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Marian Perera
07-01-2014, 09:28 PM
Hi guys,

This is a question to do with my story that's set in 1870-1880.

First, I'd like the antagonist to have a pistol. Would it be realistic, in that time period, for the pistol to be a single-shot flintlock? I just don't want bullets spraying all over like Tarantino meets Dickens*, or even the MC counting shots to make sure the cylinder was empty. I really need it to be one-shot, oops missed, either use the pistol itself as a bludgeoning weapon or pause to reload.

Second, the heroine also finds a pistol, except it's unloaded and she doesn't know how to load it, nor is there time. She thinks of bluffing the antagonist with it (she only has to stall him for a minute or two before the previously established paranormal element in the story kicks in to save her). Is it possible for her to pull back the hammer for that decisive metallic click, even when the pistol is unloaded?

Thanks in advance for your help. :)

*Though now that I come to think about it, that might be interesting to play with in a different story. I just watched Django Unchained yesterday.

Torgo
07-01-2014, 09:34 PM
Pretty sure pistols had moved on from flintlock to percussion caps by then (though your antagonist could have an old gun.) The first semi-automatic gun (which is not what you want) was I think invented around 1890, so you'd be in single-shot territory.

EDIT: Oh, no hang on: revolvers existed way before that. I'm sure someone who knows more about guns will be along in a minute :)

ironmikezero
07-01-2014, 09:57 PM
Where is your story set? Anywhere in North America you'd find a proliferation of revolvers (percussion cap and cartridge types). The vast majority were single action (hammer had to be physically cocked, rotating the cylinder to orient a live round/charge with the breech end of the barrel) before a pull of the trigger. There was/is a distinctive ratchet-click sound of the cocking mechanism.

In 1873 Sam Colt introduced the Single Action Army revolver - an improved version of his previous revolvers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_Single_Action_Army

If you must use a single shot pistol, consider a Derringer...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derringer

Marian Perera
07-01-2014, 10:11 PM
Where is your story set?

Should have mentioned this. In a country house in England. Also, neither the MC nor the antagonist are likely to use a state-of-the-art gun, so maybe that makes a difference.

Reading up about percussion caps now. For the story's purpose, though, I need the gun to fire once and then either be more or less useless or require reloading which takes a little bit of time.

ironmikezero
07-01-2014, 10:35 PM
Consider an English pocket pistol (percussion cap, muzzle loader, single shot) manufactured around 1840, and somewhat common in the era of the latter half of the 19th century. Here's an example...

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20066/lot/3374/

Myrealana
07-01-2014, 10:35 PM
Where?

The book I've been writing is set in the American West in 1882, and the most common guns are your basic 6-shooter types, fairly easy to load and shoot.

Flintlocks were replaced by revolvers in the 1840s. You wouldn't likely find a flintlock in that time period, but it might make sense to have a caplock revolver, like the Colt Navy.
http://www.vincelewis.net/coltnavy2.html

Marian Perera
07-01-2014, 11:02 PM
Consider an English pocket pistol (percussion cap, muzzle loader, single shot) manufactured around 1840, and somewhat common in the era of the latter half of the 19th century. Here's an example...

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20066/lot/3374/

That could work. I watched a video on YouTube which showed a cap-and-ball pistol being fired. Must make sure to write the smoke into the story.

In the video, reloading seems to be done fairly quickly and easily, but the video took place without a time limit, in bright sunlight, and the, er, shootout takes place at night. I could always have the antagonist fumble with the caps and drop them, because the paranormal part can give him good reason to be nervous.

Just one more thing to clarify, though - can I still have the hammer cock with the percussion pistol?

Telergic
07-01-2014, 11:03 PM
Flintlocks were obsolete in 1870. Revolvers were widely available and had been for years. Where people have any money at all, they buy up the latest weapons fairly quickly, so (market) penetration is fast. Repeating rifles were on the way in too.

Marian Perera
07-01-2014, 11:04 PM
Where?

The book I've been writing is set in the American West in 1882, and the most common guns are your basic 6-shooter types, fairly easy to load and shoot.

I'm going for an English country house in 1880. If it's very unrealistic for a single-shot gun to be used, I could push the date back a decade or so, because it's really important for the antagonist not to be able to fire twice.

Marian Perera
07-01-2014, 11:05 PM
Flintlocks were obsolete in 1870. Revolvers were widely available and had been for years. Where people have any money at all, they buy up the latest weapons fairly quickly, so (market) penetration is fast. Repeating rifles were on the way in too.

Unfortunately, revolvers or rifles are just not going to work for story purposes, so I'll keep the characters too poor to afford good guns. :)

This actually works fine for the MC, because the gun being an antique handed down through the family would fit perfectly with the setting and characterization.

ironmikezero
07-01-2014, 11:11 PM
Just one more thing to clarify, though - can I still have the hammer cock with the percussion pistol?

Yes, it's single action so the hammer must be cocked (usually with the thumb of the shooting hand).

Fumbling a reload is easy to do, especially when you have to juggle the gunpowder, a patch, the ball, the percussion cap, and manipulate the ramrod - all in the proper order - under stress.