Research is so terribly entertaining.
A simple googling of “barking irons” in the hopes of turning up some interesting portraits or illustrations revealed a wholly unexpected result: it is not so obsolete as the Oxford English Dictionary would have one believe. A likely too-hipster-for-me clothing store in the Bowery in NYC is called Barking Irons. Hugh Laurie wears their t-shirts; that’s a sales pitch I can support.
But I digress. We are here for vocabulary.
Barking Irons (noun)
Pistols; from their explosion resembling the bow-wow or barking of a dog; attributed as Irish.
The birds rose with a whirr; the little gun barked; the pointer dropped to his haunches; it was perfect work. From “Frank of Freedom Hill” by Samuel A. Derieux, 1922
In the coming third book in my Lords of Oxford Series, Earl Crazy, the grandmother and aunt of my hero are entertainingly eccentric, and each carry a Singing Bird Pistol at all times in their reticules. Although these little jewels weren’t crafted until 1820, I fudged a bit on the timing because they so delightfully fit the personalities of the two grandes dames of my story. Lord Aylesford’s grand-aunt is particularly proud of her “tiny, harmless, barking iron.”