Historian Tom Wancho knows how to handle a weapon. Especially a flintlock pistol from around 1786.

"The Spanish military was well-armed during its years of colonizing Texas," says Wancho, brandishing the unwieldy thing in a museum artifact room. "This pistol could fire a .72-caliber lead ball through its smoothbore barrel. Though loading two pinches of gunpowder into two different areas and then ram-rodding the ball deep into the barrel took precious time, this type of pistol was popular enough to be used for the better part of two centuries."

Wancho is familiar with these ballistic niceties because he is an exhibit planner at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The pistol doesn’t belong to the museum — by design, the historical treasury has no permanent collection — but rather to the small Texas Museum of Military History in San Antonio.

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