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Antique Pepperbox Handguns

The pepperbox, given its name because it bears a vague resemblance to period pepper mills, was a forerunner of the modern revolver. The world's first repeating weapons, pepperbox handguns featured multiple barrels that revolve about a central axis, allowing for firing of numerous rounds at a time when single-shot firearms were the norm.

The multi-barreled weapons have origins dating back to the 16th century. During that time, they employed matchlock mechanisms that required the shooter to preload each barrel, then apply a burning wick to each in turn. By the end of the 18th century, pepperboxes were operating with flintlock mechanisms, and gunmaker Henry Nock, supplier to the British Royal Navy, was a leading producer. But like their predecessors, they required users to manually rotate the barrels after each shot.

Despite their early promise, pepperboxes did not come into widespread use until the 1830s. At that time, percussion caps became the standard system for igniting firearm powder charges and the Industrial Revolution allowed handguns to be mass-produced, making them more affordable and accessible than the handmade firearms before them. The arrival of the American Civil War saw pepperboxes run their course. But these innovative firearms made their mark, and antique pepperbox handguns have an enduring legacy that many still enjoy today.


Quick Facts

  • In a 2012 Christie's of London auction, a finely engraved Sharps .30-caliber pepperbox derringer from the American Civil War period sold for £2,000
  • In December 2015 at Christie's in London, a rare cased factory-engraved Sharps .22 four-barreled pepperbox sold for £1,250
  • A Philadelphia-made Jacob Rupertus pepperbox pistol from the mid 1800s sold at a 2014 Morphy auction for $1,560.

Recommended Items at Auction

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ANTIQUE Sharps Model 2D Pepperbox .30 Cal Rimfire Pistol
Mar 01, 9:00 AM PST
ANTIQUE Sharps Model 2D Pepperbox .30 Cal Rimfire Pistol
by Lock Stock & Barrel Investments Inc.
Est: $400- $800
$3506 Bids
Two Antique Handguns
Mar 06, 9:00 AM CST
Two Antique Handguns
by Rock Island Auction Company
Est: $300- $500
$2502 Bids
Two Percussion Pepperbox Pistols
Mar 06, 9:00 AM CST
Two Percussion Pepperbox Pistols
by Rock Island Auction Company
Est: $400- $700
$3502 Bids
Three Double Action Pepperbox Pistols
Mar 06, 9:00 AM CST
Three Double Action Pepperbox Pistols
by Rock Island Auction Company
Est: $700- $1,200
$6001 Bid
A late 19thC pinfire pepperbox revolver, the blued cylinder with Birmingham
Feb 26, 9:00 AM GMT
A late 19thC pinfire pepperbox revolver, the blued cylinder with Birmingham
by Claydon Auctioneers
Est: £200- £400
£2001 Bid
AN ENGLISH 7mm PINFIRE PEPPERBOX POCKET PISTOL SIGNED LONDON, serial no. 46717,
Mar 25, 10:00 AM GMT
AN ENGLISH 7mm PINFIRE PEPPERBOX POCKET PISTOL SIGNED LONDON, serial no. 46717,
by Holts Auctioneers
Est: £300- £500
£3000 Bids
AN UNSIGNED ENGLISH 7mm PINFIRE PEPPERBOX POCKET PISTOL, serial no. 39908,
Mar 25, 10:00 AM GMT
AN UNSIGNED ENGLISH 7mm PINFIRE PEPPERBOX POCKET PISTOL, serial no. 39908,
by Holts Auctioneers
Est: £300- £500
£3000 Bids
Excellent Sharps .22 Cal 4 Shot Pepperbox Pistol Patent 1859, Stamped Miroku Japan
Feb 24, 12:00 PM EST
Excellent Sharps .22 Cal 4 Shot Pepperbox Pistol Patent 1859, Stamped Miroku Japan
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $850- $1,250
$2400 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Antique Pepperbox Handguns


Rock Island Auction Company

Rock Island Auction Company

Holts Auctioneers

Holts Auctioneers

Homestead Auctions

Homestead Auctions

Claydon Auctioneers

Claydon Auctioneers