The Evolution of the Vintage Hand Gun From A 1940s Article
A curious fact, worthy of mention, is that the word pistol is taken from the town Pistoia, Italy, where pistols were first made and used in 1540. Pistol and Revolver collecting has become an increasingly interesting and valuable hobby. As the antique firearm becomes more and more rare with the passage of time such curios take on deeper interest and become practically priceless. Most collectors have assembled what might be called mass collections or a lot of pistols and guns, many of which differ only in trifling details and are practical duplicates.
One of the most interesting collections of pistols and revolvers to be found anywhere was owned by a collector from New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1940s. The weapons were carefully picked up over a long term of years with the idea of showing the progressive improvement of the hand gun. They range from flintlock to the latest automatic in the 1940s. Every gun was in perfect condition, can be and was fired at one time.
The accompanying image above from the New Orleans collection makes a most interesting study in the step-by-step improvement of the hand gun.
Illustration Number 1 is a solid brass flintlock of the pre-Revolutionary period. It was ingeniously built with a locked cover over the priming pan. The cover kept the powder dry and automatically released and upturned when the trigger is pulled. It was this type of pistol with which Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel.
Illustration Number 2 shows the earliest type of muzzle-loading percussion cap pistol. The invention of the percussion cap in 1807 was a long step in pistol advancement. For now both hunter and soldier had a weapon which could be relied upon never to miss fire even in the rain. However the United States Army did not adopt this improvement until 1834.
Illustration Number 3 shows a disappearing trigger pistol ready for firing.
Illustration Number 3a shows the trigger swung upward out of sight and the barrel unscrewed for cleaning.
Illustration Number 4 a little better model with the bar hammer and double action.
Illustration Number 5 The aim was to get a weapon which would shoot more than once without stopping to reload. No. 5 shows a double barreled pistol. One hammer is down and the other cocked.
Illustration Number 6 shows a clumsy looking weapon called a pepper pot. There are six barrels welded together in a cylinder each one of the muzzle loading percussion cap type. The cylinder revolves automatically as fired. The hammer being on the under side.
Illustration Number 7 is the first real revolver. The five chambers in the cylinder are loaded with power and ball from the muzzle end and equipment with percussion caps. Underneath the barrel is a ramrod for driving home the charge. It is “single action” and some time is required to reload this revolver, but when ready it is a formidable gun. This type of hand gun was used by sheriffs and bad men in the early days in the west.
Illustration Number 8 A quicker action can be secured by No. 8. It is a cap, power and ball gun like No. 7, but it is equipped with a bar hammer and is “double action”.
Illustration Number 9 The invention of the cartridge, in which full cap, power and ball are all enclosed in a single cylinder for quick reloading, was the next long step in hand gun advancement. The first type, invented about 1850, was called pin cartridge. the illustration on the lower right shows several kinds of cartridges. The one designated A being a pin cartridge. Revolver No. 9 is a pin cartridge weapon, being five shot, single action, and equipped with a hand shell ejector.
Illustration Number 10 was a double action pin cartridge hand gun that was an improvement over No. 9. It had a trigger which disappeared when the gun was not used.
Illustration Number 11 is a five shot single action revolver using “teat” cartridges. In a teat cartridge is shown over the letter B on the lower right illustration. The pin and teat cartridge soon were replace by the rim fire cartridge.
Illustration Number 12 is a single shot rim fire pistol. Figure 12A shows the gun opened for reloading.
Illustration Number 13 is also a rim fire pistol with a barrel that swings to one side for reloading. This hand gun is an improvement on the preceding one in that it is equipped with automatic shell ejector.
Illustration Number 14 next is a multiple shot hand gun called the derringer pistol, having two barrels superimposed using rim fire cartridges, single action and having an automatic firing pin which alternately fires fist one barrel and then the other. Figure 14A shows a hinged barrels turned up for reloading.
Illustration Number 15 is a real rare vintage hand gun. There are four barrels superimposed which rise automatically when the hand gun is fired. It is double action. Figure 15 A shows how the pistol looks as the fourth cartridge is being fired.
Illustration Number 16 is of the pepper pot variety. There are eight barrels, which revolve automatically, using rim fire cartridges. It is double action and has a hinged trigger which may be pushed up. The button at the foot of the stock or handle is really the end of a ramrod which may be drawn out for cleaning and reloading.
Illustration Number 17 has four barrels, rim fire, single action with revolving firing pin which discharges the different barrels successively.
Illustration Number 18 is practically the same with the important improvement that it is double action, the four barrels being discharged as fast as one can pull the trigger.
Illustration Number 19 is revolver is a five shot rim fire single action used during the Civil War.
Illustration Number 20 is a seven shot rim fire. No. 20 A shows how it may be taken entirely apart for reloading and cleaning.
Illustration Number 21 is also seven shot single action rim fire but has the advantage of a solid frame giving greater accuracy.
Illustration Number 22 is a five shot single action Remington hand gun that was an improvement to the hand shell ejector.
Illustration Number 23 is a five shot, single action, rim fire Smith and Wesson. Figure 23 A shows the hand gun with the barrel swung upward on its hinge for cleaning and reloading.
Illustration Number 24 is an effort to solve the problem of quick ejection of empty shells for reloading. Figure No. 24 A shows the curious mechanism for opening the revolver and ejecting the empty cartridge.
Illustration Number 25 is an interesting attempt to secure the advantage of double action with out the danger of premature discharge. There are two triggers. The gun is cocked by pulling the upper trigger with the index finger.
Illustration Number 26 may almost be called a “Modern Revolver”. It is a five shot, center fire and double action and was a very serviceable hand gun. However the gun must be taken apart for cleaning and reloading.
Illustration Number 27 is an improvement over No. 26. The cylinder swings easily out sideways for unloading or reloading.
Illustration Number 28 is another improvement over No. 26. This is a five shot, center fire, double action and is easily broken for cleaning and loading.
Illustration Number 29 is the same except it is hammerless. Figure No. 29 A is how both 28 and 29 are open for reloading.
Illustration Number 30 is a an accurate long barreled revolver.
Illustration Number 31 was the latest automatic hand gun built in the 1940s.
With the vast improvements in the hand gun over time it might in order to ask – What of the future?