The Boxlock Pistol – A Complete Guide

Key Point: A boxlock pistol was a type of firearm with a concealed hammer and a lockwork mechanism enclosed within a box-like receiver.

Today, we are taking a look at the Boxlock pistol. What it is, and how it works. Also what its advantage was and why it stopped being used. As always you will get a short summary of the entire article before we go into detail.

So, before we begin let’s answer the big question. What is the Boxlock pistol?

The Boxlock pistol was a type of firearm that had been developed in the 18th century. It was characterized by a lock mechanism in which the mainspring was mounted in a “box” on the underside of the breech end of the barrel. This design made the Boxlock pistol a relatively simple and reliable firearm for its time.

Now, that we got this short definition out of the way, it’s time you and I go into detail here. So, let’s begin with the origin and history of the Boxlock pistol.

The Origin And History Of The Boxlock Pistol

Okay, let’s go through the history of this pistol.

The Boxlock pistol originated in the 18th century. It was first developed in England and quickly gained popularity due to its simplicity and reliability. The Boxlock design featured a mainspring mounted in a “box” on the underside of the breech end of the barrel, which allows for quick and easy firing.

What It Was Generally Used For?

The Boxlock pistol was primarily used for sporting purposes, such as hunting and target shooting. It was also used for self-defense, as it was a compact and easily concealable weapon. As you can guess, it was mostly used by civilians.

It is important to note that it was also used in some military and law enforcement contexts. However, it was not a standard issued firearm for military forces, and its use in combat was limited. It was more commonly used by civilians, particularly for hunting and personal protection.

Actually, over time, the Boxlock design was adapted to a wide range of pistols and rifles. Many famous gunmakers, including Holland & Holland and Purdey, produced high-quality Boxlock firearms.

To this day the Boxlock pistol is highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts for its historical significance and elegant craftsmanship.

Now, that we got its history out of the way. Let’s check out how it actually worked.

How Did The Boxlock Pistol Work?

Below, you can see a short 71-second video showing you how a version of the Boxlock pistol worked.

A Demo Of The Boxlock Pistol

Here is a description of how it worked in written form:

The trigger system on the Boxlock pistol was typically a single or double-action trigger. Here is what that means. A single-action trigger required the user to cock the hammer before firing, while a double-action trigger allowed the user to simply pull the trigger to both cock the hammer and fire the weapon. This was particularly useful in self-defense situations where speed and ease of use were important.

How To Load And Fire It

To load and fire the Boxlock pistol, users had to follow these steps:

  1. They had to ensure that the firearm was unloaded and the safety catch was on.
  2. The hammer was pulled back, which broke open the gun and exposed the chamber.
  3. They could then insert a cartridge into the breech end of the barrel.
  4. Closing the chamber was done by returning the hammer to its original position.
  5. Once the firearm was aimed at the target, users could prepare to fire.
  6. The trigger released the mainspring, which was compressed when the hammer was cocked.
  7. The compressed mainspring struck the primer of the cartridge, and the pressure from the burning gunpowder propelled the bullet out of the barrel and toward the target.
  8. To fire subsequent shots, they repeated steps 2-7.

Now, If we go into detail on its mechanism a little bit …

The Boxlock Mechanism

The Boxlock pistol’s mainspring was mounted inside a “box” located on the underside of the breech end of the barrel, as opposed to directly on the lockplate like in earlier Flintlock designs.

The “lockplate” is the metal plate on the side of the firearm that houses the lock mechanism. This includes the mainspring. In Flintlock designs, the mainspring was exposed on the lockplate, leaving it vulnerable to damage from impact or corrosion. This vulnerability could result in misfires or malfunctions when firing the weapon.

In contrast, with the mainspring mounted inside the “box” on the Boxlock pistol, the spring was better protected from damage and exposure to the elements. This improved the reliability of the firearm, allowing for more consistent ignition and reducing the likelihood of misfires.

The Dimensions Of The Boxlock Pistol

Across history, several variations of the Boxlock pistol existed, and as you can imagine there was no standardized dimension that was applicable across regions or decades. Partly due to the fact several manufacturers got a crack and manufactured these pistols due to their popularity. Although, you can get a sense of the general dimension from this exhibit from the Smithsonian.

There you can see an example of the Boxlock pistol with the dimensions: 17.4625 cm (length) x 9.2075 cm (height) x 2.2225 cm (width) or 6 7/8 in (length) x 3 5/8 in (height) x 7/8 in (width).

All in all the Boxlock pistol was a wonderful piece of firearm history. It gave the average civilian a way to protect himself and his family from harm. It was small and could be easily carried and concealed. Hence why it was so popular for so long.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Below you can find a couple of commonly asked questions when it comes to the Boxlock pistol and how it compares to other designs.

What Is The Meaning Of Boxlock Pistol?

The term “Boxlock” describes the configuration of the pistol’s lock mechanism. And from there the pistol gets its name.

Which Is Better, Sidelock Or Boxlock?

Sidelock pistols have external lock mechanisms visible on the sides of the firearm, often considered more aesthetically pleasing. Boxlock pistols, on the other hand, have a more compact design with the lockwork enclosed within the frame, making them more robust and easier to manufacture. The choice between the two largely depends on personal preference, intended use, and specific firearm characteristics desired by the user.

Sidelock pistols are more aesthetically pleasing while Boxlock pistols are more robust and easier to manufacture.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope you learned a thing or two. If you wish to keep learning about weapons from history I suggest taking a look at my article on the pinfire cartridge. A piece of technology that revolutionized firearms. Click here to find out more.

You can also take a look at my article on the pistol that was preferred by pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. You can see the article right here.

Take care!

Source: “Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact” by Jeff Kinard