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The Pistolet modèle An XIII in .69 caliber represents the service pistol of choice during the Napoleonic era, and was fielded by French cavalry as well as other army units and also naval personnel. Approximately 300,000 were manufactured at the Royal Armories of St. Etienne, Maubeuge, and Charleville between 1806 and 1814. It was kept in service well into the 1840s when many were converted to percussion.



This rusty relic was made in Liege ca1810 and was in service with a unit I have yet to identify. My initial guess is Company E, 2d Battalion of the 2d Cavalry or Cuirassiers, but I have queries out with era historians to refine that.



The drill with valuable artifacts is to dismantle them with minimal or no damage so the active rust can be removed, and to conserve the parts in a manner that prevents further deterioration without altering the original finish. Putting them back into service is another matter, requiring removal of the breach plug to insure remaining barrel wall thickness is adequate, and to protect the existing finish from further ravages of corrosive black powder. As this model of pistol remains relatively plentiful and it passed the breach plug and barrel-wall inspections, I took the extra steps necessary so this pistol can be fired.



Wood loses lignin with sunlight and age and becomes brittle. It also expands and contracts seasonally around the metal furniture, and when combined with rust literally welds wood and metal together. So to dismantle the piece, it was soaked for a week in Kroil before attempting disassembly, and evident are the large selection of parallel-blade screwdriver tips to obtain perfect fits before applying torque. Screwdriver bits are fitted to include grinding special bits if necessary, and are tapped into the screw slots using a brass hammer to break the rust bond before applying torque. Only then is the assembly secured in a padded vise and torque applied carefully while watching and feeling for evidence that the screw head is breaking. Those that break have to be drilled out, the threads recut and a new screw fabricated. But this one came apart without damage.

After disassembly, the rust was removed using brass brushes, the ironwork soaked in a mild phosphoric acid solution (there are several sold as "metal preps", in paint and hardware stores), then washed in a mixture of baking soda and hot water to remove the black oxide residue that results. The phosphoric acid fills the pits with phosphate salts that will prevent further rust using normal care.



The Kroil was removed from the wood using trichloroethylene solvent (available at hardware stores as "safety solvent"), the wood dried, and a thin coat of wiping varnish (Truoil or Linspeed) applied as a sealer. When dry, this was rubbed out using #0000 steel wool lubricated with a hard paste wax, and the entire piece coated with Renaissance Wax after assembly.

The ramrod was fabricated from a scrap of bronze rod and old lamp filial, and aged by soaking in a hot mixture of chlorine bleach, lemon juice and salt, followed by a commercial brass black and buffing out with #0000 steel wool.

A new flint lined with a lead washer hammered out and trimmed from a musket ball, and perfect sparking was achieved without having to retemper or remake the springs and reharden the frizzen, both more involved processes that I'll discuss here. This old pistol was exceptionally well designed and well made, and fortunately was stored most of its life with its springs uncompressed.
 

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I gave it a "Like" for the detail of the write-up and the restoration of a far-gone survivor without further damage. Having been into restoration of mostly pre-percussion arms for 50 years and scores of restorations, I know whereof I speak. All in all a "Bravo!" is in order.
 

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Terrific effort and write up. Very concise and clear. Great pictures!

Thanks for posting!
 

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Hey there Bob;

Nicely done!!

I'm really glad that this old pistol chose you to find it, and stop any further destruction. I can also appreciate the level of cleaning you did (or didn't do) in order to preserve this old girl. I commend you on actually saving this piece and not destroying it like many would who find such wonderful historical artifacts.

I'm particularly impressed by the fact that you used a hammered flat and trimmed, lead round ball to secure the flint in the cock instead of the "presumed" leather piece.

What you have done here is nothing less than remarkable, (if not downright professional) in saving a very fine piece of history.

Well done Bob, a fine job indeed.

Bud
 

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This project was meticulously done & seems to be returned to its clean survivor condition, preserving as-is the condition of the as-found metal. As a restorer of antique pre-percussion guns I never had a client, dealer or collector, who wanted a job restored only to the extent shown in this thread. Also I never restored one to like new (a la Turnbulls). All wanted a piece restored to condition as probably last used in its original configuration. This could mean replacement of missing wood or parts, restoring length to shortened barrels, restoring percussion back to flint & replacing original ID marks, usually by engraving. Some of my pieces came as just 'mortal remains' of highly documented pieces traceable to historical events, pieces that went into prestigious collections or public exhibits. All was to be done as near as possible without evidence of rework.

Some people deplore this kind of restoration as deception or fraud. If so we see similar activity in various other fields such as restoring damaged paintings, etc., (a la Antiques Road Show) restoring collector cars, repairing recent fender-benders, cosmetic dentistry, nose jobs, etc.

As for cost-effectiveness on old guns, I have done jobs that cost the client more than the piece was worth. Some of these were for 'vanity' reasons, more often IMHO, the long view of spending today's money on a gun they see increasing in value the next 20 years.

Back to the subject of this thread, the 'conservation' I think increases its value considerably. Whether cost-effective considering the effort expended is open to interpretation. It is certainly 'conserved' for whatever is in its future.

The value pendulum swings. There was a time when 'dugups' (far gone rusty relics) were worthless & now bring serious money. I see a tendency of increasing value of as-is guns which may devalue restorations in the future if it continues.
 

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Nice work Bob ! Very informative . Thank you for sharing it with us .

Any history on this pistol ? Found in a barn or ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Nice work Bob ! Very informative . Thank you for sharing it with us .

Any history on this pistol ? Found in a barn or ?
A Gunbroker listing by an estate seller who didn't know what he had...with few pics, and those extremely poor. I took the risk that it was real, not some repro left out in the rain as the seller described, and it worked out. Too bad I didn't also get the second one he had, because it was a British Light Dragoon in worse shape, but worth much more. They went in the $150 range.
 

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...All wanted a piece restored to condition as probably last used in its original configuration...
As you know, in Europe there is less romance connected to "original" and antique and classic firearms are routinely restored to a greater extent than here. I personally prefer that route, as many left entirely original are too fragile to survive another 200+ years across several owners, some not so meticulous about care.

But my purpose is to use this one in living-history presentations the Sons of the American Revolution present to young people, to include perhaps a live fire demo or two. I wanted a sealer coat on that pitting and old wood more protective than just wax. Hence the phosphoric acid and Truoil. While not a Rev War artifact, it's close enough in appearance not to matter, and unlike flintlocks and reconversions from 1810-1840, genuine 1780-era firearms are much more rare and expensive.
 

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Bob, I'm not even a percussion guy, let alone a flintlock guy. But what you have done is nothing short of remarkable. Hopefully who ever gets this pistol after you will cherish and maintain it for the next 200 years!
 

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Looking forward to the 'Range Report'!

Bring a Chronograph if you have one of course.

Be fun to know what that .69 Calibre Ball is doing FPS wise, on it's way to the Target!

Nice work!
 

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A flintlock pistol is still a flinter and a loading & shooting demonstration will be interesting and informative, especially to the Sons of the American Rev. Being a SAR member myself, sorry I can't be among the spectators.
 
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