History question (for possible publication)


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nezumi
September 15, 2008, 10:40 AM
Hey everyone, I have a question for the history buffs.

My wife and I are in the process of writing a novel which, perhaps, may one day be published. I've learned a TON of stuff here about the use and operation of firearms, for which I am very grateful, but I had some history questions as to what sort of gear people would be using. I have done what research I can, but I quickly feel I'm falling out of my depth.

The setting is 1890, US. The three main characters have all recently arrived from England. They are:

A female with a sawn-off, double barrelled shotgun, of which she is very fond. Because of her size, I was assuming this would be a 20 gauge SxS, break-action shotgun with a hammerless sidelock and a thumb switch for swapping between barrels. I was hoping to find an English model, since the firearm is from England, but wasn't able to find one matching my description. However, I believe Winchester made one?

She also has a heavy revolver. I haven't specified caliber or type yet, but she'll want something big, slow, and utilitarian (for heavy penetration, especially through stuff like water). Not sure where it's purchased yet, but either US or England.

The second character is male and really likes guns, but has little knowledge of them and money to blow. I wanted him to have a "cowboy revolver", probably a shiny, silver-plated, long-barrelled colt of whatever caliber will most impress the ladies. I assume most revolvers now are double-action?

I also saw a device while looking through the British Maritime Museum's internet collection of what looks to be a grenade launcher. It had a very short, but very wide barrel, with a short stock. It appeared to be break action. The picture wasn't well labelled however. Does anyone know anything about historical grenade launchers? What were they called? How did they operate? I assume the 'grenades' were timed, rather than exploding on contact. Any information here would definitely be appreciated.

The third character is another female with no firearms experience and a small frame. I'm guessing she'll stick to .32s and derringers for the most part, or a small rifle when necessary. I know the type of powder has changed between then and now, but I'm still assuming that the kick, and at minimum the weight of weapons hasn't changed substantially.


Beyond those, I'm mostly looking at the normal suspects; deringers and the like for small hands or discrete occaisions. Lever-action winchesters for hunting buffalo.

From what I've seen, neither England nor the US had any significant restrictions on white people carrying or owning firearms, and even Chicago didn't seem to have any anti-gun laws. Again, corrections are appreciated. We're currently focusing on Chicago and London primarily.

So there's my situation. I know there are some very smart people here, so certainly, any help is appreciated, or any suggestions on 'cool guns' that would be worth exploring further.

Thank you very much!

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armoredman
September 15, 2008, 10:47 AM
Heavy English revolver could be a Webley in .455, or if you want psycho BIG, a Trantor 5 shot monster is 577 Trantor caliber. No grenade launchers I am aware of before the 1960s. May have been a muzzle loading blunderbuss type shotgun. Cowboy revolvers are not double action, and in the 1890s, DA guns were available, but not really widespread. Could give him a nickle plated Colt Lightning in 38 Colt.
My two cents, worth what you paid for it!

csmkersh
September 15, 2008, 10:50 AM
A female with a sawn-off, double barrelled shotgun, of which she is very fond. Because of her size, I was assuming this would be a 20 gauge SxS, break-action shotgun with a hammerless sidelock and a thumb switch for swapping between barrels. I was hoping to find an English model, since the firearm is from England, but wasn't able to find one matching my description. However, I believe Winchester made one?

She also has a heavy revolver. I haven't specified caliber or type yet, but she'll want something big, slow, and utilitarian (for heavy penetration, especially through stuff like water). Not sure where it's purchased yet, but either US or England.

The second character is male and really likes guns, but has little knowledge of them and money to blow. I wanted him to have a "cowboy revolver", probably a shiny, silver-plated, long-barrelled colt of whatever caliber will most impress the ladies. I assume most revolvers now are double-action?



A 10 guage Greener would work, even for a small statured person. Also, then the shotguns would have two triggers; one for each barrel.
A Webly-Fosbery Automatic revolver would answer the bill as would the Webly Improved Government model.
For "cowboy" style revolvers, you've got Remingtons, Colt SAAs and S&W Americans to chose from, plus many others.

Eric F
September 15, 2008, 10:53 AM
also saw a device while looking through the British Maritime Museum's internet collection of what looks to be a grenade launcher.
Its not a grenade launcher, its a launcher to fire a weighted ball attached to a rope to tie up ships, fire a line to a rescue boat ect. I have seen several henry-martini actions in this aplication.

as far as other stuff shot guns there were a bunch of manufacturers in that day some made good stuff some made junk, I am not sure any one was more common than another.

scrat
September 15, 2008, 01:26 PM
single action army model 1873 45 colt not a hard recoil.

mgkdrgn
September 15, 2008, 01:30 PM
Hey, if you are in Maryland, why not mosey on down to the NRA museum in NVA and see all this stuff up front and in person? I'll wager you can find all kinds of knowledgeable people on the staff very willing to help with your research.

scrat
September 15, 2008, 01:32 PM
good idea +2 on MGKDRN

deadin
September 15, 2008, 01:44 PM
The Webley-Fosberry wasn't made until 1901.
If you want a large American Double Action of that period either the Colt Frontier, S&W .44 DA or even the Colt New Service (1898). All came in .44 or .45 calibers

jackstinson
September 15, 2008, 01:47 PM
....

Mp7
September 15, 2008, 02:18 PM
if want to make up an even more complicated european background:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1879_Reichsrevolver

or an american made LeMat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeMat_Revolver

interesting thread.

nezumi
September 15, 2008, 03:16 PM
Wow, lots of good stuff. I hadn't realized NRA had a museum. I may have to make that trip. I'm guessing I can find a good camping spot in the area and make a proper vacation out of it too so I won't feel bad about burning so much gas.

I'd heard about the LeMat, but figured that those weapons had such a limited production run, there's no way any would be available for a fellow just stopping into gun shops, right?

Lots of good information though, thank you.

In regards to the grenade launchers, there's a picture of something on the wikipedia entry about grenade launchers labelled '19th century grenade launchers' with no further details:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Mortiers-p1000558.jpg

But like I said, I haven't been able to dig up anything more useful than pictures. Those look to be flintlocks to me, but I guess they must not have been very successful, since they seem so unusual. I might just take 'creative license' (since big booms feature prominently).

Thank you again.

Trebor
September 15, 2008, 03:29 PM
You should go to your nearest Border's Books or Barnes & Noble and look for one of the big glossy picture books on guns. They usually have some for sale in the discount books.

These books are heavy on pictures with some details, including when these guns were used. Most of the books usually cover every time period, but sometimes you'll find one that covers only a certain era.

If nothing else, browse around the gun books in the discount rack and in the firearms/hunting section and see if there is anything useful there.

You can do some library research as well. Sometimes nothing can replace a good reference book that you have in hand.

As far as "grenade launchers" I'm not up on pre-1900 launchers, but I would assume that they'd launch some type of stick grenade with a blank cartridge or BP charge, not the self contained grenades we launch today. More like the WWI and WWII idea of a rifle grenade then a modern M 203 grenade.

Ron James
September 15, 2008, 03:43 PM
they had grenade launchers in the American Civil War The Chinese had grenade launchers at the dawn of gun powder. There really isn't any thing new under the sun. Remember they had manually operated computers 2000 years ago.:)

Poper
September 15, 2008, 04:05 PM
Remember they had manually operated computers 2000 years ago.Yes, but their internet was the pits. :D :D

Poper

nezumi
September 15, 2008, 04:43 PM
I have some of those glossy books. Very pretty, but not as useful as I'd like. Gun collector sites are nice in that they give details about the gun, but not how common they were.

Here's the picture of the 'mystery grenade launcher' I was originally inspired by:
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object.cfm?ID=AAA2513

It's a 'percussion grenade gun'. I'm not sure if it's the firing mechanism or the grenade itself which is percussion, could be both, but google isn't turning anything up on this mystery.

mgkdrgn
September 15, 2008, 05:04 PM
I'm guessing I can find a good camping spot in the area and make a proper vacation out of it too so I won't feel bad about burning so much gas.


Where in Maryland do you live? This museum is just over the river in Fairfax, VA.

http://www.nationalfirearmsmuseum.org/info/default.asp

searcher451
September 15, 2008, 05:21 PM
You will definitely want to put a J. Reid's "My Friend" knuckleduster into the hands of your third character. Check it out here:

http://www.dawesandco.com/?x=Reid-My-Friend-22-cal.-Knuckle-Duster&page=details&id=38&t=firearms&s=1

Interestingly, there's one for sale right now on GunsAmerica ... first one I've seen in a long, long while.

Grey_Mana
September 15, 2008, 05:27 PM
Library; can get books on inter-library loan too.

Harve Curry
September 15, 2008, 05:36 PM
The Webley revolvers are a good choice for a woman from England.

Colt's SAA (cowboy gun) was available fancy like you describe and in all calibers. There was also the large frame Colt 1878 double action in 45. Smal frame double action was the 1877 in 38 and 41.

Most SXS shotguns were double triggers even if they were hammerless. There was alot of laminated style or Damaskas barrels. 12 ga most popular.

QUOTE"I also saw a device while looking through the British Maritime Museum's internet collection of what looks to be a grenade launcher. It had a very short, but very wide barrel, with a short stock. It appeared to be break action. The picture wasn't well labelled however. Does anyone know anything about historical grenade launchers? "

That sound llike a flare gun. They were large caliber that fired different color falres meaning different things for each color. Navy, air and ground forces use them. Break open single shots with a hammer to cock.

Larry E
September 15, 2008, 05:55 PM
Don't know much about shotguns, but a Webley .455 revolver for woman #1 would be appropriate, widely available, and designed for penetration and stopping power. For the guy a Colt SAA or Peacemaker in .45 Colt, .44 WCF, or an S&W American or Russian or Schofield in either .44 American or Russian or .45 S&W. For woman #2 how about a little S&W top break revolver in .32 or .38 S&W which were introduced in 1877 and 1878 so they'd have been readily available.

If the man is supposed to be a cowboy or someone else who carried a gun because he might need one for self defense against critters or people I'd imagine that in the 1890's he'd likely have a blued gun. Extras cost extra, and most "average" folks in the 1890's didn't have extra money for bells and whistles or decoration. In old photos of lawmen, cowboys, and even "gunslingers" they're usually seen carrying plain, effective revolvers.

The NRA museum would be a great place for you to check out especially if you're in MD.

Eric F
September 15, 2008, 05:58 PM
Something else the 1890's produces many cartridge ladies guns, like break top smiths in small calibers like 32 short. Also cap and ball stuff was around but fadeing fast in favor of the new cartridge guns.

Cosmoline
September 15, 2008, 05:59 PM
For the wheelgun consider the Adams Dr. Watson used. These were huge and heavy military revolvers that bridged the gap between cap n' ball and cartridge.

I also saw a device while looking through the British Maritime Museum's internet collection of what looks to be a grenade launcher. It had a very short, but very wide barrel, with a short stock. It appeared to be break action.

Sounds like a whale bomb gun. They still use them up north of here. Talk about recoil!

In general, by 1890 the black powder cartridge rifles and handguns were in full swing. Smokeless had just been introduced in France and would be stateside by the middle of the decade. Almost all the Buff were gone and the big predators had been driven back to a few tiny strongholds. The "lemon squeezer" concealed revolvers were extremely popular here and in the UK. A dozen different companies were making them stateside, and dozens more in Belgium churned out cheap knockoffs.

You could still find a lot of percussion muzzleloaders in the hands of rural hunters who could not afford the latest Winchester. Many surplus Springfields and other arms from the CW were in circulation. The CW had seen the development of a myriad of different kind of projectiles, mostly now forgotten. Anything you can imagine being shot out of a BP musket or rifle short of a plastic sabot, they had it. Conicals, slugs, balls, double balls, pointed "picket" bullets, etc.

Target shooting was a very popular sport that received national attention. The US had a rivalry with GB at Creedmoor matches, with the sides alternating the championship. The rifles designed for this shooting were the culmination of blackpowder cartridge arms.

In the British African holdings, the enormous BP double gun was king. The lighter, higher velocity Nitro Express and Mauser repeaters were yet to come, but would revolutionize hunting by the end of the decade.

bcp
September 15, 2008, 06:09 PM
Here's the picture of the 'mystery grenade launcher' I was originally inspired by:
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/exp...cfm?ID=AAA2513

The bore is 2 inches. The barrel looks like about 1 inch walls, and about 6 inches long. The barrel alone would weigh about 16 pounds.
http://www.steel-pipes-tubes.com/steel-pipe-weight-calculator.html

Probably 20-25 pounds for the complete gun. Then you have to carry ammunition (grenades), too. Not good for carrying around.

And, the museum labels it a "boat gun" which is usually mounted on the side of a boat, kind of like an oar lock is mounted, only stronger. Sometimes called swivel guns. Not meant to be fired hand held.

Bruce

crushbup
September 15, 2008, 06:10 PM
In Napoleonic times, they had what was essentially a blunderbuss into which one loaded hollow iron balls packed with an explosive and a fuse out the end. I don't remember whether they had a slow match to light the fuse right before they fired it or if the blast of the gun lit the fuse, but it was definitely one of those 2.

Cosmoline
September 15, 2008, 06:12 PM
It may also have been a line launcher/flare launcher. If they're calling it a "boat gun" that's probably what it is.

oneshooter
September 15, 2008, 07:01 PM
Just as a change of pace. How about a cut down 1887 Winchester lever action shotgun for the lady? :evil:

Oneshooter
Livin in Texas

230RN
September 15, 2008, 09:18 PM
Meager addition to the "mortieres" pictured in the above link:

Page 151, "Guns," by Dudley Pope, has a pic of a hand mortar virtually identical in layout. Apparently, despite the shoulder stock, they were called "Hand Mortars."

The caption reads, " A flint-lock 'hand mortar' of bronze, weighing 9 lb 9 oz. It was made early in the eighteenth century, and its calibre is 2.8 ins"

I checked the pages around this pic, but no further information was available on this piece.

Despite the lack of information on this particular weapon, if you ever get your lunch-hooks near a copy of this book, buy it. It is profusely and clearly illustrated, with many excellent photographs and clear drawings of the internal workings of many firearms... including, for example, of the internal workings of the Gatling Gun.

Published by Spring Books, 1965, but that is the only publisher's information on the book. It does not even show a Library of Congress number.

Scoupe
September 15, 2008, 10:54 PM
Two quick historical notes. As mentioned, the buffalo hunter era was long over by 1890. Secondly, mentioned "gunshops". If a person needed a new gun in 1890 they could order direct from the factory and have it delivered, or purchase from a dry goods store, a general store, etc.

Loomis
September 15, 2008, 11:07 PM
In 1890 you aren't likely to run across anything double action or anything hammerless.

Scoupe
September 15, 2008, 11:21 PM
Very true. While available, most folks were making do with they had til it broke. Another common option for a revolver would be cartridge converted revolvers such as Remington 1858 and Colt 1860. There were a lot of those around.

Cosmoline
September 16, 2008, 02:14 AM
In 1890 you aren't likely to run across anything double action or anything hammerless.

Actually there were a lot of double action revolvers around. Probably millions of them. A number of service revolvers were double action, along with the "bulldog" and lemon squeezer style pocket revolvers.

Loomis
September 16, 2008, 05:00 AM
I didn't say impossible. I said not likely. And still do. I'm aware of those little 32 caliber s&w and h&r top break revolvers. They existed in 1890 but I doubt they were common until after 1900. Besides, they were junk. I know, I have one in 38 caliber.

Same with the original colt DA...rare and junk.

theken206
September 16, 2008, 05:01 AM
btw, water and bullets tend not to mix.

viscosity and all

Hutch
September 16, 2008, 05:48 AM
As has been pointed out, "buffalo" (bison) were almost extinct by 1890. "Buffalo guns" were usually large caliber single-shot rifles, such as the Sharps .50-90.

nezumi
September 16, 2008, 10:44 AM
Wow, fantastic information. It's going to take a while for me to figure out the precise make and model for each firearm, but at least now I know they'll be correct.

I am now planning on hitting the NRA museum. It's more than an hour drive, and I worry it's going to be tiny, but there's plenty of other nice stuff in Virginia to make up for it. Hopefully we'll find someone there willing to answer questions.

That knuckleduster is the cutest little gun. I wonder if they made any with little flowers and bunnies engraved on it.

So it sounds like the shotguns SHOULD have hammers. Easy enough to change. The double triggers is also good to know.

Someone mentioned a "BP Double Gun". I believe BP stands for black powder? Correct me if I'm wrong.

I'll admit, I'm still very interested in that launcher thing... 25 pounds could be carried with difficulty, which would limit how often it comes up, but 10 lbs. is quite managable. Regardless, I have to imagine the recoil would be pretty significant. I'll probably include it was a percussion-cap, fused-mortar launcher developed based on an older French design, but never put into production that the character obtained through his substantial contacts and lots of money. When the gunnies complain, I'll point out I didn't call cartridges bullets, or magazines clips, so let me have my one pretty : P

Thank you again for all of your help. This is fantastic information.

mgkdrgn
September 16, 2008, 11:13 AM
I am now planning on hitting the NRA museum. It's more than an hour drive, and I worry it's going to be tiny, but there's plenty of other nice stuff in Virginia to make up for it. Hopefully we'll find someone there willing to answer questions.


You can preview the museum on the web link I sent you. It's far from "tiny". To insure you can find the proper person when you get there, you might want to consider calling ahead and letting them know what you are up to.

If someone there can't answer your questions, then they can't be answered. If you doing research for a book that you are hoping to have published, an hours drive is -nothing-.

Torchman
September 16, 2008, 11:58 AM
The link to the pic didn't work...but what you are describing sounds like a Lyle gun. Google that and see if I am close. It is used for Search and Rescue as a line throwing gun.

Prof. A. Wickwire
September 16, 2008, 12:41 PM
I didn't say impossible. I said not likely. And still do. I'm aware of those little 32 caliber s&w and h&r top break revolvers. They existed in 1890 but I doubt they were common until after 1900. Besides, they were junk. I know, I have one in 38 caliber.


I have to disagree. While there were many junk pistols (referred to as "Suicide Specials" in the press of the time). The break top DA pistols made by the big manufacturers (Smith & Wesson, Harrington & Richardson, Iver Johnson, and a few others) were considered quality pocket and vest pocket pistols at the time.

Many gentleman of the time would have one on him whenever he went out.

I have several in my collection that are in almost new condition (two H&R, one IJ, and a Forehand & Wadsworth) and are just as well machined and finished (if not more so) than many new revolvers I have seen.

Keep in mind that these pistols were designed for low pressure black powder cartridges. They are often not reliable or safe with modern high pressure smokeless powder loads.

There are a number of websites devoted to pocket pistols of the Golden Age.

For a shotgun, consider a side-by-side double shotgun made by Parker, L.C. Smith (patented a hammerless lock system in 1886), Remington, Ithaca (formerly W.H. Baker) for the US market. Greener, Holland & Holland, and Rigby would cover the UK market.

A UK large break action revolver could be a Webley MK I, Adams, or Beaumont-Adams most likely in .455 Webley.

The “Cowboy Revolver” would most likely be a Colt 1873 Single Action Army in either .45 Colt or .44-40 (.44 Winchester Center Fire).

Enjoy.

Sincerely,

Prof. A. Wickwire

nezumi
September 16, 2008, 01:18 PM
Torchman, it doesn't appear to be a Lyle gun (although thanks for telling me about those. Very neat.)

Strangely enough, the link works in the original message, but not when quoted.

here it is again, for your reference:
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/object.cfm?ID=AAA2513

Alternatively, hit:
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/explore/

click on 'Weapons' - 'Percussion Grenade Gun'.

Phil DeGraves
September 16, 2008, 01:30 PM
They existed in 1890 but I doubt they were common until after 1900.
Actually there were a lot of double action revolvers around.
The break top DA pistols made by the big manufacturers (Smith & Wesson, Harrington & Richardson, Iver Johnson, and a few others) were considered quality pocket and vest pocket pistols at the time.


The Pepperbox of the 1830s was D/A. The Adams and Starr Revolvers (Unforgiven) during the Civil War were D/A. The Pettengill Revolver (Civil War) was D/A only! Colt had the New Frontier .45 and the .41 caliber "Thunderer" and .38 "Lightning" long before 1890. Colt 1889 Navy revolvers were D/A and had swing out cylinders.
Smith & Wesson, besides all there pocket models, offered the Frontier Double Action in .44 caliber in 1886. Merwin Hulbert also offered a D/A model.
On the other side of the pond, Webley & Enfield (England), Nagant (Belgium), Gasser (Austria), Chamelot-Delvigne (France), French, Danish, Italian, Norwegian, and Russian military arsenals all made D/A revolvers before 1890. In Europe, you would have been MORE likely to find D/A guns than S/A guns!

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