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Found this odd single shot percussion pistol/Bowie knife in my museum collection. We have no paperwork about it, other than it was given to my museum by a small museum at a State Park, which closed in 2006. The front screw head is broken off, and the knife blade is still very sharp, holding a butcher quality edge. The lockwork is crisp and I think with good cleaning, would still shoot.

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It's .54 caliber, smooth bore, patented by George Elgin in 1837. 150 were made by C.B. Allen of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1838, on order from the U.S. Navy for the Wilkes South Seas Expedition. This one is serial number 80, with the serial on the barrel, frame, and knife blade. Other similar designs were made around the same time by other makers, but there were only 150 C.B. Allens made. Quite a few survive to this day, as seen on auction and collection sites.

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This was the only combination weapon ever purchased by any military branch, and the first percussion pistol bought by any branch. In December 2010 serial #58 sold at RIA for $31,625.00. Another sold a year later for $25,740.00. Sadly, because the previous museum scratched their initials in the steel of the frame, I doubt that ours is worth as much. But it won't go to auction. The West Virginia State Museum never deaccessions anything.

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I have the task of cleaning it up and preparing it for a display case. A co-worker is researching the names of the sailors on the Expedition, and so far he's found five who traced their ancestry to Western Virginia, which 25 years after this pistol was issued, became the State of West Virginia.
 

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Wow thats incredible. I didnt know there was an Elgin Pistol. I have a couple of Elgin watches, but I have never seen a pistol.

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Extremely cool and nice write-up. Thanks for posting.:)
 

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and now they sell pistol bayonets which mount to the frame rail. 19th century ideas are Tacticool again.

Great write-up an an unusual artifact.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Found this pic of the missing part - the scabbard, including the ramrod. Sorry my museum didn't get the one that came with #80. Scabbard leather is a rebuild, from what I read. Brass is original.

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Better be careful drawing that from the holster. I always think when I see old weapons what they could say if they talked. It is an interesting story, thanks for sharing.
 

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That is incredible. I would think this would've been a cross draw. It would be really interesting to see this in action as it was designed.

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From what I've read, they were used once by the expedition in combat - on July 24, 1840, they fought off Fiji Island warriors to escape the island.
 

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From what I've read, they were used once by the expedition in combat - on July 24, 1840, they fought off Fiji Island warriors to escape the island.
Now that's a strange looking critter. How long is the blade? Thanks for the dip back in history on this.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Sorry I didn't have a chance to get back to the pistol with a tape measure earlier. Work has been interesting in this year's environment.
The blade is 11 1/2" long, grip to tip. The width is 2" at the end of the barrel, with 6" of knife after the barrel. Profile is not quite Bowie. It is not larger at the front, like a Bowie. I guess to make it easier to draw from a holster. Still a very good sharp knife.
 
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