18th Century Brass Mounted Albanian Flintlock Pistol
Flintlocks may be any type of small arm: long gun or pistol, smooth-bore or rifle, muzzle-loader or breech-loader.
Flintlock pistols were used as self-defense weapons and as a military arm. Their effective range was short, and they were frequently used as an adjunct to a sword or cutlass. Pistols were usually smoothbore although some rifled pistols were produced.
Flintlock pistols came in a variety of sizes and styles which often overlap and are not well defined, many of the names we use having been applied by collectors and dealers long after the pistols were obsolete. The smallest were less than 6 inches long (15 cm) and the largest were over 20 inches (50 cm). From around the beginning of the 1700s the larger pistols got shorter, so that by the late 1700s the largest would be more like 16 inches long (40 cm). The smallest would fit into a typical pocket or a hand warming muff and could easily be carried by women.
The largest sizes would be carried in holsters across a horse’s back just ahead of the saddle. In-between sizes included the coat pocket pistol, or coat pistol, which would fit into a large pocket, the coach pistol, meant to be carried on or under the seat of a coach in a bag or box, and belt pistols, sometimes equipped with a hook designed to slip over a belt or waistband. Larger pistols were called horse pistols. Arguably the most elegant of the pistol designs was the Queen Anne pistol, which was made in all sizes.
Probably the high point of the mechanical development of the flintlock pistol was the British dueling pistol; it was highly reliable, water resistant and accurate. External decoration was minimal but craftsmanship was evident, and the internal works were often finished to a higher degree of craftsmanship than the exterior. Dueling pistols were the size of the horse pistols of the late 1700s, around 16 inches long (40 cm) and were usually sold in pairs along with accessories in a wooden case with compartments for each piece.