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J. HENRY
NAVAL BOARDING PISTOL
CA. 1812

This is an attic condition Naval Boarding Pistol made by J. Henry.  It has been converted to percussion.  All the iron parts are in a relatively smooth crusty brown patination.  The brasses have a very authentic patination and the wood is to die for.  The stock has what looks like its original oil finish and an unmolested wood surface, very minor dents and abrasions, no repairs.  Just a beautiful piece of wood for a gun this old.  Defining this gun is a little bit confusing.  You will notice the sunken "P" proof at the rear of the barrel and the name in front of the hammer.  These two characteristics are found on two J. Henry pistols.  The first is the Naval Boarding Pistol and the second is the 1813 Maryland Contract Pistol.  As you can see, when I remove the barrel, there is a crude "M" stamped at the back of the barrel, below the stock line and is not visible until the gun is disassembled.  The die that stamped this mark is not the same die that was used on the 1813 Maryland contract.  I suspect it is a barrel maker's mark.  Also, the Naval Boarding Pistol is often found with a mark of this type in the area of the sunken "P" proof.  Further, if you will notice, there is a neat hole behind the rear lockplate screw on the left side of the stock.  This would be for mounting a traditional Naval belt hook which is held in place by the rear lock plate screw.  Therefore, I'm pretty sure this is a classic J. Henry Naval Boarding Pistol.  As the War of 1812 approached, American shipping was under siege by both British and French naval vessels.  There was virtually no United States Navy after the Revolutionary War.  The U.S. government gave letters of mark to the privateers who raided British and French shipping.  This is very much like contracting out to Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan except that the contractor kept the spoils.  These pistols were bought by ships captains who were privateers sanctioned by the United States government.  In the book Historic Pistols by Smith & Bitter, they state "Only very few pistols like this are known.  They were probably made at the Henry plant in Philadelphia during the War of 1812 on a small order of perhaps 20 pistols by an American sea captain or ship owner."  This is one rare little puppy and without doubt used in our Naval warfare during the War of 1812.  SOLD!!