Like any other Rock Island premier firearms auction, the upcoming August 2022 auction is also full of unique firearms of virtually every category. However, what caught my attention when I was browsing its catalog, was the amazingly large collection of various rare flintlock guns consigned to this auction, and in this article, we’ll take a look at the ten most interesting ones. While flintlocks may not be the most exciting type of firearms for many of you, trust me, what we are going to see today is absolutely mindblowing. Today we’ll see unicorns of this firearm breed, some of which are unbelievably advanced and innovative for the time they were made. I am talking about revolving and lever action flintlocks, a waterproof one, a punt gun and grenade launcher, combination weapons and multi-barrel ones. Doesn’t it sound intriguing? If yes, then without further ado, let’s take a look at our list of 10 obscure flintlock guns found in the catalog of the August 2022 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction.
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The list below goes in no particular order. The model names are linked to the corresponding Rock Island Auction catalog pages where you can find more and higher resolution images as well as more detailed descriptions of the lots.
Manufactured in the first half of the 18th century in the town of Carlsbad, this 20 gauge shotgun is a revolving gun with a three-shot cylinder. It has a single lock/hammer but each of the chambers is fitted with its own pan and frizzen. After firing one of the chambers, the shooter had to pull the cylinder release lever which forms the front portion of the trigger guard, then manually rotate the cylinder to align the next chamber with the barrel. A gilded, engraved and mechanically advanced firearm like this was probably made for a noble or very wealthy person. According to RIAC, King Christian IV of Denmark is known to have owned a pair of pistols from Carlsbad using this system.
Estimated Price: $18,000 – $27,500
This 40 gauge smoothbore three-barrel Dutch shotgun was made in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. It is like a giant pepperbox as its barrels rotate to align with the single hammer. Each barrel has its own pan and frizzen as well as a front sight. The lever in front of the trigger guard is to unlock the barrel block allowing to rotate it and align the next loaded barrel with the hammer. With such a small caliber, this was probably a pretty handy gun despite having three barrels.
Estimated Price: $13,000 – $19,000
One of the main drawbacks of the flintlock design is that the action is not well protected against moisture. The priming powder is poured into the pan and covered by the frizzen – that’s not a huge obstacle for a rain droplet to find its way into the priming charge and cause a misfire. Well, that issue is pretty much solved in this late 18th-century J.G. Dachtine 16 gauge flintlock gun with a simple solution – its entire lock is hidden under a hinged cover. To open the cover for loading the priming charge and cocking the hammer, the shooter must press the button on the right side of the receiver, and then snap the cover closed to waterproof the action. Was it really completely waterproof? Per RIAC’s description, this mechanism is based on Henry Nock, William Jover, and John Green’s patent 1095 from April 8, 1775, and in the patent, it is claimed that firearms using this design could be used in inclement weather without issue and even left in the rain for a whole day and then fired without re-priming.
Estimated Price: $7,000 – $11,000
Michele Lorenzoni invented this repeating lever action mechanism in the late 17th century. There are several variations of guns utilizing this action built by different gunmakers. This particular one is a 60 caliber rifle with a tubular magazine stored inside the stock, an automatic pan priming system built into the lock, and a powder compartment on its left side. This is an extremely fast repeater, reloading which only requires rotating the lever on the left side of the receiver forward and back. Being such an advanced design for the time, Lorenzoni action firearms were made in small quantities and were very expensive.
Estimated Price: $6,500 – $9,500
While not as scarcely encountered as some of the previous lots, this 4-inch flintlock grenade launcher/hand mortar is still fascinating and looks more like a movie prop than a real gun. Made in the late 18th century in Europe, this hand cannon was used to launch pre-lit fused grenades, weighed lines and grappling hooks. It probably had a pretty significant recoil and as rightfully mentioned in the RIAC description, was quite dangerous because of the possibility of a misfire (which is not something unheard of when it comes to flintlocks) with a pre-lit grenade in the barrel. Nevertheless, it must’ve been a great piece of equipment.
Estimated Price: $6,500 – $9,500
Made in the late 17th / early 18th centuries by Andrew “Dutchman” Rheinhold Dolep this 50 gauge smoothbore gun represents a firearm and airgun combination. The projectiles were fired through the same single barrel but they could be propelled by a powder charge, like a normal flintlock gun, or compressed air from the ball reservoir. This gun is consigned with its stirrup-style air pump needed to refill the air reservoir.
Estimated Price: $4,500 – $7,000
Is this a sword with a built-in flintlock pistol or a pistol with an attached sword? Regardless of which one of the weapons was considered primary, it is a pretty interesting rig used for dispatching wounded game animals and carried as a sidearm. The pistol is 45 gauge and the sword blade is 23″ long. Interestingly, there are false rifling grooves at the muzzle of the pistol but its barrel is actually smoothbore.
Estimated Price: $4,500 – $6,500
Israel Segalas, an 18th-century European gunmaker, is the designer of this four-barrelled 32 caliber flintlock pistol. The pistol has two hammers and a rotating barrel block. The trigger guard doubles as a barrel block unlocking lever allowing to rotate the barrel block and align the next pair of barrels with the hammers. The barrels of this pistol are two inches long which means its overall length is probably around five inches – that’s quite a compact carry piece for the time.
Estimated Price: $3,500 – $5,500
If four shots were not enough firepower for you, you could go with a 7-shot pepperbox! Made in the early 19th century, this 32-caliber pistol is a manually rotated revolving repeater. In order to unlock and rotate the barrel block, the trigger guard must be pulled back. Each barrel holds its own priming powder and underneath the frizzen is a funnel-shaped opening to guide all the sparks to the priming powder charges. I think with some practice, the user of such a pistol could really surprise its adversaries by the frequency of shots fired, in the times when percussion revolvers were not yet available.
Estimated Price: $9,500 – $16,000
From some of the smallest specimens of the flintlock family, let’s jump into one of the largest ones – the punt gun. Punt guns are early single-barrel giant shotguns used for commercial waterfowl hunting. This particular punt gun has a bore diameter of a whopping 1-1/3 inches (about 34mm), a 91-3/4″ long barrel and an overall length of 8 feet 6-1/2″. The load weight used in this gun is not specified but punt guns could use birdshot loads weighing over a pound and reportedly were capable of killing over 50 birds at once. Obviously, a gun of this size is impossible to shoulder fire, that’s why they were designed to be mounted to small boats called punts, hence the name punt gun.
Estimated Price: $3,000 – $5,000
I hope you enjoyed this list of ten obscure flintlock guns from the August 2022 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction catalog. The auction has many more interesting flintlocks that deserve to be included in a list like this but were not because they are not as rare and/or unknown as the ones in our list and also not to make this article overly long. Particularly, other lots that should be interesting for flintlock aficionados include the Ferguson breechloading rifle (Lot 1069), Fruewurth O&U rifle (Lot 216), pair of Perry SxS pistols (Lot 3222), Boutet pocket pistol (Lot 1265), pair of O&U Ottoman pistols (Lot 323) and Nicholson three-barrel pistol with bayonet (Lot 1255).
The August 2022 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction will take place from August 26 to 28. To browse the auction catalog, click HERE.