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Helge B.




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 7:31 am    Post subject: Flintlock Revolver from Elisha Collier         Reply with quote

It seems it was not Colt who invented a working revolver (with rotating chambers, not barrels), but Elisha Collier, who patented this firearm in 1818.

From what I found out it had a single action mechanism and a container which reprimed the pan automatically. It was so functional that the British Army even ordered some 10,000 pieces in a tuned down version (no single action).

I ponder if such weapon could have been built 100-200 years earlier. I read somewhere that a similar construction with a matchlock was made for a french king (on a caliver/arquebuse).

How reliable would you regard the priming system in field condition? Already small amounts of moisture or dirt would clog that small hole.



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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Apparently it was not reliable or at least not reliable enough to warrant general adoption by the military and civilian populations of GB or elsewhere. Colt's invention, which arrived about 18 years later was adopted worldwide over time. Of course it also used the percussion system instead of flintlock, which was more practical.

I cannot recall ever noticing this firearm or examining photos of one before so have to make some assumptions. The first is that the frizzen contained the supply of priming powder. From the photo that appears to be the case. While that is an interesting idea, there are some complications that can result from it. The priming reservoir almost has to be exposed to the flash of the priming powder in the pan as well as the "exhaust" from the touch hole when the main charge goes off. Unless there is some kind of ingenious - and complicated - shut off mechanism within the frizzen, then the possibility of ignition of the reserve priming powder is there. Also, unless there is some sort of metering device within the reservoir, too much or too little priming can be dumped in the pan. If there is no metering or shutoff mechanism then you have to be concerned that jostling the firearm while being carried could result in shifting of the priming or some other condiiton that would cause mis-fire or slower ignition. Introduction of dirt into the system, as you mentioned, could be a problem. If there are a lot of complicated mechanisms for priming, then potential mechanical failure becomes an issue. One reason the snaphaunce lock fell out of favor was the sliding pan cover and the mechanism that controlled it frequently failed due to build up of powder fouling, which could occur in this case too.

As a long-time flintlock shooter, I have learned that I frequently have to wipe the face of the frizzen to clear fouling and insure consisten ignition. That would be required of this gun as well and, depending on weather conditions you might have to do it before you got six shots off.

There were hundreds of multi-shot mechanisms invented in Europe beginning not long after firearms became practical weapons. The revolving chamber was one of them. However, until Colt patented his mechanism, most were apparently impractical for military applications. It also seems that the civilian market was mostly content with single shot muzzle loaders until the 19th century.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Russ Thomas




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Folks,

I am not a gun enthusiast as such, and this is all off the top of my head, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the first true revolver, as we know it , was invented by a Spaniard called Orbea, not too sure of the exact date but presumably in the early 1800's.
There is also (not exactly a revolver, as it stands on a tripod ! Laughing Out Loud ), a weapon in the Royal Armouries called 'The Puckle gun', which is , if IIRC. from the 1700's. This is a long barrel with a revolving cylinder with twelve (?),shots. I seem to recall that there is also another version of it that fired square bullets!! Eek!
This is off the top of my head, and hopefully Lin can correct me if there any innaccuracies...........

Regards,

Russ

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ Thomas wrote:
Hi Folks,

I am not a gun enthusiast as such, and this is all off the top of my head, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the first true revolver, as we know it , was invented by a Spaniard called Orbea, not too sure of the exact date but presumably in the early 1800's.
There is also (not exactly a revolver, as it stands on a tripod ! Laughing Out Loud ), a weapon in the Royal Armouries called 'The Puckle gun', which is , if IIRC. from the 1700's. This is a long barrel with a revolving cylinder with twelve (?),shots. I seem to recall that there is also another version of it that fired square bullets!! Eek!
This is off the top of my head, and hopefully Lin can correct me if there any innaccuracies...........

Regards,

Russ


I don't know about Orbea but I have encountered the Puckle Gun. It was invented by an English writer named Puckle - curiously enough - and was first displayed in 1718. It had a single barrel with a revolving cylinder and flintlock ingnition. The cylinder held 11 rounds and was turned by means of a hand crank. Supposedly the cylnders could be changed quickly enabling the gunner to put a lot of lead in the air in a short time. It was envisioned as a gun which could be used to repel boarders on ships. The Puckle gun was a commercial failure and only a handful were made, one of which survives in the Royal Armory.

There were two versions, one of which did fire square bullets and was intended for use against Muslims only, because the square bullets were supposed to hurt more....or something like that. The Christian version fired round bullets.

As I said earlier, there have been numerous multi-shot firearms, including examples with revolving chambers, made throught the history of firearms. But until Samuel Colt produced the Paterson revolvers in 1836, none of these guns had been truly practical or adopted by the masses. Colt had the advantage of the percussion ignition system and a relatively simple mechanism that was easy to manufacture and maintain.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You also need to remember that the same British Army that ordered this revolver refused to order the Ferguson Breechloading Rifle which might well have led to a British victory in the American Revolution. It would certainly have played Hell with the American and French troops to have faced a whole army equipped with breechloading rifles. Major Patrick Ferguson was, as most of know, killed at King's Mountain in October of 1780.
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You also need to remember that the same British Army that ordered this revolver refused to order the Ferguson Breechloading Rifle which might well have led to a British victory in the American Revolution. It would certainly have played Hell with the American and French troops to have faced a whole army equipped with breechloading rifles. Major Patrick Ferguson was, as most of us know, killed at King's Mountain in October of 1780.
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You also need to remember that the same British Army that ordered this revolver refused to order the Ferguson Breechloading Rifle which might well have led to a British victory in the American Revolution. It would certainly have played Hell with the American and French troops to have faced a whole army equipped with breechloading rifles. Major Patrick Ferguson was, as most of us know, killed at King's Mountain in October of 1780.
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Apr, 2008 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
You also need to remember that the same British Army that ordered this revolver refused to order the Ferguson Breechloading Rifle which might well have led to a British victory in the American Revolution. It would certainly have played Hell with the American and French troops to have faced a whole army equipped with breechloading rifles. Major Patrick Ferguson was, as most of us know, killed at King's Mountain in October of 1780.


Hugh, that is not quite correct. The Ordnance Dept. did order 200 rifles for use by Ferguson's corps of riflemen which was, somewhat reluctantly, authorized by the government. However, in order to fill the ranks, he had to recruit from other organizations and had a hard time doing so due to resistance of the commanders of the regiments from which he was trying to recruit. He did manage to gather 100 soldiers who served in NJ and later in PA. However, after Ferguson was severely wounded at Brandywine, the corps disbanded and the rifles were supposedly stored in New York. I am not sure but I think that only 100 rifles were ever delivered. That was the end of the experiment.

The military establishments of most countries have traditionally resisted major changes in ordnance and tactics over short periods of time, and that was one reason why the Ferguson rifle was not adopted. The other reason was cost. The Ferguson Rifle was considerably more expensive that the standard issue musket, in large part because there were so few gunmakers who could produce the multi-threaded breech mechanism that was the main feature of the Ferguson breechloaders.

If the Brits had decided to go all out and equip a signfiicant number of their troops with these rifles - which I would say was logistically impossible at the time - there was still no guaranty that the technology would have overwhelmed the Americans. In spite of Ferguson's demonstration of the prowess of the weapon, it was not as easy to maintain as the musket and experiments with modern - made reproductions have shown that powder fouling can still build up in the breech and lock the action closed after a few shots, especially on a day with low humidity. Ferguson, quite cleverly, performed his demonstration of his rifle for the brass on a rainy day.

Lin Robinson

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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When in college, a friend of mine worked summers at the Smithsonian in their arms collection. He was able to get me access to handle some of the collection back in a workroom and one of the items was a Ferguson rifle. I will agree that it had a very complicated breech system, operating as it did with an interrupted screw. But you would be amazed just how much proper training could remedy the problems of powder fouling. Remember that powder fouling during a battle was such a problem that even the muskets, intentionally bored oversize, became too fouled to load. One simple solution was for the soldier to pee down the barrel, plug the muzzle with his thumb, and give the musket a good shaking. This would clear much of the fouling from the bore as well as clearing the hole from the pan to the chamber. As the barrel was usually pretty hot, it would dry quickly after it was emptied and the soldier could get back to his job of loading and firing. I have read that modern re-enactors are discouraged from using this technique as it would not be suitable in a public demonstration, but pouring water from your canteen down the barrel seems a waste to me. Better to recycle the water.

Now, if you can clear fouling from a musket in that manner, I fail to see why the technique could not be applied to clearing the breech mechanism of a Ferguson. BTW, as you know, urine contains substances such as ammonia that have the effect of cleaning things. That is why fullers used it to bleach and to degrease woolen goods.

Please understand, Lin, that I have fired a number of black powder weapons over my 65+ years. Among them were a flintlock Hall breechloader, a couple of Sharps percussion carbines, and numerous cap and ball revolvers and flintlock pistols. I have also fired several muskets, rifled muskets, and "Kentucky" or Pennsylvania hunting rifles. I also own and have fired a Palmetto Contract Model 1842 Rifle. It is a South Carolina state contract version of the Harper's Ferry Model 1842 Rifle, the first percussion cap rifle issued to the US Army. It became known as the "Mississippi Rifle" after its use by Jefferson Davis' Mississippi Volunteer Regiment during the Mexican War. So I really do have practical experience with such weapons.

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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, and I will also quote Brigadier General James W. Ripley's infamous statement as Chief of Ordnance for the U.S. Army at the beginning of the War Between the States. When presented with repeating weapons such as the Spencer or even breech-loading rifle versions of the Sharps, he said, "The musket is now and will always be the prime weapon of the infantry. Repeating weapons only cause the soldier to shoot too fast and thus waste ammunition."
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
Oh, and I will also quote Brigadier General James W. Ripley's infamous statement as Chief of Ordnance for the U.S. Army at the beginning of the War Between the States. When presented with repeating weapons such as the Spencer or even breech-loading rifle versions of the Sharps, he said, "The musket is now and will always be the prime weapon of the infantry. Repeating weapons only cause the soldier to shoot too fast and thus waste ammunition."


Your statement supports what I said earlier about the general attitude of the military establishment toward new ideas and technology. In fact, it is a vivid example.

Quite frankly I have not run into the idea of urinating into the bore of a musket to clean it in the heat of battle and wonder where that came from. Can you cite a specific reference? One thing I learned the first time I fired a dozen blank rounds through my Brown Bess at a reenactment was that the barrel gets REAL hot. I don't think I would try to clean my gun that way unless I could get somebody else to do the peeing!

The original Ferguson rifles had a breech block that was slightly tapered, which served to disengage the threads somewhat when opening the action. Undoubtedly that helped to clear the fouling from the threads of the breech and made it easier to open. I don't know about reproductions, but the next time I go to Kings Mountain Battlefield park, I will take my caliper and measure the breech block on the repro Ferguson they have there. I don't think they will let me play with the original gun they have on display. Also, the cuts on the threads of the breech, which are what Ferguson actually invented and were supposed to catch the fouling from the threads and dump it out when the breech was fully open, are larger on the orignal rifles than they are on modern reproductions. This could explain the reports of the modern guns locking up after a few shots as opposed to the original guns which were supposed to be able to fire in the range of twenty four shots without cleaning.

Lin Robinson

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Did these revolvers also have the usual problems with sealing? Its very hard to make a breech-loader by hand craftsmanship which doesn't let dangerous amounts of gas leak out between the chamber (cylinder in this case) and the barrel. Fergueson's rifles were one solution, but like Lin said they were expensive and would have been very hard to produce on a large scale.
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Did these revolvers also have the usual problems with sealing? Its very hard to make a breech-loader by hand craftsmanship which doesn't let dangerous amounts of gas leak out between the chamber (cylinder in this case) and the barrel. Fergueson's rifles were one solution, but like Lin said they were expensive and would have been very hard to produce on a large scale.


That is a certainty. The Colt revolver had a tendancy to "chain fire" which means that the flash from the ignition of the charge in one chamber could flash over to another one or more, and cause all the loaded chamber to fire almost simultaneously. The Colt revolving rifle, issued to some Union regiments during the Civil War was especially bad for that to the point that the soldiers did not want to use them at all. Modern revolver shooters use lubricated wads over the powder charge or fill the cylinders with grease to help prevent that, although it can still happen. The wads and lube also help to keep down fouling in the barrel.

Reports of gas leakage in modern made Ferguson rifles are also common.

Lin Robinson

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Helge B.




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 10:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

After doing some more research on the Elisha revolver, I figured it did feature single action (see blueprint). This seems to have been really Samuel Colt's invention. The tuned down verison the British government ordered for their officers in india did not include the repriming container, which makes one doubt its reliability.

The Elisha revolver afterall does not look that innovative. I found some similar creations from far earlier periods even though I cannot say how workable they were (considering the sealing issue).



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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
After doing some more research on the Elisha revolver, I figured it did feature single action (see blueprint). This seems to have been really Samuel Colt's invention. The tuned down verison the British government ordered for their officers in india did not include the repriming container, which makes one doubt its reliability.

The Elisha revolver afterall does not look that innovative. I found some similar creations from far earlier periods even though I cannot say how workable they were (considering the sealing issue).


Single action simply refers to having to manually cock the hammer each time you fire, as opposed to double action where pulling the trigger actually rotates the cylinder into positon before the hammer falls onto the cap or firing pin. The gun would have had to be a single action.

Fifty parts showing on the diagram, which speaks volumes about complexity of manufacture and maintenance.

Lin Robinson

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Russ Thomas




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
The Colt revolver had a tendancy to "chain fire" which means that the flash from the ignition of the charge in one chamber could flash over to another one or more, and cause all the loaded chamber to fire almost simultaneously. The Colt revolving rifle, issued to some Union regiments during the Civil War was especially bad for that to the point that the soldiers did not want to use them at all.


I was armourer to The Royal Opera House , Covent Garden , for some years, and during a performance of La Fanciulla del west, by Puccini ( with Placido Domingo no less! ), we had exactly that happen ! There is a brawl in a saloon and a pistol is drawn and fired during a scuffle at a card table. The pistol, which was being held upwards by several people during the 'fight' did exactly this. It looked pretty, but was not nearly so dramatic as the .36 navy colt going bang! As it was only loaded with powder it simply went off like a Roman Candle for several seconds (three of the chambers were normally loaded for this, though of course, only one should have been fired ). When the singer, a well known Australian who shall remain namesless Big Grin , came off stage and handed me the pistol - which was still very warm - he remarked to me with a smile, "All I could think of was my hand was getting f*****g hot ! " Happy
I have read somewhere , that it happened quite often with these pistols, and when loaded with bullets they exploded , causing the loss of the hand......... if the user was lucky ! Confused

Regards,

Russ

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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ Thomas wrote:
Lin Robinson wrote:
The Colt revolver had a tendancy to "chain fire" which means that the flash from the ignition of the charge in one chamber could flash over to another one or more, and cause all the loaded chamber to fire almost simultaneously. The Colt revolving rifle, issued to some Union regiments during the Civil War was especially bad for that to the point that the soldiers did not want to use them at all.


I was armourer to The Royal Opera House , Covent Garden , for some years, and during a performance of La Fanciulla del west, by Puccini ( with Placido Domingo no less! ), we had exactly that happen ! There is a brawl in a saloon and a pistol is drawn and fired during a scuffle at a card table. The pistol, which was being held upwards by several people during the 'fight' did exactly this. It looked pretty, but was not nearly so dramatic as the .36 navy colt going bang! As it was only loaded with powder it simply went off like a Roman Candle for several seconds (three of the chambers were normally loaded for this, though of course, only one should have been fired ). When the singer, a well known Australian who shall remain namesless Big Grin , came off stage and handed me the pistol - which was still very warm - he remarked to me with a smile, "All I could think of was my hand was getting f*****g hot ! " Happy
I have read somewhere , that it happened quite often with these pistols, and when loaded with bullets they exploded , causing the loss of the hand......... if the user was lucky ! Confused

Regards,



Russ


This was so prevalent with the Colt 1855 revolving rifle that the Ohio troops who received the first ones wanted to refuse issue of the guns. They made all sorts of compromises, including loading just one chamber at a time, which kind of defeats the purpose of the multi-shot cylinder. Another problem was the amount of gas vented between the chamber and he barrel. Tolerances were relatively loose in that area to keep the cylinder from freezing up due to fouling accumulation on the face of the cylnder. That meant a significant amount of gas escaped through the gap and since this was a rifle, the downard traveling gas struck the user's forearm just behind the wrist. That was not a pleasant experience. One trick tried to mitigate that problem was to pull down the loading lever and hold onto that instead fo the stock in front of the cylinder. All in all, this was not a very well-thought out concept.

Lin Robinson

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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An early version of the Colt Revolving Rifle was issued to the Dragoon Regiment sent down to Florida to hunt down the Seminoles. The Dragoons simply lowered the ramrod and used that as a forward grip or braced the barrel against a tree and kept their off hand behind the cylinder. I had an Italian replica of an 1851 Navy chain fire on me despite putting Crisco in the chambers. It was loaded with bullets and it did not explde but it was damned scary. Fortunately it did it on the second shot out of the five loaded so that there were only three chambers to fire plust the one alined witht he barrel.

Lin, I cannot remember the exact references but I have seen peeing into the barrel more than once. There may have been some mention of it in the memoir of a Highland Light Infantry soldier from the Napoleonic Wars. And, yes, I know that the barrel gets hot and I presumed that the guys doing this were smart enough to use some sort of padding at the muzzle, perhaps a neckerchief or a piece of cloth.

I cannot say that I have ever fired a Ferguson, original or replica and I know of but three originals, the one at the Smithsonian, one at the West Point Museum, and the one at Kings Mountain. As I said, I had held and examined the one at the Smithsonian courtesy of my friend who worked there and had friends there. There miust be more around but I have no knowledge of them.

As to gas leakage, that was a problem with all of the early breechloaders, even the Sharps, the best of them. The Confederates attempted a copy of the Sharps made at Richmond using machinery brought down from Harpers Ferry but they weren't up to the manufacturing tolerances needed and the carbines had major problems with gas leakage to the point that the troops wouldn't use them. The early Hall that I mentioned had the same problem to a lesser degree when I fired it back in the 1950s.

As to the Ripley quote, I don't really disagree with you, Lin. I am very aware of the institutional conservatism of military organizations ahving grown up in an Army family. I sometimes think that it was the inherent dumb conservatism that kept the British to their system of purchasing commissions that made the eventual victory of the Americans in our Revolution possible. Just think of what might have happened if, instead of relegating them to commands of Tory units, they had promoted Tarleton and Ferguson to commands of regular units and then on up to higher commands. Tarleton was, with Light Horse Harry Lee, one of the two best cavalry commanders in the War and Patrick Ferguson was a most skilled infantry commander who was put into an impossible position in the Carolinas.

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Helge B.




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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are some other photos of the mentioned earlier revolver models. I found them in another forum (http://www.huntamerica.com/wwwthreads/showfla...amp;page=2)

The oldest recorded version of revolver (not shown in the pictures) is said to be a schnapphahn model made by John Dafte in 1680 shown in the Tower of London.

Quote:
Single action simply refers to having to manually cock the hammer each time you fire, as opposed to double action where pulling the trigger actually rotates the cylinder into positon before the hammer falls onto the cap or firing pin. The gun would have had to be a single action.


I always thought that single action also means that the clyinder will rotate while cocking the hammer. With the Collier revolver you had to turn it manually.

I am also not sure if the priming container should work automatically. Maybe you also had to press a release mechanism to let the powder rinse onto the pan. It would still be faster than using a flask.



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This is said to belong to Matthias before he became king of hungary. It is dated to 1606

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snaphaunce made by londini and dates to 1680

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This one rifle not a pistol is a Kalesnikoff and dates to befor 1780. Its a 58 cal smooth bore.


Last edited by Helge B. on Thu 01 May, 2008 11:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu 01 May, 2008 11:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had a closer look on the priming mechanism in the exploding diagramm. It looks the powder was inside the "priming drum" (no. 8) which will rotate when the whole priming reservoir moves downward. By this some powder will rinse through an opening onto the pan. A spring mechanism will let it roll back again and sealing it by this.

What do you think? Would this really be workable after some fouling occured? What about the danger of blowing up the whole priming reservoir? Is the distance where it rests towards the pan sufficient to prevent this?

Also the priming drum looks pretty small to me. Will it be enough powder to prime the pan for 5-6 shots?
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