Make: Leech of Chelmsford
Model: .32 Caliber, Six-Barrel Pepperbox
Serial Number: None
Year of Manufacture: circa 1820s
Caliber: .32 Caliber Ball
Action Type: Double Action Rotating Barrel Pepperbox
Markings: The left side of the frame is marked “LEECH / CHELMSFORD”. The joints between the barrels all display a Birmingham Crown over Crossed Scepter over “V” proof.
Barrel Length: 3”
Sights / Optics: There are no provisions for sights on this pistol.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The two piece checkered wooden grips sport an engraved, diamond shaped screw escutcheon on each grip panel. The points of the checkering are flattened from use, but the fine checkering is still defined and presents about 25 diamonds per inch. The left panel exhibits a repaired crack, which is difficult to see on the outside, but the repair is visible on the inside surface. Both panels exhibit handing marks. The grips rate in about Fine overall condition as repaired and as antique.
Type of Finish: The barrels and hammer are blue, the frame is brass the trigger guard is shy almost all its finish.
Finish Originality: All Original
Bore Condition: The bores are smooth and exhibit patchy oxidation and shallow spots of erosion.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 40% of its metal finish. The finish on the barrels is thin and has developed a dark patina. Spots of surface erosion can be seen on two barrels and the junction near the muzzles. Shallow marks are present on the barrels and the edges are sharp. Multiple handling and compression marks are visible on the brass surfaces, which are developing a dark patina. Similar pepperboxes are known to be silver plated, but no signs of plating are present on the frame which looks to have been polished, or perhaps the silver chemically removed. Patches of finish on the trigger guard remain and the bare metal has developed a dark patina. An intricate scroll design is engraved on each side of the frame, along the backstrap, on the butt and on the trigger guard. The top of the hammer sports a Celtic knot design and a flower petal design. The barrel screw head also is adorned with a flower petal design. The screw heads are mildly to moderately deformed and are serviceable. The markings are shallow and clear. Overall, this handgun rates in about Very Good condition as antique.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. We did not fire this handgun.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pepperbox revolver comes in a wooden case with a silver plaque engraved with a “JG” monogram. The case has beveled edges. A crack is visible on the top of the lid along with finish thinning and handling marks. The inside of the lid and floor are lined with purple felt. There are no dividers present in the floor of the case, but traces of adhesive are visible as an indication that dividers were previously installed. The box is in Fair condition. A round brass cap box with a domed lid is present in the box. The bottom is stamped with a “TDC” logo. A dark patina has formed on the surfaces, traces of German silver plating remain and handling marks are visible. A warning regarding storing medicinal pills in the box is visible when the lid is removed. The cap box is a modern reproduction manufactured by Cash MFG. Co. and is in Good condition. A screwdriver tool is also present, which is forged from a single piece of steel bar. The handle is a simple loop, the shaft spirals and the tip tapers to a point. The screwdriver exhibits a coating of oxidation and traces of blue finish and is in Fair condition. A modern production brass powder flask in Fine condition and nipple wrench in Very Good condition are also present.
Our Assessment: Pepperbox revolvers predated the Colt revolver system and were popular up until around the Civil War. Rather than the cylinder rotating behind a single barrel, a cluster of barrels rotated under the hammer. They were a bit bulky and unwieldy, but the pepperbox mechanism was a true double action system, which was favored by many over single action revolvers. We believe this pepper box pistol to be an authentic antique which was mated with the case and accessories as a display piece and we have found a nearly identical example of a Leech pepperbox in the same case with the same accessories. This pistol was manufactured in Chelmsford, England, a suburb of London sometime in the early 1800s by William Leech, who hung out his gun maker shingle for the first time in 1796. The Leech & Sons gun shop was family owned until 1948 and is still in business today. Leech changed his mark to “Leech & Sons” in 1832, and given that the percussion cap was invented around 1820, we can narrow the manufacturing date of this pistol to between 1820 and 1832. The pistol is in Very Good condition as antique. The engraving is present but a little shallow, indicating that the brass surfaces have been polished. The blue finish on the barrels is thin but present, displaying a dark patina. The mechanics function perfectly. The box is in rough shape, but with a little refurbishing, this display set could be brought back to its intended splendor.