Doune Pistols

Doune is renowned for its historical pistols. It is said the first shot fired in the American war of independence was from a Doune pistol.

Thomas Caddell started making Doune pistols in 1646 and they became much sought after well into the next century as the village become renowned for the high quality work of its gun smiths.  The unique elements of the Doune pistols were the scroll or rams horn butt, fluted barrels at the breech and the octagonal flared muzzles.  Soon pistol makers all across Scotland and England began to copy the styles of Doune.

Only 200 Doune pistols are believed to be in existence today though the original Doune pistol factory is still standing, just off the Main Street through a black wrought iron gate.

Doune Pistols –  (an abbreviated version) by Sarah Cowie, Heritage officer, Kilmadock Heritage project 2005

What is a Doune pistol?
A Doune pistol is a particularly recognisable type of pistol, with a ramshorn or scroll butt, intricate engraving and inlaying throughout and a flintlock firing mechanism. Doune pistols were manufactured by various gunsmiths in Doune form as early as the 1640s to the late 1700s and became famous throughout Europe.

When did the manufacturing of Doune pistol begin?
The earliest surviving Doune pistol was manufactured in 1678 and is in the Neufchatel Museum in Switzerland. The name engraved on the pistol is “ Thomas Caddell”. The Caddell dynasty dominated the pistol-making in Doune between 1646-1776 with five Thomas Caddells working to establish the industry and develop the Doune pistol as a recognisable product throughout Britain. The first Thomas Caddell moved to Doune from Muthill and died in 1670.

Why did the pistol- making industry begin in Doune?
The exact reasons are unknown In Doune, by the 1600s, a weekly market was held on a Friday and this would have been the main point of sale for pistol makers, setting up booths around the Mercat cross to sell their products to visitors at the fairs. Caddell, as a member of the Stirling branch of the Hammermen, had a duty to train apprentices. Many of these apprentices then went on to open their own successful pistol making workshops in Doune.

Who were the main pistol makers in Doune?
The most successful were Caddell, Campbell, Christie & Murdoch. Other apprentices of Caddell were Stewart, McKenzie, McNeill, Mitchie and Sutherland.

What was distinctive about the design of a Doune pistol?
The design was attractive with intricate decoration that made it a fashion accessory for the wealthy. The weapons could be drawn and used quickly, it had all the accessories needed built in, was robust and fired a deadly shot. They wear sold in pairs.

For more information visit or contact the Kilmadock Information and Heritage centre.