Make: Henry Deringer of Philadelphia, sold through C. Curry of San Francisco, California.
Model: Small Pocket Deringer, Rounded Trigger Guard & ‘Pineapple’-Style Finial
Serial Number: NSN
Year of Manufacture: The trigger guard finial design is indicative of work from 1850-1870 (Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values, 9th Edition, by Norm Flayderman, Page 408), C. Curry is listed in Frank M. Seller’s ‘American Gunsmiths’ as one of Henry Deringer’s agents in San Francisco from 1852-1863, giving us a narrowed range. We believe this item to be a VERY well preserved artifact of the American Gold Rush and early California settlement.
Caliber: .36 Caliber Ball
Action Type: Single Action Cap and Ball Black Powder Muzzle Loading Pocket Pistol
Markings: The top barrel flat and the side of the lockplate are both marked “DERINGER / PHILADEL” followed by what should be a small “a”, however the mark is nearly illegible in both cases. The front trigger guard finial has a pineapple design similar to the drawing labeled #7 on page 408 of Norm Flayderman’s “Guide to Antique American Firearms”, 9th edition. The trigger guard, sideplate, lockplate, flash plate, wedge escutcheons and top tang are scroll engraved. The shield behind the top tang and the tear shaped cap in the bottom of the butt have floriated engraving.
Barrel Length: About 1 5/8” as measured from the muzzle to the seam at the breechblock.
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a dovetail set silver blade. The top of the barrel has a “V” reference mark for zeroing the front sight. The rear sight is a “V” notch at the rear of the breechblock.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The one piece stock is walnut with checkering on the rear and flanks of the birds head grip, the butt has a small hinged storage door. The grain and fit to metal is superb, please see our pictures of this incredible pistol! The wood appears to have been varnished as its original finish and small amounts still remain in isolated areas. The stock has some small losses at the upper tang area and some moderate depth dings on the butt areas. There are no cracks or major damages. The stock rates in about Fine overall condition for an antique.
Type of Finish: Browned Barrel, German Silver Mountings with the Lock Plate, Hammer and Trigger appearing as in-the-white.
Finish Originality: All Original
Bore Condition: The bore is mid gray and the rifling is still sharply defined. There are some spots of mild erosion and browned patina in the bore.
Overall Condition: The barrel’s browned finish is now patina with areas of pin prick erosion, the barrel has wear to bare metal with general handling marks and the silver bands at the breech block have developed a yellow / butter patina. The silver plated items retain most of their finish with rich engraving. The butt’s storage door has shifted to patina, matching that of the hammer. The trigger is darker in color with light erosion present. The screw heads are surprisingly sharp with minimal tooling. The top tang and sideplate screw heads are engraved, the small lockplate and rear trigger guard wood screws are not. The metal to metal fit is crisp. The markings are clear except as described. Overall, this handgun rates in about Fine condition for an antique.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The barrel is rifled with seven grooves. The hammer has no play side to side in the down position with mild play when cocked. We did not fire this handgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: Included is a photo copy of Frank M. Seller’s ‘American Gunsmiths’ page 85, as well as page 73 and 74 of John Parson’s Henry Deringer Pocket Pistol book, giving some historical background to Curry’s business.
Our Assessment: We believe this to be a real Deringer, made by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia. Perhaps the most famous of Deringer’s pistols is the one used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, but his pistols were already famous before then and spawned many imitators. We encourage potential bidders to read the chapter titled “Percussion Deringers (Henry Deringer and His Imitators)” in Norm Flayderman’s “Guide to Antique American Firearms”. This handgun has survived in Fine condition, which is exceptional given its utilitarian pocket protection role; the option of a storage door in the butt would have fetched a premium over standard models, suggesting whoever purchased this originally had some money to let go. It has an approximate 5 ½” overall length with the barrel measuring about 1 5/8” as measured from the muzzle to the seam at the breechblock; Flayderman indicates that 1 ½” was the smallest barrel length but that variations plus or minus 1/8” were common. It has the appropriate seven groove rifling, engraving and markings. Included is a photo copy from Frank M. Seller’s ‘American Gunsmiths’, telling us that Charles Curry was an agent of the Deringer company in San Francisco, California from 1852-1863. This puts production within the American Gold Rush timelin (1849-1855) if not directly tied to that historic movement, it was definitely a part of early settlement in California. Local buyers, make sure this one doesn’t leave the state! These pistols are becoming quite scarce, especially in this condition and it is even more unique that this item has a documented history and after all these years still resides in California. This is a great chance to own a handgun so historic it literally changed the American language. Please see our pictures and good luck!