Flintlock Blunderbuss (Musketoon)

This old salt actually began life as a military musket or carbine. Thousands of these guns were bought and converted for use aboard privateers and merchant ships in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were also a favorite with coachmen, bank guards and watchmen. Considered ‘disposable’ in their day, few have survived.

It was quite common to shorten a long, clumsy musket and forge a wider muzzle for easy loading. The wider mouth of the muzzle allowed a seaman or coachman to quickly throw a musket ball or a handful of buckshot down the bore on top of the powder charge without using the ramrod. It also served a psychological purpose, making the weapon look particularly lethal to anyone confronted with the business end of the gun.

Short guns like this could be very handy in boarding ships and could even be shot like a pistol. When I began cleaning the years of dirt and grime from this weapon, I discovered it was still loaded with powder, a .70 caliber musket ball and some #6 bird shot.

This gun is in remarkable condition for its age; it is over 200 years old. It was probably made in Germany, initially, for some unknown army or navy. It has an iron barrel that was shortened to 17 inches (44 cm). The bore is around .70 cal. with a one-inch (4 cm) muzzle. The gun is 32 inches long overall, and has handsome brass furniture.

Yes, it throws a fine spark and I have fired it with a small blank charge. But I am selling it as a curiosity. I am not a firearms dealer. I will include some original flints recovered from a shipwreck. You are safe in demonstrating the sparking function of the mechanism. Never live fire an old iron barrel without a thorough examination of the bore. The original wood ramrod was broken off and jammed in the channel under the barrel. I took a similar one and shortened it to replace the original. It will work well.

This is a wonderful early piece of maritime lore. If only it could talk.

China Sea Trading Company, Maritime Antiques, Salvage, Curiosities


This form of cutlass dates from the period when arms makers began making hangers and briquettes (short swords) specifically for the maritime trades. Before that time, shipmasters were expected to make do with whatever surplus or condemned military weaponry was available.

By the 1750s, Mariners were being provided with cheaply-made cutlasses, pikes, boarding axes and muskets designed for use at sea. They were virtually disposable items, made of old parts and low-grade materials. This, of course, makes them rare today.

Here is one of those early cutlasses. I think it was made early in the 19th century. The cutless is 30 inches long, with a 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) wide blade, a simple iron guard, knuckle bow and wood grip. The whole cutlass runs to 34.5 inches. The metal is dark with traces of old, inactive rust. It is very solid with no looseness between blade and grip.

These were made by many forges in Europe and exported throughout the world. Few have survived.

China Sea Trading Company, Maritime Antiques, Salvage, Curiosities


Here is an odd set of slightly mismatched shoe buckles from the 18th century. They were found together and were undoubtedly worn as a pair. They measure 2 inches by 1.75 inches and were probably buffed at one time to look like silver.

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All these pipes are genuine relics of 17th and 18th century life. I have been gathering them for years. They were found in various places from London, Leith and Amsterdam to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

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Why, you may ask, is a boar spear included in a catalog of marine items?
Boar spears are most often found among the sporting goods of the wealthy gentry of 17th and 18th century Europe. But the noble boar spear was also a practical weapon in the hands of pikemen or boarding parties. Old illustrations even show them in the hands of Morgan’s pirates as they attacked Panama in 1671.
This boar spear is 87 inches long, with a 69-inch wood shaft and an 18-inch forged iron head. The shaft features crossed leather strips and brass tacks to ensure a good grip.
I am unsure of its age, although it is obviously very old. The iron head has the characteristic “wings” or stops that prevent the spear form penetrating the victim too deeply.
An unusual example of early weaponry.

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The bill halberd is a descendant of the bill hook, a farm tool often used as a weapon by peasants in defense of their homes or in rebellions.
It was modified by soldiers as a weapon and became a mainstay for European armies throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
In the new lands of the Americas, it was carried by the conquistadors, and the colonial militias in New England and Virginia. When Henry Morgan’s buccaneers and pirates raided Portobello and Panama in the 1660’s and 70’s, both his privateers and the Spanish defenders made use of pikes and halberds.
Here is an example of a bill halberd of that era. It has a forged iron or steel head with an armor piercing spike point and a hooked bill and blade. The hook could pull a rider off his mount or relieve an opponent of his head. It could also cut ships rigging. During the English Civil War of the 1640s, whole battalions of men fought with these weapons.
The beginning of the age of massed firepower made the halberd obsolete as a weapon.This example is 102″ (260cm) tall. it has reinforcing langets on two sides of the shaft. The shaft appears to be of the period. The iron is in excellent condition with no rust or pitting. Feel free to call with questions.

China Sea Trading Company, Maritime Antiques, Salvage, Curiosities


The spontoon was not only a weapon but also a badge of rank. It was generally carried by an officer of infantry on land, or by sailors and marines at sea. They were clumsy to use on deck so they were usually confined to boarding parties or shore raids when used by mariners.
This is an early style of spontoon, often regarded as French, though they appear throughout Western Europe and early New World settlements. It has been well used and shows its age. Originally it was probably kept sharp and polished, it is now dulled and has a worn finish. The head is socket mounted on a blackened staff by rivets. Certainly a later shaft but appropriate for its early style.
I would date this weapon from the late 1600’s to perhaps 1760. The blade and socket measure 17″ (44cm). The blade and staff together are 81″ (210cm) tall. I have had this in my collection for 20+ years.