BP terminology and muzzleloading pistols


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Dr. Fresh
September 18, 2008, 12:35 AM
I'm currently writing a short story for a class, and the main character is going to use a pair of dueling pistols as weapons. The story takes place today. Now, I've never owned or used a BP weapon, and I would like to use the proper descriptors and terms in my story.

So, questions:

What are some common dueling pistols (repros OK) that one would be likely to come across today? Pictures or websites with pictures would be nice, since I need to know what the specific pistol looks like.

What are the steps to loading the pistol?

What are the terms used by BP shooters to refer to the parts of the weapon? Is the hammer referred to as a "cock" or a "hammer?" Etc etc..

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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arcticap
September 18, 2008, 01:07 PM
There wasn't a specific pistol because dueling involved different codes in each country and even swords could be used, determined by those dueling. Mostly used were smoothbore flintlocks, and there were famous makers.

Good luck with your project. :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duelling_pistol

http://duellingpistols.com/famousmakers.htm

Here's famous Wogdon pistols:

http://www.gggodwin.com/duelingpistols.htm

Here's a modern replica by Pedersoli:

http://davide-pedersoli.com/default.aspx?item=ArmiCategoriaDettaglio&CategoriaId=55&lang=en

Parts of a flintlock and how they work:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/flintlock.htm/printable
(Scroll down to see the links to the action videos)

http://guns.wikia.com/wiki/Flintlock

Some more brief background about dueling and the guns used:

http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/general/c_dueling.html

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=377140

Dr. Fresh
September 18, 2008, 05:29 PM
Thanks!

Mike OTDP
September 18, 2008, 06:23 PM
OK, let me walk you through this....with some questions.

Why is your character using duelling pistols? I'm not being snide here, just trying to understand the motivation. Is he fighting a duel? Or using them as VERY unusual sidearms?

The loading process works as follows:
1. Measure powder, pour down barrel.
2. Put bullet and patch over muzzle, hit with mallet and short starter to get them into the muzzle of the barrel.
3. Ram home with ramrod.
4. Cock hammer.
5. Prime. With percussion pistols, put a cap on the nipple. With flintlocks, put priming powder in the pan and close the frizzen.
6. Set the trigger. Most duellers have very light triggers that are "set" by pushing forward...they will go off with about 8 ounces of pressure once set.
7. Aim and fire. A good flintlock has an effective range of around 35 yards, maybe more. Rifled percussion guns will reach well beyond 75 yards IF you shoot well enough.

Dr. Fresh
September 18, 2008, 11:52 PM
Thanks for the info, that will definitely come in handy. As to why he's using dueling pistols, I just wanted to be different. Obviously they aren't going to be very effective against modern arms, but I feel they fit his personality.

Jim Watson
September 19, 2008, 12:28 AM
Percussion guns have hammers.
Flintlocks have cocks.

One set of dueling conventions forbade the use of "hair triggers" as the single set trigger was then known. Also no adjustable sights or rifled barrels, one was not supposed to take deadly aim at his opponent, and nothing over .50 calibre so as to give him a better chance of surviving a wound.

Naturally these conventions were honored more in the breach than in the observation. And there were other conventions that were more concerned with the procedure than the hardware.

If you are not going to shoot a muzzleloader immediately, as in a set duel, best get the hammer back down to half cock for reasonably safe carry.

There was a series of traditional mystery novels in which the hero was a contemporary Scottish gunsmith. Due to strict British gun control, when he felt the need of a personal weapon, he usually had to select a muzzleloader.

There is a lot on duelers and the duels they were used in at:
http://duellingpistols.com/

Dr. Fresh
September 19, 2008, 01:52 AM
Thanks. I'm thinking of making them percussion guns, but I'm not sure yet.

What are the ballistics like? What are the chances of surviving a .50 ball? Would it penetrate the rib cage?

Smokin_Gun
September 19, 2008, 03:25 AM
And if ya run into me for a duel it'll be a Showdown with an 1858 Remington .44 cal. six shooter of the Cap & ball nature.
Last thing you'll ever see is a Smokin' Gun... :cool::

SG

mykeal
September 19, 2008, 08:23 AM
If you are not going to shoot a muzzleloader immediately, as in a set duel, best get the hammer back down to half cock for reasonably safe carry.

Never, ever carry a loaded sidelock pistol in half cock. It is not a safe carry position.

Voodoochile
September 19, 2008, 09:25 AM
What are the ballistics like? What are the chances of surviving a .50 ball? Would it penetrate the rib cage?

That depends on the load of powder that was used & I'm not at home where my Lyman manual is but yes a .50 ball can penetrate the ribcage & even exit the back!

for information purposes.
.22 CB Cap (Conical Ball Cap) has a 30gr. bullet propelled at approximatly 700 fps. 32 ft. lbs. & if shot at a person at a range of say 50 yards or less can penetrate & kill.

Jim Watson
September 19, 2008, 11:12 AM
Never, ever carry a loaded sidelock pistol in half cock. It is not a safe carry position.

Please inform me and advise the OP, then. What IS the best condition to carry a percussion pistol in? Hammer down on the cap? Do they typically have a quarter cock like a SAA?

Acorn Mush
September 19, 2008, 11:55 AM
Quote:
Please inform me and advise the OP, then. What IS the best condition to carry a percussion pistol in? Hammer down on the cap? Do they typically have a quarter cock like a SAA?
________________________________________________________

No BP pistol I have ever seen had a quarter-cock position.

Absolutely DO NOT carry a percussion pistol loaded with the hammer down on a live cap! An unexpected bump on the hammer could cause it to fire. Nor is it a real good idea to carry one with the hammer at half-cock, because the only thing between you and an accidental discharge is the thin tip of the sear. Sear tips have been known to break. I had one bend one time. Fortunately there was no discharge but it sure got my attention, and real quick too!

Some English lockmakers incorporated sliding safeties on their better locks. The safety engaged a large squared notch in the hammer behind the hammer screw and provided very positive retention of the hammer. The physical size of the safety bar and its corresponding notch provided much greater strength for the job of preventing an accidental discharge.

If a person believes they have to carry a loaded and capped pistol, please rely on some other provision for safety than the half-cock. One idea is to use a neoprene faucet washer over the capped nipple and lower the hammer onto the washer. It is easily removed when a shot is to be taken. Above all, be careful.

theotherwaldo
September 19, 2008, 11:56 AM
I'd suggest that you read up on Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln, two of our duelling presidents who had very different styles.

Wikipedia on Jackson:
Jackson fought 13 duels, many nominally over his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the only man Jackson ever killed in a duel, had been goaded into angering Jackson by Jackson's political opponents. In the duel, fought over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30, 1806, Dickinson shot Jackson in the ribs before Jackson returned the fatal shot; Jackson actually allowed Dickinson to shoot first, knowing him to be an excellent shot, and as his opponent reloaded, Jackson shot, even as the bullet lodged itself in his chest. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so frequently in duels that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles."[40] At times he would cough up blood, and he experienced considerable pain from his wounds for the rest of his life.

On Lincoln:
Due to the fact that Lincoln was the one who had been challenged to the duel, tradition gave him the privilege of choosing the time and location of the duel, as well as the weapons that were to be used. Being a man of humor and wit, and having no desire to kill Shields, or allow himself to be killed; Lincoln put together the most ridiculous set of circumstances that he could think of regarding the logistics of the upcoming duel.

Lincoln stated that the duel would be held on an island in the river near the city of Alton, IL. Some historians believe that it was Sunflower Island, while others believe it was Bloody Island. Bloody Island had long been a popular dueling spot because it was in the middle of the river and was claimed by Missouri where dueling was still legal. Either island would have allowed them to escape any legal implications.

Lincoln stated that the weapons he wished to use would be “Cavalry Broadswords of the largest size”. He figured that he could easily disarm Shields using the swords, whereas pistols would most likely lead to one of their deaths, if not both. He also added that he wanted the duel to be carried out in a pit 10 feet wide by 12 feet deep with a large wooden plank dividing the square in which no man was allowed to step foot over.

These “conditions” were designed not only to be ridiculous; but also to give Lincoln, who at 6’ 4” had longer legs and arms and towered over the much smaller Shields, a decided advantage. Lincoln hoped that these unorthodox conditions that gave him an almost unbeatable advantage would persuade Shields to withdraw the challenge and settle things in a more gentlemanly fashion.

Shields, however, was extremely stubborn and refused to yield despite the conditions that Lincoln had requested. He agreed to Lincoln’s conditions and no other negotiations were made. Much to Lincoln’s dismay, the two headed to the appointed island early in the morning on September 22 and prepared to do battle in their “Saber Duel”.

It All Comes to a Head

While their respective parties set up the dueling area, their “seconds” (friends of the duelers who handled negotiations and ensured that all of the conditions for the duel were met in accordance with the agreed upon terms) tried desperately to resolve the issue peacefully. Their pleas for a peaceful settlement began to sway the stubborn Shields as he began to realize that there was no way to win this duel against Lincoln if it was carried out.

At the last minute, Lincoln demonstrated his obvious physical advantage by hacking away at some of the branches of a nearby Willow tree. The branches were high off the ground and Shields could not hope to reach them; while Lincoln, with his long arms holding a long broadsword, could reach them with ease. This final display was enough to drive home the precarious situation that he was now in, and Shields agreed to settle their differences in a more peaceful way.

Their seconds began discussions and finally agreed that a note in which Lincoln admitted authorship of the letter and asserted that he “had no intention of injuring your (Shields) personal or private character or standing as a man or gentleman” would satisfy the honor of both them. The two headed back to Alton with their entourage where a crowd of anxious people awaited on the banks of the river to find out what had happened. Several people screamed and one woman fainted when they spotted a corpse in one of the boats. The “corpse” turned out to be a large log with a red shirt draped over it. Someone had set up the deception just to get a reaction out of the awaiting audience. This led both Lincoln and Shields to laugh hysterically at the “corpse” as well as at just how absurd the events of this day had been.

Mike OTDP
September 19, 2008, 12:25 PM
OK. If you are going with percussion, there's a good sampling at http://horstheld.com/0-duel.htm

Now, some reasons why the character might use these...

First, they might be a family heirloom - one that has never failed the user ("Three generations have used these in nineteen duels. Sent eight opponents to the doctor, eleven to the undertaker. They'll do.")

Second, they might be all that is handy. Getting cartridge guns legally in some states can be a time-consuming process.

Third, he might be in a formal duel. Rare, but I know of duels being fought in Latin America in the mid-1980s. Yes, mid-1980s. And I haven't made a real study of the subject.

Finally, the character might use them as a deliberate statement of supreme confidence in his skill. I wouldn't do it (and I shoot these guns quite competitively), but it could be done.

Dr. Fresh
September 20, 2008, 08:54 PM
Wow, great info here. Thanks guys.


The character really only uses them because he's kind of a psycho. I haven't written much of it yet, but he's on a quest for vengeance and he's crazy. He has a Winchester 1894 as well which he will use, but he will favor the dueling pistols. Call it a twisted sense of honor if you will. We'll see how the story shapes up and how he acquires the pistols.

Mike OTDP
September 20, 2008, 09:55 PM
Sounds like family heirloom is the way to go, then.

Dr. Fresh
September 20, 2008, 11:19 PM
Good plan.

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