M18292 | Pistol

About 1850, 19th century
9.2 x 3 x 16.8 cm
Gift of Mr. R.J. Clarke
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Pistol (4)
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This pocket pistol, made in Belgium, is a percussion weapon. In 1805 the Reverend John Forsyth of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, invented this type of firearm, which was much more efficient and accurate than its predecessors. A percussion cap filled with fulminate of mercury was placed above the barrel. This chemical exploded when struck by the hammer. The flame produced by this explosion ran along the barrel of the gun and set fire to the gunpowder which then propelled the ball. The operation did not produce a flash or smoke, and the ball was ejected immediately, which was not the case with earlier firearms. By 1810 Forsyth's invention was well-known, and pistols of this type began to mass-produced.