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No. lf Pepperbox rifle. Four barrels of different calibres are bored in one piece of iron. There are two lock plates, one on each side, each having two hammers of the mule ear variety. A single trigger throws whichever hammer is cocked; if two or more hammers are cocked at the same time all go at once.
This arm is selected from many of its kind because it combines all their faults. On account of the waste metal between bores the rifle weighs pounds and has its centre of balance far forward; it is burdensome to carry, unwieldy to manage, and hard to hold on aim. No two of its bores shoot to the same point even at short range, and its large bore could not shoot two or more times rapidly to the same spot on account of the thinness of the outer edge, which, because of unequal heating of the metal, would cause deflection. Yet only one set of sights is provided. The rifle was made about 1855, when pepperbox pistols were in everyday use. The fact that paralleling a set of bores in one piece for a short pistol was a mechanical impossibility should have been a warning to any gunsmith not to attempt the feat on the long barrel of a rifle. Iron and steel at that time were not fuller of flaws, " hards " and " softs " than now, but boring facilities were poorer. At the present time even, with the best materials and tools, and in the most perfect modern vertical boring mill which revolves a single barrel one way and the cutter the other, the cutter rarely comes out on centre, and during its progress from one end of the barrel to the other it usually makes for itself a curved path. The barrel straightener remedies the defect, but no barrel straightener ever could by any possibility correct the errors of two or more bores in the same piece of metal.
No. Zy Pepperbox rifle. Four fixed barrels of the same size, each made separately, and so formed on the outside that when brazed together they seem like one piece. The principle of equal distribution of metal was followed with care and this rifle was selected for description because it was the best one available. Nevertheless it could not have been an entirely satisfactory arm, with its one set of sights for all four barrels, because it is improbable that the barrels could be brazed together so as to shoot parallel.
The high and low hammers, one in advance of the other, resemble strongly the design of the Parisian gunmaker LePage, period about 1835; but his use of them in such positions was for superposed loads. The single trigger operates the locks in the succession of upper right, lower right, upper left, and lower left; regardless of the order in which the hammers are cocked the trigger always works the same.
These two rifles cover fairly well the field of the rigid barrel with a multiple of holes and a single set of sights for all. The remaining variety of the pepperbox rifle is the one with turning barrel and a separate set of sights for each bore.
No. 3, Pepperbox rifle. The picture serves for two varieties, one firing all barrels at once, the other firing singly. First kind: —Six bores grouped around a central one, making seven barrels all bored in one solid piece and all rigidly attached to the stock, and all firing together when the single cap explodes. The calibre of this type of multi-shot rifle rarely was larger than .36 and usually was smaller. The rifle was used for killing large wild fowl (brant, geese and swans), when sitting on water out of fowling-piece range. Second kind: — Six bores in one solid piece; the barrel to be turned by hand on a central axis to bring each bore to the one lock; each bore with its own set of sights. The central chamber held the ramrod. The rear end of this chamber was threader* for a bolt to hold the barrel to the brccch plate; the. bolt turned with the barrel. In order that the barrel when turned might present each of its six cones correctly to the hammer a stud-lock was provided; it was the same kind common to under-and-over double barrel arms, operated by sliding the trigger guard. The trigger guard, which was movable backward and forward for about half an inch, was held in the forward position by a spring, and in that position a stud, attached to it, entered one of six holes in the brccch and locked the barrel so that the bore which then was uppermost could be fired.
This type of multi-shot rifle may have given more practical service than either of the two with the barrel fixed, but it was impossible that all six bores in this barrel gave satisfactory accuracy.
No. 4y Four barrel combined rifle and shotgun. Barrels to be turned by hand, otherwise held in position by a stud-lock operated with a knob instead of by sliding the trigger guard. One lock, with a swinging arm on the hammer to fire the shot barrel, which is always the lower one. To provide against the accidental firing of both barrels at once, or of one when the other is intended, the swinging arm has a longer reach than the hammer proper. The four barrels are in contact at only four points: — at breech, muzzle, and ramrod thimbles. There are two ramrods, one on each side.
The only unusual feature to this weapon is the means of functioning two barrels with one hammer; guns with four barrels usually were provided with two side locks to fire the barrels that temporarily were uppermost. In this specimen the chance of firing shot for ball is minimized by the necessity of setting the swinging arm. While this gun, like the other pepperbox ones, was made in either Pennsylvania or New York state, its maker's marks are missing, and the chief clue to its identity is furnished by the patch box, identical with such as were on Model 1817 U. S. military rifles. The presumption is fair that the maker was Henry Dcringer of Philadelphia, who made both sporting and military rifles, including the Model 1817, which had this sort of patch box.
No. 5, Three barrel combined rifle and shotgun. The barrels are fixed and there is a lock for each. The shot barrel is below; the trigger guard serves as a mainspring for its hammer. The usual three barrel rifle or three barrel combination arm had one lock and barrels to be turned by hand to meet it.
No. 6, Double barrel rifle with hammers underneath. Made without trigger guard but with a skeleton pistol grip so designed as to protect the triggers from the rear while the hammers projected enough to guard the front. An oddly designed rifle with no other point of excellence than the shape which brought the peep rear sight close to the eye.
In the cap lock period double barrel rifles were even more popular in America than in the period before. Gunsmiths displayed great ingenuity in fashioning them for various purposes, such as for use on foot and on horseback; for carrying in the hand, in a sheath, or under the seat of a vehicle, and in making inexpensive ones that yet were serviceable. The barrels still were usually placed one above the other; sometimes they were fixed and in other cases they could be turned. One lock and two locks were about equally common; when there was only one lock the hammer was sometimes placed -above, sometimes below, and frequently on one side; in this latter case the hammer sometimes had a sliding extension to enable it to reach the lower barrel.
Double barrel rifles made for use in thick woods, in brush or in cane-brakes, where a man hurrying along might be the victim of an accident from, or at least find his progress retarded by, the catching of a hammer or a trigger in the underbrush, were made to balance far back, vSO that the hand carrying the rifle could clasp and protect the lock parts. The hammers of such rifles were as slender and simple as rods, and lay close along the lock plate.
As long as the bore remained unblemished they were, for shooting qualities, unexcelled by any other two-shot rifles made elsewhere in the world. But the American gunsmith, in cap lock days was a poorly paid craftsman, and therefore his work was, with only a few exceptions, poor in wearing qualities, and not of the highest grade artistically. Probably there was no better American rifle maker in his day than William Billinghurst, of Rochester, New York, whose average price for a muzzle loading double rifle was $75.00. Certainly so small a sum could not by any possibility pay for the exercise, upon the bare materials of a rifle, of more than moderate craftsmanship. From the accompanying pictures the crudities of American double rifles are not in every case apparent. Instead of criticising these arms perhaps more help can be given by telling, later on in connection with the Purdey rifle, what constitutes a masterpiece in firearms.
The best double barrel muzzle loading rifles used in America were of British make. Beginning about 1830 many titled British sportsmen visited the United States to shoot the abundant game along the Atlantic seaboard. They purchased American rifles as the most suitable ones for the sport they expected; and double barrel arms appealed to them more than single barrel ones. Those arms they took home and showed to their gunmakers; they told of remarkable shots they had made in " The States "; and they proved their tales by shooting at a mark.
The British gunmakers endeavored to reproduce the good qualities of the American rifles and at the same time make them conform to British bias. The Briton was not, as a class, a rifle user, but a shotgun user. So the double rifle which came from the hands of the British gunsmith was a double shotgun in appearance. In the attempt to get accuracy from two separate barrels fastened together side by side and dependent upon one set of sights for both, the Briton had set himself the hardest kind of task. And, in addition, the technicalities of rifle ballistics and manufacture were quite outside of his training. Those early British double rifles were not in the least up to their American prototypes as weapons of precision. But as specimens of handicraft they were better. After about 1840, however, they equalled their American ancestors in the very necessary qualities of hard and straight shooting.
After the Civil War was ended, the mountainous region of northeastern New York was exploited as a hunters' paradise by the writings of " Adirondack " Murray, and the prairies of the Far West, teeming with buffalo and hostile savages, became accessible by the extension of canals and railroads. More wealthy Britons came to " The States " for sport than ever before, and the double rifles they brought with them were masterpieces. They were the handiwork of such famous makers as Purdey, Lancaster,
Lang, Moore, Henry (of Edinburgh), Daw, Dougall, and Samuel Smith.
Of these men James Purdey stood at the head. As a craftsman he had learned the niceties of the business in the shop of the great Joseph Manton. There, while still a young man, in his speciality of barrel boring he had gained a following sufficient to warrant setting up for himself about 1810. His modest quarters at 4 Princes St., London, soon became a centre of fashion, and were elaborated until, in 1826, as they could be expanded no more, new quarters were taken at 314§ Oxford St. It was while at this latter place that he added to his gun business that of making rifles.
Colonel Peter Hawker, whose judgment upon arms was the fashionable criterion of the times, in his book " Instructions for Young Sportsmen," published in 1846, wrote, " Mr. Purdey has still perhaps the first business in London, and no man better deserves it. While speaking of rifles I must not omit to mention the finest piece of mechanism of the present age, Mr. Purdey's double rifles. The two groove rifles are intended to supersede all others, as I find they are more convenient for loading, because with them you require no mallet to force the ball into the muzzle."
Two years later the celebrated Frank Forester, writing of anus for deer shooting in his " Field Sports," stated in volume 2, page 225: "The best sporting implement of this kind in the world is undoubtedly Purdey's double barrel rifle; and although the use of these arms was at first ridiculed by the hunters and trappers of the West, its superior execution and utility are now fully admitted on the prairies, since it has been rendered current and its value proved by British officers and sportsmen."
Greener, in his " Modern Breechloaders/' published about 1868, mentioned 84 pounds sterling as the price of a Purdey best double rifle. Eighty-four pounds was then the equivalent of about $410,00 of American money; about five times as much as the average American double rifle brought.
At the time when Frank Forester was writing, James Purdey the first was an old man. The Purdey rifle which is illustrated was made by James Purdey the second, who was born in 1828. He fully sustained and even increased the high reputation which his father created.
In those days, to be a great gunmaker was to be an artist also. Art in gunmaking demanded of the gunmaker a highly cultivated sense of proportion, which was based upon accurate judgment of what was best in form, and upon a technical knowledge of the anatomy to carry it out. Another requisite was an educated taste in colors, which enabled him to select, for the finish of his wood and metal, refined and pleasing tones which blended into an harmonious whole; and if he chose to emphasize with light, or dark, or bright color among neighboring less pronounced tones or colors, to place that emphasis correctly. The exact joining of metal parts, or of wood and metal, he could safely leave to his workmen, together writh the surfacing- to the highest degree, of all portions whether visible 01 hidden. A knowledge of interior and exterior ballistics, up to date for his time, or, preferably, in advance of his time, was of vital importance. All these requisites of a master craftsman could, however, be common to many gunmakcrs.
Many a man of long ago has questioned whether the most expensive gun by the most fashionable maker was worth the extra price; and one has said, " Put two new guns, with their labels covered, one a ' best gun ' by the most celebrated London maker, and the other a best grade of a provincial maker of repute, into the hands of any expert, and I defy him to tell which of the two is the expersive one."
Certainly both guns may have been the product of genius. Genius means superlative ability working with superlative care. Of two guns judged as beautiful arms — that is, judged visually, — an expert might not be able to pick the more expensive one.
But in work done with superlative care there is a quality dependent upon money alone, which, not being apparent to the eye, could not be detected by any expert. That is, and was, wearing quality of the utmost extent that can be produced. The superlative care of the less fashionable man who obtained less for his gun was spent upon the best materials that he could afford. But the work of the great master craftsman was done upon the best materials that the world afforded; and from finished parts made from such stock he used, in his highest-price guns, only those which successfully stood exhaustive tests.
In selecting walnut for a stock, it was not sufficient that it should be the handsomest, finest grained, and lightest; nor that it should be well seasoned; a completely reliable, very old piece wras taken; one that had been cut so long, and air-dried so thoroughly, that not in all time would it shrink another particle. It was expensive. In adjusting a pair of rifled barrels, they were fastened together, targeted, taken apart, readjusted, targeted, over and over again, indefinitely and with boundless patience, regardless of time and expense, until they shot as they ought. In a best gun by a most celebrated London maker even so trifling a part as a screw was made of the finest steel, then tested far in excess of any strain likely to come to it, for torsion, tension, softness, hardness, brittleness; it was rejected even if a turnscrew could burr its slot. In making the parts of a lock, perhaps ninety-nine would be finished to excellence and then rejected as not the acme of perfection; the hundredth perfect piece was expensive when balanced against the cost of a less perfect piece, and so it was with all parts, and with the whole gun.
Such an arm embodied the highest attainable qualities of every kind; in addition to appearance its unfailing service due to its extraordinary wearing qualities made it really worth the extra money.
No. 1, Marks, "J. Purdey, 314^ Oxford St., London.'' This rifle was made in' 1868 for Lord Macduff, who became the Duke of Fife, in anticipation of a shooting trip in our far West. The outing failed to materialize, which accounts for the unused condition of the rifle at present. The rifle is typical of others which gave admirable service in this country. The total length is 3 feet 10| inches; the barrel length is 30 inches. Weight, unloaded, 9 pounds and 14 ounces. When loaded it balances beneath the rear sight. This was called a 40 bore rifle, because it took 40 patched round bullets to the pound; its calibre is .50, not counting the grooves, of which there are two broad ones, each .02 of an inch deep, making the total calibre .54. The rifling is of the gain twist style, beginning at the breech with one turn in 6 feet, which increases regularly until at the muzzle the turn is one in C0WCAL 3 feet. The rifle probably was built for big game shooting in the far West and used a powerful charge having, for the period, high velocity, low trajectory, and great striking power. Under normal conditions the powder charge was 3^ drams of Curtis & Harvey coarse grain rifle powder and a conical, mechanically fitted bullet of the stvle shown by the cut; the bullet mold is provided with means of casting on the bullet the
WBrnt lands that nt in the grooves of the barrel. In case of insufficient range or penetration with this charge, drams of powder could be used with a longer and ed bail heavier bullet, cast without lands, diameter .488, and used with a circular, greased
) linen patch. For short range or for small game the rifle would handle with good y¿grooveRim accuracy either a ball with a belt cast on it to fit the grooves, and used bare, or an ordinary round ball, calibre .525, of half ounce weight, the same as the old American military rifles used. The maker recommended the use of a quarter-inch-thick felt wad between the powder and the projectile.
The barrels are of Damascus twist, rather thick, and, as was the custom, of nearly even diameter on the exterior from breech to muzzle. The rib between them is raised, rather broad, flat on top, and matted at front and rear to minimize any glimmer that might interfere with sighting. The front sight is of the caterpillar type, headed, or tipped, at the rear with platinum. The rear sight has one fixed notch for point blank, — 70 yards — and two folding leaves for 200 and 350 yards each. In each notch the eye is guided by an inserted platinum line. The cones are funnel-shaped, with the large opening at the top and the orifice at the bottom about the diameter of a pin; this shape conccntratcd the fire of the cap and caused a quicker explosion of the powder charge than when the orifice at the bottom of the cones was big enough to permit the entrance of some of the powder, wrhich then acted as a fuse; the cones are lined with platinum to prevent erosion. The ramrod is held in place by a lug on the under rib which snaps into the groove around the. head of the ramrod. At the small end of the rod there is an inset line which comes flush with the muzzle when the normal charge is in place. The locks are of such admirable workmanship that nothing better can be imagined. In front of each hammer is a sliding safety bar to lock the hammers at half cock. The trigger pull is light and instantaneous. The stock is of fancy walnut, so perfectly seasoned that it has not shrunk a particle in fifty years. The cheek piece is outlined with delicate mouldings which enhance its graceful form. The butt plate is of steel, and is engraved with a statement of the powder charge and kind to use.
The lines, colors, and workmanship of this rifle are incomparably perfect. The oak case, lined with red cloth, and with both open and covered compartments, holds a store of trinkets to enable the rifle to be used and kept in order under all sorts of circumstances.
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