Rare Finds #3

Imagine cracking open a vintage tin box, stored away unbeknownst to yours truly for more than 40 years, engraved with initials of an unknown person, and discovering among a small collection of precious antique books, an object, whatchamacallit, doodad, thingamajig, widget, that may at first glance be an antiquated architectural drafting tool, or an astronomical measuring device, an Asian or African artifact, or a detached piece of a firearm.

IMG_8449Imagine my surprise, when I began to research this mysterious object (hard to tell its measurements, but it’s approximately 6″ in length), with a few hints from a source most likely to know something about it, that it indeed belongs to the species known in educated parlance as ‘militaria.’

IMG_8455Apparently, this cast iron doodad is either a miquelet lock (mechanism), flintlock, wheelock, snaphance or a variety thereof. Whatever may be the most accurate technical term for this apparatus, and whatever its geographic and cultural origins, this much I know: It is one helluva piece of history. A family heirloom unlike any of the other rare finds. A beaut.

IMG_8457IMG_8459IMG_8452IMG_8454IMG_8451As I write, I await replies from museums with an interest and related archives, with whose help I hope to unravel the true origins of this find.

My late grandfather knew a thing or two about the classics, design, history and more. But this opens up a whole dimension – and brings his adventurous and curious spirit back to life, albeit through a piece of metal that fits into the very palm of my hand.


  1. There are many specialty forums out there that may be able to help identify it such as muzzleloadingforum.com or shootersforum.com.

    I’m constantly amazed at the wide range of knowledge and expertise that collectors are willing to share. Might run down a few wrong paths but might find a lot more info also. If you have already tried them that is.

      1. Usually sites like that are not associated with any particular organization; unless there is a governing body for the sport.

        I don’t think either are NRA related; does it matter?

  2. Well now that is full of intrigue. I wonder what it may end up being. It looks intricate and almost other worldly. I completely understand your enthusiasm to unravel this. Keep us all posted.

  3. It is in fact a miquelet lock, made in the classic pattern of the Spanish patilla miquelet, probably made in Central Italy. For more on the miquelet lock see the Wikipedia entry titled Miquelet Lock. Normally, locks chiseled like this one would be in the “romanlock” variety, that is, the mainspring would bear on the toe of the cock vice the heel on this one. The chiseled “figure” is indeed unusual. Quite a find.

    1. Thank you Jerry! I’m so happy you found my blog and entry.. and that you confirmed this find – and gifted me with more detail. Do you know whom else I might turn to for more information?

      1. Hello again! You are some piece of work! That’s meant in a good way. How can I not try to help. The lock is not cast iron. It is steel with a really even patina from being in a closed space for a long time.

        You have now entered the Twilight Zone, that is, where curators and collectors find themselves when dealing with old firearms or parts thereof. There is a dearth of information regarding the miquelet lock. Catalogers and other “experts” do not always get it right. One reason I created the Miquelet Lock entry on Wikipedia was so that there was some information out there. Forget the NRA Museum-they have it wrong on a couple of miquelets.

        Your lock looks for all the world to be Italian, “alla marchigiana” (“in the Marchesan style” ). Marchesan locks have been often described as “surrealistic”. Hmm, wonder why. What makes your lock really unusual is that it is not in the usual “romanlock” pattern (the Italian version of the miquelet) in that the mainspring pushes up on the heel of the cock wherein the romanlock mainspring pushes down on the toe of the cock. The gist of it is that your lock was made in Italy using the Spanish miquelet style of action, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 1730-1800 for a fowling piece (yesterday’s shotgun).

        I could not tell from the images if there was any names, date, or a poinçon/punzón anywhere on the lock. Are there any? Hope I have not muddied the waters too much.

        Respectfully, Jerry

      2. Hi Jerry, Thanks for all this info!! I have more to go on, yay! Though I must admit that all this steel ‘n gun lingo is way off my radar. But I guess it’s part of my learning curve as I try to learn more about this curio – and about my late grandfather’s interest in it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s