Shot Guns

Many miners were armed with shot guns since they could be bought for decent prices. Remington sold them for around $10.00. Many of these could have been old heirlooms. Both hammerless and hammered shots were in use.

Hammered shot guns have two S-shaped pieces. To cock the shotgun, the user pulls back the hammers using the long spurs at the end of the hammer, until they lock when pulled back. Then the user applies a percussion cap to each of the brass nipples of the shotgun. When the user pulls a trigger, the hammer is released. Due to a spring attached to the hammer, the hammer strikes the percussion cap with considerable force, which detonates it and then discharges the firearm. This sort of design has existed since the earliest shotguns.

In the 1830s, the first hammerless shotgun was developed by a Prussian gunmaker named Dreyse.

The next advances were by English gunmakers in the late 1850s and early 1860s. In these versions, a long lever is placed in front of the triggers. This lever can be pushed out to cock the internal hammers and eject the old cartridges and then folded back into place. Many of the early hammerless shotguns used a plan like this.

During the period of 1875 to 1878, several London and Birmingham gunmakers attempted to make self-cocking guns, which would get cocked automatically upon opening the breech. The first successful hammerless action of this type was the Anson and Deeley action, which was invented in 1875. This basic design quickly became the dominant form of hammerless action and has remained almost unchanged to the present day. Since the original design had only 4 moving parts, it was cheaper and more reliable, which contributed to its popularity.

In America, the first hammerless design was by Daniel LeFever in 1878. Like the early European designs, his shotguns had a separate lever to manually cock the shotgun. In 1883, he improved his hammerless design so that the separate lever was no longer needed. Unlike the European designs which would cock the internal hammers upon opening the breech, his design would cock the internal hammers upon closing the breech. He also later patented an automatic ejector which would eject the old cartridges when the breech was opened.

Common on the civilian market in this era were so called “Zulu rifles.” Most of these weapons were former European military weapons, generally Snider-Enfield design, used in France and Belgium. Originally, many of these weapons were muzzle loaded percussion muskets; then converted to breech loader by adding a Snider hinged action; next, most were sold to Belgian surplus dealers who cut down the stocks and bored the barrels smooth or rebarreled with a shot gun barrel. Sold as cheap shot guns and called “Zulu” to invoke images of fierce warriors hunting in the wilds of South Africa. Sold all over the world by ALFA and in this country by Sears during the 1880s and into the new century.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm  Comments Off on Shot Guns  
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