Captain Midnight

Flintlock Pistol Holsters

55 posts in this topic

The argument about period illustrations is a complex one, and to a huge extent depends on what you're trying to prove or disprove by them.

Let us take, for example, the illustrations that accompanied Johnson's General History, which would include all but the buccaneer picture of those I just posted - though they do come from different editions of the book.

What do we know about the illustrations? The Blackbeard picture is from the first (1724) edition, the Roberts picture is from the third (1726) edition, but based on that in the first edition, the Rackham picture is from the third edition and the Bonny and Read pictures are from the first Dutch edition (1725). Therefore, all of the pictures are broadly contemporary with their subjects in terms of time. Where they fall down is that it is unlikely the illustrator of any of those editions of Johnson actually saw the people he was drawing.

OK, so we can't say that we know what Roberts looked like, or how big BB's nose was. That kind of detail must be made up by the artist(s). However, that doesn't mean that we can't believe anything in the pictures. The picture of Roberts is clearly based on the written description of him to be found in the text, in which he is described as wearing a red damask waistcoat. If we look at the picture we can see that he is indeed wearing a damask waistcoat - this is important, he's not wearing a coat, he's wearing a waistcoat. The artist clearly knew what a waistcoat looked like, he'd have seen several of them every day, so he drew one. We can't use the picture of Roberts to say what he looked like, but it's a damn good illustration of a waistcoat circa 1720.

Similarly, just because the artist who illustrated the first edition hadn't met BB doesn't mean for a second that he'd never seen a cartridge box. The illustrator of the Dutch edition may never have seen Bonny and Read, but he knew they disguised themselves as men so he drew them in typical English sailors' clothing of the time, with which he was probably pretty familiar (Holland being a maritime nation and all that)

These artists didn't live in a box. They lived in the real world and they knew what things looked like. So too did their audience, so they had to be accurate to a certain degree. No, we can't treat period illustrations as photographs, we can't pretend that they are 100% accurate (though of course, we don't know that they're not), but it would be incredibly stupid to dismiss them as fanciful and inaccurate. If we dismiss the reasonable number of period illustrations (whose consistency goes a long way to verifying their accuracy btw), what else are we going to base our conclusions on? There are other sources (written, archaeological etc) but the wealth of pictures available to us is probably the best and largest source of information about the appearance of pirates and seamen of the GAoP.

Now, does anyone have any evidence for GAoP period belt hooks?

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The type of innacuracy I refer to is for instance, the rig that Blackbeard is wearing in the engraving. Such a rig would swing side to side in a very clumsy fashion unless secured by some means like a waist belt. It would be awkward to walk in, much less to fight in.

>>>>> Cascabel

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There is a good discussion of belt hooks in Gilkerson's 'Boarders Away', in which he contends that belt hooks were quite common in the 1600's, and fell out of favor in the military land forces eventually, but continued on sea service pistols throughout the flintlock era. They were also common on civilian pistols of the period.

>>>>> Cascabel

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I agree it looks impractical. On the other hand if it were attached to a belt too then the neck strap would be partially redundant.

You're effectively saying "that doesn't look like it would work therefore the picture must be wrong", which is, with the greatest of respect, speculation.

Maybe (and this is equaly speculative, and thus equally valid) the cartridge box on a neck strap was stupid and impractical. Let's face it, there's not a massive number of pictures showing it, documentary evidence is relatively limited and it was, at best, a short lived fashion. Maybe it wasn't attached to a waistbelt and that's why it was quickly replaced with something more practical.

Alternatively, maybe it was attached by some means other than a waist belt. perhaps there's a button hole on the back that attaches to the front of the coat to stop it swinging. (I'm not seriously suggesting that that was the case, merely pointing out the possibilities).

Rather than basing our trust of evidence on our own interpretation, let us base our interpretation on the evidence.

FWIW, I really don't think much of the hilt of that sword BB'd depicted with...

Does Gilkerson offer any examples of 1600s belt hooks?

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Gilkerson shows a picture of a 1720 Royal Navy Sea Service pistol, and mentions it having a belt hook in the text, but does not show the other side of the pistol carrying the hook in the photo.

He also shows an English snaphaunce pistol with a belt hook c.1615, in the collection of the Palazzo Ducale, Venice thought to have been captured from a British privateer in 1628.

All examples of the all-metal Scots Highland pistols that I have come across, including the very earliest have hooks.

I'll dig around in some of my other books when I get a chance, and see if I can find some other examples.

>>>>> Cascabel

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Thanks Cascabel :ph34r:

Like I said, I've never really looked into belt hooks, but three or four examples (and yes, I should have thought of those all-iron Scottish things) is enough to convince me they had 'em. :ph34r:

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Just a few thoughts about the belly boxes. Without a belt, or at least some way of preventing it from swinging, it does seem that it would be impractical for battle. However, it would be rather convenient to have all your reloading supplies right in front of you for, say, target practice or walking around on shore where you aren't expecting immediate trouble, but want to be prepared for anything. Also, Foxe, I disagree with the belt being partly redundant. With multiple pistols, reloading gear, and possibly a sword, boarding axe, etc., it would get rather heavy around your neck alone. The belt would help spread the weight, much like a modern backpack with a hip-belt. It distributes the weight from neck and hips. It seems that starting with a basic historical design from these engravings or any other historical evidence and then modifying it to work better and fit your personal body better would be completely authentic, at least for pirates. Naval types might not have the luxury of individualizing equipment.

Just my two cents worth.

Coastie :lol:

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The subject of period illustrations is indeed a thorny one, and the context of the picture is important. for example, the pictures of blackbeard are illustrating the description in general history. (In the context of this thread, the fact that he carried six pistols.

of three images, each shows a different confiuration.

In the first, he has four pistols attached to his baldric, and another two, (Larger?) pistols hung from a sash on his right hip.

QAR-Blackbeard.jpg

On the second, he is carrying all six pistols on an increadably broad baldric, (I imagine that that much weight on one strap would have dragged the whole lot down until his sword was half way up his back.

blackbeard.jpg

and in the third, he has six pistols attached to the strap of his cartrige box.

teach.gif

However if you compare the second and third picture, the pose, the cut and drape of the coat, the shape of the sword, the position of the scabbard. one is clearly copied from the other. (Looking at the details, I would say that the third is copied from the second.

there are many things wrong with both of these pictures. for example, the sword does not conform to any known typography of that or any other historical period, the backswept crossguard would make it almost unusable in combat.

Finally, in the last incarnation, the baldric has been removed, yet the scabbard remains in place. Unless the sword was worn under the coat, and is therefor totally unaccessable, there would need to be a belt to suspend it from, regardless of the cartrige box.

One needs to look at the quality of detail, and the context of an individual illustration to judge its merit, but I would not hold much faith in this particular picture of blackbeard.

Now look at this (earlyer) picture of Henry Every.

avery3lg.jpg

In this case he is carrying his pistols in a broad belt, with the bellybox attached at the front, without the benefit of a neck strap.

(Also look at the pose, and the body proportions, position of head. I wander what the later illustraitors used as a template for their picture of blackbeard.)

Of the three pictures, I would take the portrait of Every to be the most reliable.

Finally, refering to the first picture of Teach, look at the pair of pistols hanging from the sash. The same configuration appears in this picture of Henry Morgan.

p02.jpg

The disadvantage of belt hooks is that they only really work on the left hip, which can get very crowded with a sword and pistols.

I have done a few experiments hanging pistols by their belt hook from a sash on the right hip, and it works surprisingly well, they can be pushed back behind the hip, out of the way. and although they are slightly clunky, this can be reduced by placing the pistols one on each side of the knot. Two does seem to be the maximum number for this method of support though.

I did have a few more points, but I am running out of time, so they will have to wait.

Tall Paul

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Interesting thread.

My DSL has been out so once again I am late to the party.

It seems that there is some evidence for use of the Belt Hook before the GAoP and after. I am curious about the Gilkerson Sea Service pistol and the hook.

When did the sea service model first come into use? I thought that "official" Sea Service pistols were post GAoP.

Also, is it possible that hooks were added after GAoP?

Have any of the Period ship salvage teams (Wydah, QAR or others) found pistols with belt hooks on them? I know lots of pistols have been recoverd, from w1690-1725 wrecks, but I have not seen anything that would suggest the pistols had this clip on them.

Again, I am not saying that they didn't exist during GAoP, but I hope we could get some positive Naval use for the period.

It seems that it makes too much sense for it not to be the standard, yet the historical record that we have looked at so far doesn't seem like it was the norm.

I would imagine though, that given the green light, we will see wide spread use in the Pirate Living History community.

GoF

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Here is a 1759 Sea Service Pistol with hook

http://www.ken-drake.com/edge_sea_service_pistol.htm

A 1796 SS pistol with hook

http://www.kahnfineantiques.com/index.cfm?...m?page=7&Id=543

others?

gof

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Two small points:

In the first, he has four pistols attached to his baldric, and another two, (Larger?) pistols hung from a sash on his right hip.

Forgive my idiocy, but is that not a good pictoral example of the pistols on silk slings that everyone was pooh-poohing earlier in the thread?

Finally, in the last incarnation, the baldric has been removed, yet the scabbard remains in place. Unless the sword was worn under the coat, and is therefor totally unaccessable, there would need to be a belt to suspend it from, regardless of the cartrige box.

Not necessarily, I usually wear my sword beneath my coat and it sticks out through the side vent.

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In The last year I have revived my leather working skills and have been making the leather gear for my group. The Free Men of the Sea here on the East Coast. I've also made a few pieces by request for a few others. I just made a pistol holster for a Tower pistol for my Captain. It looks pretty good. I have the area cut out for the loock so it slides in tight. I also made a belly box for myself. I'm not good at this blasted tech stuff, but I will try to get pics uploaded as soon as I can. If ye be interested email me or write to

Scupper Burke

210 East hampton Rd

Marlborough CT 06447

Scupper

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The disadvantage of belt hooks is that they only really work on the left hip, which can get very crowded with a sword and pistols.

I have done a few experiments hanging pistols by their belt hook from a sash on the right hip, and it works surprisingly well, they can be pushed back behind the hip, out of the way. and although they are slightly clunky, this can be reduced by placing the pistols one on each side of the knot. Two does seem to be the maximum number for this method of support though.

I did have a few more points, but I am running out of time, so they will have to wait.

Tall Paul

I have made belt hooks for all of my pistols, and generally carry one on my right side, toward the front to protect it from getting damaged by my sword banging in to it. Two work just fine, and a third can be neatly hooked on to the baldric at the bottom where it comes together. It stays in place nicely here, and looks great. another can be hooked behind me if need be. Most of the time I only carry one, as they get rather heavy.

http://www.pyracy.com/gallery/details.php?...508&mode=search

I have seen various attempts to carry pistols on the front of baldrics which usually does not work out very well, as the weight tends to bring the pistols to the bottom causing the sword to move around to the back. I suppose it COULD work if the baldric was secured in some fashion, or if the pistols were light weight.

Another, but less practical aspect of belt hooks is that the whole pistol is exposed, and really looks great hanging on you !!

>>>> Cascabel

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This is one thing I know a little about. During this period they are just grasping hold of perspective. Notice the size difference in black beards hands. Also you have to take into accountability of the various skill levels of the artist. How long the model stayed in the same position, if there was a model at all, etc.

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Well I can't document my baldrick, but it is made out of very heavy ox hide, and has a long tapered wet molded loop on the front to hold a pistol.

But because the leather is so heavy, even with the weight of the pistol, it dosen't slide around......

Of course, I don't know how many pistoles you could carry this way......

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Well, I've been searching around, and finally found this on the internet. This is the holster I have decided to attempt a reconstruction of. Yes, I know that it is pictured with a wheel lock pistol, but if you look at the dates that the documentation shows, you can see that this type would definitely be appropriate for the GAoP. Since my pistol is a doglock of the 1640's-1690's, and my "persona" is around the year 1700, it is perfectly plausible to have a holster like this one. It is of Spanish origin. I will adapt the reconstruction to be fitted to my baldric rather than slung from a saddle as shown.

pistol_holsters_600.jpg

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I think there was another picture in the Colonial arms book showing how the flap covered the pistol.....

Also notice the spanner, bullet/ball pouch and horn, hung on the holster......

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In The last year I have revived my leather working skills and have been making the leather gear for my group. I will try to get pics uploaded as soon as I can.

Can anyone help Scupper out and host pics of his work? Might benefit all of us.

As for how pistols were carried, that might vary on the engagement. Expensive as they were and remain, we'd be inclined to think the pirates wouldn't want to lose them and yet look how these guys pissed away fortunes.

So unless the particular firearms held emotional significance, the tactical situation might dictate. Follow me on this -

If you're going to board a ship from your own and plan to use your empty pistols as clubs (swung or thrown, both are documented) then all you need to do is stuff them in a sash after they're loaded. Pull, shoot, throw, repeat as able.

If it's important enough not to lose the pistols - say boarding from longboats and/or an extended fight, where you'll have time to fall back and reload while your mates carry on the fight - then you'd tie off the pistols from their lanyard loops or trigger guards to your sash or belt.

If you're going ashore for an extended walk to your fight, a balderic would be a more comfortable way of carrying the weapons.

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I think there was another picture in the Colonial arms book showing how the flap covered the pistol.....

Also notice the spanner, bullet/ball pouch and horn, hung on the holster......

Yeah, that is cool, isn't it, Patrick? Any chance you might be able to post that pic here? I like the way the priming flask is hung from the strap around the holster...I'll probably rig mine the same way. I won't need a shot pouch, however, as my ammunition is in the form of rolled and tied cartridges stored in my replica of the Whydah cartridge box.

Story, I think all of your ideas for the method of pistol carry are plausible and were utilized. However, had I actually lived back then, I would not have thrown away my pistol(s) after firing it, as it (they)are an expensive item, and sometimes not easily replaceable, especially when out at sea and prey is scarce. Of course, my personal method of combat for my own pistol is not to fire it first in the engagement, but to save it for that special moment it is needed, such as dropping the enemy captain from a distance, or stopping an opponent who is right on top of me, and my other weapons are unreachable. I only carry the one pistol, as my doglock is a whompin' big weapon nearly the size (and caliber...heehee) of a sawed off shotgun. Any more than that, and they would get in my way and seriously hamper my mobility, and weigh me down un-necessarily. Other than that, my cutlass is my first line weapon. :huh:

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Any chance you might be able to post that pic here?

I got a copy through an inter library loan..... scanned the chapter on guns, but not on swords or the cartridge boxes..... sorry.

I will have to post a picture showing how my holster works... I'm not sure if it's 100% period, but it sort of works... I still tie the pistole with a cord, It has fallen out at times, and I wouldn't want to lose my pistol. But I can draw, fire, and put it back into the holster very easly.

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When it comes to the pistols on ribbons around one's neck, I'm wondering how they were attached to the ribbon so they could quickly be removed and fired. Any documentation?

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I just figured that the ribbons went over the shoulder... and then the other end was tied to the pistol, not so long that it gets in the way, but long enough that you can pull and fire the pistol, but not lose it.....

I don't have any "documintation" on this... but playing with common sence. Hey... ain't that what "Experimental Archology" and "Living History" is all about...... :unsure:

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When it comes to the pistols on ribbons around one's neck, I'm wondering how they were attached to the ribbon so they could quickly be removed and fired. Any documentation?

Allby,

Since the long-barreled pistols were standard with period cavalry, one standard method of attaching a retaining lanyard was to a ring screwed into the buttcap.

Check out this 1742 Prussian hussar pistol

http://www.antiques.se/images/items/85_3fu.jpg

http://www.antiques.se/picture3/85.html#img

From a reenactor's position, one of the reproduction weapons could be modified the same way. http://www.militaryheritage.com/pistol3.htm

Caveat: not many period pistols with lanyard rings have survived, which might mean they were rare at that time (or conversely, the ones without lanyard rings might have seen little action and were safely stored, which would mean they were a rarity in the 17th-18th century).

Either way, a ribbon could be tied to the trigger guard.

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I just figured that the ribbons went over the shoulder... and then the other end was tied to the pistol, not so long that it gets in the way, but long enough that you can pull and fire the pistol, but not lose it.....

But there were multiple pistols secured upon the ribbon, is my understanding, not just a pistol at each end of the ribbon. B) None of this is easy to convey via a message board.... :unsure:

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I'm going to have to look up the passage again..... I thought it was ribbonS... so there would be one for each pistol...... I can't see how a bunch of pistoles on one ribbon would work.........

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