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Rare Documented NRA Silver Medal Award Winning One of Two Known Cased Pairs of Fr. J. Bitterlich & Co. Nashville Tennessee Percussion Southern Derringer Pocket Pistols -A) Bitterlich Derringer Pocket Pistol - NSN, 41 cal., 2 1/2 inch octagon bbl., brown/casehardened/German silver finish, walnut stock. Among the very few Southern makers of derringer pistols was Franz J. Bitterlich of Nashville, Tennessee, who was one of the rare makers in the day. He was born in Bohemia and married Mary Lachman of Illinois. The Daily Nashville Patriot on August 6, 1860, announced that he had “recently opened a gunsmith’s shop over Barkhorn’s on Deaderick street” and noted his “guns and pistols are equal in every respect to those of Eastern manufacture, and some have even pronounced them superior to all others. For some three or four years Mr. Bitterlich has been associated with Schneider & Co., of Memphis, which house is justly celebrated for the superiority of its work. We had thought, until we saw some of Mr. Bitterlich’s work, that the far-famed Derringer was the pistol, but after testing both ‘the ‘Derringer’ and Mr. Bitterlich’s pocket pistols, we are strongly inclined to yield the palm to the latter.”The local papers also reported his residence was robbed of around $170-180 that same July. He ran advertisements in 1861, and then falls out of the papers for a period during the Civil War. His shop reportedly was destroyed by a fire in 1862, the year the city was captured by Union forces. In 1865 he was listed as a “Gun and Pistol Repairer.” By 1866,
he was again a gunmaker and formed Bitterlich & Legler with Joseph Legler which lasted until 1880.
This extraordinary set thus dates to c.1860-1862. It is featured on page 180 of “The Deringer in America” by R.L. Wilson and
L.D. Eberhart where it is noted that the set was the only known cased pair and was stolen in the 1970s. It was later recovered and transferred from the Dr. Wilmot N. “Bo” Harper Estate to well-known dealer Bobby Wayne Smith and received one of just 10 silver medals at the NRA’s Annual Meeting in 2013 (medal and certificate plaque included). The certificate notes that one other pair from Bitterlich & Co. is also now known. Southern made derringer pistols are much rarer than their northern counterparts, and examples by Bitterlich are rarely encountered.
The rifled barrels have brass post front sights and are marked “FR J. BITTERLICH & CO/NASHVILLE. TENN.” The upper tangs have notch rear sights. There are “P” marks on the locks at the front edges. Nickel plated belt hooks are fitted on the left sides. The other furniture is German silver. The stocks have carved shell patterns at the forend tips and checkered wrists. The mahogany case has green lining and contains a nickel plated powder flask, ball mold, nipple wrench with pick, two sets of ramrods (one pair nickeled), and compartments with an oiler, balls, and key. The first pistol still has a ball in the barrel, but the powder was removed from the breech end by removal of the nipple.

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