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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Jan, 2007 9:50 am    Post subject: Pistol use         Reply with quote

I'm feeling stupid for not having noticed this before.

It strikes me that early pistols--before the development of the modern "pistol grip"--were held in a somewhat different manner from their modern descendants, in some cases in a position differing nearly ninety degrees from what a modern pistol user is used to. But I've never thought of the cause until I tried several possible techniques of quickly switching from the pistol to the sword and back and realized that the pistols might have been designed with swordsmanship skills in mind. The hand position might not be identical but it certainly evokes the grip of a thrusting sword and the pistol itself might have been designed to capitalize on the habits of a well-trained swordsman.

Is it just me or is there a possibility that this might be a valid conjecture? Or am I simply not being dilligent enough in reading the cavalry manuals and this similarity has indeed been mentioned in them?
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Peter Bosman




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Jan, 2007 2:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Buenas.

Isn't is just ergonomics? Just how would the pistolier use his arm? and in this I mean his body-appendage. Now look at what happens to your hand.
The early pistols, before they were called pistols, were very much cavalry weapons. As the handgun evolved and became the pistol it's cavalry function decreased thus imposing differing ergonomics.

Also, a not unimportant feature is the club-like design of the butt in the early cavalry guns, a feature just about useless later.

Peter
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Jan, 2007 3:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would add that with one shot weapons comfort i.e. avoiding a painful recoil shock might be desirable but fast recovery with a slow loading single shot muzzle loader is not a factor.

By the way a Colt .45 automatic doesn't have a grip at 90° degrees to the barrel as that would make the pistol point down too much for a comfortable aim.

Some very early semi-auto pistols had 90° degree handles or very close to it: The Steyr Hahn ( spelling?) comes to mind and a very early form of the Luger also. The Luger has a much more angled grip than most and points really well.

Most early handguns have almost strait handles or ones with just a gentle curve. By 1800 the curve is much more pronounced but one starts seeing modern looking grip angles on the early Colt revolvers around the 1840 period with repeaters where fast recovery from recoil is an advantage for fast repeat shots.

A curved handle just rolls in the hand so with one shot it doesn't hurt the hand but the handgun will or might be pointing very high up ( muzzle climb ) that for a fast follow up shot this is not desirable. ( Well the early Colt do roll in the hand a lot but they are single action and that just puts the thumb of the shooting hand closer to the hammer to cock it for that follow up shot.
With double action revolvers this is not an advantage and the handles would be shaped more like a handsaw handle to lock the pistol down in recoil: A lot of the British made pistols of the period 1850 -1900 are like this. ADAMS, TRANTERS, WEBBLYS. )

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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George Hill




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Jan, 2007 11:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I would add that with one shot weapons comfort i.e. avoiding a painful recoil shock might be desirable but fast recovery with a slow loading single shot muzzle loader is not a factor.

<snip>

A curved handle just rolls in the hand so with one shot it doesn't hurt the hand but the handgun will or might be pointing very high up ( muzzle climb ) that for a fast follow up shot this is not desirable. ( Well the early Colt do roll in the hand a lot but they are single action and that just puts the thumb of the shooting hand closer to the hammer to cock it for that follow up shot.
With double action revolvers this is not an advantage and the handles would be shaped more like a handsaw handle to lock the pistol down in recoil: A lot of the British made pistols of the period 1850 -1900 are like this. ADAMS, TRANTERS, WEBBLYS. )


Absolutely true. I have such an old model revolver, and they do exactly this. Interisitngly, if you look at some later model weapons, even single action, you start to see what Jean terms a handsaw handle, and I rever to as a shoulder at the top of the handle. This 'shoulder' if you will, is something you can press against so the weapon does not change it's postion in your hand.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 5:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hm. Interesting. I've never handled and/or fired a revolver myself--there was a big gap between the 1780 pistol I've tried once and the Walther P38 I'd prefer over just about every other pistol I've tried, so I've never had first-hand experience of the developments in between.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jan, 2007 8:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems like it took a while for the "right" type of grip angle to catch on with pistols. You can find some very early "puffers" from the 1560's with almost a 90-degree angle to the axis of the barrel, while at exactly the same time there were some pistols with absolutely straight stocks, and everything in between. There may well have been some of the "Well, a sword fits like this, a pistol should too" involved, but mostly it's more a case of the makers and users still blindly groping for what suited them best, and trying everything under the sun to try to figure it out. Over the centuries, different angles were considered more "right" than others. And of course even today, different people like different grips and angles. I personally can't stand the feel of a Glock, but others think it's the best thing in the world. But then, I'm an old fan of the Colt Single Action Army and M1911, which have a significantly different grip-to-barrel angle than the Glock, so there you go.

Interestingly, one of the German names for the early pistols is "Fauströhr", or "Fist Pipe", while the Czech name was "Pistala" meaning "Pipe". Most authorities these days go with the idea that the term "Pistol" is derived from the Czech term, rather than from the town of Pistoia, but it's probably really more a case of "Who Knows?"

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 1:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hm. Funny. Could you provide/link to some pictures of those 1560s pistols?

Personally, the angle I like best is the one on the P38. I just like that gun. But I think the PPK--though coming from the same manufacturers--feels very odd!
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette;

Unfortunately I don't have any e-photo's available to post on the really drastic 16th Century pistol grip angles, but there are several pictured in "The Age of Firearms" by Robert Held (1957). But here are a few pictures that are worth checking out, I think, although it seems as thoug most of these are pretty much at the same degree of angle to the barrel as the others shown. I'll dig some more...

Cheers!

Gordon



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"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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George Hill




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 1:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:

Interestingly, one of the German names for the early pistols is "Fauströhr", or "Fist Pipe",


I thought faust had to do with fire?

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2007 7:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

George Hill wrote:

I thought faust had to do with fire?


Fist =die Faust. Die panzerfaust, i.e. an anti-tank weapon of WWII, translates as "Armoured Fist".

Fauströhr=Fistpipe.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting.

You know, even the trigger finger now feels like it's derived from the habit of looping the finger over the cross/quillon. I never thought there'd be that much similarity.

Did Cruso comment on it, BTW?
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Jan, 2007 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Interesting.

You know, even the trigger finger now feels like it's derived from the habit of looping the finger over the cross/quillon. I never thought there'd be that much similarity.

Did Cruso comment on it, BTW?


Actually you're right, when you loop your finger into the trigger guard of a rather straight-gripped pistol it's very similar to looping your finger over the quillon. Interesting.

Per Cruso, not that I am aware of. He doesn't really deal with swords much at all, and that only as a secondary or tertiary weapon that is to be held against the hip and used more as a lance, with the horse supplying the power rather than the man. He definitely was of the school of thought that Lances and Pistols were the primary weapons of horsemen, and swords were for after they were broken or empty.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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C. Reeves





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PostPosted: Sun 14 Jan, 2007 11:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello gentlemen,

Long time lurker once-in-a-blue-moon poster here. This thread happened to catch my eye as I am greatly interested in early firearms. I feel the theory of sword-grip familiarity is quite a good observation. This got me to thinking what else might have been a basis for such grips. Now, this could be a bit of a stretch but let's consider the development of other ranged weaponry of the time. Before firearms came about, there was the crossbow, a relatively straight gripped device with a simple lever mechanism. Then came along hand-gonnes, which were essentialy tiny cannons mouned on a stick or staff of some kind. Now, combine the hand-gonne with the crossbow stock, shorten it, and add more complex trigger mechanisms and one can kind of see a logical progression of how it might have come about.

Also, I once read , thought the name of the source escapes me now, that early trigger/lock mechanisms (especially wheel-locks) sometimes would not ignite the powder reliably. One method was used to help the sparks ignite the powder in the flash pan better was to tilt the gun sideways a bit (a la "gangsta style"). Perhaps early crafters felt a more linear pattern to their firearms made such action easier. Again, probably a bit of a stretch but it is something worth considering I think.

-Chris

PS- Does anyone know of any providers of quality reproduction firearms in similar stylings to the pistols shown in Mr. Frye's post? I am familliar with The Rifle Shoppe, but I have heard they suffer from horrible back order times and semi-permanent lack of inventory. Thanks in advance! Happy
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Jan, 2007 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't help wondering about that either. The original triggers in early arquebuses and muskets were lever-type grips similar to those of their crossbow and serpentine-based predecessors, and the swordsmanship-oriented trigger of the pistol might have been the initial move towards the modern type of trigger mechanism. In the absence of solid historical evidence, though, I'm afraid this may never get beyond the level of educated guesses.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Jan, 2007 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris;

Thank you for posting, it's good to get more folks involved in these discussions! Good points on the straightness of stocks. Could be from swords, or from a pole-arm based evolution, or... hard to say, and as Lafayette notes, I doubt we'll get past educated guesses. But they're fun to engage in never the less. Happy

On holding the pistol sideways, lock up, that was indeed the approved method. Although powder burns "up" (there were some early-19th Century flintlocks with the locks facing upside down, and they work just fine, but are also at the zenith of technical competence in building such locks) it was felt that the best way to ensure ignition of the main charge was to cover the pan with powder, and the best way to ensure that was to hold it so that gravity ensured it. With fairly slow lock-times, it probably also helped to make sure that the powder didn't spill off to the other side in the process of igniting, too. Henri IV of France is said to have ordered his pistoliers to hold their pistols just this way for the Battle of Ivry, and since he won the battle handily, it must have been fairly sound advice. Cool This technique probably did have a great deal to do with the longevity of fairly straight grips, too. (Sad to say, I haven't seen any sights mounted to the sides of the barrels on 16th or 17th Century pistols. Of course, they usually don't have ANY sights, so there it is.)

On another note, there are a significant number of illustrations (mostly German) showing Puffers being fired with the thumb on the trigger, rather than the index finger. Interesting postulations ensue...

Sadly there aren't too many makers out there of wheellocks. They're a bit of a technological oddity as far as most smiths go, and not a lot if market either. But there are some. One is in Germany (of course!), here's his website:

http://www.engerisser.de/Bewaffnung/weapons/Firearms.html

There is a gentleman in Texas, one Taylor Anderson, who also makes such wonders:

http://www.fortcomanche.com/

Unfortunately, my own gunsmith Dale Shinn is retiring from this sort of thing, which is sad beyond belief. But these fellows can certainly be of service to you. But they ain't cheap, and wheellocks never really were.

As far as The Rifle Shoppe goes, they do have a bit of a challenge in getting all of their orders out in a timely fashion, from my understanding. And if you get a kit, they're pretty rough, so unless you have a fairly complete shop to work in, they're kind of difficult to put together. On the other hand, I got an already made Snaphaunce musket lock that is just dandy, and got it quickly, so YMMV. The stuff certainly looks nice, that's for sure.

I hope this helps,

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2007 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the case of modern replica wheellock production, we seem to be pretty close to the historical state of things. The historical ones were mostly custom pieces, and so are the replicas. ;P

But yes, that's a bit sad because now it's a bit dificult to procure a decent wheellock. I'm not sure I'd really want ot get one, though, since it has a reputation for difficult maintenance.

Doesn't it?
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C. Reeves





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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2007 5:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I've read, yes it is a bit of a booger to maintain. The wheel functions pretty similarly to modern cigarette lighters, the flint being rasped against a toothed wheel to cause sparks. In my understanding of things, it wasn't uncommon for the wheel mechanism to get all gunked up with dirt, grease, and a build up of flint dust/pieces. Furthermore, I've heard that wheellocks have a nasty habit of the spring, which turns the wheel, to take a setting or lose it's springiness over time.

Regardless of their ease of maintenance or their functionality as a weapon, one cannot argue that they were marvellous works of art!

-Chris
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2007 6:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maintenence isn't as much of a problem as just keeping it clean. They really start to foul after a dozen or so shots, and then it's a good idea to clean them, at least in my experience. I suppose that on a nice moist day (like is usual in Northern Europe!),which will keep the powder fouling pretty gooey, it would probably stand more shots though. Now that I live in a wet Northern Clime, I'll have to try it some time!

What happens is that the powder fouling builds up between the wheel and the lockplate, and slows the function down. There were numerous wheellocks that had the wheel set INSIDE the lockplate, which probably helped a little bit, but then you'd have the added problem eventually of fouling build up on every piece of the lock, rather than being mostly confined to the wheel.

I haven't really had much of a problem with the springs, though I did have my mainspring re-tempered after about 20 years of use, which isn't really too bad. Not quite as good as with a good flintlock mind you, but so far, so good. No "setting" of springs yet, but then I don't leave mine loaded and spanned overnight, either. Eek! For that sort of use, a flint-type arm is a far better choice, I guarantee.

Anyway, for hunting arm where you fire a few shots in a day, wheellock rifles marvelous. As a Cavalry weapon, where you MIGHT fire a dozen or so shots in a battle, the wheellock pistol is a wonderful arm. For a Cavaly carbine, it's handy in that you don't have to fumble with a match, and it's always ready to go when you are, though limited in the staying power of shooting. And I suspect that the bigger locks of the Carbines were less susceptable to the problems of fouling than the smaller pistols. But for an Infantry weapon where lots of shooting was the norm, a matchlock is a far more efficient weapon, and I can see why it hung on for so long in that role.

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jan, 2007 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah. Good point on maintenance. I'll have to keep that in mind if I ever get the fancy to procure a wheellock weapon (or write fiction with a wheellock-toting character).
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jan, 2007 7:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette;

If you ever need to know more, let me know, and I'll be glad to go through the whole process step-by-step with you. Or you can always jump on a plane and come visit, and you can try it out for yourself. Big Grin

Cheers!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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