Uncle Hosea’s Little Darling

H.C.Lombard pistol with a modern quarter for size comparison.

In 1860-1861 Hosea C. Lombard manufactured these elegant little pistols and ammunition in a second-floor factory in Springfield. Unfortunately the factory burned down in 1861, and he never resumed production. It’s estimated that during this time fewer than 1,000 guns were produced.

He did continue to live at a boarding-house in Springfield, until his militia unit was called up to move to Washington, DC. early in the civil war. He took ill during the war and had to be sent home, but recovered in time. After the war he met his landlady’s sister, and they married. He subsequently spent time as a fireman and worked at Smith & Wesson before eventually becoming a famous lawman.

What does all of this have to do with me? His landlady was my several times great grandmother, and marrying her sister made him my several-times great uncle. There’s a lot more to this story- when is there not?- but those are tales for another time. All of which brings us to this little pistol. A knowledgeable collector friend came across it, and knowing of my connection to Lombard, gifted it to me. This left me speechless, and very, very grateful.

So, let’s talk about this pistol. As far as I have been able to find out it has no model number or name; it appears to be the only model they produced. It’s a tiny thing; though made of brass and steel is weighs only eight ounces. The length of the barrel is 3-1/2″, the overall length is 6-1/2″ and excepting the grip it is only 1/2″ thick. The grip appears to be Rosewood, the barrel is steel (or iron) and the receiver/frame are brass.

The gun is chambered for .22 Rimfire, which we now call .22 Short. This cartridge used a 29-grain heel-base lead bullet over 4-grains of Black Powder. It was quite an anemic cartridge by modern standards, but having been introduced by S&W only three or so years before this pistol was made it was state-of-the-art at the time.

The gun is a simple single-action design, with a safety notch to prevent the hammer from riding the rim of the cartridge, which would make it possible for the gun to fire if dropped. To operate the gun you pull the hammer back until it engages this notch, then press the button on the bottom of the frame just ahead of the trigger.

This allows the barrel to be swung to either side to open, allowing a cartridge to be placed in or removed from the chamber. There is no extractor or ejector of any kind; fingernails or the edge of a knife had to do. Note the slot on the breech face- this is to allow clearance for the case rim, and may have been intended as a safety measure should the case-head blow out. An unlikely event, but it was still early days for rimfire ammunition.

The barrel is rifled, with four lands and grooves with what appears to be a 1 in 24″ twist rate.

There is a brass front sight and the rear sight is a groove on the hammer-spur, so it is only usable when the gun is cocked; which of course is the only time you need it.

The top of the barrel is engraved, ‘HC Lombard & Co. Springfield, Mass. The barrel appear to have a lacquered finish and the brass frame has a lovely, uniform patina. While there is slight side to side movement in the barrel, overall the tolerances are very tight and the finish if very high-quality. The Rosewood grips have darkened with age but have a lovely grain and figure. The serial number 657 is stamped under the right-side grip panel.

The case shown is not original to the gun, and it’s prevenance will remain a mystery. I doubt that it is contemporary to the gun, but anything is possible.

The introduction of the .22 Rimfire cartridge opened the door to very small guns that were not necessarily miniatures or ‘toys.’ While the bullet from a .22 Short is quite capable of killing a human being the shot would need to be placed most carefully. That being the case guns of this sort tended to be a last-ditch weapon; most likely to be used at near-contact distance. A weapon such as this one might have been carried in a discreet pocket-holster or boot-top, either as a back-up to a larger gun or as ‘a gun to carry when you aren’t carrying a gun.’

Another potential use for this pistol would be as a parlor-gun shooting Flobert BB-Caps. These were short cartridges loaded with a lead ball and no gun powder; they relied on the primer to propel the ball. These are relatively quiet and comparable in power to a pellet rifle, and firing at a target over a simple bullet-trap was a popular after-dinner activity at fashionable parties. One imagines that making wagers was very much a part of this…

So, what are my plans for this delightful little pistol? I’m in the process of procuring some BB or CB Caps; the gun is in excellent mechanical condition and I cannot imagine that such low-powered ammunition could possibly hurt it.

I also plan to copy the pattern of this gun, but rather than a reproduction mine will be an approximation. There is no evidence that this gun has ever been further apart than having the grip removed, and I am certainly not going to dismantle it. I will focus on the appearance, dimensions and apparent mechanical details like the lock-button. The insides? It’s a simple mechanism; I’ll wing it.

I will also take liberties with the materials- modern brass, and some small changes to accommodate this softer metal like a steel plate inset on the breech-face. I’ll also chamber it in .22 LR for convenience. Anyway that is for a future blog post…

This is a wonderful gift that I will treasure always, and I fully intend to pass it, and it’s Tinker-made companion, down to my heirs one day.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 January 2019

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5 thoughts on “Uncle Hosea’s Little Darling

  1. Ubere Fickensen

    That sounds like an even more interesting project. I’ve often wanted that size/weight as a field gun to take small game when out hunting larger game. I’ve a 4” H&R 999 for that but a lighter single shot would be easier to carry.

    Will be interested in seeing the result! Good luck on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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