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History question (for possible publication)

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by nezumi, Sep 15, 2008.

  1. nezumi

    nezumi Well-Known Member

    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!
  2. armoredman

    armoredman Well-Known Member

    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!
  3. csmkersh

    csmkersh Well-Known Member

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

  4. Eric F

    Eric F Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  5. scrat

    scrat Well-Known Member

    single action army model 1873 45 colt not a hard recoil.
  6. mgkdrgn

    mgkdrgn Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. scrat

    scrat Well-Known Member

    good idea +2 on MGKDRN
  8. deadin

    deadin Well-Known Member

    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
  9. jackstinson

    jackstinson Well-Known Member

  10. Mp7

    Mp7 Well-Known Member

  11. nezumi

    nezumi Well-Known Member

    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:


    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.
  12. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. Ron James

    Ron James Well-Known Member

    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.:)
  14. Poper

    Poper Well-Known Member

    Yes, but their internet was the pits. :D :D

  15. nezumi

    nezumi Well-Known Member

    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:

    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.
  16. mgkdrgn

    mgkdrgn Well-Known Member

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

  17. searcher451

    searcher451 Well-Known Member

  18. Grey_Mana

    Grey_Mana Well-Known Member

    Library; can get books on inter-library loan too.
  19. Harve Curry

    Harve Curry Well-Known Member

    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.
  20. Larry E

    Larry E Well-Known Member

    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.

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