Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Scottish East Coast Scroll Butt Pistol By James McKenzie of Brechin Ref: 079.16



Price: £2,950

Item Description:


A rare Scottish "East Coast" all-steel, flintlock pistol with scroll butt dating to circa 1730. Few pistols by James McKenzie survive. Like other East Coast makers he mainly made all-steel pistols of heartbutt form. Also trained in the manufacture of scroll butt pistols these makers occasionally departed from the heartbutt form, probably to make scroll butt pistols for the clansmen of the Central Highlands that sold cattle in the East Coast Lowland market towns. The pistol is therefore a rare survivor.

The profile of the pistol is of obvious scroll butt form with regard to the butt. Also, in other more subtle ways the pistol copies the scroll style typical of gunmaking centres such as Doune. The barrel is fluted at the breech and has has a flared octagonal muzzle.

However, stronger indicators that the pistol was made by a maker of heartbutts are also present. In profile the spine of the butt slopes steeply away from the barrel plug. In accordance with this the lock plate also curves downwards to terminate with filed gooves. The lock is of "English" rather than "Highland" type. The belt hook terminal is a series of spheres and circles, different to the more usual pierced and engraved roundels seen on other, more usual scroll butt pistols. The engraving of foliage, feathers, twists and dog tooth lines is, typical of James McKenzie's heartbutts of the period, lightly engraved and well executed.

The likeness between this and other heartbutt pistols by James McKenzie is perhaps best seen by comparison with a presentation quality pair of heartbutts of similar size and date illustrated in the Peter Finer catalogue of 1996 item number 173. The signature mark on our pistol is feint, but obvious when compared to the signature on the pair - "IA" followed by a conjoined "MK", both pairs of letters separated by a downward pointing arrow head.  James McKenzie the elder is first recorded through his admission as burgess in Brechin on 13th September 1728.

Extremity to extremity the pistol is just under 11.25 inches long (just over 28 cm). The barrel just over 7 inches (28 cm).     

The pistol is in fair condition. Elements of what appears to be old pitting in the photographs is partly age blackening in small recesses formed by forge lines from when the metal parts were hammered out in the process of manufacture. It has a pleasing weight, is well balanced, tight and the cock is in full working order. The ramrod and pricker are expertly made replacements. Some of the engraving has worn away underneath and on top of the barrel midway. These areas receive most contact and this wear, further supported by the smoothed angles and lines, indicates a pistol that was well loved and used  in its day.

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