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Richard Weist

Location: Western New York State
Joined: 16 Jan 2016

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu 23 May, 2019 11:57 am    Post subject: John Thomson, "Gunmaker to his Majesty" 1816-27         Reply with quote

I own a John Thomson pistol. He is referenced in Charles E. Whitelaw (Scottish Arms Makers) on page 159, and (while there is a typo on 172) he is referenced by Martin Kelvin (The Scottish Pistol) on pages172 & 238.
I am looking for more information about the maker, e.g., what does "Gunmaker to his Majesty" mean. I think Kelvin would categorize my pistol as "late flintlock" (see 139-41). Can you provide further references to John Thomson?

A set of images of my Thomson pistol has been attached.

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Neil Melville

Location: Scotland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009

Posts: 219

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2019 9:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Richard,
John Thomson worked in Edinburgh and had been apprenticed to James Innes to whose business he later succeeded. Both men made high quality duelling pistols, Thomson in particular using technical refinements which had been devised by John and Joseph Manton. A pair of Thomson's duellers dating to about 1815 is discussed, with a photo, in the book, Duelling Pistols, by John Atkinson, London 1964. Innes and Thomson were both 'Gunmakers to His Majesty' which means they could claim the king as a patron, that he had bought, or been given, pistols made by them, that they had a royal warrant to supply the king with guns. I have not seen any 'Highland' pistols by Thomson but I can confirm that his English style duelling pistols are top class.
Well done. Neil

N Melville
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Karl G

Location: Australia
Joined: 25 Apr 2016

Posts: 66

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2019 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Lin Robinson

Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
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Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,241

PostPosted: Tue 28 May, 2019 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The photo you attached depicts what is referred to as a "costume pistol." When the enthusiasm for all things Scottish - Highland in particular - began around 1820, there was a rush to outfit anyone with the faintest connection to Scotland with what they perceived to be typical regalia. Weapons figured in prominently. So there were antique pistols still extant in Scotland, in spite of the disarming acts and confiscation and destruction done after Culloden. But there simply were not enough to go around. As a result the gun makers of England stepped up.

The production of costume pistols went on for many years. Most of these pistols are like the one in the post, i.e., they captured the spirit of the ancient highland all-metal pistol but that was about it, although this one is very nicely decorated and looks as if it has never been used. With some exceptions, most were clearly not the same style and many were not as well-made or beautifully decorated the originals. They were actually firearms and could be fired but probably few ever were. Instead they were ornaments to be displayed when the owner was in his Highland dress, then put aside until next time. I have seen one example which had a trigger guard added, along with a captured ramrod, that looked like it had been actually used for self-defense, but most were not.

Costume pistols today come up for auction every now and then and usually bring a decent price, especially in matching pairs. Yours looks very nice.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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