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History question (for possible publication)

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

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  1. nezumi

    nezumi Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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

    mgkdrgn Member

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    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 Member

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    good idea +2 on MGKDRN
     
  8. deadin

    deadin Member

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    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 Member

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  10. Mp7

    Mp7 Member

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  11. nezumi

    nezumi Member

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    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.
     
  12. Trebor

    Trebor Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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

    Poper
     
  15. nezumi

    nezumi Member

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    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.
     
  16. mgkdrgn

    mgkdrgn Member

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

    http://www.nationalfirearmsmuseum.org/info/default.asp
     
  17. searcher451

    searcher451 Member

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  18. Grey_Mana

    Grey_Mana Member

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

    Harve Curry Member

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    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 Member

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    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.
     
  21. Eric F

    Eric F Member

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    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.
     
  22. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    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.

    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.
     
  23. bcp

    bcp Member

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    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
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  24. crushbup

    crushbup Member

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    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.
     
  25. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    It may also have been a line launcher/flare launcher. If they're calling it a "boat gun" that's probably what it is.
     
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