FRANK CLARKE, BIRMINGHAM
AN ULTRA-RARE .177 SINGLE-SHOT NICKEL-PLATED SPRING-PISTON AIR-PISTOL, MODEL 'TITAN MKI', serial no. 274,
circa 1916, with plain plated bolt-action 9 1/4in. slide-forwards smooth-bore barrel (bolt handle re-soldered), replacement applied aluminium fore-sight 'sleeve' at muzzle, standing notch rear-sight on bolt-handle at breech, plain plated air-chamber with single blued barrel-band, blued barrel support and pull-out cocking piece to front, separate plated frame numbered '274' on the left-hand side, the end-cap stamped with a crown over 'REGD. NO. 656710' over 'MADE IN ENGLAND', blued trigger-blade (stained) and chequered hard-rubber grips, the left hand one bearing the legend 'THE TITAN' in vertical raised letters, the right hand one with the Frank Clarke monogram and the letter 'B', the whole retaining the majority of its nickel-plated finish (small losses to barrel, trigger-guard and sharp edges), the blued ancillaries with powdery surface corrosion
Provenance: Probably the 'Holy-Grail' of English air-pistols, it is believed less than ten examples are known world-wide including the recently discovered example presented here. It is similar to the only other example sold by Holts (September 2013, Lot 600) in that it has both a serial number and a registered design number, probably indicating early manufacture. This model Titan was advertised in the 'Magnet' 1916 and also in 'The Sporting Goods Review' Dec 15th 1916 and Jan 15th 1917. Very few airguns actually arrived during the Great War years but Frank Clarke was a fairly small, mainly lead products set - up, so they may not have been involved much in war work. It probably appeared just before wartime restrictions on airguns and air rifles came into force - but there were no restrictions on dealings in airgun ammunition. However, there was a scarcity of pellets due to shortage of lead and labour - so maybe, by Frank Clarke selling his pistols along with a supply of re-usable darts allowed the sport of shooting to continue in those difficult times.
Holts are gratefully indebted to Mr John Atkins for his help with the footnote on this lot
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