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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 19th century lunatic musician had a tough choice to make: play an instrument, or shoot folks in the face. Now, it used to be that you had to play the people a nice harmonica solo first and then riddle them with bullets while they were clapping, but no longer! These are "harmonica guns."
Horst Held Antique Firearms
So named for their popularity with hobos.
Well, OK, technically they weren't functional harmonicas -- it's just that their loading mechanisms somewhat resembled the instruments, as opposed to the rotating cylinders or clips we all know and love and do murders with today. That lump of metal hanging over the side may have had some benefits, in that it caused fans of soulful wind instruments a moment's confusion before you shot them in the mouth, but it had some drawbacks, too: For one, the off-side weight made the gun difficult to aim. For two, reloading after a single firing meant that the operator had to manually slide the harmonica magazine across to the next round precisely so as not to overshoot the chamber.
Oh, and aside from appearance, there's another similarity between harmonica guns and musical instruments: If you move or place your fingers wrong, you'll produce an extremely unpleasant noise. In music, that means an off-key note; in gunplay, that means the magazine was left between chambers and might chain-fire, thus exploding all of your fingers off.
The Price of Freedom: American's At War
Yeah, it's cool. But it takes, like, three feats to use.
One noise is a bit more unpleasant than the other.
Hand mortars, used from the 1500s through the early 1800s, were designed to solve that age-old problem: If there's somebody standing very far away from you, how do you pull all of his parts off of him without having to walk all the way over there?
The answer, as we all know now, was propelled explosions. We have slick high tech rockets and missiles for that purpose in modern times, but back in the day, the only way to hurl an uncontrolled explosion was with another uncontrolled explosion. Hence, the hand mortar.
Above: Proof that Michael Bay is not a lone historical oddity.
It works a little like our current mortars do, in that it uses explosive force to hurl an explosive device a long distance before it explodes. So wait, why is this considered lunacy? It's a freakin' handheld mortar; that's just plain badass. Give two of them to an irate Chilean and let him loose in Detroit, and you've got the next Grand Theft Auto. There was only one problem: Back in the day, a grenade had a fuse that you lit before hurling it at your adversary. So after lighting the grenade, you stuffed it down the barrel of the hand mortar and then fired that, hoping against hope that the timing worked as intended. Because if that grenade fuse gets bent double on itself, or clipped, or an errant spark detonates it early, you've got a bundle of potential shrapnel in your hand.
Or both hands, depending on how irate and Chilean you are.
Gun Powder Ma
Judging by our reader demographics, the answer to both questions is "very."
Much like any modern pistol, pepperbox guns hold multiple bullets for repeat firing. However, unlike those damned communist revolvers, a pepperbox doesn't believe in "sharing for the common good." Each bullet gets its own private barrel, and probably a two-car garage and a nice lawn to tend, too. That's the American Dream, after all: A gun barrel for every citizen.
If that isn't in the constitution, it damn well should be.
So wait, what's the problem here? You can duel-wield mini guns, right?! Give two of those to a disgruntled Belgian and set him loose in Tokyo, and you've got the nex -- well, you get the idea. But there's a good reason that, outside of Metal Gear Solid, you don't see many soldiers walking around wielding mini guns themselves: They're usually mounted to vehicles or on stands.
Or on badasses.
That's because the weight of the barrels is simply too much to aim precisely, and keeping a steady supply of ammunition -- which, in the pepperbox's case, was loaded manually by hand-rotating the barrel between shots -- is too complex for feasible use on the battlefield. But maybe we're just being wussies here: That six-shot pepperbox up there doesn't look too heavy. But then, what's the point of that? If it's only six shots, that's just a standard revolver.
Which is why most pepperbox guns came with more barrels -- some with 18 or even 24.
This thing really ought to have a "No Smoking" sign stamped on it.
Even if you could haul that bastard into an upright position long enough to empty all of your chambers, it's been estimated that it would take one man anywhere between 40 and 60 minutes to reload it after a single volley. That's somewhere around 40 to 60 minutes longer than you want to spend weaponless while getting shot at by other men with equally ludicrously oversized hand pistols.
Besides, if you're going to go with "intensely impractical but looks fucking bitching to use," well, lunatics of the previous centuries had your back in better ways: Here's the swordcanevolver.
We dearly hope that's supposed to be a horse.
And if simultaneously stabbing and shooting a man isn't enough to get your crazy-socks in a ball, you could always get yourself an Apache revolver, aka your one stop murder shop; the bloodiest knuckles; a veritable Swiss Army Knife of death:
If our Boy Scouts carried these, we wouldn't even need cops.
The Apache revolver, oddly enough, was named for the French Les Apaches and not the Native Americans. While it was noted that, due to the lack of barrel and small caliber, the Apache was not a very effective firearm, shootpunchstabbing enthusiasts did clarify that it still "proved deadly at extremely close range." So no, we're not just being our usual hyperbolic man-child selves when we insist that one operated this gun by "punching bullets into the stab wounds on your enemies' damn heads." That shit was in the manual.
It was a very short manual.
Of course, if brutish brass knuckle guns were a little too low rent for you, history did have a few classier ways to punch a stab into a gunshot wound.
For more from Adam, you can check out the rest of his Cracked articles here or visit Alert Level Tumblr! His friend Kevin Axt also runs the brilliantly funny Web comic Donuts for Sharks, and you should go there right now. Check out other stuff from Ben at This Blog Rules.
For more insane weapons, check out 7 WTF Military Weapons You Won't Believe They Actually Built and The 7 Most Stupidly Overpowered Hunting Weapons.
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