While our country has had official arsenals for almost as long as we’ve been around (Springfield and Harpers Ferry were founded when George Washington was president), they didn’t always make all of the guns in-house. Often, the government contracted manufacture of the guns out to smaller, independent gunsmiths.

Such was the case with the Model 1807/8 martial pistol. For this particular order, seven different contractors produced a total of 1,802 flintlock pistols for the US Government in the M1807/8 configuration. (Eleven smiths won the contract, but four never produced a single gun.)

But problems with the pistols arose immediately after the guns were delivered to the Schuylkill Arsenal. Upon inspection, almost all of them were rejected. And the problems weren’t confined to just one contractor. They were all guilty of submitting subpar products.

Even early on, the government had “milspec” standards … and these guns didn’t measure up. One government official quipped, “It would have been better to have thrown the whole amount of purchase in the river, than to have procured with it.” Nonetheless, the government had indeed purchased them to the tune of $5 per pistol. (Our tax dollars have apparently always been spent wisely.)

Martin Fry, based in Pennsylvania, was one of the seven ill-fated contractors who delivered guns for the order. In total, he produced 116 pistols, or 58 pairs. All but three, however, were rejected. Today, those three are all that remain of Fry’s short-lived time as a government contractor. 

Two are in their original flintlock configuration and one was converted to percussion at a later time. Generally, it’s best to have something that’s truly one-of-a-kind. In this case, though, settling for one-of-three isn’t half bad!

(Firearm courtesy of NRA Museums)

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Wait a sec – A ‘Martial Pistol’?

    For when your mouthy wife smarts off one time too many?

    (A husband can dream, can’t he? 😉 )

    • “Wait a sec – A ‘Martial Pistol’?
      For when your mouthy wife smarts off one time too many?
      (A husband can dream, can’t he? 😉 )”

      A misogynist gun guy who can’t spell. What a rare specimen you are…

  2. Great story, enjoy the history. Why they did not make the milspec standard, would have been good info too. But maybe there was a cover-up and erased from history. Sounds familiar, huh.

      • Obviously, as an early version of the pre-DNC 10-round-limiting mags, they had to try “reasonable, common-sense” 10-round-maximum-LIFESPAN-firearms “to save even one child’s life.”

  3. These should have been .58 caliber, but I’ve never known as to if they were smoothbore or rifled. The earlier ones were rifled, and without sights. Then later they were smooth bored, with a front sight. It never made sense to me.
    I’ve finished making my .54 smoothbore pistol barrel and plug by hand. Now it’s time to start on the lock.

  4. More articles like this. More.

    I know Full30 has “Forgotten Weapons”, but text and photos are faster to absorb, and there is never a problem with volume or lighting.

  5. When I was around 16 , a friend came out with an old Flint lock pistol.We decided to see if we could get it to shoot. No black powder , so we emptied out some shotgun shells, we figured 5 would be plenty, stuck a rag down the barrel, some of the lead shot for projectiles and a fire cracker fuse for the Flint. Strapped it to a board, and lit the fuse. Son of a bitch we made a pipe bomb.

    • LOL. That was one of the best comments I’ve read in a while. On another note, I’ve always wanted a flintlock pistol. Does anyone have any idea what a reasonable price range would be for one, or, if there are manufacturers who produce quality replicas. There has to be, after knowing cimmaron and a few other companies produce replicas of 19th century revolvers.

  6. I love flintlocks. My first gun was a .50 Pennsylvania Rifle my dad and I built from a lot when I was 12. I’d love to get back into black powder some day when I have more time.

  7. Incredible story, appreciate the history. Why they didn’t make the milspec standard, would have been great data as well. In any case, possibly there was a conceal and deleted from history.

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