Make: Schermuly Pistol Rocket Apparatus (SPRA) Limited, England
Model: Line Throwing Rocket Pistol
Serial Number: 5923
Year of Manufacture: 1920s Through WWII
Caliber: The bore at the breech is about 1.095”.
Action Type: Single Action, Single Shot Break-Open Barrel with Left Hand Thumb Release and Exposed Hammer
Markings: The left side of the frame is marked “SCHERMULY’S / PAT. NO 503324 / S1” and with a “Crown / V”. The left side of the barrel at the chamber is marked with a British “Crown / GP” proof and “Crown / V” view mark. The right side of the chamber and the right side of the frame are marked “5923”. There is a colored decal with a SPRA logo on the barrel of the launcher.
Barrel Length: 19”
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are smooth walnut with a lacquered finish. The grips show oil staining with a few compression marks. There are spots of surface loss with light abrasions in the lower half of the grips. The grips rate in about Very Good overall condition. There is also a black Bakelite carrying handle mounted on brackets which are welded to the barrel. The handle show only small dabs of paint on its edges, and is in about Fine condition.
Type of Finish: The frame of the pistol and the chamber section of the barrel are bronze. The front section of the chamber and the steel barrel are painted green.
Finish Originality: The finish is original.
Bore Condition: The bronze chamber bore is bright. When we received it, the barrel section was coated with a light coat of oil and does not show erosion.
Overall Condition: This pistol retains about 35% of its metal finish. The frame and the chamber have developed a mustard colored patina. The barrel shows thinning with spots of surface loss that show erosion. The left side of the frame shows a few small dings and tool marks around one of the screw heads. The screw heads are sharp, with the pivot screw showing marks of a screwdriver. The markings are clear. Overall, this pistol rates in about Very Good condition.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. We did not fire this handgun.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pistol comes in a wooden crate “34 ½” x 18” x 9 ½” in size and with two boxes containing 350 yards each of ½” line. Also included is a copy of a SPRA advertisement showing the use of the pistol in the rescue of a four engine bomber at sea. The crate is painted gray and has metal reinforcing brackets on its corners which show erosion. There are rope handles on each end of the crate and the lid hinged at the back with two brass hinges. The lid also has white canvas straps to prevent the lid from opening too far. The lid is secured at the front with two steel clasps. There is a colored decal in the center of the lid with a SPRA logo and a metal plaque tacked to the front of the lid marked “SCHERMULY / NEWDIGATE SURREY / ENGLAND”. There is a crack in the lid, while the lid and the rest of the crate show various handling marks and scrapes in the finish. The crate is in about Good overall condition. The boxes of line are black cardboard with colored logos and a black on white decal with instructions on how to attach the line to the rocket. The boxes are tied with thick string which we did not open, but line is visible at the corners. The boxes themselves have torn corners with some of their protective tape coming undone. The boxes are in about Very Good condition.
Our Assessment: From http://www.cyber-heritage.co.uk/schermuly/: “William Schermuly 1857-1929 was one of fathers of modern rocketry. He had served aboard vessels at sea and knew of how many lives were lost each year due to shipwrecks. He invented several different line throwing devices, some of which were used in WWI for such things as throwing telephone lines from trench to trench while under fire. But, the British Admiralty still didn’t see a need for his line throwers. Finally, he came up with a design that was small, easily aimed and fired, accurate and simple to use – the Schermuly Rocket Pistol Apparatus. In 1929, just 19 days before he died, the Admiralty made it compulsory for all vessels over 500 tons to carry line throwers. It was so successful that in 1938, a new act made it a requirement for all ships over 80 tons or 50 feet in length.” This is a Schermuly Line Throwing Rocket Pistol in a crate with two boxes of ½” line that are 350 yards in length. Also included is a copy of an advertisement showing its use in the rescue of a four engine bomber at sea. The frame of the pistol and its chamber are made of brass and the rocket tube or barrel is steel. It has walnut grips and a Bakelite carrying handle, and there are British proof marks at the chamber of the barrel. The barrel shows thinning in its original green painted finish, with spots of erosion showing through the areas of surface loss. The grips show a few spots of light abrasion and a few minor dings. Overall, the pistol is in about Very Good condition. This pistol represents a very unique piece of nautical history, and would complement any collection of nautical or WWII artifacts.