Model 1797 Ship's Pistol

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Physical Description:
This .64 caliber smoothbore flintlock Model 1797 Ship’s Pistol was made by Robert McCormick. The lock, made by the British Ketland & Co., is completely flat. It has a pin fastened full walnut stock, brass mountings with a brass reinforcing band, and a wooden ramrod with swelled tip.
It is stamped “KETLAND & CO’ in script and “UNITED STATES” on the lockplate. The barrel is stamped “P” with an eagle head and “US” is stamped on the top of the barrel near the breech. The stock is stamped “US” under the side plate
Robert McCormick was an Irishman who came to America and leased the Globe Mills in 1798 to produce firearms. He was contracted by the U.S. government to produce muskets that same year. In 1799, he had another contract, but did not finish it because he was thrown in debtor’s prison in 1801. That contract was finished by an employee named James Haslett – who would move on to run the Virginia Manufactory.
The Model 1797 Navy Pistol is one of the rarest early U.S. military handguns. Not much is known about their date of manufacture but it likely predates the Model 1799 North and Cheney pistols. The British locks are probably part of rifle locks purchased by the U.S. government in 1799. McCormick pistols often have Ketland & Co. locks.
Flayderman, Norm. Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms…and their Values, Gun Digest Books, Iola, 2007. 9th edition.
Gardner, Robert E. Col. Small Arms Makers: A Directory of Fabricators of Firearms, Edged Weapons, Crossbows and Polearms, Crown Publishers Inc, New York: 1963, p. 122.
Smith, Samuel E. and Edwin W. Bitter. Historic Pistols: The American Martial Flintlock 1760-1845, Scalamandre Publications, New York: 1986, p. 96.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1799
McCormick, Robert
place made
United States
United Kingdom: Great Britain
Physical Description
metal (part material)
wood (part material)
overall: 16 1/4 in; 41.275 cm
overall: 16 1/4 in x 6 1/4 in x 2 1/8 in; 41.275 cm x 15.875 cm x 5.3975 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
The Adriana and Edwin W. Bitter Family Collection
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Military
The Bitter Collection of Firearms
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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