Once we invented the gun, that was pretty much it, right? Sure, all technology advances, new features are added and the design gets tweaked a little over time, but it usually stays more or less the same. Cars always have four wheels, a couple of pedals and some seats, no matter how much we end up fussing with them. So guns consist of one handle, one trigger, one barrel and then the bit that kills people. It's a tube of death; why mess with the concept? Because you're a crazy person, that's why. And that's how we got these:
#7. The Duck's Foot Pistol
The duck's foot pistol, so named because its four splayed barrels were shaped like the foot of a duck (back in the 18th century, when ducks were gargantuan, terrifying steampunk monstrosities with pistols for toes), was designed to take on large groups at close range. It was most popular with officers on sailing ships, who often carried a pair of them to, uh, "discourage" potential mutineers in the cramped quarters.
Advantage: Skinny guy standing between two fat guys.
The immediately apparent problem here -- that the rational person would've spotted instantly, but the completely insane gun maniac clearly missed because he was too busy firing indiscriminately into crowds -- is that you can never hit what you're actually aiming at with a standard duck's foot pistol. You can only hit everything else around it, because none of the four barrels point straight ahead. But that just means you have to remember to think a little differently when handling one: Instead of aiming at the thing you want to kill, you just aim at the one thing you like and kill the rest of the world around it.
#6. Key Guns
First used in the 16th century, key guns allowed a jailer to keep his weapon throughout the entire extremely vulnerable process of opening a cell door, thus never leaving him unprotected. Well, all except for the times when he's actually using the key/barrel end of the pistol to disengage the lock. That's right, key guns weren't just shaped like keys to throw people off or disguise their nature as pistols -- they're both functional keys and functional pistols (presumably so that if some uppity lock ever has the balls to stick on your watch, you can just shoot it off like a Renaissance Bruce Willis).
"Firepower is the key to victory. Did you get that? Was it too subtle?"
We get the feeling that not all implications were fully considered here. For example: Where do you keep your keys? If you said "dangerously close to my crotch," well, that's a weird way of saying "pocket," but no less technically correct. Plenty of people keep guns in their crotch area, sure, but what separates this is that the loop of the key (i.e., the place where you hold or pick it up) usually serves as the trigger for a key gun as well. So what are your Weaponized Door Access storage options? You could always hang it from one of those giant old-timey key rings that medieval jailers use in the movies. But then wouldn't you be suspending the pistol by its trigger and shooting yourself in the thigh with every jangle? Shit, we give up: If you have a convenient way to handle this thing without turning your own legs into gunshot-wound pie, speak up, because we're drawing a blank (unlike that unstable key gun pointed at your crotch).
This one had to be lit with a cigar, because any cigarless man in the 1850s deserved to die.
#5. The LeMat Revolver
So hey, pistol lunatic, what's the biggest problem with guns in general? That's right: You just can't hold as many of them as you want. Barring extensive inbreeding or light to moderate Doctor Octopussing, you only have two hands with which to wield fiery death, and that's infinity less guns than your insatiable bloodrage demands. Enter the LeMat revolver: Invented in 1856 by Jean LeMat, a New Orleans doctor (who apparently considered that whole "first, do no harm" thing more of a suggestion, really), the LeMat was actually two guns in one:
Above: 100 percent medically sound.
The top barrel fires .42 caliber pistol rounds, while the second, smaller barrel on the bottom holds a load of buckshot. When he was all finished packing guns into his guns, LeMat brought the prototype to his cousin, a U.S. Army major named Beauregard. Beauregard also thought the gun was a great idea, because gun madness is a hereditary disease passed down along bloodlines, and tried unsuccessfully to get the Army to equip all of their cavalrymen with it. Though it was powerful, the LeMat was deemed too superfluous and not reliable enough for field use. And man, when the Army turns down your weapon for being too kill-hungry, it's probably time to take a step back and reevaluate your life choices. Maybe also take some vitamin C (it's a common treatment for gun madness).
It's hard to keep a tight grouping when you're grabbing your crotch.
#4. The Turbiaux Palm-Squeezer Pistol
The French love their tiny, tiny pistols, presumably because they enjoy the sophisticated dichotomy of adorableness and lethality. One of the smallest ever made was the Turbiaux Palm-Squeezer: Designed mostly for ease of concealment rather than range or stopping power, the Palm-Squeezer was meant to be held with the barrel in between your fingers and the trigger squeezed with the palm.
Because shooting someone in the face goes with any outfit.
The Turbiaux could hold anywhere from eight to 10 bullets in its "turret cylinder," which, combined with its stealthy nature, would seem to make it one hell of an assassin's weapon.
Or the basis of the greatest wrestling federation ever.
However, the Turbiaux's bullets fell much closer to the "cute" axis of the French Firearms Scale of Preciousness and Death, so shooting a fellow with it was more a means of expressing your general displeasure with his choice of hat than a viable method of actual assassination. Plus, if the victim didn't die from the initial hail of micro-bullets, you had to fully dismantle the gun just to reload. So if you combine all of those facets -- limited lethality, easy to conceal in the palm, practically zero range -- it wasn't really a gun at all. It was more of a precursor to the joy buzzer, back in an era when men were men, bullet wounds were a funny prank and electricity only happened when God was displeased with something.