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A Scottish Scroll Butt Pistol by John Campbell (II) of Doune

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Price: £11,000

Ref: AA.035.22

Item Description

A Scottish Scroll Butt pistol by John Campbell (II) of Doune. This craftsman was one of the foremost makers of traditional Scottish pistols in his day. The pistol dates to the period 1755 to 1775. It is of elegant proportions, nicely crafted and sumptuously engraved and inlaid with silver in the best traditions of Doune; a town famous for the quality of its pistols. Pistols of this type and date were popular with officers in Scottish Highland regiments on service in North America during the Revolutionary War period.

The lock is of typical “Highland form” with a horizontal sear extending through the lock plate which holds the cock in the half cock position, and a vertical sear is present extending from the top of the trigger plate through a small oblong aperture in the middle of the top part of the butt. The lock plate is clearly signed John Campbell. The moving parts of the lock are in crisp working order. The flattened cock has a bevelled edge and a circular comb on top engraved and pierced with a star in the middle.

The cock, and the area behind the cock on the lock plate, are engraved with scrolling foliage. The spines of the butts are finely engraved and inlaid with delicate silver Celtic ropework patterns. The fore ends are engraved with panels, scrolls and acanthus leaves on four planes. The button trigger and pricker are formed from cups of silver brazed together and engraved with four petals which radiate from the tang end in the middle. Underneath the stock, the space is profusely engraved with rows of panels engraved with scrolls, chevrons and foliage. These are crossed with three silver bands decorated with chevrons.

The butt is engraved on each side with scrolls and a vacant silver oval escutcheon is mounted on each side. The belt hook is finely shaped and engraved with further designs. It is mounted to the stock with an engraved and pierced side plate consisting of a double roundel.

The four stage 32 bore barrel has a fluted section near the butt with a ramped notched rear sight and a flared muzzle with engraved octagonal sides. The middle sections of the barrel are rounded and boldly engraved with foliate scrolls. The pistol is mounted with a slender steel ramrod with a pierced and engraved terminal.

John Campbell (II), the maker of this pistol, is the second maker of traditional Scottish pistols of that name to have worked in Doune. The first was his grandfather who died in 1720. The borough records show little about the early life of John Campbell (II). In 1798 he is recorded as having “given over” his business and his death is recorded in 1807 at the age of 71 years. Born into the gun making trade in Doune John became one of the leading gun makers in Scotland and is recorded as having “made pistols to the first nobility in Europe”.

The gunmakers of Doune, situated near to the Highland line, had supplied many of their pistols to the Highland Clans. Born in 1736 John would have witnessed the great social changes that occurred after the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, and seen the impact that the proscription of weapons in the Highlands had on Doune. Simultaneously other gun-making centres in England were winning the race to secure government contracts for the Army which the local makers in Scotland were not equipped to secure. Competition from cheaper producers both in the UK and abroad also had an effect. After a high period in the third quarter of the 18th century the town went into a slow decline. At the end of the century, when John Campbell (II) ceased business, only one traditional gun maker was left in the town, John Murdoch.

The overall length of the pistol extremity to extremity is just over 12.5 inches (32 cm) and the barrel is 7 and one eighth of an inch (18 cm) long.


The fore end has been damaged in the past and been subject to a repair. The general condition of the metal is good with a slight “salt and pepper” pitting veneer as visible in the photographs below.


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