Photos: Rare First-Generation Swivel Whaling Harpoon Gun

whaling

For those into firearms history, and the lore of the sea.  Here are some photos of a pretty rare harpoon gun circa 1800.  Check out the photos and description from The Cannon Superstore below.  If you are interested in this piece of nautical history, I understand that it can be yours for just shy of $21,000.  I also understand through some research that this is only the 6th one of these in existence, the other five of them being in museum collections, making this one the only example available for a personal collection.

Very Rare First – Generation Swivel Whaling Harpoon Gun

By Wallis of Hull

Flintlock Converted to Dual Percussion Hammers!

44 inches long x 7 3/8 inches wide – Circa 1800

A rare and impressive whaling gun from the earliest period of firearm innovation in the fishing industry, this English Whaling Harpoon Gun is a stout and serious instrument that revolutionized whaling. Made by George Wallis of Hull, he is recognized as the first successful maker of the swivel-mounted harpoon gun, circa 1800. The author William Scoresby indicates this period to have been 1772-1792, while other later sources credit the invention to 1800-1815.

When originally made, this Wallis gun had two flintlock hammers that worked off a single trigger, and have long ago been converted to two dual-percussion cap hammers, that would have lanyard triggers threaded out the locks to be fired simultaneously, ensuring the firing of the harpoon. With a full charge, it had an accurate range up to 40 yards. The name Wallis of Hull is on the iron barrel, amongst the heavy aged pitting, deep rust and signs of use under an old remnant of black oil paint. The left brass hammer compartment is marked “SHIP”.

Owning a deadly presence, the gun barrel is a stout 30½ inches in length with a 2½ inch diameter with a 1¾ inch bore, while the overall harpoon gun is 43¼ inches, plus the split-shaft barbed harpoon with ring for line attachment. The English Society of the Arts had paid premiums to whale men and artisans in the 1790s and early 1800s for those showing innovation and improvement in the use of the guns and harpoons. When William Greener substantially changed the design and powder of this type of harpoon gun in 1837, the new styles became known as Greener guns. This older gun was kept in use during this period, as indicated by its conversion.

1280 dpi full view right side333333333333333 1280 dpi righ side hammer555555555555555 1280 dpi Harpoon131313131313131313131313131313 1280 dpi full view left side (1)222222222222222 1280 dpi close of right side hammer777777777777777 1025 dpi back close with doord closed999999999999999 1025 dpi back with both doors open888888888888888 1025 dpi close of left side hammer area door open444444444444444 1025 dpi engraving on barrel111111111111111111111111111111 1025 dpi right side with door closed101010101010101010101010101010 1280 dpi close of name666666666666666 1280 dpi close of left side hammer area door cloesd left side121212121212121212121212121212



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  • Man pippy

    Is that a copper harpoon, why would it be copper and not steel?

    • sianmink

      Looks like iron or steel with a well developed patina to me.

    • BryanS

      Copper would show a patina of green if that were the case.

  • dan citizen

    You know this kills whales right?

    Kidding, great article!

  • Phil Hsueh

    So, would this be CA legal?

    • USMC03Vet

      lol in California aka Save The Whales Territory you’d be burned at the stake.

      Assault harpoon gun!

  • dan citizen

    needs a picatinny rail

  • wicked_bear

    I need to borrow this next time I visit my local wally world, lots of land whales in my AO.

    • hkryan

      +1 for using “AO” and reference to Walmart in the same sentence.

  • Secundius

    Other than a conversational piece or a over-sized paperweight, what use or function does it have.