1890s cap pistol copiedBy

1890s cap pistol copied

A 19th century cast iron cap pistol has just been copied in brass. The original, marked "SCOUT" was made by the J. & E. Stevens Company, Cromwell, Connecticut in the late 1890s. Don't be confused by an old appearing patent date. Both old and new versions have "PAT'D JUNE 17, 1890" on the side opposite the name. SCOUT also appears on the new version. The original can be worth $80-$125; the brass reproduction retails for $20.

Separating old and new is relatively easy. First, virtually without exception, all pre-1920 collectible cap pistols are made of cast iron not brass. Gases given off by exploding the black powder in caps corrodes brass. Brass is fine for a reproduction but was never used in the original.

Next look at how the two halves of the gun are attached. The old pistol is fastened together by peened pins (rounded over rivets). Phillips head screws, a modern fastener, are used in the new brass gun.

Cast iron pistols have increased in value over the years. They now are included in a number of toy books and price guides. Keep the following points in mind to avoid reproductions.

1. Almost without exception, all old pistols are made of cast iron. Reproductions have been found in brass and pot metal. Never scratch the surface finish; if in doubt about the type of metal, use a magnet. A magnet will stick to the cast iron; it will not stick to brass or pot metal.

2. Genuinely old cast iron has turned dark brown or almost black with natural age. New cast iron is gray when new and its rust is distinctly red or pinkish brown.

3. Pieces of authentic cast iron pistols generally fit together so tightly that a piece of paper cannot be passed through the joint. Reproductions have loose seams with obvious gaps.

4. The finish on old cast iron pistols is generally very smooth. Reproductions almost always have a coarse grainy surface finish.

5. Don't use patent dates to base your judgement of age. Most all the reproductions are made in molds which have been made from authentic originals. The new molds contain the same markings as originals and so will any new piece made in the molds.


Fig. 1 New cast brass Scout cap pistol. From mold taken from original cast iron Scout. Retail price, $20.


Fig. 2 Original ca. 1890 cast iron Scout cap pistol by the Stevens Company. Value $80-$125.


Fig. 3 June 17, 1890 patent date as it appears on new pistol. Identical to patent date on original.


Fig. 4 Poorly cast barrel; gaps in joints.


Fig. 5 Phillips screw head in new handle.