When we as modern English speakers think of the word "pummel" we generally think of beating someone to a bloody pulp. Look, it's not a pretty image but isn't that what you're envisioning, mate? Well there's a reason for that and here it is.
Originally the word pummel meant the hilt of a sword (like the hanger pictured above) or the butt of a flintlock. You can see where this is going, can't you?
Swords - relatively fragile items - would break, and that was a far more frequent occurrence in hand to hand combat than Hollywood would like you to believe. Guns, of course, were one shot wonders back then and after you discharged her there you were with a potentially useless piece of wood and metal in your hand. Damn it just doesn't cover it. But our seafaring (and, in all fairness, lubber) ancestors were delightfully resourceful and pirates of the Golden Age didn't take to calling the handle of a flintlock a "skull crusher" for nothing. That's right, kids. They'd just turn their weapon around and beat the living daylights our of their adversary with the pummel.
Eventually, by the early 1800's anyway, pummel was an interchangeable word. It might be what you held your sword with, or it might be the time you had to break that-guy-who-said-that-thing-about-your-mother's nose. Either would work. After roughly the 1870s the former meaning had virtually disappeared and only the latter remained. So while "hand me the pummel of the gun" would be archaic, "look at me funny and I'll pummel you, mate, and no lie" would be easily recognizable. Just as it is today.
Another SMS successfully wraps up and I'm off to shower and change. It's my 22nd wedding anniversary and it's time for Pauline to pay a little attention to the first mate. Spy ya in the week ahead, Brethren!