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Originally Posted By: Argo44
Stephen Nash knows more about UK pin-fires than any living man.


I’ve come to the same conclusion, Gene. Steve has been keeping a few of us enthralled up here in Canada during the Covid lockdown. Glad to see him sharing down here.


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That's a really great find, Gene, and new to me - a wonderful illustration. I wondered when Reilly's "ring" underlever first appeared. I'm sure this thread will prompt lots of new information, and I'm enjoying the anticipation..

Thanks to all for the input and kind words. I claim no special expertise, only a long-standing obsession to learn everything I can about these interesting guns. The book is slowly coming together, and it will tell a more coherent and complete account than I can cover here. In the meantime I will present as many different pinfires as you will have patience for. Some will be from very familiar makers, others obscure, some in fine condition, and some in a dismal state -- but all are part of the story.

And to my American friends, have a joyous 4th of July.

Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/03/21 03:59 PM.
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Yes - Steve is a wonderful resource.

There is another pinfire authority - James Stockham from Central, South Carolina. James has a huge pinfire collection. He displayed 40 of his guns at a Vintage Cup event in Millbrook, NY and then later had part of the collection on loan for two years to the NRA's National Firearms Museum. Unfortunately, he's not inclined to spend time on a computer.

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Barnett is listed in Nigel Brown's British Gunmakers (London). I can copy out if required; there were numerous address changes. I have a Barnett 16 bore single muzzle loader. Fun to use pin-fires and I use a Thomas Newton of Manchester. Good fun! Lagopus.….

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Erskine's patent pinfire was patented in 1859 too.



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Thanks to all who are contributing to the thread. There are indeed very knowledgeable collectors out there, and I would dearly love to see Mr Stockham's fantastic collection. Gene Smith and Chris Curtis's book, "The Pinfire System," is required reading for anyone looking into this period of gunmaking. They, and others, are experts on pinfire pistols and revolvers, a subject on which I know little, and on the matter of pinfire cartridges I again defer to the experts.

I am going to stick to pinfire game guns. To the members that have contributed so far, I will get around to Powell, Reilly and Erskine examples, I promise.

It is near impossible to follow a precise timeline in describing pinfires, but I am going to try starting with early designs, and guns that can attributed to an early date. Some guns can be precisely dated from records, while others fall into more general groupings, like post-1862 (from unmarked Jones underlever actions). The start in Britain was in the mid to late 1850s, and then the bulk of new designs and manufacture happened in the 1860s. A few makers built pinfires into the 1870s, I imagine to please conservative clients, but by 1870 few were being made, having been replaced by the centre-fire. Dual-fire guns able to use both pinfire and centre-fire cartridges appeared in the mid-1860s, but did not last long. And muzzle-loaders converted to breech-loading might have been done anytime during the brief heyday of the pinfire in Britain, a cheaper (though risky) alternative to buying a new gun. Guns carrying patent designs or features are a bit easier to place within a timeline, but guns built for the trade can be impossible to narrow down. As AaronN points out, some makers were coming up with inventive designs in the late 1850s.

I will get to all of these types in due course, but one generalization that can be made is that the Lang-type single-bite, forward-underlever fell from favour by the 1860s in light of better alternatives. Before leaving this type altogether, here is one signed Hugh Snowie. It is a good example of the lengths one might go to keep a gun in the field. A gun was a sizeable investment back then, as it is still.

From the IGC database, Hugh Lumsden Snowie was born in 1806 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was apprenticed to Charles Playfair from 1821 to 1827. He might have been Playfair's first apprentice, as that was the year Playfair first started his own gun making business. After his apprenticeship Snowie worked in London as a journeyman gun maker for about two years before moving in 1829 to Inverness to establish his own business. By 1851 he was recorded living at 89 Church Street, with his wife, daughter, and two sons (Thomas and William, who eventually apprenticed under their father). Hugh Snowie died in London in June 1879, and his sons continued the family firm.

This gun has been heavily used, and it has undergone significant repair and maintenance work. It might even be a converted muzzle-loader, but I can't be entirely sure. What is certain is that someone went to great lengths to keep it in working order. It is a 14-bore, serial number 3277. My best guess is that it was probably made around 1860, or soon after. The 29" damascus barrels have London proofs, and an unsigned top rib. The back-action locks are signed "H. Snowie."

The gun is a single-bite screw grip action with forward-facing under-lever and assisted-opening stud, of the type Joseph Lang started making in 1853-54. The actioner's initials are "S.B", who I've not been able to trace. It could be the mark of Samuel Brown of 12 Lench St., or that of Samuel Breedon of Washwood Heath, both Birmingham gun makers at the time who could have supplied a barrelled action or partly finished gun to Snowie. Early in the development of breech-loaders there were not many who were experienced at duplicating Lang's action -- so it might remain a mystery. The under-lever swings out to the left, marking this a gun for a left-handed shooter. The gun has early features, such as a mechanical safety grip and a long butt plate upper tang, styles that soon disappeared in the breech-loading era (the reason behind wondering if this was a conversion). The gun has fences with raised collars, an attractive flourish. The hammers have extended flanges, and overall the gun has well proportioned lines, weighing a light 6 lb 10 oz. It is a real shame the 14-bore fell from fashion.

The story I want to know is why it underwent so many repairs. Several action screws have been replaced, the assisted-opening stud is missing, the under-lever looks like a replacement, and the right-hand lock plate has an extra drilled hole. Removing the lock plate shows that a new, shorter mainspring was fitted, which required a new hole for the spring's attachment pin. The gunsmith might have simply used a spring salvaged from another gun, but fitted it in a way whereby both hammers pulled with equal force, and at half- and full-cock the hammers still align perfectly. The gun has seen heavy use, the engraving is quite worn, and the bores are pitted. It was kept going long after someone else might have retired it from the shooting field, or returned it to the gunmaker to be scrapped for spare parts and iron. I wonder how many red grouse fell to this gun?

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Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/03/21 04:01 PM.
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Barnett and Brazier:

Maybe a generation before J.E. Barnett, was Thos. Barnett and he thought people were using his "Barnett" marking on guns he did not make!

(Aris's Birmingham Gazette - Monday 08 November 1830)

But as for J.E. Barnett & Sons, Here are a couple ads:

(Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 27 September 1867)


(Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Friday 13 February 1874)

And the Brazier Locks:

(Field - Saturday 15 January 1870)


(Field - Saturday 22 May 1869)


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Howard A Blackmore in his book Gunmakers of London, lists The Barnett family tree,17 names in all ranging from 1700's t0 1875. F. Barnett is listed as a maker of Fowling pieces of superior manufacture and finish.
He is listed at 20 Oxford street in 1843.No closing date for the business is given.
I think there is a possibility that the gun is spurious because Barnett name was well known in the early 1800's.For example Blanch, in his book,:" A Century of Guns." notes that in 1812 the London post office directory listed only three gunmakers, Barnett, Blanch & Wilkinson. Familiar names such as Purdey Were at that time still in their infancy.

Last edited by Roy Hebbes; 07/06/20 10:52 AM.

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The pinfire era developed a new industry creating pinfire loading tools. Literally dozens or hundreds were developed as "better mousetraps" by Dixon, Hawksley, Bartram, and others. Prior to the pinfire cartridge, the muzzle loaders needed limited tool types. With the breechloader development, the uniformity of gauge became more important, too , so cartridges could be made to fit.

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Interesting comments on the Barnett name. If it is spurious, it is the best quality one I've seen, from a time when there weren't that many pinfire game guns around. I shall digress from the timeline for a moment as I do have another, later, pinfire sporting gun from a maker that specialized as a maker of martial arms on contract to the War Department but who also dabbled in sporting guns, Benjamin Woodward.

Benjamin Woodward starting out as a gunmaker in 1838, and in 1840 he moved his business to 10 Whittall St. in Birmingham's Gun Quarter, an address he maintained until 1883. In the 1841 census, Benjamin was described as a gunmaker, and two of his sons, Frederick and Benjamin, then both 15, were listed as gunmaker's apprentices. The younger Benjamin quit his apprenticeship and another son, Henry, was taken into the business, and in 1842 the name was changed to Benjamin Woodward & Sons. The firm is best known for producing military arms, notably the .577 three-band 1853 Enfield rifle-musket. Benjamin Woodward was also one of the founders of the Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA) in 1861, "a company to make guns by machinery," an effort to compete with Enfield on the production of military arms. In addition to the main business of government contracts, Benjamin Woodward & Sons continued to make a small number of sporting guns. I should point out that there is no family connection to the more famous James Woodward of the London gun trade.

The gun shown here is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun, serial number 134, made some time after 1863. The 29 13/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs and barrel maker's marks "C.H.," which I believe might be for the Birmingham barrel maker Charles Hawkesford of Court, 2 Summer Lane (in operation 1859-1869). Other marks include "B.W." (Benjamin Woodward?) and "J.F." (which I've as yet been unable to trace). The upper rib is signed "B. Woodward & Sons Makers to the War Department No. 134", reflecting the firm's main area of business. The back-action locks are signed "B. Woodward & Sons" and have game scenes on both lock plates. The foliate scroll engraving on the action body is quite pleasant, nice starburst patterns around the pin holes, and the game scenes on the lock plates are particularly well executed. The low serial number is possibly an indication of the small number of sporting guns made by the firm. The gun still has mirror bores, and weighs 6 lb 12 oz.

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Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/03/21 04:03 PM.
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