The Model 1799: America’s First Service Pistol

    North & Cheney Model 1799 Pistol (RIA)

    Long before the MHS, the M1911, and even before the Colt Single Action Army the U.S. adopted its first sidearm. After the Revolutionary War Connecticut gunmaker Simeon North won a contract to manufacture the fledgling nation’s first officially adopted pistol. The result was the North & Cheney Model 1799 flintlock pistol. Heavily influenced by the French St. Etienne/Charleville Modele 1777 pistol, which had seen action in America during the Revolutionary War.

    The Rock Island Auction Company is selling a beautiful example of the extremely rare Model 1799 at their September Premier Auction. Expected to fetch between $55,000 – $85,000, the pistol is a rare piece of early American history. In the video below the guys from Rock Island take a look at the pistol and discuss its history and provenance:

    North made his new pistols in Berlin, Connecticut. They fired a .72 caliber ball and a brass frame held together the lock, trigger mechanism and walnut grips. The ramrod, rather than running under the barrel, ran along the right side, back past the trigger to give the pistol a sleeker profile. While the Model 1799 was the first sidearm officially adopted by the U.S. government, the Continental Army had adopted the Model 1775. Based on a British, rather than French, design the Model 1775, made at the Rappahannock Forge in Virginia, fired a smaller .62-caliber ball.

    North and his brother-in-law Elisha Cheney went into business between 1799 and 1802. During this time they produced around 2,000 in two contracts. The pistols saw action during the War of 1812. One may have been used by future Vice President Colonel Richard Johnson to kill the Shawnee chief Tecumseh during Battle of the Thames. Johnson capitalised on the event and later launched a successful political career.

    North continued to make pistols, manufacturing the Model 1826 for the U.S. Navy. America adopted its last flintlock pistol in 1836, the same year Samuel Colt patented his revolutionary revolving pistol. It wasn’t until 1848 that the U.S. Army adopted its first percussion revolver – the Colt Dragoon.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]