This a mint condition and very scarce Robert Johnson manufactured U.S. Model 1836 Flintlock Pistol, still in the original flint, that was made in 1837.
The history of the U.S. Handgun began just before the Revolution when British troops stationed in the American Colonies were issued with the "New Model 1760" flintlock pistol. When the Revolutionary War began, the Rappahannock Forge in Virginia copied the British Model 1760 design and designated it the Model 1775. This .62 caliber, flintlock, single shot pistol is generally considered to be the first US martial sidearm.
The US War Department signed its first contract with a private arms manufacturer in 1799 when it entered into an agreement with Simeon North of Berlin, Connecticut to produce what became the Model 1799 Flintlock Pistol in .75 caliber. The U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry eventually began producing a copy of the US Model 1775 Flintlock Pistol with minor modifications and designated it the Model 1805. Springfield Armory followed suit several years later with its Model 1817 Flintlock Pistol in .54 caliber (one of the few handguns ever produced by Springfield in almost 200 years).
The Model 1817 was a long, full-stocked handgun and was popular with Dragoons because of their ability to carry the long weapon in a brace of two pistols. Various designs and manufacturers produced US Martial Flintlock Pistols during the first third of the 19th Century, but most kept to a fairly standardized design - flintlock ignition, large caliber, smooth bore barrel, steel or brass furniture and a ramrod. The Model 1836 has the distinction of being the last flintlock pistol adopted for use by the U.S. Army.
Robert Johnson is a somewhat enigmatic figure in American firearms manufacturing. He began firearms manufacturing with his brother, John D. Johnson, and operated under the names R. & J. D. Johnson of Middletown, Connecticut. The brothers’ first known contract with the United States Government was on November 23, 1814, for 2,000 full stocked rifles manufactured after the Model 1803 Flintlock Rifle pattern. Only a few of these rifles were delivered by the Johnson brothers before the Model 1817 Rifle was adopted. On December 10, 1823, the brothers contracted with the government for 3,000 Model 1817 Rifles.
Around 1822, the brothers split up and Robert Johnson began operating his firearms factory in Middletown on Lower Pameacha Creek on his own. On June 27, 1836, now under the name “R. Johnson,” he contracted with the government for 3,000 Model 1836 Flintlock Pistols at a cost of $9.00 each, for a duration from June 1, 1837 until March 14, 1840. This contract was later modified to add an additional 15,000 Model 1836 Pistols at a cost of $7.50 each over a period of five years at a rate of 3,000 pistols per year. R. Johnson manufactured only about 18,000 of the Model 1836 Flintlock Pistol from 1836 through 1844. Robert Johnson operated his firearms factory from 1822 until 1854.
This particular Model 1836 Flintlock Pistol, as noted, is in its original flintlock configuration and is in antique fine condition. The original Stock is beautiful American Black Walnut and is in fine condition with only a very few dings and scratches, but no cracks are noted. It has its original hand oiled finish.
The left side of the stock has its original and crisp inspection cartouche, which is an oval, stamped parallel to the barrel, with the script initials, “JH,” which is the inspection stamp of James Harris, who was an Ordnance Inspector from 1837 to 1851. Above this cartouche is a serif “H” inspection stamp.
The lock mortise is in fine condition. Inside the mortise is stamped the matching serif “V” and “4” stamps, as found on the interior of the lock and the barrel.
The furniture on this pistol is its original steel with most of the original National Armory Bright finish remaining with only minor evidence of corrosion in a few spots. The separate Trigger Bow is still tightly secured to the Trigger Guard. The front of the trigger guard has an ‘X” mark. The Trigger retains traces of its original blued finish in the protected area and on the face. The left flat on the trigger has the serif “V” assembly stamp.
The Side Plate exhibits a cleaned, polished finish. Both Side Plate Screws are present, and both have matching serif “V” stamps on the barrels. The Grip Strap and integrated steel cap are both in fine condition and exhibit a very nice bright patina. The cap screw has an unmarred single slot. The Barrel Band and integrated extension, which overlaps with the forward portion of the Side Plate, is securely in place and also exhibits a nicely polished finish. The inside leg of the band has the matching serif “V” assembly stamp.
The Lock Plate is in antique fine condition and the Lock Plate markings are still clearly visible, which are “U.S. / R. JOHNSON / MIDDN CONN / 1837” just forward of the Hammer. The face of the lock plate a lightly cleaned bright finish with areas of a pewter patina forming. The original Hammer is present and in fine condition. The Hammer Screw retains an unmarred single slot. The Binding Screw and Upper Jaw both move smoothly. The interior side of the cock has the “Y” assembly stamp. The upper jaw has a ‘Y” assembly stamp. Both the upper face of the cock and the lower face of the upper jaw are stippled to hold the flint. The Hammer operates correctly at half-cock and full-cock and it releases smoothly at full-cock.
The interior of the lock assembly is also in mint condition and the lock plate is polished to the white. The interior portion of the flash plan has the “Y” assembly stamp, as well as a serif “V” stamp and a “4” stamp. The pan screw also has a “Y” assembly stamp. The interior portion of the plate, adjacent to the pan, also has the “Y” assembly stamp. Below the pan is a serif “W.C.” stamp, which are probably the initials of the lock maker. The original Main Spring is present and remains in the white and the Main Spring Screw still retains 99% of its original oil quenched finish.
The two-position Tumbler is present, and it retains the majority of its original blue, heat tempered finish and it has the “Y” assembly stamp on the face. The Bridle also retains the majority of its original heat tempered blue finish and it has the “Y” assembly stamp on its face. The Tumbler Screw and Bridle/Sear Screw both retain virtually all of their original bright blue, heat tempered finish, and both have the same “Y” assembly stamp. The Sear retains 99% of its bright blue, heat tempered finish and it has the same “Y” assembly stamp. The Sear Spring remains in the white and remains very strong. The lock assembly looks much like it did the day it was completed in 1842. The original Lock Plate Screws are present, and both retain considerable original oil quenched finish with one have a slightly marred single slot. The barrels of both screws have the serif “V” assembly stamps.
The Original Brass Flash Pan is present and retains its original dark mustard patina. The bottom of the flash pan has the serif “H” inspection stamp. The Frizzen exhibits minor wear on its face consistent with limited firing and it operates smoothly. The interior neck of the Frizzen has the “Y” assembly stamp. The Frizzen Spring is still strong, and the spring screw has an unmarred single slot. The Frizzen Screw has a “Y” assembly stamp. The front face of the Frizzen retains 95% plus of its original oil quenched finish.
The original Barrel is present and is in very fine, original, and very lightly cleaned condition. Both the protected and exposed areas still exhibit beautiful, original National Armory Bright Finish with small areas of corrosion near the touch hole. The Touch Hole on the barrel adjacent to the Flash Pan is in its original configuration and diameter and has not been altered and appears to have rarely, if ever, having been fired. The touch hole is clear to the chamber.
The original Brass Front Sight Stud is still brazed securely in place and it has a dark mustard patina. The left flat, towards the rear of the barrel, has a serif “H” inspection stamp. The left rear of the Barrel has the still crisply stamped “U.S.” surcharge over serif “TW” stamp, which are the initials of Thomas Warner, who was a armorer at Springfield Armory who also did work as a principal inspector of sub-contracted arms. Warner was at Robert Johnson’s factory for 56 days in January to March 1837 inspecting Model 1836 pistols. Below the “TW” stamp is the serif “P” proof stamp. The bottom of the barrel has a serif “TW” inspection stamp as well as a serif “V” and “4” stamp, that matches the stamps on the interior of the lock.
The witness line on the bottom, rear of the barrel corresponds perfectly with the witness line on the bottom of the breech plug. The bore is in very fine condition with a smooth, mirror finish and only light frosting in evidence in a few isolated spots. The interior of the barrel, at the breech plug end, is in very fine condition and exhibits only a very small amount of old corrosion. The interior of the barrel at the vent hole is in mint condition, indicating this pistol was seldom if ever fired in service. The breech plug tang retains 95% of its original color case-hardened finish on the bottom and sides. The rear of the plug has the matching serif “V” and “4” stamps.
Below the front of the Barrel is the original Ramrod Swivel Assembly, which still operates smoothly and without any evidence of pitting or corrosion. The original Ramrod is also present with its Buttonhead Tip and threaded end. The original Barrel Tang Screw is present and is in mint condition, retaining the vast majority of its original oil quenched finish. The barrel of the tang screw has serif “V” assembly stamp. The bore on this pistol is in fine condition with browning but only the finest of pinprick pitting noted.
As noted, Robert Johnson only manufactured approximately 18,000 U.S. Model 1836 Flintlock Pistols, of which only a few thousand were manufactured in 1837, which was the first full year of production, and surviving examples still in their original flint are exceedingly rare today. As a United States issue pistol, it very could have been used during the Mexican War by the United States Army although, if it was, it was not carried around in a saddle pommel as the high condition means this would be a very difficult pistol to upgrade.