Sindh flintlock
Overall length

167 cm

Barrel length

124.5 cm

Caliber

14 mm

Weight

3619 grams

Materials

Iron, steel, wood, silver, gold.

Origin

Sindh

Dating

Early 19th century

Price €7500, -

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Introduction

The Talpur house ruled Sindh from 1783-1843. They were known for their fondness of arms and armor, primarily swords and gun barrels. They procured antiques or good contemporary pieces from far and wide and produced their own fine arms.

"The Ameers have agents in Persia, turkey, and Palestine, for the purchase of swords and gun-barrels, and they possess a more valuable collection of these articles than is probably to be met with in any other part of the world." 1

-James Burnes, 1839

 

"The arms of Sindh are very superior to those of most parts of India, particularly the matchlock-barrels, which are twisted in the Damascus style. The nobles and chiefs procure many from Persia and Constantinople, and these are highly prized, but nearly as good can be made in the country. They are inlaid with gold, and very highly finished." 2

-Captain Postans, 1843

 

"Sindh was always celebrated for its arms, which were very superior to anything fabricated in India, especially the matchlock and gun barrels, which are twisted in the Damascus style. The Ameers used to procure the very best to be had from Persia and Constantinople and though such were valued highly, the arms manufactured in Sindh were nearly if not quite equal in goodness and appearance; for they are inlaid with gold, and as highly finished as the foreign barrels." 3

-Edward Archer Langley, 1860

 

The guns of the Sindh region have a peculiar stock, which like the Afghan jezail, has a slender bent "neck" that leads to a triangular butt end that is angled slightly upwards. Another unusual feature is the trigger placement, which is not under the lock where you'd expect it, but much further down the stock. Period observers had trouble understanding them:

"The matchlocks of Sindh are heavy, awkward weapons, and most unwieldy, from the stock, which is curiously shaped, being out of all proportion too light for the barrel; but they take a very heavy charge, and throw a hall to a great distance." 4

-Edward Archer Langley, 1860

 

This form undoubtedly has to do with a specific form of use but I have so far been unable to find a period photograph or illustration of a Sindh musketeer, and period sources I have consulted did not elaborate on their method of use.

 

English locks

A small number of high-end guns from Sindh exist that were assembled using English flintlocks. The following passages explain their existence:

"Some very good imitations of the European flint lock are to be met with; our guns and rifles, indeed, are only prized for this portion of their work; the barrels are considered too slight, and incapable of sustaining the heavy charge which the Sindhian always gives his piece.

The European lock is attached to the Eastern barrel; the best of Joe Manton's and Purdy's guns and rifles, of which sufficient to stock a shop have at various times been presented to the Sindhian chiefs by the British government, share this mutilating fate." 5

-Captain Postans, 1843

 

"They seem to be fully sensible, however, of the superiority of our gun-locks, a number of which they entreated me to beg the government to procure for them. I saw several expensive and highly finished fire-arms which had been presented to them from time to time, by our authorities in India, thrown aside as useless, without their locks, which had been removed to be put on their own fowling-pieces." 6

-James Burnes, 1839

 

"The Ameers always appreciated the English locks, but thought our barrels too slight for their heavy charges; to this, however, Meer Ali Moorad was an exception, as he knew the superiority of English guns over all others, and as I have before said, took back with him a very large supply of the finest guns made by the first makers in London.

His highness, moreover, brought with him to England the head gunsmith of Khyrpoor, who thoroughly understands his business, as far as it can be learned in India, and I have no doubt profited from his frequent visits to the establishments of Messrs Purdey, Lancaster, &c., where he passed a good deal of his time when in London. I have seen a very nice-looking rifle of this man's make, and was assured that It shot very strong and true. He also turns out excellent knives, of an English pattern." 7

-Edward Archer Langley, 1860

 

 


Notes to introduction
1. James Burnes; Narrative of a visit to the court of Sinde at Hyderabad on the Indus. Edinburgh, Bell & Bradfute; London, Longman & Co. 1839. Page 86.
2. Captain Postan; Personal observations on Sindh. Page 103.
3. Edward Archer Langley; Narrative of a residence at the court of Meer Ali Moorad, Vol.2. Hurst and Blackett. London. 1860. Pages 84-85. It concerns Edward Archer Langley's visit to the court of Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur, who ruled Sindh from 1842-1894.
4. Ibid.
5. Captain Postan; Personal observations on Sindh. Page 103.
6. James Burnes; Narrative of a visit to the court of Sinde at Hyderabad on the Indus. Edinburgh, Bell & Bradfute; London, Longman & Co. 1839. Pages 87-88
7. Edward Archer Langley; Narrative of a residence at the court of Meer Ali Moorad, Vol.2. Pages 84-85.

 

This example

A large and fine Sindh gun. The smoothbore barrel is of octagonal cross-section from breech to muzzle. The barrel is of fine twist forged steel, not as deeply etched as some other examples from that time and place, but hints of its construction can be observed through the light patina on the barrel. The barrel is decorated with floral motifs in thick gold overlay on breech and muzzle. It is held to the stock with four iron barrel bands, all completely covered in thick gold overlay. Two of the bands hold a loop for a sling.

The characteristic stock is made of a single piece of deep dark brown wood, polished to a high gloss. The butt-end is reinforced with two iron bands with gold floral overlay and further embellished with medallions in the same work. On the underside of the stock is a long iron plate that reinforces the delicately thin neck of the stock, and which doubles as a trigger plate and guard. The trigger is placed almost halfway down the stock. 

The front end of the stock is protected by a small silver endpiece. The original ramrod is decorated with a diaper pattern in gold.

The British flintlock lock is unsigned, but rather well made and appears to date from the early 1800s. It resembles some of the locks made by Joe Manton, including the engravings around the outline of the lock plate. It is secured with a single screw that has a silver washer on the other side to protect the wood.

 

Condition

In very good condition. A chip broke off the top of the frizzen. The front of the stock was repaired by professional furniture restorer Tamara Venema.

Repairs on gun

Repairs on the forestock. Above the "befores", under the "afters".

Almost all the gold remains intact, safe for some more losses on the lock plate. One of the sling bands is a bit bent. See photos.

 

Comparable examples

The Metropolitan Museum has a very fine example of a Sindh matchlock accession number 36.25.2152, which is also fitted with a British lock. Their example is richly decorated with enamel on gold and is thought to have been made for the Talpur court.

There is another Singh gun in their collection, accession number 36.25.2141. this time a simpler matchlock with Indian style lock, that bears the name Sarkar Mir Muhammad Nasir Khan Talpur, a mamber of the Talpar ruling house who died in British custody in 1845 after a failed uprising against British rule.

Another notable example is was published in Howard Ricketts, Phillippe Missilier; Splendeur des Armes Orientales, Paris: ACTE-EXPO, 1988. Catalog number 219. It is very similar in overall shape to ours, also has an English flintlock, but differs in that the mounts are enameled silver. It stands out for some inscriptions on its barrel in Persian, translated:

"Work of Haji Mirkhan"

and

"His Honor Mir Murad Ali Khan Talpur"

This is the same ruler that Edward Archer Langley of the quotes in the introduction speaks of.

 

Conclusion

A rather nice example of a Sindh flintlock, produced with an English lock. Such locks were highly prized by members of the Talpur house of Sindh, who were arms collectors and connoisseurs. They preferred their own barrels, or those from Persia or the Ottoman empire because of their fondness of very high charges. This piece most likely also came from the armory of one of the members of the Talpur house.

 

Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh
Fine flintlock musket from Sindh

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