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The Pistols of Old Days Past

Nobody is sure when the first gun is made. But French courtier Marin le Bourgeoys made the first firearm that incorporated a true flintlock mechanism for King Louis XIII in 1610. It was used for over 200 years until Reverend Alexander John Forsyth, a Scottish minister, invented the rudimentary percussion system in 1807. The percussion system was not widely used until around 1830 and the flintlock was continued to be used until the time of the American Civil War.

FLINTLOCK PISTOLS

They were used as self-defense weapons and as a military arm. Their range was short and was used along with a sword or cutlass.

FLINTLOCK MUSKETS

Used between 1660 and 1840. It was a muzzle-loading smoothbore long gun that was loaded with a round lead ball. It also could be loaded with shot for hunting. In the military, it was loaded with ball or a mixture of ball with several large shot called buck and ball. Its range was about 75-100 meters. The military flintlock muskets weighed approx. ten pounds and they were usually designed to be fitted with a bayonet. They were about 5-6 feet in length without the bayonet. The bayonet itself was 18-22 inches in length. They were not used like modern rifles where you can do multiple shootings. They would be shot in a mass volley, then followed by bayonet charges. At sea, they were used in early point of a boarding attempt and more often to pick off helmsmen and officers.

FLINTLOCK RIFLES

The spiral grooves of rifles made it more accurate and longer effective ranges but slower loading due to the tight fitting ball and clogging of the black powder. This rifle was most used for hunting. At sea, it would be for boarding, close quarters fighting or disputes in the tavern. After shooting its single shot, it was usually discarded or the butt end would be used to bash the enemy's head in.

MULTISHOT FLINTLOCK WEAPONS

It took experts 15 seconds to reload a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading musket which is why flintlocks were sometimes produced with two, three, four or more barrels for multiple shots. It was very costly and very unreliable and dangerous. Sometimes all barrels would explode in the user's hand. It was usually safer carrying a few single-shot flintlock weapons.

PERCUSSION CAP

This invention was introduced in 1839 that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather. Before this development, firearms used flintlock guns that produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite the powder and fire the gun's main powder charge. Flintlocks were prone to misfire in wet weather which made it very unreliable and unsafe.

BOARDING PISTOLS - THE HORSE/DRAGOON PISTOL

Dragoon pistols were large and heavy with barrel length around 14 inches. Larger ones did exist. This pistol has brass hardware including a stylistic "dragon" sideplate and a buttcap with long side stirrups.

FRENCH PISTOLS

In 1733, the French used their Cavalry Pistol as a standard while before they did not have a standard. Brass components wasn't a required as many were used in iron finish. They were designed beautifully with simple and elegant designs.

ENGLISH PISTOLS

Like the French, England didn't adopt a standard pistol for Navy use until around 1730. Before that, the Dragoon pistol in James II style was probably one of the most common to be used. The Blunderbuss style pistol also might have been a favored style of pistol. Many of the surviving examples are dated to Queen Anne period of 1702-1714. They seemed to be utilitarian with brass barrels and minimal hardware. The James II Dragoon pistol had classic long lines with barrel length of 14 inches. They were fitted with belt hooks.

DUTCH PISTOLS

They did not have a large navy like other European countries. But they were targets for pirates. They had their own style of gun until the end of 17th century when they became more influenced by French designs. The Dutch had an affinity for long barrels and even though other countries shortened their pistols during the 18th century, the Dutch continued to make long barreled pistols.

QUEEN ANNE PISTOL

The Queen Anne Pistol is also known as the "turn-off" pistol because the barrel unscrews from the chamber for loading. it uses the name "Queen Anne" because it appeared in the Queen Anne era which is about 1702-1714. Any gun from that period could be called a "Queen Anne." It's the turn-off pistol that became connected to that name. The ability to have the barrel unscrewed allowed for a tighter fitting bullet that produced more power and accuracy when used. Period pictures of Blackbeard showed him with a pistol that seemed to be of a "Queen Anne." Eventually through the years, the turn-off pistols changed to a combined breech and lock so it was formed as one unit. There were even guns from the "Queen Anne" period that did not have unscrewing barrels. But some people refer to those as "night pistols" and that they claim they were intended to be loaded with shot instead of a ball which is why they did not need unscrewing barrels.

THE BLUNDERBUSS

The muzzle loading "thunder gun" was like a large shotgun with the firepower of a one person cannon. The bore of around two inches fanned out to a goofy funnel shape at the end of the barrel, thought to help disperse the small pellets over a larger area. About the length of a musket with a kick like a mule, this gun was literally fired from the hip or another part of the body that could handle the recoil. It was mainly used for boarding parties and personal defense.

THE MUSKETOON

This gun was very simliar to the Blunderbuss. It was much shorter though, but shared the same barrel shape. Mainly used for boarding and fighting.


POCKET PISTOLS

They were really small guns that you could put in a pocket or something. They would be used for a last minute gut or face shot.

VOLLEY GUNS

Whether in pistol or rifle form, the weapons would fire their several barrels at once. But they were very hard to reload and very slow at it.
The Pistols of Old Days Past The Pistols of Old Days Past Reviewed by The Fabulous K on Monday, May 28, 2012 Rating: 5

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