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.