RARE National Lancers Of Boston, 1838 Dated Percussion Pistol


Inspected and date specimen, brass barrel and furniture, Made by W.H. Barnes, Boston.

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This original American made percussion pistol made by Boston gunsmith W.H. Barnes, was made in 1838, and is dated and inspected by Massachusetts arms inspector “MJR” / “1838” with “P” proof mark on the breech of the 8 inch pin fastened brass octagon barrel. On the top flat at the breech is marked “16” / LANCERS in a small narrow cartouche. There is a small brass blade front sight. Caliber is .54.  The pistol was made two years after the organization of the National Lancers, and it is conceivable that the Lancers were still gathering all of the necessary arms and equipment at that time.

The pistol is mounted Cherry and all of the furniture is brass. The butt shape is similar to French and Belgian types of this era. One brass ramrod pipe holds the original trumpet shaped ramrod, The nose cap ends exactly beneath the muzzle. The barrel bolster is brass with an iron clean-out screw.  The lock is of a simple style with a blunt forward section, rounding at the rear, and bears simple floral engraving with a hunting dog behind the hammer. W. H. Barnes’s name is stamped forward of the hammer.  One side screw is used to hold the lock in place.

On the side panel opposite the lock, is stamped “#16” the corresponding number to that marked on the barrel.

Overall length is 13.5 inches.

Engravings and prints seen show that the Lancers of this early era were carrying a brace of these pistols, and carried in pommel holster attached to the saddle. Whether they were numbered as pairs is not known.  I have never encountered one of these pieces since collecting and acquiring Massachusetts Militia material full time since 1982.  I can’t find another in recent times listed anywhere (without doing exhausted searches.

Overall condition is Very good, and well as the mechanics. Light dings in the wood, and minute pits in iron hard to see. The stock has been lightly cleaned some time ago, but retains a great reddish cherry finish.


“The National Lancers has a long and distinguished history as a volunteer militia cavalry troop. The Lancers were organized on 31 October 1836 at the request of Governor Edward Everett. The governor wanted a mounted ceremonial escort. However, as a unit in the Massachusetts Militia, the Lancers were also charged with enforcing the law and defending the Commonwealth from invasion and insurrection.

The initial strength was 64 officers and troopers. Each trooper provided his own horse and purchased a uniform. The state issued sabers and pistols. In 1837, the Lancers escorted Governor Everett to the Harvard commencement; the Lancers performed this duty well into the 1960s. In 1845, the Lancers adopted their distinctive red full dress uniform which they wear, with modifications, to this day.” (taken from the National Lancer Website.

A rare pistol used be a storied Massachusetts Militia cavalry unit.



Additional information

Weight 4 lbs