin tend to lift and peel when used as a grip, lacquer pretty much glues the edges of them that would otherwise lift down).

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Old 22nd September 2019, 04:55 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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This is a beautiful and intriguing pistol!! especially that snakeskin. I had never imagined snakeskin being used in the Caucusus. Actually I had never thought of snakes there.
Any ideas as to what significance, other than perhaps simply aesthetic, may be at hand?
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Old 22nd September 2019, 05:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This is a beautiful and intriguing pistol!! especially that snakeskin. I had never imagined snakeskin being used in the Caucusus. Actually I had never thought of snakes there.
Any ideas as to what significance, other than perhaps simply aesthetic, may be at hand?


Well there are plenty of species of snake in that area of the world to source the skin from. Very few places in the world don't have any native snakes. Usually the only places where people live that one can expect less or no snakes are islands (though there are still plenty of islands that have a lot of snakes).

Something to note is that the maker went with a smooth/non-keeled species of snake. This has some significance toward aesthetics, as keeled scales (where each scale has a central ridge) are naturally matte in their finish; Whereas smooth scales are naturally shiny and often somewhat iridescent.

This piece at one point obviously had a lot of fire (gold gilding). Also that's a beautiful wood choice. So it makes sense that the maker didn't want to pair that with a dull skin even though it would have been an option. If you're going for shiny it's hard to beat a smooth scale snakeskin.

Also snakeskin doesn't really have a corium layer (that fuzzy suede like side that many leathers have). The backside is very paper like, which takes well to being glued. Overall a cured snakeskin is rather thin, flexible and not very elastic. It's an ideal material for this sort of application. Because it can be thinly applied with selective cuts to trace a shape without adding much in the way of bulk or weight.
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Old 22nd September 2019, 06:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helleri
Well there are plenty of species of snake in that area of the world to source the skin from. Very few places in the world don't have any native snakes. Usually the only places where people live that one can expect less or no snakes are islands (though there are still plenty of islands that have a lot of snakes).

Something to note is that the maker went with a smooth/non-keeled species of snake. This has some significance toward aesthetics, as keeled scales (where each scale has a central ridge) are naturally matte in their finish; Whereas smooth scales are naturally shiny and often somewhat iridescent.

This piece at one point obviously had a lot of fire (gold gilding). Also that's a beautiful wood choice. So it makes sense that the maker didn't want to pair that with a dull skin even though it would have been an option. If you're going for shiny it's hard to beat a smooth scale snakeskin.

Also snakeskin doesn't really have a corium layer (that fuzzy suede like side that many leathers have). The backside is very paper like, which takes well to being glued. Overall a cured snakeskin is rather thin, flexible and not very elastic. It's an ideal material for this sort of application. Because it can be thinly applied with selective cuts to trace a shape without adding much in the way of bulk or weight.


Thanks very much Helleri, these are truly interesting aspects on snakeskin, and even more encouraging for me personally. I have a pair of rattlesnake boots in progress right now, and I admit being a bit apprehensive on what to expect as far as durability.
I must admit, just as I thought when I made this choice, the snakeskin does distinctly make a statement in being unique.
This pistol instantly becomes more fascinating, I've never seen this on a gun like this, only on swords and weapons in Sudanese context.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 03:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Thanks very much Helleri, these are truly interesting aspects on snakeskin, and even more encouraging for me personally. I have a pair of rattlesnake boots in progress right now, and I admit being a bit apprehensive on what to expect as far as durability.
I must admit, just as I thought when I made this choice, the snakeskin does distinctly make a statement in being unique.
This pistol instantly becomes more fascinating, I've never seen this on a gun like this, only on swords and weapons in Sudanese context.


Rattlesnake is among the tougher (as is any viper really) kinds of snakeskin out there. The scales are keeled and they are rather thick. You don't have to worry too much about rattlesnake getting damaged with normal wear. If made properly the snakeskin will only be a shell that is glued and stitched on, in order to cover the structural leather beneath. Which would ideally be a shell cordovan (horse hide) leather.

You will want to get a soft bristle brush (a tooth brush should serve well) to remove food or dirt from under and between the scales if they get soiled. As well as a canister of rose water glycerine (the glycerine is the important part, the rose water just makes it smell good), in order to hydrate the skin every few months so it doesn't start shedding scales from drying out.

It also might not be a bad idea to by a snakeskin of the same species or that looks similar enough and some pliobond (brand name glue). That way when you do loose scales - which will happen over the years - you can tweezer pluck off a few scales from your spare skin and dot glue appropriate replacements. You may want to ask the cobbler for any "off-cuts" of snake skin used to make your commission.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 03:47 AM   #7
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Helleri, thank you so much, wonderful advice, and I will definitely take heed!
Udo, sorry for the detour, but the snakeskin is amazing on this pistol.

Can you say more on what details align this pistol to Georgia? I have a Cossack pistol, which I hope to get to soon, which is percussion, but I have no idea where it might be from. I have always suspected it was a Liege product, but do not know enough on these to go further. I will try to get to it or find photos asap.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 07:42 AM   #8
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There is a very good book published by the Danish Arms and Armour Society as yearbook 2000:
Yurij A. Miller, Caucasian Arms from the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
After this I located the pistol to Georgia but it could have been made in Dagestan too, the differences are very small.

From the second half of the 18th. century Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, began to play a dominant role in the art of weaponry of this country. But the Georgian origin of firearms is sometimes hard to establish, because gunmakers from Dagestan and Circassia worked in Tiflis in periods. When they created their worksthey used their own common methods and traditional decoration techniques.
Very interesting is that the barrel of my pistol has probably been made in Turkey. Turkish made gun and pistol barrels were famous for their high quality and so they were highly appreciated in the Middle East and the Cuacasus region. In fact they became so popular that they were even exported to Russia.

Last edited by corrado26 : 23rd September 2019 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 03:33 PM   #9
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This is excellent information Udo! I think you have explained one of the true conundrums of identifying arms from these and many Central Asian regions, the cross use of components as well as the artisans in regions working in other areas.
It seems that I have run into shashkas which are for all intents and purposes Daghestani, yet in actuality the weapon was from an entirely different part of the Caucusus. I guess this 'fine tuning' of learning often subtle nuances that identify character of workmanship specific to regional preference is key, and fascinating as we learn more.
Thank you for this insight, and for the heads up on this title!
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Old 9th October 2019, 06:24 PM   #10
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Hi Corodo

That is a great - and interesting example of a Caucasian pistol. I have never seen the use of snakeskin for decoration on a firearm. It's certainly attractive.
Wish it could "sliver" it's way to my house. LOL Great looking piece.

Rick
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Old 14th October 2019, 10:19 PM   #11
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I think the whole gun was covered with snake skin like many Caucasian pistols were covered with black leather... Look at the little nails or the holes of missing nails... I saw some kindjals with scabbards completely covered with snake skin.
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