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Unconventional & Obscure Firearms; Pepperbox Pistol, Judge & Governor Guns & More

Some oddball firearms have seen their sun rise and set and very few have survived. Most were built in conservative numbers. The invention of one Sylvester Roper, and his brainchild was the Roper shotgun and is one such oddball. A spring-loaded revolving magazine held 4 rounds. It could be had in 12- or 16-gauge chamberings. As the hammer is pulled, it is linked to the bolt. The magazine would rotate and as the trigger was pulled the hammer and bolt move forward, stripping the shell from the magazine and chambering and firing the round. It could be loaded fairly rapidly. A breach loading repeating shotgun was a novelty in 1866 the year it was introduced, as most people were still armed with ‘smoke poles’ single shot muzzle loaders. Not only that, Roper invented and equipped his shotgun with either an adjustable choke or screw in chokes like we have today, and the mechanism was available as a rifle as well. Roper worked with steam engines and steam powered motorcycles and cars. He collaborated with Christopher Spencer on the first pump action shotgun. Roper was killed in a steam powered bicycle accident going about 40 mph.

Pepperbox Pistol

The pepperbox was a firearm with multiple barrels with three to high as eighteen of ‘em. From matchlocks to cartridges the earliest pepper boxes where introduced as early as the 15th century and was a matchlock. They were popular in the US from about 1830 to the start of the civil war. Defensive only they where only good up close and personal. But multi-shot revolvers where handy in the era of mostly single shot firearms, preceding the domination of sidearms by Samuel Colt. You can still get them today; many are muzzleloaders firing .22 air gun pellets. When they faded from the scene, they were cartridge firing weapons. Some of the early ones relied on the user to manually turn the barrels for the next shot. By the time percussion pepper boxes came on the scene most where single action rotating the barrel on cocking. Today there are cartridge firing defensive weapons with up to four fixed barrels and a rotating firing pin. So, the legacy of the pepper box lives on today.

Judge & Governor Guns

The Brazilian firm Taurus introduced the Judge in 2006. With a rifled barrel this is chambered for .45 Colt and .410 shotgun shells. The Raging Judge adds the 454 Casull to the mix. All can take the shorter .45 Schofield S&W round. Federal even loads special versions of the .410 shotshell for handguns. Smith & Wesson have their own version, The Governor, that adds the .45 ACP with moon clips and 2 ½ inch .410 shot shells. The Governor and the Judge are examples of extreme and somewhat odd modern firearms geared for personal defense.

Volcanic Pistol

The Volcanic Repeating Arm Company, a Smith & Wesson precursor sold the Volcanic, a lever action pistol firing the Walter Hunt Rocket Ball ammunition. This round was a hollow based bullet with the primer and powder in the base. It was a bit anemic considering the constrained powder capacity. Benjamin Henry worked for Volcanic and improved the mechanism and married it to the rimfire cartridge to make the Henry rifle. Oliver Winchester then went on to organize the New Haven Firearms Company with Henry and Winchester teamed up. Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson left and with the Rollin White patent went on to manufacture the No. 1 and No. 1 ½ Smith & Wesson revolvers establish the S&W Company in the firearms industry. Just a touch of history to pique your interest.