AN ALARM GUN, when it explodes its powder charge, announces to any one in hearing that it has been disturbed. Usually it does nothing more than sound an alert, though it may start a bell ringing, or even provide a little light by scratching a match.
A trap gun that fires a powder charge announces not only it has been disturbed, but that it has fired a shot at its disturber. The disturber may be an animal, or it may be a human intruder. Some of the trap guns, such as the North & Couch and the Reuthe, designed solely to shoot foraging small game, were almost sure to get dead center hits. The poacher-shooting trap guns were less dependable.
Most alarm guns are intended to warn against intrusion, but not all. Among exceptions is the sundial gun which simply announces the arrival of noon. A good example of one of these scarce pieces is shown in figure 89. This has a stone base about nine inches in diameter and a gun about six inches long. The gun, when properly set up in the north-south line, is designed to fire a saluting charge at apparent noon. It differs from other small muzzle-loading cannon in having a long trough-like and powder filled touch hole running parallel with the bore. With the dial's gnomon, more often called „the thing", set in the plane of the meridian the sun's rays will pass through the burning glass at noon, focus on and ignite the powder. As the sun at noon is higher in summer than in winter, the burning glass is made to be adjustable through an arc in the plane of the gnomon, so the sun's rays will cross the powder trail. The gun is also capable of similar movement.
The gun shown can be set up to fire at noon anywhere but it will properly mark time only if set up at the correct latitude and longitude for which the time lines were cut on its face. Sun clocks of almost split second accuracy have been made, but the dial made for Middletown will not „work" in Centerville.
It is thought the first wheel lock was invented by a German clock maker. Certainly the early clock makers were closely linked with the makers of locks for wheel lock guns. The very extraordinary all-metal piece shown in illustration 90 is operated by clockwork and will fire a wheel lock alarm gun at any appointed hour. After the necessary preparations-loading the gun with a charge of powder, spanning and priming the wheel lock, winding and setting the clock-a lever is set to trip at the desired hour. When the hour hand on the dial reaches and moves the lever a bell starts ringing, the knight's lance strikes the dragon, the gun goes off and a princess emerges through the door in the tower. The action, of course, depicts the old tale of the knight's killing the dragon and rescuing the princess.
89. Sundial gun/ Robert Abels collection.
90. Knight and Dragon alarm/ Joseph Kindig, Jr. collection.
The firing of the gun takes place when the knight's right foot comes down. Movement of the foot opens the pan cover and releases the wheel on the lock.
Another alarm, this one French, which fires a 16 gauge pinfire cartridge by clockwork is shown in illustration 91. The mechanism here is quite like that of the modern kitchen timer. The pointer on the dial is set for the number of hours that are to elapse before the alarm sounds.
The piece is all iron. The striker is the long arm pivoted at one end and with a heavy dog's head at the other. The illustration shows this arm raised slightly past the vertical and resting against a much shorter arm which turns as the hand on the dial moves. When the short arm finally pushes the striker back until the force of gravity takes over, the striker head drops and drives in the cartridge pin. The illustration shows the barrel unloaded, but with the breech swung back to receive a cartridge.
The alarms of the sundial guns and the clockwork guns did not cause the consternation that was felt when the discharge was heard of the flintlock alarm shown in illustration 92. This gun was fitted in a door lock and the discharge told of an attempt at unlawful entry. Some one who did not know the secret of the lock was trying to get in a locked room. The door lock was so peculiarly arranged that the key would turn back the bolt only if given a series of turns in a prescribed order-the first turn being in the „wrong" direction. If the first turn was in the „right" direction the bolt would not move but the gun would fire.
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