Charles Lancaster – A Pair of Rare and Unique Howdah Pistols.

Elephants with Howdah Pistols.

I am afraid this will be a general, visual post rather than a technical one, I took these photos just before I left the factory on Friday and I didn’t note down any of the details of the pair of pistols, the main and obvious question being the bore size. I was slightly (actually very) overwhelmed by the quality and condition of the whole package and the details seemed irrelevant at the time.

The Howdah pistol was the ‘last line of defence’ for a hunter high on top of an elephant whilst hunting tiger. If a Tiger was to charge the elephant and climb up to attack the people occupying the Howdah there was little room in which to defend oneself at the last moment, it was likely that the muzzle loading long arm had been discharged by this time.. Hence the Howdah pistol the short barrel, large bore firearm that could be drawn and manoeuvred in tight space, providing a killing blow, or in the case of this pair 4 barrels, 4 killing blows.

I have always liked very much the whole concept of the Howdah pistol and it was always something that I wanted to make a current version of, a large bore rifle cased together with a matching double barrel Howdah pistol. Our laws on barrel length and pistols has prevented that project from ever happening which is a shame.

Whilst I have seen a small amount of Howdah pistols in my years dealing, they are certainly  not common and they have normally been single and quite plain models. I had a pair of Holland & Holland .577 Howdah pistols many years ago at Las Vegas and I remember them selling in a flash.

This pair is quite unique and the condition is remarkable, all the accessories down to spare springs numbered for each lock. One of the oil bottles even has the seal unbroken and contains the very oil filled with 150 years ago, quite remarkable!

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (1 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (2 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (3 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (4 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (5 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (6 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (7 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (8 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (9 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (10 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (11 of 11)

untitled (1 of 1)This sculpture is at the Royal Armoury in Leeds where the National Collection of Firearms is held. It depicts very well the drama of the tiger hunt and the moments leading up to where a Howdah pistol would be useful if the shot he has held is a miss!

11 thoughts on “Charles Lancaster – A Pair of Rare and Unique Howdah Pistols.

  1. Good evening Simon

    Now that really is a find! You have a real time capsule from c.1850 of Royal life in the Raj. I assume that they are oval-bored?

    Allan

    • Like I said in the post I didn’t even measure the bore yet! Too busy admiring them myself to look at the details which seemed at first irrelevant as just so nice!
      I will update the post with specifics tomorrow.

    • Correct Fowad, they match the style of the pair of long guns and have the same provenance. There is a small gap in the serial numbers of the 2 pairs. Both the long gun and the pistols have Damascus barrels.
      Simon

  2. Simon, you have enough on your plate without making Howdah pistols, but wouldn’t they be legal in the UK made in percussion like the pair shown? Not a few of us grown up children would enjoy that!
    Very best wishes for your continued improving health,
    Miles

    • Miles, I think you are correct in saying percussion would be allowed so I probably don’t have a valid excuse! I will have to learn how to make 4 matching damascus barrel blanks though and that will take me a good few years to start with! I wouldn’t be happy with the modern Damascus efforts!

  3. Hello Simon,
    Could you provide us Howdah fans an update to the current status of these beautiful examples? In other words, are they available for sale and, if so, what is their current value (or price)? Reading your other article (“How do I Value the Vintage and Used Guns We Sell?”) I can imagine how difficult that might me.
    Still, I’m curious.
    Thanks,
    Wade

  4. Hi there – I wonder if you could assist. I have had in my possession for many years (35 or so) a over/under barrel Charles Lancaster (patent) 161, New Bond Street London 476 CF pistol, serial number 7901. I’m not too if can put date to this unit. Would be most grateful if you cold advise as to where I can check on the internet.
    Thank you

    • Dear Bruce

      The company is still in existence and have the ledgers. They are based down in Sussex in the UK. You should be able to find their details on the internet.

      Best regards

      Trigger

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