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Tanegashima questions


George
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Hello, I am new to the Nihonto Message Board. This tanegashima was inherited by a friend about 40 years ago. He does not have a computer, and asked me to research it for him. The pictures are not very good. I had a hand held camera. I also wish they were more complete. The gun has two kamon, one of which is, I believe Tokugawa. The other has three stylized feathers, and I have not been able to identify it. There is not a pan, or pan cover. The barrel is profusely decorated with relief carving/chiseling.

Any thoughts as to age, location of origin, etc. would be much appreciated.

George

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Gorgeous looking gun, a bit down in condition but immensely interesting. First thing noted was the steel spring - looks like the gun was converted to percussion. Can you confidently remove the barrel?? It will surely be signed...

 

Best regards,

BaZZa.

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Dear George,

A photograph of the complete gun ( side, top and bottom ) profile is required. Also if you remove the barrel from the stock ... there is probably a signature on the underside of the barrel. A photograph of this signature would go along way in answering your question as to origin ( school and age ).

As far as the mon are concerned, ... I will leave that to others. Without these additional photographs identifying the gun is not possible.

 

... Ron Watson

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As Bazza says, converted to percussion.

 

It was an Ogino-Ryu gun, probably a Shizutsu (samurai gun). Judging by the hammer, screws, nipple, and trigger once converted from an earlier life as a matchlock, probably in the closing stages of Edo; then more recently partly converted back again to matchlock...? The muzzle looks good. The writing is saying 大和の守 之飾 Yamato no kami, Kore shoku/kazaru (decorated this?) .... (will check)

 

It would be nice to see the whole gun, maybe half and half for ease of photography, from the side.

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George,

I assume these are more photos of the gun I just remarked on. It is as Barry states probably a conversion from matchlock to percussion, ... but will need more photos of the SIDE of the barrel opposite the nipple opening. Also photos of the head of the serpentine ( hammer ). It is an interesting gun and in particular the lock is rather unusual for a conversion.

... Ron Watson

 

PS. I note Piers has replied, ... I would personally reserve judgement until I see the photographs requested above and in your other posting.

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Dear Piers,

He split the pictures into two threads because he's new to the forum. Perhaps we can prevail upon Brian to combine the two threads into one. It would make things a lot simpler. I also noted the nipple hole is on top rather than the side ( somewhat unusual ) and this is one of the reasons I reserve judgement and ask for more clarification in the form of photographs. Also note the lock itself is most unusual for a conversion, ... yet it appears to be a matchlock serpentine ???

... Ron Watson

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Often matchlock serpentine heads were simply filled in with a striker plug, but in this case the specially-bent serpentine looks custom made? Was it an earlier percussion pill type?

 

Doing some research on the Kamon, the Inage family of Sanuki, Kagawa Prefecture (originally fled from Chiba/Edo area) had three standing hawk feathers, Mittsu Narabi Taka-no-ha, but as far as I am aware not in a circle. 讃岐 Sanuki 稲毛氏 Inage Shi.

 

See:

http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fil ... kanoha.svg

 

Hawk feather Kamon images:

 

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%B7%B9% ... E%E7%BE%BD

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The owner of the gun is somewhat elderly and infirm. He also lives 50 miles away. I will try to get more pictures as well as measurements. Thanks so much for all the information so far.

The owner is also interested in selling. Any suggestions as to venue?

George

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George,

More photos are a necessity ! As far as selling, ... right here on this forum is as good a place as any.

 

... Ron Watson

Ron, the problem with selling something like this on the forum is setting a price. Since auctions are not allowed how does the owner figure out a price that is not to low, if it is to high then the owner can always lower it I guess but if it is priced to low due to lack of knowledge the owner would be losing money.

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Merged the 2 topics.

I am pretty sure we could come up with a general idea of value, and then I am not averse to arranging a sale where the seller asks for the highest offer over X amount.

We are pretty flexible here.

Interesting gun, I cannot decide if it was a Western conversion or not. The use of iron and a screw makes me think it is possible. But no rules when it comes to individual conversions.

 

Brian

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I managed to get some more pictures, as well as some measurements.

The total length is 42 1/2 inches. The barrel is 28 inches. Barrel diameter is 1.412 at the breech, the octagonal muzzle is 1.372, and the narrow neck just before the muzzle is 1.160. The barrel is flat along the top surface, and flat like an octagon just above the lock. The rest of the barrel is round.

It certainly looks like a broken off nipple where the hammer would strike. On the other hand, the nose of the hammer looks like it was meant to hold a match, and wouldn't reach an average nipple.

Again, many thanks for all the help.

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Dear George,

Well, that type of Serpentine ( hammer ) I have not seen before. It would certainly appear to have been a conversion from matchlock to percussion.

The placement of the nipple on top of the barrel is unusual as well as it would interfere with sighting the firearm. I thought for a brief time it might have been a pellet ignition system but I am certain now that it was percussion and the nipple is simply broken off. What seals the idea of percussion is the gunsmith has added a small tit of steel ( shield ) behind the nipple which acts to prevent pieces of the percussion cap from coming back and striking the shooter in the eye or face upon detonation. The hammer however leaves me puzzled as it would not work to detonate a percussion cap and it on the other hand is hardly suitable for holding a match. The only explanation is that perhaps there is a flattened area inside the hollow of the hammer ( but from your photos this does not appear to be the case ... although photos can be deceiving ). The whole appears to be a Japanese conversion as both the lock plate and the hammer are similarly decorated in Japanese inlay rather than a later Western conversion.

Piers or someone else will have to translate the Kanji as I am totally inept in this area. My first off impression is that it is a Kunitomo manufactured gun probably as Piers states of the Ogino tradition.

Although an interesting gun, ... and nicely decorated, the fact it is something of a butchered up conversion ( to the top of the barrel of all places ), missing sight and no longer a matchlock gun will in my eyes lessen it value considerably. It's most interesting feature is the lock mechanism.

 

... Ron Watson

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I agree with what Ron says above. The inlay has been cleaned a little too often, I might add. This can be a problem as in the West people generally like the inlay bright and shiny when often silver for example may be best left black.

 

The gun is from Settsu, although I had thought like Ron that it might be Kunitomo. The writing is quite stylistically exaggerated, so slightly difficult to read.

総巻張 (Thrice bound)

摂州住 Sesshu Ju (Living in Sesshu, the privince of Settsu, ie Osaka)

島谷喜八郎重光 Shimatani/Shimaya Kihachiro Shigemitsu

 

There were various ways that the house of Shimaya/Shimatani wrote their Shima character, but within that forge there was a line of 13 who carried the name Kihachiro. The second in line uses the character Shige in his name, (Shigekazu) and Shigemitsu is the seventh down, putting him into the first half of the 1800s, ie late Edo, I would imagine.

 

Thanks for the clear pics, especially of the signature. :)

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I'm at a loss as to the firing principle.

I am also not 100% convinced a nipple has broken off there. Possible, but with the shape of the hammer, this isn't some conventional percussion mechanism.

The hammer is not typical matchlock style (serpentine) or percussion style. It would work if powder was dribbled into the indentation and a match fitted, but those ears would not hold a match correctly or tightly.

Need to give it a bit of thought to see if any other ideas spring to mind.

 

Brian

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According to one theory, the first percussion guns in Japan were invented by Yoshio Josan of the Owari Han, a doctor of Dutch medicine, and were called "Funho".

 

He wrote "Fun Ho Ko" 粉砲考 a pamphlet about it, in 1842. It involved fitting a paper-wrapped cap explosive over a nipple in the top of the barrel and striking it. The nipple was roughly in line with the sights. There is an illustration on p.153 of Sawada.

Could the hardened central striker section of the hammer have been lost/removed for some reason?

 

The second and more convincing theory (according to Sawada) is that of the Seika Ju, invented by Kume Tsuken (Michikata). Kume described its completion in 1839 in a hand-written text called "Taiseikimei". The hammer (plugged serpentine top?) on this example looks a little similar to our example here, but hard to tell from one b&w photo. A pill-lock, it involved using a removable pin that was dropped on the explosive and hit from above. The old matchlock side pan was used, however. p.154

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Like Brian I also don't think a nipple has broken off, but it is as intended. Here is my penny worth.

 

The hammer had a device which fitted into the recess, the device held an explosive 'pill'. Upon release the hammer trapped the pill between itself and the vent. the resulting explosive jet, fired the in barrel charge. The pill holder was replaceable, due to erosion caused by hot gases, thus leaving the hammer intact.

 

Must go now time for my medication.

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Dear All,

Well now, ... we have a goodly number of theories as to whether or not this gun is percussion cap, percussion pellet, or some paper wrapped Japanese ignition system. I agree it is an unusual hammer ( serpentine ). I cannot explain but for theory except for the FACT that there are only three possibilities of ignition ... Percussion cap, Percussion pellet, or Matchlock. We know this was originally a matchlock later converted ... on that point we all agree. It may well be that an INSERT is missing from the hammer ( almost certainly ), ... but why not have designed the hammer with a solid or slightly hollow face to begin with. The gunsmith certainly knew his trade given the quality of the hammer and lock. What points to this gun as being a percussion cap conversion is as I stated previously : " What seals the idea of percussion is the gunsmith has added a small tit of steel ( shield ) behind the nipple which acts to prevent pieces of the percussion cap from coming back and striking the shooter in the eye or face upon detonation. " SEE PHOTO BELOW. I have only on rare occasion seen this device ( SHIELD ) and then ONLY on conversions to percussion where the nipple has been placed ON TOP of the barrel and the gunsmith instead of using the hollow faced hammer later used on ALL percussion style hammers used instead a FLAT faced hammer

of the original first type used BEFORE someone thought ... why not make the hammer hollow faced to contain the flying bits of percussion cap.

 

Given the probable rarity of PERCUSSION CAPS in late Edo Japan, ... perhaps the gunsmith wisely allowed for the gun to be easily converted back to MATCHLOCK by making a hammer that would in an emergency allow for the insertion of a match by removal of the hammer insert and removal of the percussion nipple. Time and black powder erosion ( the opening is obviously eroded ) would have removed evidence of threading. Whether or not the nipple has broken off ( my opinion ) or has been purposely been removed and the gun operated post percussion as once again a matchlock we shall never know and it matters little.

 

... Ron Watson

 

PS. Denis, ... if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times not to be sniffing nitro :roll: !

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I am truly amazed by the knowledge and erudition demonstrated here. I will say that I don't think any polishing has gone on in the last 40 years. The Three Hawk Feather kumon is untouched. If it were silver, I too would expect it to be black. The fact that is still so shiny makes me wonder if it is platinum, or ?

There is a plate on the side of the barrel, just below the area of ignition. This is very similar to plates in this area on upper end English shotguns and rifles. If the gun were from the 1830 - 1840 era is it not possible that some of the very different ignition systems patented by the English could have been tried here?

Many, many thanks for all the information.

George

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Dear George,

I suspect the kamon ( three hawk feathers ) is silver or at least an alloy of silver. The fact that it has not patinated to a black may be due to something as simple as human sweat as this is a natural area for picking up the gun ( just a guess ). As far as the metal plate on the side of the barrel, ... this is where the original pan was fitted to the barrel when this was a matchlock, ... and it would appear this was added to disguise the patched up original vent hole and attachment of the old pan. This I am certain. Your friend's gun has created a good deal of questions and wonderful discussion. It was a pleasure to have seen it ... ( if only in photographs ). I have spent a lifetime studying firearms and I assure you to the best of my knowledge ... no special ignition system of even an experimental type would explain ( other than percussion cap or percussion pill ) this conversion.

 

... Ron Watson

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Here is another Japanese percussion method that fired from the center of the barrel.

 

Raika hiya taihou (percussion fire arrow cannon), possibly the only known example, invented by Kume Michikata, who has been called the Japanese Leonardo da Vinci. Raika type percussion firearms used a little pill of ignitor material (possibly fulminate of mercury) and hammered it which caused it to ignite, making a burning match unnecessary.

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That raised "screen" behind the flash hole would have been required no matter what method of ignition was used, to prevent gasses and flash from going back into the firer's eyes. So I don't think that it necessarily points to percussion.

If possible, try and cock the gun and take a close up of the hammer from the front. I would like to see the details there, and the inside of the hollowed out section.

The inlay is definitely not platinum, and as Ron says...is silver.

Even if the gun turns out to be a plain conversion to percussion with a broken nipple and altered hammer, it is still an interesting piece.

 

Brian

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All, Like Ron I am sure this gun originally had a nipple of some form that had been broken off - a common enough occurrence since they were deliberately made very hard. The remaining hole is too large to be a vent and there would have been no point in creating the step if all the gun had was a simple matchlock pan in that position. The image that looks down from above the cock shows that the gunsmith has in fact off-set the ignition system to the right so that the original sights could still be used. I also note that the hammer has come to rest at about the correct height above the barrel to have struck the top of a nipple and rebounded slightly, a feature of good quality hammer shotguns that allowed the firing pin to retract back into the breech face and allow easier opening after firing. I suspect that what we are seeing is a matchlock that has been 'modernised' by conversion to percussion ignition by a very competent gunsmith that has subsequently been converted back by snapping off the nipple and cutting the groove in what had been the flat-face hammer. Had the supply of percussion caps dried up, it would have been the only way to make the gun usable again.

Ian bottomley

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By Jove, I think he's got it! :lol:

Ian, I think you are correct that this was a double conversion. From matchlock to percussion, and then back to (emergency) matchlock.

Although it would have been rudimentary without a pan cover, it would function ok as long as level. Looks like the serpentine was indeed converted back to a matchlock system by cutting the groove. Best explanation I can see.

 

Brian

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