HERE WE FIND outstanding examples of the wise and the foolish, and also, on unsure footing, a few firearms that some collectors will deny recognition as curiosa.
Because „A Hair perhaps divides the False and True" it is impossible that any two collectors will always agree in separating the unconventional from the established order.
We may say a gun to be classed as curiosa must have some bizarre feature that tends to astonish the student-but just what is a bizarre feature? We may say an oddity will always provoke either a sympathetic smile or a derisive laugh-but, are collectors' risibilities all triggered alike? Let him first square the circle, who would define „oddity."
There are many rare and odd guns with remarkable ignition systems or repeating mechanisms-Forsyths, Fergusons, Colliers -that are excluded here. This is not a history of firearms.
Arbitrarily excluded are all firearms incapable of shooting. ( A gun intended only for blank cartridges but which can fire a bullet is not necessarily excluded.) I was offered for illustration as an oddity a magnificent tinderlighter made by Boutet. It looked like a flint pistol, but when the trigger was pulled the barrel flew open and there was a lighted candle. That lighter does not shoot, and so is not illustrated here, but if any collector of firearms does not want it in his collection he is daft. Whether he collects oddities, lowly pepperboxes, or important Brescian snaphaunces.
I respectfully suggest to the reader that the more he limits his collection the more he limits interest in it.
There are many special purpose weapons worthy of consideration by the collector, though omitted from this book-punt guns, harpoon guns, rescue guns used by fire departments and coastguardmen to throw lines, marking guns used by police and automobile men to determine efficiency of drivers and brakes. And if a collector likes to include a cigar cutter shaped like a pistolI see no reason why he should not.
Some guns reveal at a glance their freakishness; others hide their peculiarities from all but the student. An extreme example of each type is shown in figures 237 and 238.
Illustration 237 is a reproduction of the frontispiece from the August, 1912, issue of Magazine o f Antique Firearms. The caption for the frontispiece reads, „C. Bechtler's Double Ender Pistol. A Southern made pistol of great rarity. Fisher collection." An accompanying article by Dr. A. L. Fisher explains that the mainspring is the trigger guard and that this mainspring may be released by either trigger. Dr. Fisher notes that as the two hammers can not both be cocked at the same time, simultaneous murder and suicide can not be accomplished! The gun is some times known as the „Fore and Aft" and is assumed to have been made by Christopher Bechtler. Mr. Bechtler was a German gun smith who settled in Rutherford, North Carolina, in 1829. Certainly a collector may need a second look to be sure his eyes have not deceived him, but not to decide that this is truly an oddity.
A gun just like the one in illustration 238 is to be found in many collections. It is the excellent but much misunderstood percussion cap rifle invented by Lieutenant-Colonel J. Durrell Greene, U. S. Army, and patented November 17, 1857, U. S. patent #18,634. It has several unusual features. It is the first boltaction rifle adopted by the U. S. Army. (Considerable numbers of Greene rifles, of which 900 or more were purchased by the U. S. Army, saw service in the Civil War.) It is the first underhammer rifle adopted by the U. S. Army. (If any one say at this point that these facts do not make the gun an oddity, I fully agree.) It is the only oval-bored rifle adopted by the U. S. Army. Here is where a couple of misunderstandings come in. First, any one who takes the bolt out of a Greene rifle and looks through the barrel will see a smooth bore with no lands or grooves. Only if he be familiar with the Lancaster system of barrel boring can he understand why the Greene is called a rifle. Second, many collectors incorrectly think an oval-bored barrel requires a bullet with elliptical cross-section. It may be well to quote here from an 1864 U. S. Ordnance report on the Greene-". . . the bore is elliptical in shape, and the rotary motion is imparted to the bullet by giving the longest diameter of the ellipse a turn of three-fourths in the length of the barrel. The oval form is too slight a variation from a perfect cylinder to be perceptible to the eye, and the appearance of the barrel, on looking through, is precisely like that of a smoothbore musket. But by placing one of the bullets (which are cast round, and assume the elliptical shape on entering the barrel) into the muzzle, and looking through from the breech, a slight crescent of light will be perceived on each side of it." The italicizing of the parenthetical quotation is mine.
I do not press the argument that the gun is an oddity simply because it is a rifle though it looks like a smoothbore. Oval boring was in use in England thirty years before our Civil War, and being tried out in this country as something new forty years after. About the turn of the century this system of oval-bore rifling was submitted by some one, as a new invention, to the Ordnance Department, and tests were made in Krags and experimental Springfields. In respect of flatter trajectory, increased initial accuracy, sustained accuracy, ease of cleaning and decreased bore wear, the oval-bore rifling apparently had the edge over conventional rifling. However, in one match, one group of men made a slightly better score with a regular service rifle than another group made with a rifle with oval bore.
The Greene has another unusual feature. This one is odd to the extent of being unique. It completely reverses accepted practice, but it is evident only to the student. The Greene fires a combustible paper cartridge that contains its bullet in its base, back of its powder charge. The cartridge is capable of shooting a bullet from the previously fired cartridge, but never its own bullet.
Starting with an empty rifle, loading was as follows. A safety button on the breech tang, which locked the bolt and prevented firing unless the bolt were home, was pressed down, permitting the bolt handle to be turned up and the bolt drawn back. With the bolt back, a hollow-base expanding bullet was dropped in the receiver. The bolt was moved forward to its original closed position but the bolt handle was not then turned down. Forward pressure was continued on the bolt handle, and an auxiliary rod, or inner bolt, moved ahead to seat the bullet. This position is shown in figure 238. Again the bolt was drawn fully back, and, after a cartridge was placed in the receiver, was moved forward sufficiently to push the cartridge into the chamber. The bolt handle was turned down, the ring hammer was cocked by a pull with the index finger, the nipple was capped, and the gun was ready to fire when the trigger was pulled. Figure 239
shows this position. On pulling the trigger the forward bullet left the gun, but the bullet at the base of the just discharged cartridge had not moved, and it had served as a very efficient gas check. It was now ready to be pushed forward and fired by the next cartridge.
It is my belief that much more than half the Greene rifles in collections have the concentric inner bolt frozen tight so the bolt handle cannot assume the position shown in figure 238. Careful application of heat will usually free the parts without difficulty.
Placing the primer ahead of the powder in a cartridge hardly seems as absurd as placing the bullet behind the powder, as in the just described Greene rifle, but to me a gun that uses such a cartridge gets the nod as an oddity.
The Greene rifle, with the bullet back of the powder, was of very little influence in the outcome of our Civil War. Its cartridge did create a little excitement among men who wrongly assumed the foremost end was the bullet end, and who thought the big end of the bullet, not the point, was the striking end. From there they went completely off the rails, reaching the conclusion the hollow end of the bullet contained poison and was placed foremost so the poison would be spread around in the wound.
On the other hand the Dreyse needle gun, with its primer ahead of the powder, probably influenced the course of world events more than any other firearm in history-after the Forsyth invention, that is. It has been called „the great granddaddy of all bolt action rifles . . . the magic wand with which the various Germanic states were united to form Germany under the Hohenzollern dynasty."* [*Article by Edward D. Crabb in the American Rifleman, February 1941.] Its importance is undeniable, but we are concerned here with needle guns only from the standpoint of oddity.
The German needle gun employs a long needle-like firing pin which is driven through the center of the base of a combustible cartridge and on through the powder to detonate a primer resting at the base of the bullet. The bullet serves as an anvil. The firing pin was surrounded by burning powder when the fulminate priming was detonated and so its life was shortened. The theoretical advantage in igniting the powder at the base of the bullet was that the burning of the powder from front to rear resulted in higher bullet velocity.
Illustration 240 is of a Dreyse military rifle of 1848. This is a true needle gun. There exist many guns that use needle-like firing pins-the most remarkable probably being the Pauly breechloader which was invented in 1812 and used a center-fire self-contained cartridge-but these guns, which did not use the primer-ahead-of-the-powder cartridges, are here considered neither needle guns nor oddities.
The gun shown is the first type of military breechloader. The bolt handle works the same as in modern bolt-action guns, in that it is raised and pulled back, and then, after a cartridge is dropped in the receiver, pressed forward and down-but this action on the Dreyse does not complete preparation for firing. On the gun shown it is necessary to draw back a thumb piece before opening the bolt, and to push back this piece after closing the bolt.
The long German needle guns, whether military or sporting, muzzle-loading or breech-loading, were not odd in appearance. The rare needle-fire revolvers are quite odd in appearance. Their shape was peculiar because room had to be provided back of the cylinder for a mechanism that would drive the needle deep in the chamber and instantly withdraw it after detonating the fulminate. The only true needle-fire revolvers I know of were made by Dreyse. Two types of these rare guns are shown together, figure 241. The larger is 8-shot of about .45 caliber, the smaller is 6-shot of slightly smaller caliber. The long lever, partly covered with wood, on the larger revolver, serves to cock the gun, also to revolve and lock the cylinder. This lever must be held close against the grip when the trigger is pulled. The smaller revolver is conventionally double-action in that both the turning of the cylinder and the firing of the cartridge require no more than a pull of the trigger.
To go back to the guns that shoot both ways-figure 242 illustrates a modern version of the Double Ender. Like Bechtler's Double Ender, this can not fire in both directions simultaneously, but it has two steel barrels screwed on a center portion and pointing in opposite directions. The gun is intended for use with rather large gas cartridges. The gun is grasped in the center and fired by pulling back a spring-controlled plunger and then releasing it. After one barrel is fired the piece may be quickly turned and the other barrel fired.
There was at least one gun that actually did shoot both ways at once. It had a double length barrel, with one end rifled and the other smooth. A brass cartridge had powder in the middle, a solid projectile at one end, and very fine shot at the other. On firing, the projectile went one way out the rifled end and the charge of shot went the other way out the smooth end. The idea was to reduce recoil. The gun was tried out in airplanes in World War I.
The rare cartridge derringer patented June 21, 1864 by Samuel M. Perry, has a barrel that can be loaded at either end with a .41 rim-fire cartridge. The inventor most definitely did not intend that the barrel have loaded shells in both ends at the same time, but he did expect that often when a loaded shell in one end was fired there would be an empty, just fired, shell in the other end. In fact, the object of the invention was to have „. . . the spent cartridge-shell . . . expelled from the chamber of the barrel by the explosion of the succeeding cartridge."
It happened that two of these rare pistols were simultaneously made available to me for study. Figure 243 shows one gun with the barrel swung out; figure 244 shows the other gun with the barrel closed. These may be the only „Double Headers" remaining in existence. Where they were made is unknown.
242. Gas pistol/ H. Gordon Frost collection.
242. Gas pistol/ H. Gordon Frost collection.
244. Double Header/ William M. Locke collection.
The first illustration shows the barrel ready for loading. The barrel has both ends chambered and recessed for cartridge rims, and may be turned through 180°. When lined up with the frame and in firing position the barrel is held by a spring catch.
The inventor properly claimed the pistol could be fired more rapidly than any other derringer because its operation required fewer motions. After the first shot the operation required to get another loaded cartridge under the hammer consisted simply in loading a cartridge at the muzzle and turning the barrel end for end. With other single-shot cartridge derringers it was necessary to open the breech, eject the empty shell, reload, and close the breech-three or four motions, instead of two.
The spent case of the first cartridge was expelled from the muzzle by the second discharge, supposedly „in advance of the ball."
The two guns illustrated are identically marked DOUBLE HEADER E. S. RENWICK MANUF'R NEW-YORK PAT. JUNE 21, 1864. E. S. Renwick was the assignee of the two patents, numbers 43,259 and 43,260, granted Samuel M. Perry, June 21, 1864. Another patent, # 102,429, also assigned to Renwick, was applied for by Samuel M. Perry and Emerson Goddard in 1867 but not granted until April 26, 1870. This patent covered an improved catch for „holding the movable barrel in the position for firing." On the front page of the November 18, 1868, Scientific American is an article headed „Patent Copper Cartridge Revolving Derringer", and an illustration captioned „The Perry and Goddard, 'Double Header', or 'Perpetual Revolver'." The article suggested that anyone interested in „the purchase of the entire right or for an exclusive license to manufacture under the patents" should address E. S. Renwick, 34 Beach St., New York City. An 1869 New York City directory lists Edward S. Renwick as a Solicitor of Patents with an office at 34 Beach Street.
The pistol illustrated in the 1868 Scientific American had the 1870 patent improvement. It would seem that only guns with this improvement should rightfully be called Perry and Goddard. Goddard was concerned as a patentee only with the improved catch. Whether or not any derringers were made for sale under the 1870 patent, I do not know. Neither of the two derringers illustrated here has the movable button, under the frame, which is the outward evidence of the improved catch.
If any one ever fired a Double Header with loaded cartridges at both ends of the barrel the results have not been recorded.
Of the oddities among military weapons none has received more publicity than the Puckle gun. Illustration 245 is a reproduction of the British patent granted in 1718 to James Puckle of London, for what Mr. Puckle described as „. . . a Portable Gun or Machine (by me lately Invented) called a DEFENCE. . ."
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245. British patent drawing-Puckle gun.
The Puckle invention was probably the first crank-operated machine gun. It embodied several elements that closely resemble construction features of Gatling, Hotchkiss and other manuallyoperated machine guns. The Puckle gun has been many times mentioned in connection with modern machine guns, and the Puckle patent many times referred to in actions at law. Probably no one who has commented on the Puckle gun, whether in the courts of law or in a serious treatise on the development of machine guns, has been able to refrain from telling about the square bullets. So here it is, once more. Illustrated directly under the muzzle of the gun are two „plates of chambers." The lower is described in the patent as „16. The plate of the Chambers of the Gun for a Ship shooting Square Bullets against Turks." The upper is described as „17. For Round Bullets against Christians."
It is doubtful that any of the Puckle guns that may have been actually produced ever saw service. A contemporaneous poet, commenting on „Puckle's Machine Company", wrote „Fear not, my friends, this terrible machine. They're only wounded who have shares therein."
Cavities have been cut in gun stocks to hold patch boxes, as in Kentucky rifles, to contain repeating mechanisms, as in Spencer rifles, and for a hundred other purposes. Stocks have had wood cut away to provide space for extra parts, extra cartridges, tools, telescopes, knives, even music boxes. Of the many guns with stocks hollowed out two only will be shown here as oddities. Both guns are very rare American martial arms, highly prized by collectors. Illustration 246 is of a Colt with a canteen stock; illustrations 247 and 248 are of a coffee mill Sharps.
246. Canteen Stock Colt/ William M. Locke collection.
The Colt is an Old Model Navy Pistol fitted with a canteen shoulderstock patented by Samuel Colt, January 18, 1859, patents numbers 22,626 and 22,627. The first of these patents dealt with the method of „. . . coupling the removable stock to .pistols in forming the carbine-pistol attachment . . ." The second patent claimed „So constructing the stock of a gun that it shall constitute a canteen . . . „ The hollow interior of the stock is fitted with a metal-lined „ . . . reservoir having a suitable opening and stopper . . ."
247. and 248. Coffee mill Sharps/ John K. Watson collection.
Illustration 247 shows a vertical breech Sharps carbine, fitted with a coffee mill. The Government bought about 80,000 Sharps percussion cap carbines for use in the American Civil War, and planned to have each cavalry company that was outfitted with the Sharps supplied with one gun having a coffee mill in the butt. The coffee beans were poured in the mill through an opening underneath the stock. The ground coffee came out on the other side of the butt from the crank, through the small curved opening in the plate shown in figure 248.
The peculiar pistol shown in illustrations 249 and 250 is stamped HAND FIRING MECHANISM MK-2. It was used by specially trained personnel in World War II and was named a „fist gun" in the patent #2,423,448, granted Stanley M. Haight, United States Navy, July 8, 1947. The patent application was filed February 29, 1944.
One view shows the fist gun on the back of a glove, in firing position, with „a trigger projecting from the firearm closely adjacent and forward of (the) muzzle." The other view shows the gun removed from the glove and with the barrel swung up for loading. The gun is a singleshot pistol, using a .38 S & W cartridge. As soon as this pistol is loaded and the barrel pushed down to the firing position, pressure on the knob alongside the barrel muzzle will discharge the cartridge. As the patent states, „When the fist is doubled up, the trigger is exposed for contact and the fingers are removed from the line of fire", and „a lethal charge can be discharged into an adversary by pressing or striking the weapon against him." A slide safety is provided so the gun will not be fired accidentally. The pistol shown is an improvement on the original Haight patent in that it does not require a separate device to cock the striker.
Another special gun of World War 11 is shown in 251. This is usually called the .45 Underground Pistol, getting its name from the fact it was especially designed for supply to our „underground allies." The gun is an unprepossessing low-cost stamped-metal product of which a million or more were secretly made and dropped behind enemy lines. Despite its crude appearance, the gun is fully able to handle its powerful .45 auto cartridge. The pistol is singleshot, of course, with no provision for mechanical extraction of a fired case. The empty could be pushed out with anything suitable that was handy-a pencil would do. The pistol's hollow grip would hold extra cartridges.
To load the gun, the hammer is first drawn back and turned. Then a sliding breech plate is raised, a cartridge inserted in the barrel, the breech plate pressed down, and the hammer turned back until its long firing pin will enter a hole in the top of the breech plate. The gun is now ready for firing.
In the package with each gun dropped there was ammunition and also a sign language instruction sheet explaining the loading and operation.
The guns were of much value to irregulars in enabling them to obtain the better weapons carried by an isolated enemy regular, such as a sentry.
The Japanese autoloading pistol shown in figure 252 may be fired by pressing on a long lever in the side of the frame, without touching the trigger. The U. S. forces issued a bulletin in World War II to warn personnel of the possible danger that these guns might be fired intentionally by an enemy without his touching the trigger, or unintentionally by any one who examined the gun without being familiar with its operation.
The pistol is commonly called the Japanese Suicide Automatic. The story back of the name is reasonable to those who know that the Japanese who commits suicide will make the momentous act as impressive and ceremonious as possible, but it is given here without assurance of its truth. Supposedly, a Japanese officer having one of these guns would use it for suicide at the moment he presented it to his captor. The gun would be held in the acceptably correct manner for surrendering it, butt foremost with the barrel pointing toward the abdomen and the fingers around the barrel. At the final instant of surrender the thumb would be pressed on the tip of the long lever which is visible in the photograph just above the trigger.
A misfire due to a fault in a fresh modern cartridge is today almost unknown. Misfires in muzzle-loading weapons, particularly flintlocks, were commonplace.
A misfire in a flintlock sometimes resulted from a worn, or broken, or badly set flint-though it could result from fouling, careless priming, weak springs, inferior steel, or just bad weather. Illustration 253 shows a Tower belt pistol with a lock designed to get a useless flint quickly replaced by means of a cock with a double pair of jaws, facing in opposite directions. The length of time a flint gun was out of action while a spare flint was screwed in position in the usual way, could be greatly reduced by use of this lock. Getting a new flint in position required only swinging the double head around after loosening a wing nut.
Sir Howard Douglas submitted the idea of this lock, presumably his invention, to the British Army authorities in 1817. It was apparently thoroughly tested, but was considered to be clumsy and troublesome. The lock had some success in its use on cannon of the British Navy, but none in use on pistols, rifles or muskets.
An old Bannerman catalogue shows another pistol fitted with a Douglas lock, and examples of muskets and rifles so equipped are in the Tower of London.
The idea of the Douglas lock was to have a spare flint ready to be put in use with the least possible delay. Having a complete extra lock available was an idea that found favor even before the days of flintlocks. Illustration 254 is of a Brescian matchlock sporting gun with two serpentines which operate separately with different triggers. One trigger is the early form of long lever, and the serpentine it actuates is the slow moving type. The other trigger is a button, and the serpentine it releases is one that flies down suddenly. The gun is single-shot and has but one pan. The two serpentines have small split ends, too small to grip match cord of normal size. Bits of burning tinder, ignited from a separate match, were used in such serpentines. Some students prefer to call such guns „tinder lock", rather than „matchlock".
Sometimes two different types of ignition were made available. Figure 255 is of a plain military piece provided with both a wheel lock and a matchlock. The illustration shows the doghead in position so that if the wheel were spanned, and if pyrites were in place in the jaws of the doghead, pressure on the trigger would spin the wheel and send sparks into the pan. The ignition by means of a burning match is in reserve. To use that, the doghead would be pulled back so it would not interfere with the serpentine. Trigger pressure would guide the serpentine to the pan when the wheel lock was not in use. This serpentine is of the usual size to hold match cord.
Some guns were made which fired two locks at the same time. This double ignition, as a safety measure in an emergency, is certainly more valuable than a reserve lock if there will be no time to fire the second lock. A flint pistol by Barbar, London, which has two hammers that go down together when the trigger is pulled, is shown in figure 256. In addition to the two hammers there are of course two frizzens and two pans with vents both leading to the one powder charge.
A single-shot dagger pistol which uses percussion cap double ignition is shown in two views, figures 257 and 258. This is a French piece, marked CORREVON A YVERDON. There are two nipples that lead to the powder chamber. The hammer is bifurcated and has two hammer noses. When the trigger is pulled two caps are donated simultaneously.
The unusually long dagger, when held under the stock, may be released by pressing a button under the grip. It will then be thrust out and locked in place by a heavy spring under the barrel.
The dagger pistol has one hammer with two noses that simultaneously hit two nipples. The pistol in illustration 259 has one hammer with only one nose, but it too hits two nipples simultaneously, and in this case the vents lead to two over-and-under barrels. If the objective is to assure a discharge at the first trigger pull, this system seems most likely to succeed. The probability that of two barrels, each with one nipple, one will fire, is greater than that one barrel will fire if equipped with two nipples. The gun is very slim, and it has British proof marks, though no maker's name.
This use of two caps to be detonated simultaneously to discharge two barrels at the same time is much less frequently encountered than the use of a single cap to discharge several barrels at once, or of a single flintlock to accomplish the same result. Long guns with multiple barrels all fired at once by one lock have been popular for wildfowl shooting since the first ones, flintlock and called volley guns, were made by Henry Nock. Some of the trap guns mentioned in Chapter VI are of this multiple explosion type.
Of the guns with multiple barrels that fire simultaneously one eagerly sought by collectors is the Duckfoot or Mob Pistol. An example made by Twigg, London, circa 1780, is shown in figure 260. The bullets from the four barrels are discharged together but they go in different directions within a sector of a circle. The weapon was an effective deterrent to holdup men at close quarters and seems to have been developed for bank runners. It is reputed to have become popular with prison guards and tough sea captains. Any member of a mob was given pause by the knowledge he was jeopardizing his fellows if he rushed a man who pointed one of these splay-barrelled pistols in his direction.
Another pistol with four barrels that fire together is in figure 261. This piece made by J. Hunt, London, is noticeably different from the Twigg in that its barrels are designed to place four bullets in a small group, rather than spread them.
265. Durs Egg pistol.
A six-barrel pistol, illustrated in figure 262, has all its barrels fired by a single pull of the trigger. The discharges are not exactly simultaneous though they must sound as an uninterrupted roar. They might properly be called momentaneous, as they begin and terminate in an instant. Each barrel, after the first, is fired by ignition from the preceding charge. This is managed by having the barrel bores progressively decreased in length with vents connecting the barrels so fire will go from the first barrel to ignite powder in the chamber of the second barrel, and so on.
In illustration 263 is a most curious cartridge gun with eight barrels. The eight barrels are arranged in two groups of four barrels each, and the eight charges may be fired all at once or four at a time. This very attractive piece is Italian and has several unusual features. It is marked MITRAGLIERA PRIVILEGIATA SISTEMA MEROLLA GIOVANNI. The barrels in each group diverge both vertically and horizontally, so a burst of shots spreads both sideways and up and down. There are two hammers, each striking two firing pins,. with each firing pin striking two cartridge heads. By means of a clip that folds over the cartridge heads, eight cartridges may be loaded in one movement when the barrels are tipped down. Four vertical slots in the back of the clip permit each firing pin to strike one top cartridge and also the cartridge immediately below at the same instant. The trigger is a button under the barrel which moves forward when a hammer is cocked, and which fires by a squeeze of the finger tip. A squeeze on the trigger fires eight cartridges if both hammers are cocked; it fires four if the left hammer only is cocked.
The most fantastic of the guns that fire more than one shot at a time is the nine-chamber, three-barrel revolver in illustration 264 which fires three shots at a time. This is marked on the left of the silver plated frame, WM. EDGAR & R. M. SMITH, MINERAL POINT, ms., presumably the makers. The large cylinder is a cluster of three small cylinders, each of which contains three chambers. It is manually turned until a slide on top of the frame will, when pushed forward, lock the gun so that the three chambers are in line with the three barrels which are rifled, about .34 caliber, and welded together. The barrels spread laterally apart at the muzzle so as to scatter the projectiles. The large cylinder has three nipples, one for each group of three chambers. All three chambers in each group receive fire from the exploded cap at the same time.
Many of the early multiple barrel guns designed to fire one shot at a time would fire the first two shots together if the operator moved a lever before pulling the trigger. The choice of whether there would be a single or double discharge was at the control of the operator, except in some seven-barrel flint pepperboxes where if all barrels were loaded, the one double discharge was unavoidable if the gun was fired until empty. The two-barrel pistol in figure 265 will fire first the left barrel and then the right, or both barrels simultaneously, depending on the positioning of the sliding lever on the side of the frame. The illustration shows the lever back and both flash pans open. The lever connects with a secondary pan cover which will slide over the right pan when the lever is moved forward. The frizzen is unusually wide, so it will serve as the primary cover for both pans. The pistol is by Durs Egg. The hallmark on the silver dates it 17867.
A final illustration of pistols with two barrels fired simultaneously is figure 266. From the standpoint of oddity these pistols are chiefly remarkable because they are in combination one with a knife and one with a fork. The combination of firearms with edged weapons has been a matter of course for centuries. The combination of flintlock pistols with tableware is less sensible.
These short barrelled, small caliber pistols are all metal, with brass frames. Both the knife and the fork are folding, like bayonets on blunderbusses. Each pistol has only one lock and one flash pan, but there are two vents in the pan, one on each side, so both barrels go off at the same time.
Examples of pistols combined with knives and forks are very scarce. The extraordinary and beautifully designed tableware in illustration 267 is probably the only existing set of knife, fork, and spoon all combined with pistols. The frames of these pistols are in bronze gilt, and bear the maker's name, F. x . RICHTER IN REICHEBERG. This superb trio normally reside in their original cloth covered wooden traveling case whose fitted interior is lined with velvet. The pistols date about 1715 and have lock mechanisms all on the outside, not concealed.
Completely exposed lock mechanisms may in themselves be considered sufficiently odd to warrant inclusion as curiosa. A fine example of an all-metal pistol with the entire lock mechanism on the outside of the frame is shown in figures 268 and 269. The mechanism shown in the lower illustration, which is usually found attached to the inside of the lock plate, is of the simplest sort, consisting of mainspring, tumbler, sear and sear spring only.
I think it was Charles Winthrop Sawyer who styled flintlock tinderlighters, „the firearms that shed no blood." The two illustrated here are exceptions. Both are combined with pistols quite capable of shedding blood.
In illustration 270 there is shown an unmarked brass mounted table tinderlighter that can be quickly transformed into a pistol. As a tinderlighter the piece operates in normal fashion, the flint sending sparks into a small tinder-packed compartment, the tinder box. If the barrel which sticks out from this tinder box is charged with powder and ball, it may be fired if a round plate in the bottom of the box is turned until a hole in it lines up with a powder filled flash pan. With the tinder removed from the box the sparks from the flint will ignite the priming powder. Because of the length of the barrel, it is at once apparent this tinderlighter probably conceals a pistol. If the barrel had been made as short as possible the presence of the pistol might have gone unnoticed.
Not so with the combination piece in figure 271. This appears to be a two-shot, over-and-under, swivel breech, flint pistol. Actually, only one barrel is a pistol barrel. The other barrel is false, with a tinder box at the breech. The forward part of the false barrel is merely a receptacle, with a hinged cover at the muzzle, perhaps intended to hold tinder or possibly for use as a candle holder. The illustration shows the gun barrel in firing position. By pressing up and back on the trigger guard the barrel assembly may be turned over so the tinderlighter may operate. There is a triangular bayonet which may be released for use by pulling back a catch on the side of the frame. This pistol which conceals a tinderlighter is marked z. TOMSON a BRUXELLES.
266. Knife and fork pistols/ Robert Abels collection.
267. Knife, fork and spoon pistols/ W. Keith Neal collection.
271. Tinderlighter pistol-10" overall/ Frank R. Homer collection.
Harpoons, rockets, life lines, bouquets of flowers, even human beings in a circus act have been projected from gun muzzles. In illustrations 272 and 273 are two pistols that were specially made to fire abnormal missiles. One has a barrel with a rectangular bore, about 7/8"x 1/4", and discharges a projectile shaped like a dagger point. The other shoots an arrow and has two twisting slots cut longitudinally through the barrel from the muzzle almost to the powder chamber. The slits are designed to hold two vanes of an arrow, so that when the pistol is fired the vanes will follow the twisting channels and cause the arrow to spin in flight.
A muzzle-loading magician's pistol that was constructed to be loaded with powder and ball and then to be fired without discharging the ball, is shown in figure 274. The large barrel that we see in the illustration is false. It has no vent to its powder chamber. The nipple vent actually leads the fire from the percussion cap around the false barrel to the powder chamber of a small true barrel disguised as a ramrod channel. The sleight of hand performer would have the false barrel loaded with powder and ball by a member of his audience in view of everyone. He would pretend to make sure the charge was well rammed down and then hand the pistol to an assistant, being careful to omit returning the ramrod. The hidden barrel had been previously loaded, with powder only of course. The assistant would fire across the stage aiming at the head of the performer, who would appear to catch the ball in his teeth.
Most guns with three or more barrels customarily have the barrels grouped around a central axis. Such guns include the pepperboxes and the modern German Drillings. Guns with three or more barrels in line, either vertically or horizontally, we usually class as oddities. The vertical arrangement of barrels was better liked than the horizontal, but no gun with three or more barrels in line ever came into high favor.
In figure 275 a noteworthy pair of three-barrel flintlock pistols by Griffin & Tow, London, is shown. The photograph gives a side view of one pistol and a top view of the other. It will be noticed there are three hammers and three frizzens but only two conventional triggers. The trigger of the lock that fires the middle barrel is a button in back of the sliding safety for the middle lock.
Another rare English three-barrel pistol, this one with the barrels in line vertically, is shown in figure 276. This is marked SMITH LONDON and has three nipples in a triangle. The unusual manually-turned striker is of the same design used on the Rigby knuckledusters illustrated in Chapter V.
272. Knife shooting pistol/ Dr. W. R. Funderburg collection.
A very unusual English percussion cap pistol that has ten barrels arranged in two tiers of five each is shown in figure 277. This was patented in England by R. & C. J. Jones, British patent #2351 of the year 1853. The gun illustrated is quite unmarked and may not have been made by the patentees but it looks exactly like the patent drawing and its construction fully agrees with the patent specification. There is but one trigger, but there are two hammers, two vertical rows of barrels and two rows of nipples. After the gun is loaded and capped, and the two hammers cocked, a trigger pull will drop the left hammer and fire the top barrel in the left tier. The next light trigger pull will slide the hammer back from the exploded cap and let a spring drive the hammer on the nipple next below. After the fifth pull has emptied the barrels on the left, the next pull will start the stepby-step descent of the hammer on the right.
An example of a Marston 3-barrel cartridge pistol is not hard to find. They were made in both .22 and .32 caliber models, some of which were fitted with short sliding daggers. These pistols are developments of a percussion cap 3-barrel pistol Mr. William W. Marston, of New York City, patented May 26, 1857, United States patent # 17,386. ( I have no photograph of one, and know of the existence of one only, of these percussion cap pistols.) Figure 278 illustrates an improved 1864 model in .32 caliber. The barrels are fired in ascending order by a firing pin which moves upward with tie cocking of the hammer. There is a round turning piece, visible just ahead of the hammer, which is marked from 0 to 3 and has a pointer which indicates how many barrels have been fired. When the gun has been loaded the disc is turned until the pointer is at 0. Immediately in front of the disc is a three-pronged cartridge extractor, with which the earlier models were not equipped.
A modern pistol known as the Reform, even easier to find than a Marston, is shown in figure 279. This has four barrels, is double-action, and fires .25 ACP cartridges. The top barrel fires first. After that is fired another pull on the trigger raises the barrel block and fires the cartridge in the second barrel. Gas from this explosion escapes through a small hole into the top barrel and ejects the fired shell from that barrel. Each barrel is cleared when the cartridge in the barrel immediately below is discharged. The empty case in the lowest barrel is rammed out when the barrel block is removed for reloading. Because this gun is very thin and flat it has been popular on the Continent to carry in evening clothes.
Another even slimmer and more easily concealed 4-shot pistol is shown in figure 280. This unmarked French pistol is all steel and only 7;1,;' thick. The barrel block is hinged and tips up for loading. The four .22 caliber cartridges are hit in succession by a moving firing pin. Drawing out and pulling the folding trigger raises and drops the unobtrusive hammer.
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