Pair of Over-and-Under Tube-Lock Percussion Pistols with Case and Accessories

Gunsmith Durs Egg Swiss

Not on view

The son of a Swiss gunmaker, Durs Egg emigrated to England about 1768 and started his own business in London in 1772. He and his nephew, Joseph Egg (1775–1837), separately established reputations as two of the most talented gunmakers in the city. This elegant pair of pistols was originally fitted with flintlocks that were later converted to tube-locks, a more advanced mechanism patented by Joseph Manton (1766–1835) in 1818. Conversion was a common and economical method of updating a firearm as technology progressed.

As a means of ignition, percussion mechanisms like the tube-lock utilized a highly combustible chemical compound called fulminate, which burns more rapidly than gunpowder when struck with force. The tube-lock operated using pre-fabricated fulminate-filled primer tubes, relieving the user from the step of priming the pan with loose gunpowder, and offering improved water resistance, among other benefits. The mechanism became relatively popular among consumers compared to the many of the other percussion systems that were being developed in London at that time.

Firearms technology advanced at an extraordinary pace in Europe in the early nineteenth century. London’s elite gunmakers, intensely focused on optimizing accuracy, handling, and speed to meet the expectations of England’s sporting gentry were at the forefront of its development. Building on design advancements made in the 1780s and 1790s, particularly the refinement of the flintlock ignition mechanism, they secured in the next three decades dozens of patents for a dizzying variety of new technologies ranging from improved lock mechanisms to novel barrel-making techniques, competing to protect and market their inventions. Handmade with remarkable precision, many London firearms of the period display extraordinary mechanical ingenuity, in addition to being elegantly designed. This creative push in the firearms field may be framed within the broader context of the Industrial Revolution in England—a period marked by the glorification of technological advancements and the celebration of individual inventors and engineers.

Pair of Over-and-Under Tube-Lock Percussion Pistols with Case and Accessories, Durs Egg (British, born Switzerland, baptized Oberbuchsiten, Switzerland 1748–1831 London), Pistols: steel, wood (walnut, rosewood), gold, platinum, brass, horn; case: wood (mahogany), textile, brass, bone, paper; powder flask: brass, steel, wood, leather; bullet mold: steel; box with patches: textile, paper, tin, British, London

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