Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Little Howdah Pistol

I found this beastie about 12 years ago at a Houston pawnshop. (Note: A recent review of my records showed this weapon came from COLLECTORS FIREARMS in Houston, Texas) It’s a handgun but the mechanism is classic double barrel muzzle loading shotgun. The weapon has no maker’s markings or numbers. It’s probably one of the countless Italian imports that have graced the American shooting market since the end of World War Two but this is only a guess. At first sight everyone, me included, says it looks like a Howdah Pistol. If anyone out there can tell me more about it please speak up. Until a better title comes alone it’s the little howdah pistol.

A little while after I got it I was one of the Re-enactors who went to Missouri and Kansas to work on the movie Ride with the Devil. This imposing oddball was one of the handguns in my pommel holsters. It has been a popular standard on lectures and displays of pre cartridge era weapons. I always told myself one day I would get with someone who shot black powder shotguns and try it out. I’m embarrassed it took so long but finally happened.
Hangman and his family had come to visit for the day and that always means lots of shooting. This time he had his black powder shotgun in the mix. I showed him the little howdah pistol and he said we could give it a try. We chose to go with a low pressure .410 load and #8 shot. The little howdah pistol gave a spirited buck and roar and lived up to everything I have ever read about howdah pistols. They aren’t long range weapons! I recall reading that one old timer advised a client if you ever have to use this stick the muzzle in the tigers mouth and pull the trigger. From 25 feet I think I ‘scared’ one of the two tin cans I had set out. I was thinking about trying it with shot again when Hangman said I have the correct caliber round balls if I wanted to shoot bullets next. Such a question! Since tigers are thin on the ground here at HomePlace (thank God) I selected an old steel drum top for my target hoping it was large enough to give me some idea where the weapon was shooting. This time I paced off ten steps and fired. The first shot missed completely but that was more not having made friends with the weapon that anything else. The second shot hit next to the fill hole for the drum. This told me I had been aiming high.
All things considered I don’t think of the little howdah pistol as a trouble gun but it is all kinds of fun to shoot! I will have to do this again soon.


  1. You got to shoot the little Howdah and I got a load of dirt. How can you not LOVE Hangman's visits?

  2. Amazing old gun. One thing that makes me think that this gun is amazing is that there are no tiny holes in the material. And it is still work like a normal gun these days.

  3. At first, I was not sure if the old weapons could be used. Apparently this gun is still functioning properly. Even steel can penetrate perfectly. Where did you get this weapon? A classic weapon but has a function that does not lose with a rifle in the modern world today.

  4. Greetings from Texas,
    Thanks Graham. The beastie isn't as old as it looks. I stumbled across it at Collectors Firearms in Houston for less than $100.00 in the 90's. I later found it in an older Dixie Gunworks catalog. It's an Italian repop,

    The steel target was a 55 Gallon drum lid, so not that hard to punch. But you know what, if it was loaded and waiting I wouldn't feel bad taking it to see what went 'bump in the night'.

    With the ball of fire it throws in the dark if I didn't nail what I was shooting at, I probably couldn't catch it.