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Black powder firearms

Derek Landers helps you to unravel the mystery of the markings on your black powder firearms.

If you shoot a reproduction muzzle loading pistol or rifle, the chances are it was made in the Brescia area of northern Italy. Likewise, many of the Winchester or Sharps rifle clones will have been manufactured in the same area. Centred around the village of Gardone, the Val Trompia region has the highest concentration of gun makers anywhere in the World. The Beretta family can trace their gunmaking roots in this region back almost five hundred years. Now well known names like Uberti, Pedersoli, Pietta, Armi Sport, Euroarms and Palmetto have set up their factories in the area along with the myriads of small specialist makers. It will come as no surprise then to find that the Italian Proof House is also in the valley.

The above manufacturers turn out tens of thousands of firearms each year and most, if not all, of these weapons are copies of those used and made in nineteenth century America.  The era of reproduction Western firearms began in the early 1950’s when Val Forgett, of the American Navy Arms company, visited this area of Italy in search of a manufacturer who could make a copy of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver. From these humble beginnings has grown an industry catering for the needs of shooters, re-enactors and collectors Worldwide. Every percussion revolver that Colt made has been reproduced by one or other of these companies. Remington’s New Model Army revolver is also a favourite and we have seen single and double action Starr pistols and lately a Whitney Navy revolver. Each and every one of these guns must undergo testing at the Proof house and be stamped with the appropriate acceptance marks

Apart from a cursory glance I suppose many of you will have paid scant attention to the markings on your modern made black powder reproduction. You have doubtless seen the obligatory “BLACK POWDER ONLY” marking (stamped on the barrel of all Italian made black powder guns) and the proof house stamps, but are you aware of their significance? There will be two ‘proof’ markings and a date mark in at least one location on every firearm. The first proof mark, which appears on all weapons produced in Italy since 1950, is a star within a wavy edged circle (I have seen this described as lands and grooves of rifling) above a crest in a shield. The crest consists of crossed rifles with bayonets and a hammer and anvil. The second proof mark is a similar star and circle, slightly larger, above the letters PN. This is the black powder mark and will be found only on black powder weapons. This mark was also introduced in 1950.

There will be a third mark alongside these two and this indicates the year that the weapon went through the proof house. Prior to 1954 the year of proof was stamped on the guns in Arabic numerals, but this new coding system was introduced around the time of the first reproductions. The chart will enable you to determine the date your gun was proved. The reason for the missing letters in the sequence is unknown.

Click here to download sequence table.

Each manufacturer also stamps or engraves their own name and/or logo on the various guns that they produce. The most famous of these is probably Uberti’s representation of the muzzle of an octagonal barrelled gun, showing the front sight and rifling in the barrel, with a letter “U” in the bore. The company has used this mark since it produced its first reproduction, a Colt 1851 Navy, in 1959.

Pedersoli have changed their logo a couple of times since the late 1950’s but for the last forty or so years it has remained the same. It consists of the letters ‘dp’ inside an oval and is usually followed by the name DAVIDE PEDERSOLI or PEDERSOLI. Another well known name here in the UK is that of Pietta, and their logo is a diamond containing the letters FAP often accompanied by the name F.LLI PIETTA.

The recently introduced line of firearms from Palmetto Arms is marked with the company logo of a palm tree within a circle, sometimes followed by the name, ‘PALMETTO’. Another Brescia based company, Armi Sport, marks their guns with ‘AC’ within a circle. This stands for Armi Chiappa in reference to Rino Chiappa, the company’s founder.

Last but not least we have Euroarms, which prior to December, 2001, was known as Armi San Paolo. This company was formed in 1970 and used the initials of its three founders, Grassi, Doninelli and Gazzola to make up an emblem. These letters will sometimes be found in a circle. Recent Euroarms pistols have been observed with a new mark which looks like a letter ‘N’ surrounded by four triangles.

All of these reproductions will also be marked ‘ITALY’ or ‘MADE IN ITALY’, along with a serial number, calibre and, in the case of Uberti and Pedersoli, often a catalogue number. The largest market for these weapons is the U.S.A. and some of the larger American importers often have their own names stamped on the guns. It is not unusual to find some of these American marked guns on sale here in the UK. 

I have often heard it said, more than once by myself, that the markings on these guns could be a little more subtle, especially in the case of an attractive looking piece such as the Uberti Remington New Model army in charcoal blue and case hardened finish. Whilst the maker’s marks are there principally for advertising and recognition, the proof marks and serial number are obligatory and will always take the same form. It just seems that a little more care in their placement could result in more acceptability and perhaps more sales to the ‘purists’. Finally, as a collector of antique weapons, I have to say that I would not like these marks to be omitted entirely. On a visit to the Uberti factory I saw an example of an ‘aged’ Colt 1860 Army revolver and had it not been for the Italian marks it could very easily have passed as an original. There are already a number of these fakes out there, just waiting for the unwary and uninformed, and there are those who would welcome the opportunity to provide even more.

Captions for photographs

1) An example of a full set of Proof and maker’s marks on a Pedersoli pistol.
2) It is not unusual to find one or more of the Proof marks lightly stamped.
3) Armi San Marco name stamp (1994)
4) The distinctive Uberti logo.
5) The palm tree logo of Palmetto Arms.
6) Pietta’s logo and name stamp.
7) Mark on a recent Euroarms revolver.
8) A variation of the ‘DGG’ stamping on Armi San Paulo or early Euroarms products.
9) An early Euroarms name stamp.
10) Uberti name and address stamping from 1975.
11) The mark on the left is possibly an Armi San Marco logo on a 1994 pistol.
12) Pedersoli sometimes stamp their name on the inside of the lock.
13) Were it not for the proof marks this Uberti could easily be passed off as an original Colt.
14) A strange mark often found on Italian black powder arms!

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User Comments
  • i have a cap and ball pistol with the marking wc on hammer side and a shield with an x in it and 3 stacked balls on the other side. it is scratched badly with sand paper in a horrible restore. there are other marking but they are not readable. it has a dove tailed rear sight and post front sight. on the underside of the barrel there is 2 5 on the bore and 5 2 on the breech. any information would be of help. thank you.

    Comment by: steve frady     Posted on: 02 Jan 2012 at 06:17 AM

  • I have a 1858 remington new army revolver I purchased at a garage sale. there are no marks anywhere except serial #xxx on bottom of barrel below base pin. I think it is probably a newer reproduction just wanted to check safety of shooting it. Could it be possible proof marks and makers marks were filed off of it. Looks like if they were they would have had to do the entire gun, there are no deep gouges or deep file marks anywhere other than it looking worn. Same serial # is under grips on frame as on bottom of barrel. Any information or ideas on this gun would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Comment by: Kevin     Posted on: 05 Jun 2012 at 07:05 AM

  • I am trying to identify and find the value of a Pietta black powder pistol that was given to me. I can't find it through their pictures. Can you advise me as to where I could get this information? Thank you

    Comment by: Dan March     Posted on: 16 Jan 2013 at 02:04 AM

  • You can contact Pietta at info@pietta.it

    Comment by: pat farey     Posted on: 17 Jan 2013 at 01:00 AM

  • I am trying to identify the value of the black power gun,armi san marco, it has a # on barrel

    Comment by: Al Lamica     Posted on: 01 Mar 2013 at 05:03 AM

  • I have one single shot black powder handgun, percussion, brass frame steel barrel. stamping on the frame is CMC or CMG not clear. Caliber looks like 45.
    I have one 4 revolving barrel handgun, percussion, double action, looks like 36 caliber. Stamping on the frame is CMC or CMG also not clear.
    Both these guns are very well made, not junk, both have serial numbers and also say Pat. Pending.
    Thanks you in advance, Wayne

    Comment by: wayne lykens     Posted on: 21 Oct 2013 at 01:05 AM

  • Wayne, you do not say whether or not these pistols are held on a firearms certificate. Without seeing the pistols it is difficult to know exactly what they are. My first thoughts are that they may be Section 1 firearms so I would recommend that you go to a local firearms dealer and ask his advice if you do not have them on FAC.
    If you wish to send some photographs to the magazine I'm sure they will forward them to me and I may be able to help you more.

    Derek Landers

    Comment by: Derek Landers     Posted on: 21 Oct 2013 at 10:49 AM

  • I have a muzzleloading pistol with IGE on it and says Italy .44 cal. any one know who manuf. this ?

    Comment by: Jim Gibson     Posted on: 24 Oct 2013 at 02:53 AM

  • Dear Friends,
    My heart bleeds for you gun lovers in the U.K. I was born there LO these many years ago, but in 1977 I came to the United States, and have enjoyed FREEDOMS such as I never dreamed of as a British SUBJSCT! Englishmen are not CITIZENS, they are SUBJECTS! "Subject to the will of the Crown!" There have been few days since my arrival here in late 1977, that I have not carried a gun, either on my hip, or beneath my left armpit. Because I am an Amateur Historian, I carry for Self-Defense, one of three identical five and a half inch barreled, Remington 1858's, in a shoulder holster. These are the guns that REALLY, "Won The West!"
    I belong to an on-line forum, called,"1858Remington.com. We have several U.K.Members, and would welcome more. Most members even possess Colt Percussion Clones, by Uberti & Pietta.. The collective knowledge of the members of this Forum, must total several hundred years. All are very friendly, and if any of you have a problem with the way your weapon percolates, there will be at least a half dozen guys who have experienced the same problems, and they will be delighted to help with advice. FREE!
    Any British "Would be Pistoleeero's are welcome to contact me at my e-mail address: woyd_530839@hotmail.com I live, eat and breathe Black Powder revolvers, and enjoy comparing notes with other shooters!
    Y'All take care now!! Happy New Year!
    Johnnie Roper,Alias:Gunslinger9378.

    Comment by: Johnnie Roper     Posted on: 02 Jan 2014 at 05:51 PM

  • I have 2 revolvers one 36 the other 31 cal. Both made in 1976 it has markings but no manufacture marks I would like to know who made them ?

    Comment by: Dennis     Posted on: 29 Jun 2014 at 07:20 PM

  • Hi, Dennis
    Again photographs are the first step in identification. If you can send some pics of the guns and close ups of the marks to the magazine they should forward them to me and I may be able to help.

    Comment by: Derek Landers     Posted on: 29 Jun 2014 at 10:34 PM

  • I have a .44 cal B/P pistol with an logo of... s inside a hexagon inside a circle. All markings are from Italy in 1982. It was sold through Beeman's catalog in 1984. Internet info = nothing so far, any help out there??
    It looks a lot like an Armi Sport pistol.
    Thank you

    Comment by: Doug P     Posted on: 10 Sep 2014 at 11:52 PM

  • Without photographs of all of the marks on the pistol it is difficult to identify - see my reply above.

    Comment by: Derek Landers     Posted on: 11 Sep 2014 at 08:20 AM

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