Cased Handguns - Historic Variations - By Jerry W. Pitstick

The first gun I purchased came from Charles G. Worman, at age 14. This was a mint Belgian Pinfire priced at $15.00 in 1955. Chuck Worman, the renowned author of two volumes “Firearms of the American West - 1803-1865 and 1866-1894”, and past director of the Ohio Gun Collectors Association, is still my trusted friend. He has been a continuous source of good quality guns for my collection as well as sound, honest advice. Incidentally he has a new book, as yet untitled, coming out in July 2005, so be sure and look for it.

My interest in guns, knives and western memorabilia stems from my love for our nation’s history, our important right to bear arms, the artistry inherent in quality guns, the care taking of important relics, and the excellent long-term investment potential. Over the years my wife, Sharon, has grown to love this hobby so much we now call it “our collection.” Without her support and enthusiasm the outcome would not have been nearly as satisfying.

Gradually over 38 plus years I arrived at a definition of what I really wanted to collect ­ primarily American pistols and revolvers with Civil War or Win-the-West connections preferably identified with people, places, companies or major events. I also discovered great interest in the multitude of custom casings, accessories, holsters, and memorabilia connected with these pistols and revolvers.

The subject of my new display, which was one of the “Featured Displays” at the March 2005 OGCA Meeting is “Cased Handguns-Historic Variations” which attempts to illustrate the many different types of pistol and revolver cases that have been used over the years. They cover a broad range: some are just utilitarian cardboard boxes (now highly collectible), while others are extremely elaborate; some, like breast pocket cigar cases containing a revolver, are used as clever concealments of the firearm, while others are designed to show off a fabulous pistol complete with all its accessories.

Cases can be of the so-called “English” style, which uses simple partitions to organize the various accessories or they can be the “French” style, which refers to the interior being exactly fitted to the pistol shape and the exact shape of each accessory. Most casings hold a single weapon but some may contain two, four or even six pistols.

The exterior material of most antique cases is wood, but some are leather, gutta percha (an early material similar to plastic), metal, book type casing, cardboard, etc. The great majority of cases have the guns lying flat on their sides, but a few very rare cases have the pistols standing vertically with a drawer for accessories that slides out from beneath the gun barrels. Some casings, like colt, are often factory made, but most casings were put together by various subcontractors or artisans commissioned by large gun dealers, manufacturers, or individuals - many casings were also homemade by the gun owner for convenience and safe keeping of an expensive possession. All in all, I personally feel the various casings and multi-functional accessories add a great deal of interest to the hobby of gun collecting.

One unbelievable reason that original casings are relatively rare these days is that gun collectors of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s would put their valuable collectible guns in a vault and throw away the cases! Apparently, the early gun collectors didn’t have much interest in the casings. Today, a case is often worth more than the gun, due to a combination of scarcity of the original genuine case and large demand for these items.
Part of my personal evolution defined the arms I would collect, but another part defined activities I wanted to undertake related to the guns. My emphasis gradually turned to historical research, gun show exhibitions and museum presentations for educating both the public and fellow gun collectors. In addition, I started writing articles for arms magazines, which has become a very rewarding and sharing experience.

Readers are truly eager to read interesting and informative accounts of their fellow collectors’ experiences and findings. To date I have had articles printed in Man at Arms Magazine, The Gun Report, The Smith & Wesson Collectors’ Journal, The Remington Society of America Magazine, and the Colt Collector’s Association Journal. My latest article will soon be published in Blue & Gray Magazine, which has a circulation of over 50,000 readers.

In summary, my greatest enjoyment related to gun collecting has been to use this interesting hobby to bring American history alive, to help the general public gain an appreciation of the value of our second amendment rights and the important role that our Constitutional right to bear arms has had and will have to protect our individual right to freedom.