Early revolver use

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Early revolver use

Postby admin » 16 Jun 2014 15:44

This is a topic which I have quite an interest in, so I will occasionally put interesting quotes here when I come across them.

Here is regarding the use of revolvers by British officers in the mid-19th century, specifically in the Crimea:

The use of the revolver in the hands of officers is objectionable only on one ground - that though it may often get a man out of a scrape, it tends to do away with the habit of giving quarter to an enemy, and it encourages men to make resistance in hopeless positions. For men who wish to sell their lives as dearly as possible and to die fighting to the last, it is an excellent weapon at close quarters. It was asserted by the Russians that officers at Inkerman who had surrendered suddenly drew their revolvers and, shooting the guards who were conducting them to the rear, escaped from their captors in defiance of the usages of battle. But in a war where quarter would not be given, such as patriot wars often are, that consideration would have little influence.

From: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GU8BAAAAQAAJ (1859)
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 16 Jun 2014 16:32

That's an interesting quote - I wonder whether such ungentlemanly behaviour was ever punished. Also, I wonder why the Russian guards had not disarmed their prisoners, at least of their firearms if not their swords. Although they might not be familiar with revolvers at that time they would surely recognise a firearm.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby MEversbergII » 18 Jun 2014 14:35

It is an indignant thing, relieving an Officer of his sidearm.

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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 18 Jun 2014 14:37

MEversbergII wrote:It is an indignant thing, relieving an Officer of his sidearm.

M.


I'd expect an officer to be left his sword, which acts not only as a weapon but as a badge of office. If he carried a firearm as well then one might relieve him of that.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 18 Jun 2014 16:00

My assumption was that the said British officers were concealing their pistols in this case. After all, belt holsters were not yet common at this date - revolvers and other pistols were generally just stuffed into the belt, or hung from a belt hook.

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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 18 Jun 2014 16:02

admin wrote:My assumption was that the said British officers were concealing their pistols in this case. After all, belt holsters were not yet common at this date - revolvers and other pistols were generally just stuffed into the belt, or hung from a belt hook.


They could well have been, though they'd probably need a greatcoat pocket to stash that sort of weapon.

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Excellent.
I'd like some, but I'm sticking to reproductions for now so that I can shoot without worry.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 18 Jun 2014 22:50

knirirr wrote:They could well have been, though they'd probably need a greatcoat pocket to stash that sort of weapon.


I can confidently say that it is possible to stick either a Webley-Bentley or Adams-sized revolver (and therefore also a Colt .36) down one's trousers.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 18 Jun 2014 22:54

admin wrote:I can confidently say that it is possible to stick either a Webley-Bentley or Adams-sized revolver (and therefore also a Colt .36) down one's trousers.


Sooner you than me, although my Colt .36 would certainly fit.

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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 19 Jun 2014 12:38

Cute.
Incidentally, this little video may be of interest to some readers (though it is preaching to the choir in the case of most posters here):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzypKZlEwS4
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 09 Jul 2014 16:28

An alleged incident with a revolver at Cawnpore in 1857, from the Otago Witness , Issue 312, 21 November 1857, Page 10.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby TheKurgan » 10 Jul 2014 14:55

Holy shit, dude. That's completely awful.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 11 Jul 2014 17:16

Yeah. Anybody who thinks medieval warfare was more brutal than 19th century warfare knows nothing. Warfare in all periods is like this - diabolical.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby Jonathan » 12 Jul 2014 01:21

While researching Frederick Campbell Gostling and his sword, I came across this description of a very successful action involving the use of his revolver (from Kaye's and Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8):
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 14 Jul 2014 11:24

Nice example, though I wonder what revolver he was using, to be able to bag 8 of them, unless he was carrying a spare cylinder or in fact it was a brace of revolvers.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 14 Jul 2014 12:31

admin wrote:Nice example, though I wonder what revolver he was using, to be able to bag 8 of them, unless he was carrying a spare cylinder or in fact it was a brace of revolvers.


The Le Mat holds enough but I don't think that that was available, and carrying spare cylinders might be a bit risky. It could be two revolvers, but IIRC the Adams is much quicker to load than Colt or Remington revolvers due to the lack of need to ram the bullets, so there's a chance he might have reloaded if he had a moment between the times when the rebels attempted to form.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 14 Jul 2014 12:42

Possibly. There were paper rounds for the Adams that can be manually stuffed in the front of the cylinder. The drawback of them as far as I can tell was that they carried less charge due to the padding of the paper etc and were more likely to cause a misfire or blockage. Theoretically someone could carry a spare cylinder for the Adams and change it pretty quickly, but I have never heard of a British officer doing that and carrying a pre-capped and loaded cylinder somewhere on your body is pretty risky! There were some French/Belgian revolvers that had more than 6 chambers at this date I think, but I have not heard of a British officer of this time using one.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 14 Jul 2014 12:44

p.s. If he shot 8, we may presume that he fired more than 8 shots, unless he was bizarrely lucky! My guess would be that he had a brace of revolvers in his saddle holsters - this is suggested in some works of the time, though I have yet to find an explicit example of a British officer or cavalryman doing so (two pistols yes often, but not revolvers - probably due to the cost).
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 14 Jul 2014 12:57

admin wrote:Possibly. There were paper rounds for the Adams that can be manually stuffed in the front of the cylinder.


My assumption was that he would have used a flask to drop a charge into each chamber before pushing the bullets in and capping. I am using a flask for my latest acquisition and the loading is fairly easy and quick, although I do have to ram the bullets.

I agree that he would probably not have hit every time; if he got those 8 hits out of 10 shots that's still pretty good, though.

Here's a nice pair of Adams in a case I saw for sale earlier in the year:

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Edit: There's a picture of Mr. Adams loading one of his revolvers here.
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby admin » 14 Jul 2014 13:20

I think it would be quite tricky to reload using the standard bits and pieces, if they were carried, whilst on the move and in a combat zone though. I have reloaded my muzzle-loading shotgun whilst on pheasant shoots easily enough (though a falling pheasant nearly knocked me out whilst I was loading once), but I wouldn't want to have to do it whilst on the move in a hostile environment - and that's with two big barrels rather than numerous fiddly small chambers. Still, I suppose it is theoretically possible.
I'd never heard of or seen the Westlake guns before, interesting! If only someone would make a replica Adams. I feel resentful of having to shoot Yankee guns. :)
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Re: Early pistol use

Postby knirirr » 14 Jul 2014 13:27

admin wrote:I think it would be quite tricky to reload using the standard bits and pieces, if they were carried, whilst on the move and in a combat zone though.


I agree it would be difficult, though I think it could possibly be done with a decent flask and a pouch of bullets on the belt and some caps stored in the pistol butt (assuming one wasn't on a moving horse).

I'd never heard of or seen the Westlake guns before, interesting! If only someone would make a replica Adams. I feel resentful of having to shoot Yankee guns. :)


Indeed, if I could get a replica Adams then I'd do so as soon as possible. There's a Starr double action revolver available, but that's not as desirable as an Adams. In the absence of an Adams the Westlake does at least offer self-cocking revolver fun (easier cleaning is a bonus).
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