All About the Guns…

During these past few weeks, I’ve been acquainted with some REAL guns.  Please understand that we do not and can not sell actual real firearms on gunsofold.com, our store site.  I’ve been considering this post on real guns anyway because this blog is about, well, guns.  I’m one of those people who likes guns.   Over the past week or so, I’ve been introduced to some fine specimens of handheld firepower that I felt I just had to write about, so here you go.  If you click on the pictures, you should get a nice, large and detailed image!

Bryco .380 Auto

Bryco .380 Auto

Yes, I know.  A real disreputable trailer trash of a gun.  Almost universally despised, and has a very bad reputation online.  They say that these are the kind of Saturday Night Special guns that end up at crime scenes, and that they are made of cheap nasty pot metal and fail often.  For all I know, this could be true.  Look it up online.  You won’t find anything good about the Bryco .380 Auto, made by the now-defunct Bryco in Carson City, Nevada.  I actually bought mine a long time ago  in a galaxy far far away.  1990 to be exact.  Different world, different times, younger and stronger me!  With the exception of having about 50 rounds put through it, it has occupied space in various closets over the years. It didn’t blow up in my face when I fired it, and usually does not jam or misfeed, though I hear that they are legendary for this.  So far so good.  Obviously, this is not my first choice for personal or home defense.  I have also heard that if your target is more than five feet away, you’ll miss.  Maybe not THAT bad, but you get the idea.  A very inexpensive gun.  I just keep it around for old times sake…

Smith & Wesson SW40VE .40 Caliber

Smith & Wesson .40 Calbier SW40VE

Now we’re getting more serious.  A  far cry from the Bryco .380, this Smith & Wesson is a lot more beefy and robust than my old .380.  Considerably larger too, and its polymer frame makes it lighter than you might expect.   No, I’m not suffering from some kind of phallic size-insecurity issue, as many gun haters will attest.  Not that I’m prone to listen to what anti-gun types have to say anyway.  As an American who values Second Amendment rights and a veteran, I happen to like guns.  Quite a few people bitch about the S&W40’s very stiff slide and trigger pull.  I must admit, this hammerless semiauto from Springfield, Massachusetts is very firm, and does have very strong springs.  There’s no safety, either!  With this thing you are either locked and loaded, or you aren’t.  Better to check the magazine and barrel to clear it and make sure!  When I pull the trigger, I get a nice, solid boom and buck, as is fitting with a large caliber firearm.  Some may balk about the idea of using such a stiff weapon for personal concealed carry and/or personal defense, but I’ve seen worse.  One thing’s for sure.  With this gun, you really have to give the trigger a good hard squeeze to set it off.  But it’s a rock-solid shooter.  It’s a Smith & Wesson.  I experienced no jams or misfires.  As expected from a large caliber pistol, it has a nice, solid kicking recoil.

Ruger P95 9mm

Ruger P95 9mm

Ooh.  Now we’re getting somewhere!  The beef and brawn of the Smith & Wesson .40 caliber, in a nice, lightweight polymer frame.  This is a more traditional semiautomatic with a hammer.  Much easier spring action than the S&W40.  When you pull back the slide, it chambers the round, the hammer stays back, which means you are locked and loaded and ready for action.  If you are not accustomed to a pistol with a hammer, this can be jarring!  You are only a slight trigger pull away from discharging the gun.  It has a slightly unusual spring-forward magazine release, but springs it out nicely, once you figure it out.  Like any other larger caliber firearm, it has a nice kick to it.  The Ruger P95 uses the same 9 X 19mm cartridges as the famous Luger 9mm Parabellum.  A tried and true caliber that has proven its worth.  This weapon is suitable for concealed carry and home defense, of course, for such applications, it is recommended that you use a good quality hollow-point ammunition.  At around $340, this 9mm Prescott, Arizona pistol is a real dandy.

Taurus.38 Special Revolver

Taurus .38 Special Revolver

Now here’s an intimidating little package.  It even looks scary.  I sure wouldn’t care to be staring down the business end of this thing.  It uses very large cartridges too.  Like a magnum.  If you stared into the loaded barrel of this thing long enough (not recommended) you might catch a glimpse of this huge bullet, just waiting for the order to GO.  This is a small revolver with a two-inch barrel that easily fits in the palm of your hand or a pocket, but has a seriously strong attitude about it.  The biggest thing on the revolver you notice is the revolver drum itself and the muzzle size.  It really does have presence.  It’s almost like having a large cartridge with a firing pin attached to it.  A nice, small, concealable package.  When you fire it, you get a nice hard buck too.  If you make those rounds hollow points, you’d be almost unstoppable!  For its small size, this tiny revolver has a big and strong frame.  And a big bark.  Without wishing to convey any aggressive attitude, this is actually quite a mean little revolver.  The Brazilians got this one right.

Bersa Thunder .380

Bersa Thunder .380

No more screwing  around with the Bryco.  This pocket .380 is miles above the Bryco in both class and style.  Here is a surprisingly nice pistol for the price.  A very sleek and good-looking pistol, it’s also a surprisingly good little shooter.  This firearm seriously reminds me of one of my all-time venerated favorites, the Walther PPK.  It even has the PPK-style grip extender on the bottom of the magazine, which is both functional and stylish and is chambered in the same .380 ACP caliber.  Think of the Bersa as a PPK for those on a budget.  Highly economical, if you can pass the background check in the US, you can get a Bersa for about $225.  For the price, you get a lot of reliability and an all-around decent little personal protection pistol.  There are all kinds of safety features on the Bersa Thunder, including a factory trigger lock and a manual safety that is operated by a key, for those who may need these features.  The .380 ACP caliber is big enough to do the job too.  It has the nice little kick you’d expect from a medium caliber gun.  Just right for concealed carry.  I was very impressed by this little surprise from Argentina.  A good, high-quality and effective firearm in a small, affordable package.

Rock Island Armory M1911A1 CS .45 ACP

Rock Island Armory .45 ACP M1911A1 CS

Now we’re cookin’!  I like to think of this as the nice little reliable surprise like the Bersa .380, but in the more popular .45 ACP caliber.  If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of United States military veterans of the Cold War, like myself, then you probably know all about the M1911A1 Colt .45 Government Issue pistol.  Remember those long hours of stammering around on guard duty at 02:00 hours with one of these strapped to your waist?  It’s almost enough to make a person want to shoot it off, just to kill the boredom.  Like any good legend, the old .45 will never die.  It has been beloved by Americans for the last eight decades, and will probably be around for eight more.  While the originals were made by Colt, there are now many other models available, and still in production.  And the good thing is, most of these, regardless of manufacturer, have parts that are compatible with each other.  The same is true with the Rock Island version of the .45.  The one I have is a shortened version, being about 1.5 inches shorter in the barrel than its more famous government-issued cousin, but otherwise, it’s still a .45 M1911A1 through and through.  Manufactured in the Philippines, this single-action automatic with a neat skeleton hammer has all the full features and rock-solid reliability of its cousins.  No jams or misfires.  The shorter, more compact size (the CS part in the model name) makes for easier concealed carry without sacrificing any bite, and the .45 ACP caliber is about as big as they come without getting into specialty weapons.  The trigger action on this model is very pleasing and satisfyingly smooth. You have to feel it to appreciate it.  It’s great.   If you load one of these with good quality hollow-point ammo, you have a very fine home or personal defense weapon.  This is considered the entry-level market pistol to the vaunted .45 club, retailing at around $430, and it even comes in a nice polymer carrying case.

Once again, we’d like to remind you that we DO NOT sell real firearms on our site or in our online store.  We sell only non-firing replicas, or in some cases, blank-firing replicas where we can.  The anti-gun crowd has managed to ban even replicas in some places now.  We will always fight for the right to safe, responsible firearms ownership, and our inalienable Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Cartridges: .380 ACP, Luger 9mm, .40SW, .45 ACP, .38 Special

Cartridges: .380 ACP, Luger 9mm, .40SW, .45 ACP, .38 Special. Click on image for a better view, but use your back button to return to the blog, or the WordPress software will throw you off of this site!

If you’d like to read more on the history of some of the most famous guns of all time, please visit my website, GunClassics.com.  Thank You for visiting our blog.  You are always welcome to check back and see what’s new, or to just browse around.  We hope you enjoy our sites, and look forward to serving you in 2012.

Birmingham Small Arms; More than small arms…

Martini-Henry rifle, Snider-Enfield, Sten submachine gun

Some of the greatest legends of firearms production have emerged from the shops of Birmingham Small Arms, which was located to the Northwest of London, in Birmingham’s famous “Gun Quarter”.  Some of the work in these shops was farmed out from the government-run armory of the RSAF (Royal Small Arms Factory) at Enfield, a suburb of London.  These include mainstays such as the snider-Enfield, the Martini-Henry, the Lee-Metford, the legendary Lee-Enfield, the .303 RAF Browning, the Sten submachine gun and the modern LRL1A.  They also produced some heavier armaments such as cannon and anti-tank rifles.

 

Besides those legendary firearms, there were some other rather thrilling products that any gun or history enthusiast can also easily appreciate.  Birmingham Small Arms, also known as BSA also produced a very popular line of bicycles, cars and motorcycles.  At one point, BSA was the worlds largest and most popular motorcycle manufacturer.

BSA Bantam Mototrcycle, produced by Birmingham Small Arms, UK.

Like any old and venerated company, Birmingham Small Arms went through a large number of shifts and changes, and dealings with other very well-known companies like Daimler, Norton, Triumph, Raleigh, and others.  There were financial problems and successes along the way.  For awhile, the Royal Post Office used the BSA’s Bantam motorcycles to deliver telegrams.  They were also used by the Automobile Association for roadside services.

 

In 1930, BSA purchased the car manufacturer, Lanchester Motor Company Ltd. in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.  Lanchester operated from 1895 to 1955.  The Lanchester company had once been a part of BSA’s Armourers Mills small arms production facility.  The BSA line of cars, some still wearing the badge of Lanchester later changed hands to Daimler, Jaguar,  and most recently, Jaguar/rover which as of 2008 was owned by the Ford Motor Company.

 

BSA Motorcycles Ltd was in business from 1919 to 1972.  During that time, they produced some fine examples of what is now motorcycle history.  For a very short time in 1979, there were a few BSA motorcycles produced by BSA Regal.

1933 Lanchester / BSA 10

As can be easily expected, these wheeled gems of the 20th century continue to gleam in flawless glory in the hands of private collectors around the world.  While the BSA name has changed hands and undergone numerous changes, the name still endures.  2011 is the 150th anniversary of the BSA brand.  Today, only air and spring sporting guns are made in Birmingham at BSA Guns UK.  BSA bicycles are still made and sold by TI Cycles of India.  But the base of the marque’s history still shines as brightly as the chrome on the products of its past glory.

 

For a more heavily illustrated version of this article, please visit GunClassics.com

Happy Thanksgiving

Autumn Colors

Autumn Colors

No matter where you are, what you are doing on this Thanksgiving holiday, and no matter how much you have or do not have, this is a time to be thankful for what you do have.  This tradition, as most of you know was started in November of 1621, when the very first settlers to America sat down with the natives and commenced to have a feast and to give thanks for surviving that first brutally difficult and trying year in the New World.  This makes Thanksgiving one of America’s oldest holidays, though it did not officially become a national holiday until 1941.  No matter what your political views, this is meant to be a good time, to be had by all.  The tradition is beautiful and noble, and should always be held in that regard.

Whether or not you are of any religious faith, it is not necessarily required to be thankful.  As you have no doubt heard, things can always be worse.  In these difficult and bitter trying times for our nation, being thankful is more important than ever.  In spite of how things may be going at present, we still have so much for which to be thankful.  Please don’t allow malcontent moods and strife to overshadow the one day of the year where we should all be thankful for what we have.  Feel free to give thanks in your own peaceful and happy way.

From GunClassics.com, GunsOfOld.com and 4G Company, we wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and a safe and happy holiday season, which kicks off today!

Makarov Soviet Pistol; Sidearm of the Warsaw Pact and the KGB

Evidently, some Soviets developed a liking for the German Walther PPs and PPKs they had captured in World War Two.  Looking to replace their aging Tukarov TT33 pistol–an interesting pistol in itself–there was a design competition for its replacement.

Arms designer Nikolai Makarov decided on a variation of the German 9mm round, rather than developing a new sidearm that would have utilized the stockpiles of 7.62 rounds, and won the bid.  The result was a pistol utilizing a unique caliber, the Makarov 9 X 18mm cartridge, which had more stopping power than the 7.62mm.  One millimeter shorter than the high-pressure German Parabellum 9 X 19mm round, the new 9 X 18mm Makarov PM (Pistolet Makarova) became the new Soviet standard sidearm, issued to the military not only in the Soviet Union, but in the Warsaw Pact Eastern European communist bloc nations as well.  With production beginning in 1949, the semiautomatic pistol entered military service in 1951, and was used officially until 1991.  Many are still in use.  The PM was also the preferred sidearm of most KGB agents.  There were versions manufactured in East Germany, Bulgaria and China as well.  Later, other Warsaw Pact nations manufactured their own pistols chambered for the Makarov 9 X 18mm round, such as the Hungarian P63 and the Polish P64.

Like the AK 47 rifle that had just entered service before it, the Makarov PM was destined for longevity and success.  It is a rather simple firearm with fewer moving parts than most pistols, and has since proven its reliability.  Very similar to the German PPK by Carl Walther, like most European semiautomatic pistols, the Makarova has a magazine that is released from the boot of the grip, rather than the side of the pistol.  Many feel that the best Makarov PMs are the ones that were manufactured in East Germany.  There are markings on the pistol to help determine their location of manufacture.

The straight blowback-operated single-action/double-action semiautomatic is easily field-stripped without tools in about a minute by anyone who is familiar with the pistol. The simple safety mechanism, located high up on the left side of the pistol, is also given high marks for reliability and durability, and has passed drop tests with flying colors.  Its standard magazine holds 8 rounds, and there is a special high-capacity magazine that holds 12.  I have heard however that the high-capacity round is under-engineered, and that users are better off to stick to the standard 8-round magazine.  I have also heard that the original factory magazines are better for use in the PM than after-factory replacements.  While designated a 9mm pistol, the PM ammo is actually 9.3mm in diameter, and contrary to some beliefs, will not safely take a Parabellum 9 X 19mm round.  There is also a .380 caliber version of the Makarov PM.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a commercial version of the Makarov PM continued to be produced by Baikal, a private company in Russia, well into the 1990s.  Many of them were imported into the United States, and have become quite popular.  I have been told that some of the 1990s imports in nickel-plated chrome have a very thin finish on them, that wears off quickly.  That would lead me to stay with the more standard blued finish.  The ammunition for the PM is still produced and relatively easy to find.  There are also a lot of other pistols based on the PM, most notably the Hungarian P63 which is very similar to the PM, and chambered in the same caliber.

For an authentic, non-firing replica of the Makarov PM pistol, please visit Guns of old.com

Webley Mk IV .455 Cal. British Revolver

In the 1880’s, at around the same time the American West was steadily replacing its remaining percussion weapons with the now-standard Colt Single-Action revolvers, Winchester repeating rifles and any other weapons that utilized the self-contained ammunition, the British Empire was outfitting its services with similar weapons.  The Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) as well as privately owned arms producers such as  Webley & Scott were producing some legends of their own.

Near the turn of the century, many of these legends made their appearance on the firearms scene.  The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle became the standard for decades to come, and was a mainstay success, lasting for decades.  Accompanying this legendary British rifle was an equally successful revolver, the Webley revolver.

Moving forward from previous RSAF and private designs, Birmingham arms producer Webley & Scott introduced an upgrade to satisfy the British military demand for reliable sidearms, the Webley Mk IV revolver.

There are many models of the Webley, nearly all of them successful.  Owing to the proliferation of the Mk IV, and its historical place in the British military for so many decades, I’m going to focus on this particular model for this posting.  The Mk IV was a break-top revolver, originally chambered in .455 caliber, utilizing a 200 grain bullet.  This came to be known as the Webley Mk IV .455/200, but is also well known as the “Boer War Revolver”.  The Boer War lasted from 1899 to 1902.

Production of the Mk IV began in 1899, and was used by British troops  in the 2nd Boer War against Dutch and Zulu combatants in South African Transvaal and Africaans  regions.  Using case-hardened steel, and stronger parts, the Mk IV replaced its predecessor, the Mk III.  With a hinge on the revolver’s strong frame, the barrel and the cylinder could be opened, and swung downward, away from the hammer, exposing the ends of the bullets and extracting them at the same time, making for fast and easy reloading.  The Mk IV was a double-action revolver, meaning that you could run it through the entire cycle, including firing, with a single trigger pull without needing to manually cock the hammer.  This, in addition to the revolver’s compact size, durability,  and reliability, even in muddy or sandy environments, made it a success that carried it clear up into the 1960’s.

In 1913, the Mk V was introduced just in time to see action in World War One, then known as the “Great War.”  However, there were so many Mk IV revolvers in circulation that more of them were used in the war than the Mk V, because of supply issues caused by the sudden demands of the war.

After 1921, the Webley revolvers were produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory in the London suburb of Enfield.  RSAF was a British government-owned arms producer.  The privately owned Webley & Scott company continued to produce arms until 1979.  After that, they were known for air guns and other sporting products.  Today, products are still made under the Webley name.

Webley revolvers, in all their different models and calibers, continued to be used in World War Two, and remained in the service of the British Military until 1963-1964.  I could not finish this article without mentioning that the Webley revolver was also a favorite with the fictional character, Indiana Jones, and can be seen in the popular adventure movies.  You just can’t keep a good classic down.  Who would want to?  It goes without saying that the legendary Webley revolvers earned their respected place in history alongside their legendary rifle cousin, the Lee-Enfield SMLE.  Like the famous bolt-action rifle, the Webley revolver is now a highly prized and beloved piece of firearms history, and sought by collectors.

 

For an authentic non-firing replica of the Webley Mk IV revolver, please visit Gunsofold.com

Published in: Uncategorized on January 16, 2011 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rifle vs Musket

The musket–a smooth bore weapon with a polished surface inside the barrel–was not known for either distance or accuracy.  An expert marksman would be lucky to hit a large target–such as a man or a deer–from 40 yards away.  If the target was more than a hundred yards away, it was nearly impossible.  Because of the weapon’s inaccuracy, most fighting  was done at close quarters, and the outcome of a battle was often determined by bayonet fighting.  As much as 40% of the casualties in a typical battle using muskets were inflicted by bayonet.

A rifle, by contrast, has spiral grooves, or rifling inside the barrel.  As a ball moves down the barrel, the grooves impart a spin to the ball which makes it fly more accurately toward its target.  The barrel is narrower, so that gases from the exploding powder can not escape around the ball and more of the energy from the explosion goes into propelling the ball out of the barrel, carrying it a longer distance than a smooth-barrel musket can.  With these advantages, a good marksman could hit a target with a rifle from several hundred yards away.

German gunsmiths perfected the technique of rifling in the 1500s.  The concept was widely used by the early 1800s for hunting weapons, but not for military use.  Why?  It all came down to speed of loading and firing.

Both rifles and muskets prior to 1850 were muzzle-loaded.  A powder charge and ball had to be put into the end of the barrel and pushed down the barrel to the firing mechanism.  This was simpler and faster in a smooth-bore musket, with its larger barrel.  Both powder and ball traveled readily down the musket barrel. But pushing the same ball down a tighter-fitting rifle barrel took longer and required a ramrod, so the musket and rifle had substantially different rates of fire.

An experienced shooter could get off two to three shots a minute with a musket, but would be lucky to get one shot in three minutes with a rifle.  While that was sufficient for hunting deer, it would be disastrous in a battle where charging infantry armed with bayonetted weapons were bearing down on you at a dead run.  By the same logic that made the musket a superior weapon for war, it was virtually useless as a hunting weapon with its short range and poor accuracy.  That’s why the rifle didn’t come into common use as a military weapon until the perfection of breech-loading technology–allowing shells to be loaded through a slot near the firing mechanism, rather than inserted through the muzzle.

Lewis and Clark Expediton: Before the West was Wild

While Napoleon was engaged in his European conquests and in need of funding, he struck a deal with American President Thomas Jefferson for the now-famous “Louisiana Purchase” of 1803. Napoleon had plenty on his plate already, and could not afford to maintain his vast holdings on the American Continent. At the time, little was known about the vast territories West of the Mississippi River, including just how vast they were.

Once acquired by the United States, President Jefferson was interested in exploring his new territories to find a navigable waterway to the Pacific Ocean for commerce, as well as to discover just what lay in the areas between. To accomplish these objectives, he commissioned a friend–US Army Captain Merriweather Lewis–to lead an exploratory and mapping expedition across the great expanse of land. History has since shown the Lewis and Clark trek to be one of the most successful of such expeditions undertaken in history. Unlike numerous expeditions to explore the Arctic regions–which often ended with the explorers perishing from cold, disease and starvation–the Lewis and Clark expedition (later dubbed the Corps of Discovery) suffered few casualties along the way, and was an unqualified success which not only reached the Pacific, but ended with the triumphant explorers returning to report their findings.

Lewis Chose William Clark, a Second Lieutenant in the US Army, as his partner and leader of the expedition. For appearances, during the expedition, Clark was often referred to as “Captain” even though this actual rank was not yet official.

The expedition originally departed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1803. But the party was still being formed, with training activities and other organization by Clark taking place in the Illinois territory, East of the Mississippi River. The more famous part of the expedition–the one where uncharted lands were to be explored—embarked from Camp Dubois in the Illinois Territory on May 14, 1804, and met up with Lewis shortly afterward at St. Charles, in the Missouri Territory. The expeditionary party consisted of 33 people.

Traveling in a northwesterly direction across the Great Plains, the Corps of Discovery traversed the Continental Divide, which at the time was presumed to be a day’s journey, but proved to be much longer and considerably more difficult than the party anticipated! They encountered many Native Americans along the way. On the plains of what would become North Dakota, they built Fort Mandan in the winter of 1804-1805, and recruited a French-Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau’s teenage wife, a member of the Shoeshone tribe, joined the expedition as a translator and guide. Sacajawea would go on to secure her own place in history for being of invaluable assistance and crucial to the success of the expedition. The sight of her carrying her baby in a cradleboard on her back had a disarming effect when the party approached native villages, and along with her translation skills, she helped to ensure that the expedition’s encounters with native tribes were mostly peaceful. There is no doubt that her presence saved the expedition a great deal of trouble. Lewis and Clark’s peaceful trek across the west was in sharp contrast to the chaos and bloodshed that erupted in the decades after the Civil War. By that time, due to the incursion of thousands of westward-migrating pioneers, building of the railroads and the resulting destruction of the great buffalo herds on the plains, relations with the native tribes had become much more strained.

The expedition collected many samples of plant life along the way, drew maps, and sampled exotic indigenous cuisine (including boiled dog!) At one point, a “return” team was dispatched east from Fort Mandan carrying a live prairie dog as a gift for President Jefferson. Amazingly, the little animal—which the expedition had dubbed a “barking squirrel”– was alive when it was delivered to Jefferson. Research to discover what became of Jefferson’s famed pet prairie dog afterward proved fruitless. Apparently its fate was lost in history. It would be reasonable to expect the creature would have been stuffed and ended up in the Smithsonian or some other museum, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Chalk it up as one more historic mystery.
During their visit to the Great Plains, at least, there was an abundance of wild game to help provision the expedition. There were reported to be numerous weapons carried on the expedition–many of which were traded to native tribes for food and supplies to fuel their treks through mountains where food was less plentiful. Weapons carried by members of the expedition included Charleville muskets, Harpers Ferry and Springfield Armory muskets, a scattering of Kentucky Rifles, and some French St. Etienne AN IX flintlock pistols. Since many French weapons had found their way to American shores during the American War for Independence a few years before, the abundance of French firearms carried by the party was no surprise. There was also a scattering of blunderbuss weapons, mounted on swivels on the gunwales of the party’s canoes and pirogues–a standard seagoing tactic for that day–and the lead boat even had a small cannon mounted on its bow. I should not fail to mention the famous air gun carried on the expediton. It was a strange thing, with an air tank in the stock, and compared to a regular gun that used powder, it was much quieter. The strange weapon fired lead balls, but was not always reliable for maintaining enough air pressure to get off more than a few shots. It was often used to impress Native Americans –and whoever else they happened upon–and was regarded as a curio or an entertaining novelty by many on the expedition.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition shattered the national illusion that one might be able to sail a boat from the East coast to the Pacific Ocean by inland waterways, since no such passage exists. Westward passage would have to wait for the stagecoaches, railroads, and later the interstate freeways and airlines.

The legendary expedition reached the mighty Columbia River (I’m from the Portland, Oregon area, so the wide and swift-moving Columbia is a familiar sight to me) and followed it out to its estuary in what is now Astoria, Oregon. I know just how they felt. They were ecstatic to lay eyes on the vast mouth of the Columbia where it empties into the Pacific. The expedition faced a long and dreary winter on the coast, which consisted mostly of rain. I doubt anyone who’s ever lived in the region will dispute that. It was a long and hungry winter for the Lewis and Clark group. Wild game is a scarce commodity on the Pacific Northwest coastline in winter, and it was the wrong season for them to take advantage of the area’s most abundant meat source–the Pacific salmon that migrate upstream to spawn in the summer. It’s a shame they didn’t get a chance to sample a barbecued “steak of the sea”, as the rich, red fish meat has been called. I’m not sure when barbeque sauce was invented, but evidently the Lewis and Clark expedition was not meant to experience such delicacies.

Sacajawea

Regarding Sacajawea, I’d rather not get into a discussion of the etymology of her somewhat confusing name, the many different spellings and pronunciations of it, or the tribal meanings of it. The most commonly accepted version of her name is a native word meaning “Bird Woman”, or some variation thereof. Suffice it to say that Sacajawea did a great service to the Expedition and to the history of America. Her image and story is immortalized on coins, sculptures and other monuments. Hats off, a standing ovation and a warm toast to her accomplishments!

Considering the scope and danger of this marathon round-trip expedition through inhospitable wilderness and bad weather, and a few disputes involving fair trade with the Teton Sioux tribe and other native peoples they encountered –it’s truly amazing that the party suffered only one fatality. Sergeant Charles Floyd died from what was thought to be appendicitis, and was buried at what is now Sioux City, Iowa. Two Blackfeet Indians were also killed in a skirmish on the return trip when they attempted to steal some weapons from the Lewis and Clark party.

The expedition had made it to the Pacific Ocean, naming their landing place “Cape Disappointment” when the ship they expected to carry them back east failed to materialize. They built Fort Clatsop, and when the expected ship still hadn’t arrived, were forced to make their way back east in a reverse of the perilous trek they had just completed. Upon their triumphant return to civilized society, they enjoyed a short-lived popularity. I guess people have short attention spans when it comes to westward exploration and expansion. If not for the famed expedition, there wouldn’t be a rather large arch dominating the St. Louis, Missouri skyline. Widespread public attention to their accomplishments was not given until the 1960’s, when they finally started to receive the historical accolades they had earned 150 years earlier. Their mapping of the vast open regions paved the way for a massive migration of settlers to the West, who wasted no time striking out in large numbers to claim land, mine gold and silver, build towns, have shootouts, and in general, raise ten different kinds of Hell before settling down. However little their feats of derringdo were noticed back then, Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea are household names today. There are monuments to Lewis and Clark scattered along the very lengthy trail of their epic Expedition. Many buildings, highways, and even institutions like Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon commemorate the pair’s journey. Sacajawea, too, has her share of monuments and namesakes. She is a true national heroine and a certified part of American history.

When the expedition ended in 1806, the significance of their discoveries was mostly unacknowledged. Most had given the members of the party up for dead, since they had been gone for over two years. It wasn’t until years later that the significance of the expedition became widely known. In addition to taking many scientific samples, they also contributed a much better understanding of the vast expanse of territory through which they had traveled. The party also produced a large quantity of maps, which came in handy when the United States exploded Westward in its quest for “Manifest Destiny.” President Jefferson was evidently pleased with their accomplishments, and the careers of both Lewis and Clark prospered after their return. Both Merriweather Lewis and William Clark later served terms as Governor of Missouri Territory.

For living history reenactor gear, non-firing and blank firing historically accurate guns, please visit us at www.gunsofold.com

Colt Percussion Revolvers

1860 Army Colt Percussion Revolver basic diagram

The percussion firing system came about in the 1820s, and didn’t take really take off until around the 1840s. New things are often slow to take hold. Eventually, percussion weapons began to replace the old flintlock system. Colt produced Police and Pocket percussion pistols in 1847, followed by the now-famous 1851 Navy Colt, although at the time, it’s unlikely the name “Navy Colt” was actually used. This led to the more successful percussion Colts of the Civil War. The 1860-1861 Army and Navy model Colts were among the very last firearms using the old percussion system. 1860 was the year that Benjamin Tyler Henry unveiled his lever-action repeating rifle that used a newly-perfected .44 caliber rimfire metal cartridge–invented by Daniel Wesson and perfected by Henry. Nobody may have seen it coming then, but the metal cartridges took the world by storm, and quickly usurped the old percussion and black powder weapons. This technology spread and developed like wildfire, and in a short time, centerfire cartridges and smokeless powder took the place of rimfire (except in small calibers), and not long after that, semiautomatic weapons. After centuries of using black powder and relatively simple flintlock firing mechanisms, the technology of firearms was now on the fast track. Percussion revolvers weren’t much more than an innovative, but short-lived technology to fill in the gap between black powder flintlocks and the use of full-metal self-contained cartridges. Cap and Ball percussion revolvers used a small sack (or tube-shaped “paper cartridge”) of nitrated paper or cloth filled with a measure black powder, with a small lead ball or conical bullet packed on top of it. This was done with either a ramrod, or in the case of the Civil War-era Colts, a built-in rod (loading lever) on a hinge that would pack the powder and bullet wad into a chamber in the cylinder. The shooter would then attach a percussion cap, a small copper or brass open-ended cylinder enclosing fuliminate of mercury onto the “nipple” (on the rear of the cylinder) which held it in place. When struck by the hammer, the cap would detonate, flashing sparks through a small hole on the back of the nipple into the revolver chamber, igniting the main powder charge and firing the bullet. By placing the hammer in the half-cock position, the cylinder would be allowed to rotate freely for loading. Obviously, this was a much lengthier process than what we employ today with the use of self-contained metal cartridges. These were some of the last of the percussion-type weapons being developed.


The predecessor to the 1860 Army and 1861 Navy Colts, was the Colt Pocket revolver made in the late 1840s, and was the continuation of the “Baby Dragoon.” The most popular Pocket model was the 1849 model, with some variations being the Pocket Police Model and the Pocket Navy. They were especially popular with the California Gold Rush crowd (Sutter’s Mill, California ’49 Gold Rush, remember?) and also later, during the Civil War. The 1849 Pocket Pistols were set in .31 caliber and had 5-shot cylinders, and like the M1851, had an octagonal barrel, but it was noticeably shorter than on the later Colts. The Pocket Pistols were produced from 1847 to 1873. This model introduced the successful single-action mechanism that was still used in the M1860 Army and M1861 Navy Colt percussion six shooters.

Some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Civil War-era percussion Colts are the loading lever, which hinges down to pack the bullet and charge into the firing chamber, and when finished, can be snapped back into place with a spring under the barrel. The M1860 Army had a cam in the loading lever hinge that would not allow the lever to fall all the way against the barrel, should it happen to unclip itself and fall during recoil, a handy addition from the older 1851. More than 200,000 of the percussion revolvers were produced between 1860 and 1873. While the Army percussion revolver was set in .44 caliber, the Navy version was set in .36 caliber, and was produced in smaller numbers than the Army model. The M1861 Navy had a shorter cylinder, and less recoil than the M1860 Army, but otherwise was nearly identical. Unlike its forbear the M1851, the 1861 had the “creeping” cam feature on the loading lever. Some of the 1860-61 models had fluted cylinders and arrangements for an optional shoulder stock, but most did not. The 1860-61 Colt revolvers had round barrels, while the old 1851 models had octagonal barrels. All of these Colt percussion revolvers from the M1851 through the M1861 were used heavily in the Civil War.

Since the Colts–and most others too–were made in the American Northeast (Yep, Union territory!) the Confederate states didn’t have access to to new supplies of the weapon once the hostilities began. They had to make do with whatever weapons they already had, import new ones from overseas, such as the LeMat revolver by smuggling them through the Union’s Naval Blockade. They also had the option to make their own weapons, and they did, but with only limited success. One such weapon was the Griswold and Gunnison revolver. It was actually a bit crude conpared to the Colt revolvers, but was otherwise an exact copy of the M1851 Navy Colt, right down to the .36 caliber size. The Confederates had major issues getting the right kinds of metals they needed, and often ended up using a fused mixture of brass and steel, or whatever they could lay their hands on. Today, the homemade Griswold & Gunnison revolvers are extremely rare, and worth a fortune to collectors, some of whom have paid over a million to get one. The Colt percussion revolvers, produced in larger numbers are not quite as rare, however, if you ever see one (or a pair of them) at auction, complete with a wooden box, bullet mold, original powder flask and other tools, in good shape, and especially if it’s engraved or was owned by a famous person, be prepared to spend at least that much. One that’s in very good shape, even lacking the engraving or the famous person angle, means that you’re looking at a price tag of at least US $400,000, and up to $750,000. Of course, if you can’t spare three-quarters of a million bucks for a classic firearm, you could always get a nice, non-firing or blank-firing replica, that looks, feels and acts like the original, right down to the mechanical action, but costs much less.

For interesting historical details about the use of firearms in history, please visit GunClassics.com.  If you are interested in authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of the most famous guns of all time, reenactor gear and other items, please visit GunsOfOld.com.

Fancy Flintlocks of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries

Versailles Dueling Pistol, Kumbley & Brum of London flintlock

There are some very sleek and modern pistols being produced today, with major advances in technology and accuracy. But they are in a different class from the old flintlock pistols of the past. Ornately engraved and scrolled decorative finishes are something that is no longer produced, except in custom work, made to order at a high price. Many European gunsmiths were producing beautiful flintlock pistols in the 18th and 19th century. The few that have survived are now fetching high prices at auction, or on display in museums.

French design is legendary for its classical elegance and ornate decor. It is evident in French furniture and architecture. It can also be found in flintlock muskets and pistols produced by the famed armory at St. Etienne, the Manufacture d’armes founded in 1764 in Charleville, France. St. Etienne is only one of many locations for armories bearing the name. Small arms have been produced here since the middle ages, including the many weapons used in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon Bonaparte himself had personal weapons made here for him by his personal gunsmith, Jean-Baptiste Gribeauval. Among these are a double-barrelled flintlock pistol, and Napoleon’s personal St. Etienne 1806 traveling flintlock pistol with his crowned mongram “N” on the grip. Though customized, it is clearly a variation of the AN XIII flintlock pistol, used by French Cavalry in the Napoleonic wars. Polished wood, and intricately scrolled brass and pewter fittings make a resplendent contrast to the plain and the utilitarian. There are also the Versailles dueling pistols made by Nicholas Boutet in the time of Napoleon. Carved exotic woods and precious metals were used in the production of these pistols, which were presented to high-ranking officials.

A lot of the St. Etienne flintlocks made their way to America also. Merriweather Lewis and William Clark carried some of these flintlock pistols on their famous 1804-1806 expedition to explore the open western lands for expansionist and president Thomas Jefferson, accompanied by a native-American guide, Sacajawea. These were variations of the St. Etienne Model AN IX, which were issued to French infantrymen in the Napoleonic Wars. Most of these flintlocks can be identified by the famous St. Etienne stamp in the metal on the side of the lock mechanism.

Around 1680, Italian gunsmith Lorenzoni produced some magnificent triple-barrel flintlock pistols for the Medici family, with ornately carved ivory grips. Around 1795, Kumbley & Brum of London also made flintlock pistols with beautifully-carved ivory grips and bas-relief brass engraving.

First American President George Washington had a favorite pistol, a 1748 Hawkins, made in London had his name engraved on a silver plate on the grip. It is now housed in the museum of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was also presented with a brace of flintlocks by the Marquis de LaFayette. The famous first shot of the American War for Independence, the “Shot heard ’round the world” was fired by a 1760s Scottish flintlock pistol, an all-metal piece of extraordinarily ornate design. These are but a few examples of the fine art and craftsmanship that went into gunmaking in the 17th through the 19th centuries. When compared with today’s utilitarian, sleek and modern hanguns, which are faster and more powerful, there is still something magnificent about the time-honored practice of handcrafted elegance.

The first flintlock firing mechanism was created by a French courtier for King Louis XIII, and by 1630 was in use in Europe for warfare. Flintlock weapons were in use for around two hundred years, until they were succeeded by the invention of the percussion cap. The percussion cap was a short-lived technology, bridging the gap between flintlocks and the later self-contained metal cartridges.

For more detailed background on firearms history, please visit GunClassics.com.  If you are interested in authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of famous, historical firearms, reenactor gear and other items, please visit GunsOfOld.com.

 

Napoleon: Not as Short as You Think

Napoleon Bonaparte page banner

Everyone has heard of Napoleon. The historical French leader, presumed to be short, who rose to great heights, and then fell to great lows when he was defeated at Waterloo. For the most part, that’s all that most people know about him. The truth is a little different. Like all people, he had his good points and his bad points. The first thing one needs to do when considering history is to actually CONSIDER history. It wouldn’t be fair to judge a person who acted in the late 1700’s based on 21st century politics. Things were a little different then than they are now. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes not. Whichever the case, here you’ll get a brief, unrevised look at the life and career of Napoleon Bonaparte I of France.

Born on 15 August, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica to Italian parents, and christened Napoleone di Buonoparte, he came from a background of minor nobility. Because of this moderate affluence, he was able to study, among other things, to be a French artillery officer. He served as a second lieutenant until just after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. At around this time, he was involved in fighting in a complicated campaign in Corsica between Corsican royalists, revolutionaries and others. At one point, he even battled against a French army. This did not prevent him from later being promoted to the rank of captain in Paris. He was at odds with the Corsican leader, Pasquale Paoli, and eventually, Napoleone di Buonoparte and his family were forced to flee into what is now France to escape from Corsica. He later changed his name to the more French-sounding moniker of Napleon Bonaparte.

The French and the British had more or less been at war since medieval times. This was at a time before the existence of nation-states, when most of Europe was a collection of loose alliances and small Holy Roman Empire Papal States. A complicated mess, left over from the collapse of the Roman Empire, and lasting hundreds of years, well past the renaissance. Other than the currently-serving Popes, the rest of the continent was more-or-less a disorganized and decentralized jigsaw puzzle of small sovereignties and wavering loyalties. The alliances of these small states changed frequently, and there was usually a lot of discontent to breed trouble. Rather than nations fighting each other, there were coalitions, some large, some very small. Some were merely representing a single city. It would make your head spin for me to list all of the coalitions and states that existed at the time. The same goes for keeping track of which ones were aligned for or against each other.

Napoleon used his influences within the French military and leadership to rise to power, mainly through his unique grasp of artillery placement and use, and his ability to write compelling opinions. He was said not to be a very good speller, but that he was quite good at math and geometry. And he was certainly credited in his lifetime as being a very capable military tactician. He was instrumental in driving the British out of Toulon in 1793, and rose to the rank of Brigadier General, and later, even higher. The French had an army in Italy, and Napoleon’s success there further increased his position of standing with the French leaders. French involvment in these coalition battles eventually led to widespread French power and influence. In one of Napoleon’s most successful campaigns, he was able to defeat Rome, ending an 1,100 year-long independence, and creating a much better position for the French. It was at this time that Napoleon’s political influence grew vastly.

For a time, Napoleon was away in Egypt, attempting to expand the French Empire there, but had a great deal of difficulties due to numerous local uprisings and harassment from the British Royal Navy. (Britain largely owes its Empirical strength to its Navy) While Napoleon was away and busy in Egypt, the French were again being beset by coalition warfare, and also going bankrupt, and had lost a lot of the support of its people. Upon his return to France, there was a coup by Napoleon, his brother and some other supporters. Leading an army into Paris, he eventually triumphed over opponents, drafted a new constitution, and shortly thereafter elected himself as First Consul, the most powerful position in France. This allowed him to take up residence in the Tullieres Palace. He returned to Italy with his troops and drove out the Austrians in another of many coalition skirmishes. The large number of battles and struggles between these coaltions came to be known as the Napoleonic Wars.

After the narrow victory over the Austrians, there was a short-lived peace in Europe, followed by yet more coalition warfare. With the French colony in Haiti being lost to a revolution there, and in general a state of near-bankruptcy, Napoleon realized that he could not hold onto or defend the vast tracts of French territory in America, so he made an offer to United States President Thomas Jefferson to sell that land. His offer was accepted, and Napoleon got some money, and the United States got a huge, massive tract of real estate to call its own. This of course, was the famous Louisiana Purchase of 1803. This land was sold for less than three cents an acre. Quite the deal for the United States, and worth a lot more now.

Napoleon was mostly victorious in his military campaigns, and enjoyed many successes, and suffered a few failures. While in power in France, he instituted many reforms, most notably a set of laws called the Code Civil or Napoleonic Code. These were sweeping reforms to what was before a feudal system. Now there was a legal system of due process and justice, commerce laws, private property laws, the formation of a central bank, and many others. He instituted an infrastructure system of roads and sewers, and other improvements to civil engineering, ushering in the modern age from the medieval age. These reforms worked so well that many of them are still used today in Europe and abroad, including the United States. He changed the military model of using small units to a large, centralized force, and wisely accepted the ideas of arms designers to standardize the production of weapons, rather than having a large assortment of mismatched weapons in the field. At around this time, the British and the Americans were doing likewise.

In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French, and the next year, he was crowned the King of Italy. His reigns as leader of Italy and France overlapped each other. After the military victories and reforms, pushing out the old medieval ways, many saw this as a throwback to the feudal and imperialist system, and were displeased. Among the displeased was the famous composer, Ludwig von Beethoven, a former admirer of Napoleon, now bitterly disgusted with him. He even went so far as to scratch homage to Napoleon from his Third Symphony.

More coalition wars, campaigns and skirmishes followed. While Napoleon was on a roll across a vast portion of the European continental mainland, the British were holding their own at sea with their vastly superior Royal Navy. Also, Britain’s island geography made the British homeland more defensible. For the most part, Napleon enjoyed victory in his coalition wars and conquests. Then came his 1812 invasion of Russia. France and Russia had an alliance from 1807, but like so many others in Europe, it deteriorated, and once again, war visited Europe. Napoleon was able to push the Russian forces clear beyond Moscow, and it looked like certain victory for Napoleon, until he experienced a natural Russian advantage: the Russian Winter. Russia has winters like no other, and throughout time, it has aided the Russians in driving off would-be conquerors. Basically the same thing happened to Hitler’s Army in World War II. The bitter cold took a very heavy toll on Napoleon’s forces, who were wracked with frostbite, starvation and disease. What the bitter cold of a Russian winter did not take away from attackers, it sucked into the deep mud of the Russian spring thaw. Mud so widespread and deep that it hinders troop movements and bogs down everything. Even if his men and horses could find food, they couldn’t negotiate the famous Russian mud. It also produces a crop of disease-carrying mosquitoes that won’t quit. For the most part, Napoleon won the battle for Russia. But the Russian habit of leaving nothing behind for conquering forces to take (Scorched Earth Policy) and the winter and spring is too much for any attacker. The Russians burned Moscow, rather than let Napoleon have it. Originally 400,000 strong, fewer than 40,000 soldiers remained of Napoleon’s Army, which gave up on Russia and retreated back to France.

Upon returning to France, some of Napoleon’s generals staged a mutiny, and he was forced to abdicate the throne, and was exiled to the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean. This is a result of the Treaty of Fontainebleu. In his exile, Napoleon was given sovereignty over the island, and while there, put together a small army and navy, but his wife and son were living in exile in Austria. He knew that there was a plan to exile him to another island in the Atlantic, so he escaped from Elba and made his way back to France. When he landed on French soil, a regiment sent to intercept him was instead won over by him, and together they returned to Paris, causing Louis XVIII to flee. Evidently, Napoleon still inspired some fear and respect with his presence. Neighboring Austria caught wind of his return, and acted to raise up a large coalition force against him.

Napoleon reigned in Paris for around a hundred days, and had built up an army of some 200,000 troops. Upon the advance of the Austrian coalition army, Napoleon launched an offensive attack, in an attempt to divide their forces. They met up in Waterloo, in what is now Belgium, and fought. The British forces led by the Duke of Wellington, aided by the arrival of the Russian coalition were able to drive back Napoleon’s forces, which fled in disarray. The coalition forces then marched on Paris and restored Louis XVIII to the throne.

After a brief imprisonment, Napoleon was again exiled, this time to the small island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, very far away from any main land mass. Some members of the British Parliament and even some Lords sympathized with him. There were a few other intrigues, plans of escape and rumors, but further conquest was not to be. Living in Longwood House, the former Deputy Territorial Governor’s decaying mansion, Napoleon’s health declined, and he died of stomach cancer on 5 May, 1821. Napoleon remained buried in obscurity until the French King Louis-Phillipe had his remains returned to France in 1840. He was given a state funeral and intombed at the chapel in Les Invalides, a hospital campus for French war veterans in Paris, where he remains to this day. It is now a famous and very popular military museum that leaves a lasting impression on those who visit.

There are a number of things that Napoleon is noted for, such as having a very profound effect on the history and future of France. He did some bad or questionable things, such as ordering disease-wracked soldiers in his army poisoned, to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy while leaving Egypt. During his reign, he reinstituted slavery in outlying French colonies, and when it came to politics and the military, he was a sly operator. But he also paved the way for the abolition of the loose coalition of Papal States, in favor of autonomous nations, which still endures. From what was once a mass of disorganized sovereign and combative hotspots is now the mighty nation of Germany, for better or for worse, even after its travails of the 20th Century. Continental mainland Europe is now a strong collection of sovereign nations. Many of his Code Civil/Napoleonic Code laws and ideas are still practiced worldwide, including the UK and the United States. While he was in part, defeated by the British, many Brits, including some high-ranking Lords still admired him. He is also viewed as a military genius, having easily proved that through his many conquests and tactics. He also enacted the Jewish Emancipation, which allowed Jews to own private property, and other rights. Oh, I almost forgot; Napoleon’s height. The Duke of Wellington stated that Napolen was approximately 1.7 meters tall, or about 5 feet, 8 inches. A tad under 6 feet. The normal, average adult height.

To view an illustrated version of this post, please visit GunClassics.com.  Here you will find interesting articles on the history and culture surrounding firearms.  We have details from every period of American History, and other world historical events.  If you are interested in non-firing and blank firing replicas of classic and famous firearms, may I suggest you please visit GunsOfOld.com for gun replicas, reenactor gear, and many other things.

The Benefits of Non-Firing and Blank-Firing Guns

1892-2

1.    Still legal in the US, and many other places.  No waiting  period for purchase.

2.    Safety.  Unless you misuse it or do something stupid like pack it in public, or point it at the police, it is a safe, non-weapon.  No more dangerous than any other wood and metal inanimate object.  In the hands of a responsible adult, they are great to have, and make impressive conversation pieces.

3.    Price.  While you can probably afford a more modern, mass-produced gun, most people can’t afford a super classic like a Luger Parabellum, Walther P38 or PPK, 1892 winchester or 1873 Henry.  Or a classic Lee-Enfield SMLE, M1 Garand, MP40 “Schmeisser”, a British Brown Bess or Charleville     flintlock musket.  With non-firng and blank-firing replicas, you can.  And they look and feel like the real deal.  They even have functioning movable parts and can be dry-fired. With a blank-firing replica, you get even more.

4.    Replica guns are valuable for use in authentic historical reenactment events, collections, training exercises, film and television productions, and are vastly less expensive than real guns, without the legal hassles.

5.    Realism.  With a Blank-firing replica, it’s just like having a real one.  They require more caution by responsible adults than the non-firng versions, but they look, feel and sound just like the real thing when fired, without the danger of deadly projectiles.  You get the full experience.  The boom, recoil     and smoke are all real.  These aren’t cheap cap guns.  They cycle cartridges and have the full action and ejection.

For some history on the Most famous Guns of all time, please visit  GunClassics.com.  We have authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of these guns at GunsOfOld.com, in addition to a large assortment of reenactor gear, accessories and other items.

Kentucky Rifle; A little Clarification

KY

I have sometimes been asked to explain what a “typical” Kentucky Rifle is. Unfortunately, while there are many things that typify Kentucky Rifles, there’s really no such thing as a typical Kentucky Rifle. They were not uniformly mass-produced in factories, but rather made by hand in small, private gunsmith shops all over Appalachian America (eg. Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina). Sometimes they were plain affairs, with no thrilling extras, other times they were ornately engraved or decorated with gold and silver furniture. In the early days of Colonial America, a lot of immigrants from Europe found their way here, especiallly the Dutch, Irish, and Germans. Many of the Germans settled in central Pennsylvania, around York, Lancaster, Elizabethtown and surrounding areas, and undoubtedly in and around Philadelphia–the capitol of Colonial America. These Germans had their own brand of rifles dating back to the late 1600s and early 1700s–the Jaeger Rifle. When they got over here in the Colonies, they continued to make these Jaegers (pronounced Yay-Gur), and after a while, they became as much of a regional phenomenon here as they had been in what would later come to be called Germany.

Gunsmithing was (and still is) a fine handcrafted art, and many examples of those Long Rifles are still around today. During the War of American Independence, much of the Colonial military consisted of volunteers to bolster up the Continental Line. Many of them showed up with their home-grown rifles and caused a stir among the attacking British. You see, at the time it was common to use flintlock muskets–smoothbores–as military arms, and to form lines or rows, advancing towards the enemy. Rather than taking careful aim, it was the practice to have an entire line fire simultaneously in a volley of fire, in an attempt to decimate the line of an advancing enemy. So here we had all these independent “Hunters” (Jaeger is German for “hunter”) hiding behind rocks and trees and using their rifle sites to take aim at individual enemy soldiers, to great effect. The startled British officers began buzzing about these new “Long Rifles” which were being used with success against them. Although most did not know it at the time, this was the future of warfare. Up to that point, a rifle was supposed to be used for hunting game for food, whereas a musket was a military weapon. This led to the old German Jaeger rifles to be called “American Jaegers” and then “Long Rifles” by the British.

Now we get to the Kentucy Rifle. Up to this point the American Jaegers were being called “Long Rifles” by the British, and probably some locals too. Using the Long Rifle (and allowing for the generous support of the Marquis de LaFayette’s gift of 25,000 Charleville muskets to General George Washington) and some good strategies and a little luck, America won its independence from Britain. In the War of 1812, at the Battle of New Orleans, General (Yes, he later became president) Andrew Jackson led a group of some 2,000 Tennessee volunteers (another famous term!) armed with the Long Rifles they brought with them, and were able to defeat the British. After this, amid the celebration, jounalsits coined the term “Kentucy Rifle” and it stuck. So now, in the 21st century, we still call it the Kentucky Rifle. There you have it. There are still artisans in Appalachia who make these by hand, often with magnificent results. Do a search online, and you can find some absolutely beautiful Kentucky rifle artwork out there.

There is a more detailed and expanded story on the Kentucky Rifle at GunClassics.com.  There are also stories and links to many other famous firearms at this site.  Feel free to drop in and check it out!  We have authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of these guns at GunsOfOld.com, in addition to a large assortment of reenactor gear, accessories and other items.  If you are specifically looking for a replica of the Kentucky Rifle, we have that too.

Blunderbuss; The Nasty Little Weapon that Could

Naval Blunderbuss, also called a pirate blunderbuss

Naval Blunderbuss, also called a pirate blunderbuss

Unlike the many muskets, carbines and pistols used throughout history, the blunderbuss was a fast and loose weapon. Lacking in accuracy or range, it was a blunt and crude weapon used for fighting in close quarters on land or sea. Sometimes referred to as a “naval” blunderbuss or “pirate” blunderbuss, they were actually in use on land as well. Naval and merchant ships carried them for protection, to repel boarders such as pirates, who used them also, for the opposite purpose. Once a victim’s ship was softened up by broadsides from cannon and swivel gun fire, or caught off-guard by stealth, they would move in and board. They would often attack by throwing burning pots of sulfur, rotting fish or other nasty substances–called stinkpots–onto the decks of their victim’s ships in an attempt to cause pandemonium and nausea, to repel and demoralize them before attacking to loot, rape and pillage. They would then board forcefully using axes, pistols, cutlasses, pikes and other weapons in addition to the blunderbuss. One of a pirate’s best weapons was their reputation. The more fierce and merciless their reputation preceding them, the better to intimidate their victims. Their flags would be revealed just before they attacked, revealing their identity to strike terror into the hearts of those being raided.

For the most part, a blunderbuss was a hybrid between a pistol and a carbine or musketoon. It had a short stock, but was usually fired from the hip, as it is too short to fire from the shoulder. It also had a vicious recoil, like a shotgun, so you really wouldn’t want it up against your cheek when it went off, unless you’re looking to loosen a few teeth. The blunderbuss was usually loaded with multiple lead balls rammed onto a large powder charge, although in a pinch, the user could drop in nails, rocks, broken glass or bundle shot–a nasty projectle consisting of a small bunde of metal rods that would blast out like a swarm of tiny spears. While some of these items might damage the barrel, they could be utilized in a fight if they became necessary. Blunderbusses were also used for crowd control or clearing the decks– just having it in hand made for a strong deterrent to any challengers or mutineers. More compact than a musket–or for that matter, even a carbine or musketoon–but more intimidating than a pistol, it was relatively light and portable. They were sometimes attached to the railing of the ship or the gunwales, using a crude, mounting swivel to steady them for use as a makeshift boat gun to disperse people standing on the deck of a ship alongside. The large, flared muzzle did not improve the scatter of the shot used, but was more useful for ease of loading when in the heat of battle, especially on the deck of a rocking ship or climbing around in the rigging. Like mainstream weapons of the day, the blunderbuss was fired using a flintlock mechanism.

The earliest use of the blunderbuss was in the 17th century, and continued until the middle of the 19th century, around the 1840s. The heaviest use of the blunderbuss was during the mid 1700s, when piracy was at an all-time high. Many were left unemployed after the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and turned to piracy to make a living. This is often referred to as the “Golden Age of Piracy”, during which time a large portion of maritime commerce was violated and plundered. The British Royal Navy in particular waged a vicious war against piracy. When the British caught pirates, the punishment was extremely severe, and their chained bodies were often hung out in public waterfront areas, and left to rot for months as an example and warning to others. Much later, blunderbusses were used by mail and stagecoach drivers to ward off attacks on the road by bandits and highwaymen.

The most well-known blunderbuss weapons were produced by armories in England, France, and the United States. They were also produced in Poland and elsewhere. The armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) produced a limited number of blunderbuss weapons. By far, the largest producers of the blunderbuss were the various gunmaking firms in and around London. Firms such as H. Nock, Waters & Co., Ketland & Co., and Rea of London.

For detailed information and background on the most famous firearms ever made, please visit GunClassics.Com.
Reenactors, history buffs and gun fanciers will find authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of historic and classic firearms of the American Revolution, Civil War, Old West, both World Wars and the 20th Century at GunsOfOld.com. Other items of interest include Old West badges, Civil War and World War reenactor gear, boxed and framed gun sets, holsters and other goods.

1873 Colt Single Action Army Revolver

1873 Colt Single Action Army (SAA) Revolver

1873 Colt Single Action Army (SAA) Revolver

You’ve no doubt seen them on TV westerns and on the big screen. They are such a part of our history and culture in the United States that a lot people probably hardly ever notice anymore. I’m talking about those revolvers. A large number of these are the legendary Colt Single Action Army revolvers. Easily the most famous pistol in all of American history. In 1873, the US Government was conducting tests on a new military service revolver. Having just come out of the age of the old percussion revolvers that used nitrated paper or linen cartridges and fulminate of mercury percussion caps, they were moving into the future of firearms technology by switching over to the new all-in-one self-contained cartridges that we are familiar with today. They did not really come into being until 1860, when Benjamin Tyler Henry perfected the invention of Daniel Wesson (yes, of Smith and Wesson fame) and put it to work in his wonderful new lever-action repeating rifle, which later came to be the legendary Winchester Rifle. Unlike the old percussion firearms, these could be used in any weather or conditions, and were more reliable and less prone to errors. What made things really work for the legendary Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolvers was the fact that the cartridges were compatible in both rifles and pistols, which certainly helped to launch Colt to great heights. The SAA is still made, and in demand as much as ever. A true working pistol that helped to “Win the West” and cleaned it up afterward. As an example, take a look the old Wild West, especially places like the old Arizona and New Mexico Territories. What used to be dangerous and lawless places are now much easier to live in, thanks to the taming of those territories. The Colt revolvers played a major part in that. Famous lawmen like William Barclay “Bat” Masterson and Wyatt Earp, soldiers like TE Lawrence (as in Lawrence of Arabia) were fond of the famous Colt revolvers. So were the outlaws such as William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid.

The guns that truly won the West are represented here. There are acutally two firearms that get credit for winning the West. The Colt was the PISTOL that won the West, and in the rifle department, that honor goes to the Winchester. While the SAA was originally chambered for over 30 different calibers, the ones most people associate with are the well-known .45 and the Smith and Wesson SW .44. Later Colts had the cylinders lengthened to accept longer cartridges. The longer cartridges hold more powder, and thus have a higher velocity. I could go on and on about the most legendary revolver in American history, but if you wish to read more, please visit GunClassics.com, where you can also find my “Gun Pages” a resource with information and stories of many other legendary firearms throughout history.

For authentic non-firing and blank-firing replicas of the most famous firearms of all time, please visit GunsOfOld.com, where you’ll also find a large selection of accessories, re-enactor gear from many different periods of history and more.

The SMLE; Short Magazine Lee-Enfield

Lee-Enfield SMLE

The legendary bolt action rifle produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory, perhaps better known as RSAF-Enfield, and a large number of other operations around the allied world, including the Ishapore factory in India, (both British Colonial and post-independence India) has fairly earned itself a place in history. As popular as ever, the Lee-Enfield SMLE has a large coterie of fans and enthusiasts around the world, and is still a prized sporting rifle. In fact, countless numbers of SMLE rifles were “sporterized” in the 1950s and 1960s, and later. The British term “sporterize or sporterise” refers to military models that were fitted with telescopic sights, reworked calibers and bores, and even rebuilt receivers and other customizations, to be used for hunting and sport shooting, or in some cases, just to meet legal requirements in certain areas.

In 1907, the SMLE first entered military service and proved itself in the coming Great War, (aka. World War I) and went on to prove itself in the second World War as well. Officially, the SMLE was used by the British military until around 1957, being replaced by the more modern L1A1 Self Loading Rifle, but continues to be used even today in other places, especially by police forces in India.

The bolt action rifle came at a time when rifles were generally used by infantry, and carbines were used by cavalry or some special forces. The SMLE was a sort of happy medium between the two. Of course there was criticism, as with all other new things, but the rifle soon proved itself in combat, and toned down a lot of that criticism. Although there were many ammunition variances, the one that prevails is the original military selection of .303 caliber. Ask any military rifle enthusiast about the “303” and the conversation will find its way to the SMLE. The rifle’s fast, easy loading, lighter weight and short length were not its only advantages. These things gave it a further tactical advantage by allowing the troops to coordinate their fire and surround and take the enemy’s stationary machine guns positions. Some German militants were even known to claim that they thought they were under attack by a force using machine guns. This parallels experiences by American troops fighting the Germans and Japanese with their M1 Garand bolt action rifles in World War II. Though not related to the SMLE, it is clearly its American counterpart. In fairness, I should also say that the Germans’ Mauser bolt action rifle would be a counterpart too, but on that point, the SMLE seems to be the most wildly popular, and for good reasons. I would consider none of them to be bad weapons. Three Cheers to the SMLE for earning its rightful place in history beside other great and legendary firearms that will never die.

Non-firing replicas of the SMLE for fans, collectors or re-enactors are available, as well as other famous firearms, made of steel and / or wood, with working mechanical parts, both blank-firing and non-firing replicas, framed replicas and box sets, re-enactor gear and more, Please Visit GunsOfOld.com.

There is also a source of information on history’s most famous and legendary firearms at GunClassics.Com, where you’ll find info, facts, photos, links and more. Also great links to historical re-enactment sites. There is also a more detailed, expanded page on the Lee-Enfield SMLE there. You are invited to drop by and check it out. Hope to see you soon!

A Pistol Like No Other; The Luger P08 Parabellum

Luger P08 Parabellem basic diagram

One of the most successful and famous pistols of all time, the legendary P08 Parabellum, designed by Georg Luger was manufactured by the DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken) and saw service in World War I in the German and Swiss military, usually as an officers’ sidearm. They were in service in the Swiss military starting in 1900, and Germany in 1904. Both the Imperial German Army and Navy used the P08. It found it’s way to various parts of the world, and even saw use in the Chinese Civil War. The American military also bought 1,000 of the P08 pistols for field testing, although they ended up going with the now legendary M1911 .45 semiautomatic pistol.

In the early 1900’s there was a lot of devlopment and modification to the P08 which ranged from 7.65mm to 9mm, and even included a version which had a 32-round drum-type magazine affixed to the butt, along with a removable wooden stock, that fit cleverly into a holster.

While modern firearms load and eject by pulling the breech straight backward and letting it spring forward, the P08 has a hinged arm that is pulled upward, forming an “A”shape by using a textured knob, which then springs back into place, loading the firing chamber. An 8-round spring-loaded magazine inserted into butt of the grip supplies the ammunition. This design is instantly recognizable and makes the P08 one of the most famous pistols of all time. It is also  the first 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a format still manufactured today by many firearms producers.

In addition the the innovative locking mechanism, the P08 was also noted for it’s accuracy, ease of use, and is easy to take down and reassemble for maintenance.

In 1930 production was assumed by the Mauser company, who made the P08 until 1943, when the war started to go downhill for Germany.  The famous “Parabellum” was a favorite sidearm of German officers, and was still in wide use in World War II, even after the introduction of the more modern P38, made by Walther.  There was also a commercial version of the gun with an extended barrel, made in the 1920’s.

Many of the P08 pistols were captured by allied troops and taken home to end up in various private collections, and are still in circulation today, and often turn up in auctions. They are available in various states of repair, and most still are able to fire rounds, which are still available, mostly in the successful 9mm format. They are now very expensive to acquire. They can range anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $8,500, or even more.

The popularity of the P08 has waned little owing to it’s sleek, compact design, the mystique of their connection to NAZI Germany, not the mention the incredibly unique locking mechanism that loads and ejects cartridges like no other gun ever made.

To check out some of the Most Famous Guns in History, visit GunClassics.Com, where you’ll find info, facts, photos, links and more.
For authentic replicas of these Famous Guns, made of steel and / or wood, with working mechanical parts, both blank-firing and non-firing replicas, framed replicas and box sets, re-enactor gear and more, Please Visit GunsOfOld.com.  There you can also find an authentic, non-firing replica of the Luger P08 Parabellum.

Glossary of Firearms Terminology

  • Action
    Working mechanism of a firearm.  There are various types. Bolt
    Action, Lever Action, Single Action, Double Action, etc.
  • Automatic
    A machine gun.  Any repeating firearm that automatically
    ejects, chambers and
    fires rounds repeatedly, usually at high speed,  with a
    single, steady pull of the trigger. Also
    called Fully Automatic.
  • Backstrap
    The back of a pistol’s frame, the back of the grip.
  • Ball
    A type of bullet or projectile.  Usually used in older
    firearms such as a flintlock, musket-type weapons.
  • Barrel
    The strong metal tube of a firearm through which the bullet
    passes.
  • Barrel-Cylinder Gap
    The clearance between the sides of a bullet and the bore of the barrel
    as the bullet travels down it when fired.  In the US, the
    industry-standard tolerance of the Barrel-Cylinder Gap is from 0.0001
    to 0.012 inches.  A gap any larger will cause problems with
    firing and accuracy.
  • Black Powder
    Gunpowder.  Explosive mixture
    consisting of charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter (nitrate).
    Invented by the
    Chinese in ancient times.
  • Blank or Blank Cartridge
    A cartridge that has the explosive powder charge but no projectile.
  • Blowback (Blowback-Operated)
    Utilization of the force of hot, expanding
    gases released from firing the firearm.  In modern firearms,
    the
    strong force of the blowback is used to eject spent cartridges and a
    spring recoil replaces them with new ones in the
    chamber.  Also called “gas operated.”
  • Blued or Blueing
    The treatment of metal on firearms that results in a black or
    bluish-black finish, usually done with chemicals.
  • Blunderbuss
    Precursor to the shotgun.  Usually a flintlock weapon, shorter
    than a
    rifle or a carbine, longer than a pistol, that is identifiable by a
    large, flared funnel-like barrel.  Used for short-range
    close-in fighting, often used on ships as well as by mail and
    stagecoach drivers.  Also called a naval or pirate
    blunderbuss.  Used from late 1600s to mid 1800s.
  • Bolt
    Metal bar or rod that slides and seats and/or removes a cartridge.
  • Bolt-Action
    Firearm’s action, using a manual sliding and/or rotating bolt to
    operate.
  • Bore
    The inside of the barrel, or other part that needs to be hollowed out.
  • Breech
    The rear of the barrel.
  • Breech Loader
    A firearm that is loaded at the rear of the barrel.
  • Buckhorn Sight
    An open-top sight with curved sides.  Probably so-named
    because the shape  resembles antlers on a buck.
  • Bullet
    Technically, the projectile portion of a cartridge that is blown off by
    detonation of the powder charge, and flies through the air toward the
    target, leaving the shell or casing behind to be ejected.
    People often refer to the entire cartridge as a
    “bullet.”  On older black powder or percussion firearms, the
    bullet was just a shaped piece of lead.
  • Butt
    The very rear end of a rifle stock or the bottom of a pistol grip.
    In the Old West, the butt of a rifle or pistol was used as a
    secondary weapon by lawmen to  subdue troublemakers.
    Very handy for cracking skulls!  Sometimes referred
    to as “pistol whipping.”
  • Buttplate
    On a rifle, a covering of metal, wood, plastic or other material fitted
    onto the very rear end of a rifle butt.
  • Caliber
    Interior diameter of the barrel, or the bore.  Also
    corresponds to the size of ammunition that will fit in it.
  • Carbine
    A rifle or musket with a short barrel, usually a military version.
  • Cartridge
    A modern “bullet” or metal casing, which is an entirely self-contained
    piece of ammunition, with projectile, powder charge and ignition
    primer, all in one unit.  Nowadays, there are mainly only
    three
    kinds of cartridge: rimfire, centerfire and shotgun.
  • Centerfire
    A cartridge that is detonated by striking a primer button centered in
    its base by the firing pin.  If a cartridge has what appears
    to
    be a “button” in its base end, it’s a centerfire cartridge.
  • Chamber
    The rear of the barrel, or part of the gun where the ammunition is
    placed, in position, ready to fire.
  • Checkering
    The crosshatched pattern or texture on a metal, wood or plastic surface
    of a firearm, usually used to improve grip, or for decoration.
    Especially used on hammers and slides and grips.
  • Choke
    The shaping or an attachment at the muzzle of a shotgun that directs
    the spray or  pattern of shot as it is fired
    out.
  • Clip
    A container or feeding system, usually spring-loaded, that holds
    cartridges in place, so that it can be inserted into a firearm’s
    magazine.  Sometimes, the clip is called a “magazine” or a
    removable magazine.
  • Compensator
    A variation of muzzle brake that diverts escaping high-pressure gases
    upwards at the muzzle, reducing the general upward kick caused by
    recoil to compensate for it, and improve accuracy.
  • Crowning
    The rounded or beveled end surfacing of the barrel opening, (muzzle)
    used to
    protect the opening and edges.
  • Cylinder
    On a revolver, the rotating “wheel” that holds the cartridges, and
    allows them to rotate into position with the chamber for
    firing.
  • Damascus Barrel
    On old black powder firearms, a type of barrel made usually of separate
    bands of twisted iron. If you have a firearm with a Damascus barrel, it
    is not considered safe to shoot due to age, and the fact that such
    construction will not withstand the stresses and pressures created by
    today’s ammunition.
  • Deringer, Derringer
    Originally a brand of very small pocket pistol made for easy
    concealment.  Today, the term Deringer or Derringer (2 R’s) is
    used to
    refer to just about any brand of very small and concealable pocket
    pistol.
  • Double Action
    A pistol or revolver that allows the hammer to be cocked and released
    by pulling the trigger.
  • Dry Fire, Dry Firing
    Pulling the trigger and sending the firing pin and other parts into
    their full range of motion and impact without using
    ammunition.  Usually considered a bad thing to do,
    placing undue stress on the parts.
  • Extractor
    Mechanism that removes empty ammunition casings from the chamber so
    they can be ejected clear of the firearm.
  • Firing Pin
    A strong metal rod or pin that forcefully strikes the primer of a
    cartridge, firing the firearm.
  • Flash Suppressor
    Attachment (or integral part of the muzzle) that covers the end of the
    muzzle, hiding the flash created by firing a firearm.
  • Flintlock
    Old form of ignition for firearms in the days before fully
    self-contained cartridges.  A locking mechanism with a metal
    part that strikes a flint, producing a spark, firing the weapon.
  • Frizzen
    On a flintlock firearm, a curved metal plate, usually
    hinged, which is struck
    by the hammer, which contains
    a flint. When the flint strikes the frizzen, it creates a shower of
    sparks, while springing open to expose them to the powder in the pan to
    ignite it.
  • Fully Automatic or Full Automatic
    A machine gun.  Any repeating firearm that automatically
    chambers and fires rounds repeatedly with a single, steady pull of the
    trigger.  Also called Fully Automatic.
  • Gas-Operated
    Utilization of the force of hot, expanding
    gases released from firing the firearm.  In modern firearms,
    the
    strong force of the blowback is used to eject spent cartridges and a
    spring recoil replaces them with new ones in the
    chamber.   Also
    called
    “blowback-operated.”
  • Gauge
    The inside diameter or bore of a shotgun barrel.  A shotgun’s
    gauge is determined by a formula of how many balls of shot taken from a
    pound of metal will fit in a certain bore size.
  • Grain
    Measurement unit of a powder charge.  One pound is equivalent
    to 7,000 grains of powder.  437.5 grains is equivalent to one
    ounce.
  • Grip
    The handle of a revolver or pistol.  Sometimes fully
    integrated, or mounted in pieces.  Can be wood, metal,
    plastic, etc.
  • Grooves
    Spiraled channels cut into the inside of a firearm’s barrel, that cause
    a bullet to spin upon firing, stabilizing its trajectory and improving
    accuracy.
  • Half-Cock
    Partially cocking a firearm’s hammer so that it does not fall and set
    off the firearm.  If you slip and let the hammer fall while a
    round is chambered, you
    will discharge the firearm.
  • Hammer
    Moving part that hinges up on rear (on hammer-equipped firearms), and
    snaps back into place with force, detonating the cartridge.
    Flint-tipped hammers are also used on flintlocks, to strike
    the frizzen to ignite powder.
  • Hangfire
    A malfunction in the primer of a cartridge that causes a delay in
    firing after the trigger is pulled.  Obviously, if you have a
    long or ongoing hangfire or misfire, DO NOT look into the barrel to see
    what’s
    going
    on.  Some people have actually (stupidly?) died doing this!
  • Hollowpoint
    Bullet with a hollow area in the nose, that causes it to expand on
    impact, increasing its destructive force.
  • Jam
    Misfire, caused by a mechanical part malfunction, or by a cartridge
    being stuck midway in the magazine or chamber. Also, almost any other
    kind of mechanical blockage in the firearm.
  • Lands
    Inside the barrel of a riflled firearm, the raised areas of the metal
    surface,
    that remain above the cut rifling grooves.
  • Magazine
    Spring-loaded container that feeds cartridges into the firing
    chamber.  Detachable or non-detachable. Sometimes
    called a “clip.”
  • Magnum
    A longer version of a cartridge of the same
    caliber.  The increased length is to accommodate more powder
    for
    increased velocity, power and range.
  • Mainspring
    On a flintlock musket or rifle, a strong spring that holds the hammer
    back in the cocked position until released by pulling the trigger.
  • Misfire
    When a cartridge fails to discharge, or to discharge properly.
  • Musket
    A smoothbore barrel (no rifling) firearm.  Usually an old
    firearm with a flintlock firing system.
  • Musketoon
    Short barrel, smoothbore, muzzle-loading carbine.  A
    short-barrel version of a musket.  Similar to a carbine.
  • Muzzle
    The end of the barrel, the  opening where the bullet exits.
  • Muzzle Brake
    Attachment or shaping at the muzzle to dissipate or reduce gas pressure
    in order to reduce recoil.
  • Muzzle Energy
    The force (measured in foot-pounds) of a bullet exiting the muzzle.
    Similar to recoil.
  • Muzzle Loader
    Firearm that is loaded through the muzzle, with a solid
    breech.  Old smoothbores are muzzle loaders.
  • Pan
    On a flintlock musket or rifle, a small bowl-shaped pan that holds a
    small
    charge of powder. When
    ignited by the flint striking the frizzen, it flashes down a drilled
    hole in barrel, igniting the main charge in the barrel.
  • Parabellum
    General name given to cartridges measuring 9 X 19mm.  Also the
    popular nickname  of a famous German Pistol in that same
    caliber, made by
    Deutsche Munitions Fabrik (DWF) beginning in the early 1900s.
    Parabellum is a latin word (si vis pacem, para bellum) meaning: “If you
    wish for peace, prepare for war”
  • Parkerizing
    A dull gray or greenish finish on a firearm to prevent rust.
  • Patchbox
    On a musket or flintlock rifle, a small compartment in the stock,
    usually with a door or lid, used
    for storing patches of greased or oiled cloth, which is rammed down
    the barrel, and used to wad or pack the
    lead ball or bullet against the powder, providing a seal for better
    compression upon firing.
  • Peep Sight
    Rear sight with a small hole, which one peeps through to line up on the
    front sight and the target.
  • Percussion Cap
    On older “Cap and Ball” or percussion revolvers, a small, explosive
    cap, usually placed on a “percussion nipple” that, when struck by the
    hammer, ignites the powder charge through a small hole, firing the
    weapon.
  • Percussion Revolver
    An older black powder revolver, in which the hammer strikes a
    percussion cap, igniting the main powder charge.
  • Pinfire
    Old, obsolete cartridge with a small
    pin protruding from the side, near the base, that when struck by the
    firing pin, ignites the main powder charge.
  • Plinking
    Old and obsolete type of cartridge
    that had a small metal pin sticking out of the side, at the base, which
    when struck, would ignite the charge, firing the bullet.
  • Primer
    Small charge in a cartridge that ignites the powder when struck by the
    firing pin, discharging it.
  • Receiver
    The part of a firearm that contains the moving parts, or the action. In
    modern firearms, the mechanical area that loads and ejects a cartridge.
  • Recoil
    The energy created by the explosive release of discharging a firearm,
    that pushes it back against the person shooting it. It can range from a
    gentle bump to a smashing, bone-jarring experience, depending on the
    firearm.  Remember what physicist Albert Einstein
    said?  “For every action, there is an equal and opposite
    reaction.”
  • Revolver
    A firearm with a rotating cylinder that holds cartridges, and aligns
    them for loading, unloading and firing.
  • Rifle
    Long-Barreled firearm with a rifled groove cut into the bore of the
    barrel.
  • Rifling
    The grooves cut into the bore of a barrel, to cause the bullet to
    rotate when fired, improving stability and accuracy in flight.
  • Rimfire
    A cartridge that has its primer in the base, and is ignited by having
    the firing pin strike the edge (rim) of the casing, crushing the rim to
    ignite it.  Modern rimfire cartridges are mainly found only in
    small calibers, such as .22 caliber.
  • Round
    Informal way of saying “cartridge” or a shot.  Example; “I
    fired a couple of rounds at them.”
  • Sabot or Sabot Bullet
    In firearms, sabots are
    only known to be used in old black powder guns.  A sabot is
    basically an adaptor that fits onto the back end of a bullet, to help
    trap in gases for more compression, enabling a smaller bullet to be
    used in a firearm with a larger bore or caliber.
  • Safety
    A locking catch or mechanism that prevents the trigger from being
    pulled, or
    otherwise prevents the firearm from being discharged.
  • Sear
    Pivoting part of the action of a firearm connecting the trigger to the
    hammer and holding it in place until released by the trigger.
  • Selective Fire
    Feature of a firearm that allows firing either on full-automatic, or
    semi-automatic mode, usually with the use of a switch or
    lever.
  • Semi-Automatic
    A firearm that automatically extracts and ejects spent cartridges upon
    firing, then
    re-chambers a new one to be fired, and can repeat this action, one
    trigger
    pull at a time, until the magazine or clip is empty.  This
    action takes place very rapidly.
  • Shot
    Small metal balls, grapeshot or buckshot, used in shotgun
    cartridges.  Shot comes in different sizes.
  • Shotgun
    Firearm with a smoothbore barrel, used to fire buckhot or shot.
    Modern shotguns use brass-based plastic cartridges filled
    with shot.
  • Single Action
    Firearm that requires the hammer to be manually cocked before pulling
    the trigger. On a single-action semi-automatic, you only need to cock
    the hammer before firing it for the first round, until it’s reloaded.
  • Sight
    Blade or protusion with a notch in it, usually on both the rear of the
    firearm and on the front, above the muzzle, to allow the shooter to
    line them up with the target.  There are many different types
    of sights.
  • Silencer or Silenced
    Device attached to the muzzle of a firearm to muffle or reduce the
    sound of firing.
  • Slide
    On firearms (usually semi-automatic pistols) the top part of the action
    (usually the entire top of the pistol) that ejects and loads the
    chamber by pulling it back, sliding it back
    along the frame.
  • Spitzer
    A bullet with a pointed nose
  • Stock
    The long part of a firearm (usually a rifle or musket) held by the
    shooter, or braced against the shooter’s hip or shoulder, to stabilize
    during firing.  Can be wood, polymer, metal etc.
  • Submachine Gun
    Automatic firearm that uses pistol ammunition.  Usually a
    smaller version of a full-size machine gun.  Used for
    close-range firing.
  • Take Down
    Button, lever or other device that allows for quick disassembly of a
    firearm for cleaning, oiling and maintenance, transportation etc.
  • Tang
    Protusions on the frame or receiver that connect it to the stock or the
    grip.
  • Top Strap
    Top part of the frame on a revolver.
  • Wildcat Cartridge
    Non-standard cartridge.

The Glossary Above is Proprietary and is Protected by United States Copyright Laws. Copyright © 2009 4G Company

I have added an expanded version of this glossary at Gun Classics.com.

Mauser C96; The Broomhandle with a Bite

mauser-c96


In keeping with human inclination to be averse to change and suspicious of new ideas, the C96 was not as well-received as its makers hoped when it was first introduced. To give the impression that they had sold more units than were actually sold, they skipped large blocks of serial numbers–not an unheard-of marketing strategy.  Later, when production picked up, they appear to have raided their own stock of parts from previous production runs and retroactively stamped firearms with older serial numbers to fill in the gaps.  Along with the confusion caused by various modifications to the original model, there was the inevitable switching out of parts by owners further down the line.  Finally, there were the Chinese-made copies that were almost totally undocumented, along with some made in Spain.  The result is a researcher’s or collector’s nightmare!  But despite the confusion, this much is true: the C96 was the first maschinenpistole/submachine gun ever made, and since it was a major innovation for its time and went on to  enjoy considerable success, it has earned its place in history, despite the clouded provenance.

Originally, the Mauser C96 was produced for a 7.63 X 25mm cartridge. There was also a 9mm Parabellum produced, which proved successful.  The 9mm Mausers were named the “Red 9” and had a large red “9” marked on the grips, to
differentiate them from the 7.63mm version, in order to prevent the confusion of ammunition sizes.   Later, many of the original 7.63 models had the barrels bored out to accept 9mm Parabellum cartridges. This was necessary because the C96 had a single one-piece casting for the barrel and receiver, so replacing a worn-out  barrel was not an
option.  You’d basically have to replace the whole gun.  Unfortunately for collectors and researchers, some of those 7.63mm-cum-9mm conversions were also branded with the big red “9”, adding more
confusion to the equation.  The original model C96 came with a detachable stock that also doubled as a holster–a clever innovation that DWM, the makers of the famed Luger P08 Parabellum–could’nt resist offering as an option to its own successful pistol.  The 7.63mm rounds used by the C96 offered good velocity and penetration, adding
to its success.

In the years before the Great War, (aka World War I) the Mauser C96 and its many variations became very popular, and orders came in from military forces in a number of nations.  This allowed the C96 to find
its way around the globe.  They were popular with British officers, Red Bolshevik revolutionaries and Chinese militants in the
various skirmishes that plagued China throughout the 20th century. The C96 went on to see action in various wars and revolutions worldwide, and even saw limited use by Germans and others in World War II.  As a trivial sidenote, the “blaster” used by Han Solo in Star Wars was based on the Mauser C96.  The American National Firearms Act of 1934 precluded most Mauser C96 firearms from finding their way past US shores.  Even now, there are estimated to be fewer than 200 of them in circulation in the United States, even though Mauser alone produced over a million of them.  By today’s standards, the C96 is an antique and a collectors’ item, and owing to their scarcity in the US, can bring very high prices at auction.

To check out some of the Most Famous Guns in History, visit GunClassics.Com, where you’ll find info, facts, photos, links and more.

For authentic replicas of these Famous Guns, made of steel and / or wood, with working mechanical parts, both blank-firing and non-firing replicas, framed replicas and box sets, re-enactor gear and more, Please Visit GunsOfOld.com.  We offer a metal and wood authentic replica of the Mauser C96 with working mechanical parts at gunsofold.com.

4 Reasons why Buying a Non-Firing Gun Makes Sense

NSG

Since I had two different people ask me recently why anybody would buy a gun that didn’t fire and couldn’t be made to fire, I figured it was a fair question that deserved an answer. Here are four reasons why:
(1)
Legal restrictions on sale of real guns. There are many places you simply can’t buy a “real” gun, or can’t buy the one you want, because there are restrictions on purchasing them in many countries, and even some states or municipalities in the United States. Non-firing replica guns are legal to buy and own without restriction in most of the United States and in many countries of the world, and don’t require any sort of license or permit. If you want a firearm to protect life and property or to use for hunting and target shooting, obviously the non-firing type doesn’t make sense. But what if you just wanted a classic .357 Magnum with an 8-inch barrel to add to your collection, or maybe the sleek 9mm pistol, like James Bond uses in the movies? Chances are, you could buy a non-firing gun.
(2)
They are safe to display in your home or office. Non-firing replicas do not fire, and cannot be adapted to do so. Barrels have metal plugs inside, and are not made of the kind of high-tensile steel required to withstand the pressure and hot gases of a gunpowder charge. Moreover, the chambers and clips are made a non-standard size so that real bullets won’t fit them, as an added safety measure.
So long as they are handled sensibly by responsible adults who use them as collectibles, in reenactments, living history performance or film productions, they are completely safe. “Handled sensibly” means because they look so authentic, you don’t take them out in public and wave them around where a cop or somebody might mistake it for the real thing and shoot you. Of course they should be kept out of the hands of children, too, for the same reason, and also because loading mechanisms and other metal moving parts in a quality replica can pinch or mash little fingers. But if you want to practice your western quick-draw in front of a mirror, you won’t accidentally shoot yourself in the foot, with a replica .45 caliber automatic! If you really want to unleash your inner Wyatt Earp, get yourself a frock coat, brocade vest and a replica of a Tombstone Marshall’s badge, and join one of the many quick-draw competition groups that abound.
(3)
Real antique firearms may be difficult or impossible to find, and cost a lot more. Despite the number of them that were captured and brought back to the United States, a real German P08 for sale is difficult to find. A thorough internet search yielded only one site that had two for sale, priced at $3107 and $6214 U.S. A search for the Broomhandle C96 submachine pistol yielded only one, and it was $3650 U.S.! If you go back even further in time, looking for an original 1861 Navy percussion revolver, or an 18th century flintlock pistol or musket rifle for your collection, you can find them, but be sure to bring your wallet! A recent auction of a mint 1861 Navy, still in the wood presentation case with powder flask and other accessories went for over a million dollars. You can find them for less, but they may be in poor condition, may not fire, and it probably wouldn’t be safe to try. Non-firing replicas of the same guns cost a fraction of that–even a classic Civil War Enfield P60 is easy to find and very affordable for almost any budget.
(4)
Affordable quality and authenticity. Except for the BANG, quality non-firing replica guns are just like the real thing. When we say “quality”, we’re not talking about those chunks of plastic resin molded and painted to look like a gun. Quality replicas are made of metal and wood (on models that have wood), like a real gun. “Ivory” or “pearl-handled” grips will probably be a polymer imitation, but in appearance, feel and action, they closely replicate the geniune article, right down to the action of real moving parts in the loading and firing mechanisms. Hammers cock and “fire” when the trigger is pulled. Clips insert and release (you can even get dummy “bullets” to load with some models.) Cylinders rotate, and/or swing out, depending on the model. A quality replica is heavy, and has the heft, look and feel of a real gun. How cool would it be to display a realistic replica of Wild Bill Hickock’s engraved Navy revolver on your desk, or hang a realistic copy of Dan’l Boone’s famous Kentucky rifle on your wall? You can find a replica of almost any famous pistol or rifle with a quick search on the internet. Non-firing replica guns are great conversation pieces, and a piece of history you can hold in your hands.

You can find historical information and details about famous firearms at www.gunclassics.com. Also, please visit us at gunsofold.com.

Welcome! The Non-Smoking Gun’s Inaugural Post

Hello, and welcome to The Non-Smoking Gun. That’s what we call our blog. See, our site offers non-firing replicas of historic firearms (Although we now have blank-firing and black powder guns that DO SMOKE.). If they don’t fire, they don’t smoke, either (and neither should you, for any number of reasons. But hey, as a former 3-packs-a-day chain smoker myself, I know it’s hard to quit–no matter how bad it is for you–and I also know the world doesn’t need another ex-smoker getting all “more smokeless than thou” on all the remaining smokers! )
And on that subject, my state of residence (Arkansas) just passed a hefty tax on each pack of cigarettes, which is supposed to pay for creating an emergency trauma system. (You heard me right–there isn’t a single emergency trauma unit in the entire state! Can you believe it?)
Now, I realize that a trauma system is a good thing, and certainly every state in this day and age should have one, what with all the cell phone yakkers and texters too preoccupied with their cell phones to drive and other hazards loose on the highways. So yeah–it’s long past time this state got with the program and set up a network of trauma units! But–and feel free to correct me here, if I’m wrong–is it only smokers who get injured in accidents and end up in the hospital in need of trauma-trained medical staff? So . . . if smokers aren’t the only ones to benefit from it, then how come they are the only ones being made to pay for it?
I’m not so naive as to believe we have equal protection under the law anymore, but what happened to it, and when did we lose track of that concept? Well, it’s more than just a “concept”, actually. It’s only a key principle upon which our Constitution rests. Or rested. Sadly, the past-tense is more accurate in this brave new 21st Century world.
Even though I don’t smoke anymore and haven’t for many years, this still makes me crazy. When I did smoke and resided in Washington state, the state decided that Puget Sound was polluted and needed to be cleaned up. And how did they pay for that? Why, with an additional tax on smokers, of course–as if the smokers were personally responsible for the dirty water in Puget Sound!
All I’m saying is this tendency on the part of policians to single out a group of people and make them pay for something that benefits everybody is not only grossly unfair, it’s un-American! But see, it’s what they call a “sin tax”. They figure they can levy taxes on our vices all day long, and we won’t have the bad taste to complain, much less quit doing the thing they’re taxing. And it’s worked for them all these years, too, so there’s really no incentive for them to alter their un-American behavior. I’m thinking about the only way they’ll quit doing that is if it doesn’t work anymore.
So if you are a smoker, and you’ve been saddled with another one of these “special” taxes whomped up by the legistlature just for you, well, hey, there’s one more good reason for you to quit, right? That’d show ‘em! Just think of it . . . what if they passed a new tax on smokers to pay for something that benefited everybody, and all the smokers just said “Enough is enough”, and up and quit?
I wonder if they’ve considered that in these hard economic times, the smoking cash cow is probably already on its last legs, if not in need of some of those fancy medical techniques they use to revive trauma victims (or would, if they’d had the foresight to set up a trauma system!) And if they kill off the cow that laid the golden eggs (well, my metaphor just fell apart there, didn’t it! ), then where are they going to get the revenue to replace the extra taxes all those former smokers won’t be paying any longer?
Well, okay, I guess I’ve made my point. That clattering sound you hear is me climbing down off my soapbox. So, back to business. Here’s the kind of stuff we want to include in this blog:
(1) Articles and information about historic firearms and the people, places and wars that made them historic.
(2) Current issues concerning firearms and Second Amendment rights to be commented upon and open for discussion.
(3) Resources for Civil War and Old West re-enactors, living history performers, quick-draw competitors, etc. We’ll be working on developing a calendar of those types of events for people interested in participating or attending, along with articles and information on developing a character, creating a costume, etc.
(4) Other subjects as they arise
And speaking of other subjects . . . I’d sure appreciate it if you’d take a minute to let us know what you think of our site. Did you find it easy to navigate? Did you find the information you were looking for? If not, what kind of information would you like to see? Is there a product you were looking for and would like to see but didn’t find? We’d like for this site to be useful and interesting to you, our visitors. And the best way for us to make it useful and interesting to you, is to find out from you what kind of features and information you want to see. We look forward to seeing your comments and posts!
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em (and can afford ‘em!) Or not.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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