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In and around the 19th century everyone owned a shotgun.  These ranged from single barreled muzzle loading flintlock "fowlers," double barreled caplock muzzle loaders, external hammer aka rabbit ear cartridge shotguns, hammerless, Winchester lever actions, and even early (but dynamic) pump shotguns.  Shotguns could load such a variety of cheap ammunition that they were suited to small game, fowl, big game, sport, and personal defense. 

Be very careful shooting laminated or damascus shotguns.

History of the Shotgun


The earliest successful pump action shotgun was the 1897 Winchester designed by the legendary John Browning.  One important feature on the 97 was the ability to be "slam fired" where you just kept the trigger pressed and every time that you pumped the shotgun it fired.  The 97 could be slam fired so fast that it was used by US troops in WW I to counter the new Imperial German submachine guns. 

Slam fire video

Winchester 1897 wiki

Notice that the 97 has an external hammer unlike most modern pump action shotguns.

Spencer Rifle wiki

The Spencer was the first real military repeating rifle.  With almost a quarter million manufactured and firing a fairly powerful .56-56 round they were widely used.  Their downsides included rim-fire ammunition (hard to reload) and the hammer needing to be cocked separately from using the lever to eject/chamber rounds. 

The main rival to Spencer rifles were Winchester rifles which were cocked by the lever and by 1886 available in more powerful, center-fire cartridges.  Center-fire cartridges are generally easier to reload.  This self-sufficiency made them more popular on the frontier.

Despite the US Army's resistance to using Spencer rifles they proved VERY effective especially at the Battle of Chickamauga where they have been compared to modern attack helicopters compared to the conventionally armed Confederate units. 

Sturm Ruger wiki

Ruger official site

Although Sturm-Ruger was not in business until the 1940s they have become a premier six-gun maker.  Their very reasonably priced revolvers are well known for their reasonable pricing, accuracy, reliability, and durability making them a favorite with Cowboy Action Shooters.   Ruger's "old" and New Vaquero revolvers have become especially popular.  You can see several upgrades over the original Peacemaker design.

When post war production of metallic cartridges began to meet public demand there were still tens of thousands of cap&ball revolvers being carried.  Several gunsmiths and even major manufacturers offered conversion services for these revolvers at pretty fair prices compared to a new pistol.

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Some old cap&ball inventory was converted before sale.  These conversions tended to be less expensive, fired smaller cartridges like .38 S&W, were very accurate, and felt nice in the shooter's hand. 

PinFire Cartridges

PinFire metallic cartridges were invented in 1830 then patented in 1835 making them the earliest successful metallic firearms cartridge system. 

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There is actually a pin sticking out of the cartridge side which is struck by the hammer.  Notice that the hammer trikes the top of the cylinder where the pin projects rather than the back as in centerfire of rimfire firearms.

The obvious disadvantage to a pinfire is that the ammunition was carried loose in a bag which could be bumped potentially causing some very loud and bloody excitement.  Since pinfire technology was primarily European and not seen nearly as much in the Americas it did not enjoy the practical innovations of gunleathers which might have shielded the protruding pins for accidental ignition. 

The upsides to pinfire technology was that ammunition became available for revolvers, breechloading rifles, and shotguns.   Most pinfire weapons were semi-custom manufactured in a sort of standardized cottage industry based mainly in Belgium and France but also throughout Germany and Spain among other tertiary countries.  These resulted in some beautiful, innovative, and very steamy firearms that became rarer after Eli Whitney's introduction of mass production.  Pinfire ammunition can be produced in extreme sizes from 2mm to over 15mm. 

Related image

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These watch fob 2mm pistols are still in production.

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