It may be hard to credit today, but in the United Kingdom during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people did carry concealed firearms for the purpose of self-defense. The NRA National Firearms Museum has several examples of guns designed for concealment. Among the most beautiful of them is this gorgeous matched pair of Rigby Great Coat Pistols, designed to be carried in or underneath a gentleman’s coat.
The design and construction of these pistols is consistent with John Rigby & Co.’s reputation as a purveyor of high-end firearms favored by the upper class. They showcase exquisite, full-coverage engraving and a deep pattern Damascus-style barrel finish and hand-checkered stocks. What’s particularly interesting about this set is the hidden ball compartment that’s located under the backstrap, which holds three additional bullets. Should the owner run out of ammunition, there’s a spring-loaded dagger affixed to the left side of the frame.
John Rigby & Co. joins the even more venerable Beretta firm as one of the oldest continuing businesses in operation, having been founded in 1735. These legendary firearms have been featured in famous works of fiction; in the real world, they found their way into the collections of such leading lights as Winston Churchill.
These and other fascinating historical firearms are on display at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia, every day of the year except Christmas. Admission is free and membership is not a requirement. Make it a stop for your family Washington, D.C.-area vacation!