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The News

Shotguns on Steroids... the Punt Gun

Men have always been good hunters.  The problem is that they are too good, witness the loss of every big animal that roamed the earth during the last ice age.  And during that time we barely had spears and arrows to hunt them with.  That tradition of hunting everything to extinction continues to modern times, such as the disappearance of the passenger pidgeon in the United States, and the increasing difficulty we have in locating what fish are left in the oceans.  

picture of punt gun
From the middle of the Nineteenth Century, so called 'Market Hunters' upped the ante for wildfowl hunting.  They used huge shotguns to take large numbers of ducks and geese with one shot.  These guns were too big to carry around, so they were mounted to small boats, punts, from which the name 'punt guns' was derived.  They could use a pound of pellets, or more, and could collect 50 birds at a shot.  The barrels were up to 2 inches in diameter and the guns could easily weigh one hundred pounds.

picture of punt gun 

Some of these guns are so big, it looks like they were used by some mutant giant race of humans.  They were way too successful, and were banned in the US from 1918, and even earlier in some states, but puntgunning still goes on in the UK.

Machineguns in Cincinnati

Cowan's auction house in Cincinnati is selling off the lifetime collection of Richard Wray, a former President of Wray Electric Company and longtime collector of firearms.  This huge auction includes over 200 firearms and at least 90 rare class III  weapons.  

These guns are not display items, not deactivated or converted to semi-auto, they are the real deal.  Not only that, but most of these guns are rare as can be, and some are complete with all accessories.  This seems to be the auction of a lifetime. The auction is to be held April 30th, 2013.

Some of my favorites...

picture of Lewis Gun

picture of Vickers Gun

picture of Vickers Gun

picture of Lahti anti-tank gun

Wilkinson Webley

The Wilkinson Sword Company was practically an institution of the British Officer Corps.  It was there the well heeled Victorian Officer got his martial gear for parade and combat.  Located next door to the Board of Ordnance at Pall Mall, in London, a newly minted officer could get his field and parade sword, and while he was in the shop, could choose from the best revolvers and leather gear in the business.

This business of providing upper crust officers with finely finished firearms wasn't lost on Webley & Scott.  They furnished Wilkinson with nicely polished and finished revolvers, which were also  some of the best revolvers in the world at that time, and with which an Officer of the British Crown could fancy himself well armed.

Such a revolver was for sale on Gunbroker on 26 April 2011, and it has provenance for a martial family of some repute.  It still seems to have excellent fit and finish, which would be true to it's roots, and would make a fine addition to your British revolver collection.

picture of Wilkinson-Webley

Update 3/20/13:  This gun belongs to Roy Shadbolt who has decided to keep this fine revolver.  He has an article about it on his excellent site about Wilkinson fighting knives. it's worth a look.

Shotgun armed UAV's

The Taiwanese company Autocopter has been building weaponized UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) since 2007.  Their product may not be a Global Hawk carrying Hellfire missiles, but it is still lethal in an up close and personal kind of way.  

picture of Autocopter Gunship


The Autocopter Gunship is 8 feet long and weighs 55 lbs with empty gas tanks, and is powered by a 8 1/2 hp turbine.  With standard tanks, the 60 mph machine could get 30 miles before turning back, and could get to 5000 feet.  

picture of Atchisson Shotgun

The thing that makes it lethal are the two mounted Atchisson 12 gauge automatic shotguns.  These guns are made of stainless steel and seem to be very reliable.  Fed by 8 round stick mags or 32 round drums, they fire at the relatively slow 300 rounds per minute, so no selector is needed to control auto or semi-auto fire.  With the long recoil system, there isn't much recoil, the better to control the helicopter, and they can also be fired upside down, and one is mounted upside down.

picture of helicopter being transported

The choice of ammunition is buckshot, standard slug round and a British invention, the Frag-12 round.  Frag-12's come in many flavors, and the most lethal is the armor piercing round which is a spin stabilized shaped charge warhead, designed to blast into armor plate.  This does have the potential to make this bird a troublesome opponent, and changes the possibilities of the hobby helicopter movement.  Even though the technical possiblities are quite interesting, it is also disturbing, having just read Daniel Suarez's "Kill Decision". These lethal flying machines have.... I'll let it go at that.  You'll enjoy the story, but it may also keep you up at night.

Dynamite Guns

Dynamite guns were developed from 1883 when a Mr. Medford successfully demonstrated a small model of the concept.  The desire was to develop a reliable high explosive shell.  The artillery of the time used black powder as a propellant, and as the bursting charge in the shell, and sometimes the shock of being fired would detonate the round in the barrel.  The big dynamite guns used steam driven air compressors to power their guns, lessening the impact on the unstable charges.

picture of Zalinsky Gun

 A retired artillery officer, Captain Zalinsky witnessed the Medford trial, and developed the guns for the US.  The first 15 inch 3 gun battery was installed at Sandy Hook in 1894, and other installations on the east coast followed, the latest in 1901.  The shells for the 15 inch guns were longer than conventional shells and sported fins, the guns possibly not being rifled, and the fuses were electrically fired nitroglycerin.  Sounds a little less than stable.  

picture of USS Vesuvius

The US Navy got in the act and commissioned the Dynamite Cruiser USS Vesuvius, which was built around a fixed battery of dynamite guns.  Being fixed, the ship had to be aimed at the target, but elevation could be varied with the amount of compressed air used, a could land a projectile up to 1 1/2 miles away.   A Holland submarine was also fitted with two dynamite guns, one for aerial use, and one for underwater firing

picture of USS Vesuvius' guns

The Sims-Dudley Dynamite Gun was a field gun with 2 1/2 inch barrel  and a 10 pound projectile.  Since carrying around a steam driven air compressor was out of the question, a charge of powder was fired in the cylinder under the barrel, compressing air for the operation of the gun.  This gun was finicky enough that mechanics spent more time fixing the gun than firing it.  

Picture of Sims-Dudley Gun

These guns were used in anger during the Spanish-American War.  The Vesuvius bombarded Santiago at night, and as no noise was associated with the firing of the guns, there was a certain psychological impact on the Spaniards.  The Sims-Dudley gun was used, along with Gatlings and Potato Diggers at the Battle of San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt was less than enthusiastic about the gun.  There was somewhat of a psychological effect in this battle too, as the projectile's explosion was delayed about 6 seconds after landing.  These guns seem  more akin to terror weapons than actual artillery.  In any event,  their use was soon discontinued, as development of high explosive shells and fuses enabled conventional artillery use them to better effect.

picture of USS Holland