Hooray! It's time for this week's collaboration with What is it? blog: can you guess what this pistol is for?
Place your guess in the comment section - you're playing for fun and fame this week. No t-shirt prize. More clues (size, date, and close-up photos) at the What is it? blog.Update 4/18/08 - the answer is:
A gunpowder tester, photographed at the Frasier International History Museum.
Because gunpowder varied in explosive power, gunsmiths needed devices to test particular batches. By the 1500's, elaborate powder testers were available. This one resembles contemporary military pistols and may have belonged to a military gunsmith. Pulling the trigger ignited a measured amount of powder in the tube atop the tester, turning and locking a spring-loaded, numbered wheel. The number at which the wheel stopped indicated the powder's strength. The development of self-contained cartridges during the 1800's made powder testers obsolete.
Congratulations to RevRagnarok who got it right!