1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pistol

PISTOL, a small fire-arm designed for quick work and personal protection at close quarters, and for use in one hand. It was originally made as a single and also double-barrelled smooth bore muzzle-loader, involving no departure in principle from the ordinary Ere-arms of the day. With the introduction of revolvers and breech-loading pistols and the application of “rifling” to musket barrels, came also, in the early half of the 19th century, the rifling of pistol-barrels.

History.—Pistols are understood to have been made for the first time at Pistoia in Italy, whence they receive their name. Caminelleo Vitelli, who nourished in 1540, is the accredited inventor. The first pistols, in the 16th century, had short single barrels and heavy butts, nearly at right angles to the barrel. Shortly afterwards the pattern changed, the butts being lengthened out almost in a line with the barrels. These early pistols<ref>For the use of long heavy pistols by cavalry in the 16th and 17th centuries, see Army: History; and Cavalry.</ref were usually fitted with the wheel-lock (see Gun). Short, heavy pistols, called “daggs,” were in common use about the middle of the 17th century, with butts of ivory, bone, hard wood or metal. A chisel led Italian dagg of 1650, for example, had a slightly bell-nosed barrel of about 8 in. in length and 14 bore. The German wheel-lock military pistols used by the Reiters, and those made for nobles and gentlemen, were profusely and beautifully ornamented. Pistols with metal hafts were common in the 16th and 17th centuries, many beautiful specimens of which, silver-mounted, were made in Edinburgh and used by Highlanders. Duelling, when in vogue, caused the production of specially accurate and well-made single-barrelled pistols, reliable at twenty paces. The pattern of this pistol seldom varied, its accuracy at short range equalling that oi more modern ones, the principle of a heavy bullet and light charge of powder being employed. The first double barrelled pistols were very bulky weapons made with the barrels laid alongside one another, necessitating two locks and two hammers. There was also the “over and under” pistol, one barrel being la1d over the other. This was a more portable weapon, only requiring one lock and hammer, the second barrel being turned round by hand, after the first had been fired, or, as an alternative, the flash-hole being adjusted to the second barrel by a key. These pistols were first made with flint and steel locks and subsequently for percussion caps. Double “over and under ” pistols were also made with a trigger mechanism that served to discharge both barrels in turn.

Fig. 1.—Dagg (Royal United Service Institution).

Revolvers.—A revolver is a single-barrelled pistol with a. revolving breech containing several chambers for the cartridges, thus enabling successive shots to be rapidly fired from the same weapon without reloading. The ordinary pistol is now, and has been for many years past, superseded by the revolver. The first revolver, fired with the percussion cap, was made with the whole of the barrels, six, seven or eight, revolving in one piece, and was known as the “pepper-box.” It was “single action,” ie. the hammer was raised and the barrels revolved by the pull of the trigger. This weapon was cumbrous and no accurate aim could be taken with it owing chiefly to the strength and resistance of the main-spring and the consequent strong pull required on the trigger. The principle of a revolving breech to one barrel, which superseded the “pepper-box,” is an old one in the history of fire-arms, dating from the 16th century. At first the breech cylinder was revolved by hand, as in the revolving arquebus or matchlock, a specimen of which is now in the Tower of London, but this was subsequently improved by introducing geared mechanism, by which the pull of the trigger or the cocking of the hammer, or both, do the work. There exists a pistol of the time of Charles I which is rotated automatically as the hammer is raised.

rapidly fired, if necessary, by the trigger action alone. Many revolvers on the Colt principle were in use during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and proved of valuable service to British officers.

As rim-fire, pin-lire and central-fire cartridges were succes

FIG. 2 ~Wheel-lock pistol (Royal United Service Institution). In 1814 a self-acting revolver mechanism of a crude pattern was produced in England. Four years later Collier used a separate spring to rotate the chamber. In 183 5, an American, Samuel Colt, produced and patented the first practical revolving pistol, the idea of which was obtained by him, it is stated, from an ancient “ revolving ” weapon in the Tower of London. The chambers of the first Colt revolver were loaded with powder and bullets from the muzzle end, and each 'chamber had a nipple that required to be capped. It was the invention of the copper cap that made the Colt revolver possible. Under the old gsively introduced, breech-loading revolvers were constructed to use them. Messrs Smith & Wesson, of Springfield, U.S.A., produced the first metal cartridges tor revolvers. Pin-fire cartridges, paper and metallic, were used on the continent of Europe for Lefaucheux and other revolvers, and these and rimfire cartridges are still used for revolvers of small calibre. But since the central-fire cartridge has proved its superiority for guns, its principle has been generally applied to pistol cartridges, at first to the larger bores.

The alteration of the muzzle-loading to the breech-loading

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FIG. 3.—Wheel-lock pistol (Royal United Service Institution). g

priming system with exposed powder in a pan the difficulty of separate and effective ignition with the revolving cylinder was almost insuperable.

The first American revolver makers caused the cocking of the hammer to revolve the cylinder, while the English makers effected this by the pull of the trigger. In 1855, Adams of London, and also Tranter of Birmingham, brought out the double-action revolver, in which the revolution of the cylinder could be effected by both these methods. When the revolver is cocked and fired by pressing the trigger, greater rapidity of chamber in the revolver involved no decided change of type. The original Colt, as a breech-loader, remained practically the same weapon as before, with a changed chamber. A hinged flap uncovered the breech-chamber on the right, and as each chamber reacl1ed that point the empty cartridge case was ejected by means of an ejecting-rod carried in a tube attached to the under side of the barrel and kept in place by a spiral spring, and the chamber reloaded. The next improvement was greater ease and rapidity of extraction, obtained first by Thomas's invention of making the barrel and chamber slide l


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FIG. 4.—Flint-lock pistol (Royal United Service Institution). fire is obtained than when the hammer is cocked with the thumb, the trigger requires a long pull and to compress the mainspring and

double action revolver was, there single action, enabling the first and

but accuracy is impaired, as

considerable force in order

revolve the cylinder. The

fore, a great advance on the

also following shots, if desired, to be accurately fired by a moderate pressure of the trigger after the hammer had been cocked by the thurrb; or, alternatively, the revolver could be forward on the frame of the pistol. The extractor, being fast to the pivot, retained the cartridges until the chamber was pushed clear of them. Then the chamber was made to swing on one side, as in the Colt pistol illustrated, enabling all the cartridges to be simultaneously extracted. Finally, self-extracting revolvers with jointed frames were introduced, in which the dropping of the barrel forces out the extractor as in an ordinary double I gun, the extractor acting simultaneously in all the chambers of the pistol. A spring returns the extractor to its place when the empty cartridge cases have been ejected, and brings the barrel to an angle of about 45°, for convenience in loading. The soundness and rigidity of the weapon depend upon the efficiency of the connexion between the barrels and the standing breech, and a top snap bolt has proved the strongest and handiest with the pistol, as with the shot-gun.

This type of revolver originated with Messrs Smith & Wesson, but they and other gun makers have greatly improved upon the original model. Between the American pattern and the English, as made by Messrs F. Webley & Son, the chief diierence is that in the Smith & Wesson the holding-down bolt or catch is upon the barrel, and it engages with the top of hammer and trigger when the latch is pushed to the rear for opening the cylinder, and does not unlock them until the cylinder is positively closed a11d is locked by the latch The cylinder revolves and is supported on a central arbour of the crane (E). The crane fits in a recess in the frame below the barrel and turns on its pivot arm (A). 'I he ejector rod with its spring sses through the centre of the cylinder arbour and is terminatediain rear by the ejector with a ratchet (y). Pushing against the front end of the ejector rod will empty the chambers, the c linder being swung out for loadin The thumb-piece of the latch (7) slides to the rear in the left sizfe of the frame, unlocking the cylinder for opening, but upon closing the cylinder, the body of the latch firmly enters a recess in the ejector, locking the cylinder in position for firing. One great disadvantage of revolvers is the escape of gas at the opening between the breech of the barrel and the cylinder.

Institution) .

FIG. 6.-Pepper-box revolver.

This escape corrodes the surrounding parts and also materially diminishes the pressure in the barrel and the consequent velocity of the bullet.

FIG. 5 -Percussion-lock pistol (Royal United Service the standing breech, whereas in the Webley the bolt is upon the standing breech and grips the extremity of the hinged barrel. Neither mechanism is as strong as could be wished if heavy charges of smokeless nitro-compounds are to be used. This hinged type of revolver is most convenient for use on horseback, as the pistol can be opened, the cartridges extracted and the C'!.[)OI'1 reloaded with one hand

The Calfs Double-acizon Revolver, calibre -38, model 1896, used in the United States army, consists (figs. 7 and 8) of the barrel (B), the cj linder (C) with six chambers, the frame (F), and the firing mechanism, all of steel. The muzzle velocity, with a charge of 16 grains of black powder and a bullet of 150 grains of lead, is about 708 ft per second, giving at 25 yards a penetration of about 5 in. in pine The lock mechanism consists of the hammer (h), with its stirrup (r), stirrup pin (p), strut (s), strut pin (1), strut spring (g); the trigger (t); the rebound lever (l); the and (a), with the spring (z); the cylinder bolt (b), with its spring (x); the locking ever (v); the main spring (m), and rebound lever spring (n). The hammer (h), trigger (t), and rebound lever (l) are pivoted on their respective pins, h1ch are fastened in the left side of the frame. The lower end of the rebound lever spring (11) is secured to the frame and the free end bears under the rear end of the rebound lever so that the latter, when the tri ger is released, cams the hammer back to its safety position, and forces the trigger forward. Pressure upon the trigger causes its u per edge to engage the strut, and thereby raises the hammer until) nearly in the ful -cock position, when the strut will escape from the trigger, and the hammer, under the action of the main-spring, will fall and strike the cartridge. A projection on the upper part of the trigger, working in a sot in the frame, pre ents the cylinder from making more than one-sixth of a revolution at a time by entering one of the grooves nearest the rear end of the surface of the cylinder. When the cylinder is swung out of the frame, the arts are arranged to prevent the cocking of the hammer. The cylinder bolt is pn oted on the trigger pin, and its spring, bearing on the rebound lever arm, causes the nose of the bolt to project through a slot in the frame ready to enter one of the rectangular cuts in the cyiinder surface. During the first H1OClT1€l'1t of the trigger in cocking the revolver, the nose of the bolt is withdrawn, allowing free rotation of the cylinder. The object of the bolt is to prevent rotation of the cylinder in transportation The hand is attached by its pivot to the trigger, and, as the latter swings on its pin when the hammer is being cocked, the hand is raised and revolves the cylinder, and also serves to lock the cylinder in position at the time of fning. An abutment on the side plate supports the hand spring in rear The slpring ensures the engagement of the hand with the ratchet (y). T e reV01Ver 15 eocked by hand by withdrawing the hammer by the pressure of the thumb until its full-cock notch engages in the rear sharp corner of the trigger. Pulling the trigger then releases the hammer, allowin its firing pin (f) to move forward and strike the cartridge The Iocking lever is pivoted by its screw in a recess in the left side of the frame, and so connected with the latch that it locks the I

In the Nagant revolver, adopted by Russia, this disadvantage has been overcome by employing a long cartridge case which extends beyond the nose I of the bullet and bridges the gap between barrel and cylinder as the cylinder is moved forward. A “ mitrailleuse ” pistol has also been constructed by the Braendlin Armoury Co., Ltd., on the “ pepper-box ” principle, with fixed barrels, either four or six, arranged in pairs, and a special striking mechanism, in which there is no revolving chamber and no escape of gas at the breech. It gives stronger shooting than a revolver, but is more cumbrous, and has the serious defect that the shock of the discharge of one barrel sometimes prematurely fires a second barrel.

In 1865, Sharp, an American, patented an invention to remedy the escape of gas, in which the four barrels of the pistol

FIGs. 7 and 8.-Colt double-action revolver. were drilled the full length out of one block of metal. The barrels were slid forward by an under lever to load, and the firing was effected by a revolving head to the hammer, set by the action of cocking the pistol.

About 1878 Messrs Lancaster introduced both two- and four barrelled hammer less pistols, in which an internal hammer was worked by the pull of the trigger. In all the three weapons above mentioned e t

t The Mauser “ self-loading " pistol (H of the

g. 9) is one of the earliest

successful automatic weapons. It is usually -300 calibre, I0 shot, with a metal clip loader from which the cartridges are 1 “stripped " into the magazine, weight 2% lb, length of barrel 5% in.; bullet 85 grains, initial velocity about 1394 f.s. The barrel (I) and body (2) are in one piece' the latt the bolt (3) The barrl d

er contains

e an body slide on the frame (4); the Io-shot 1////%%/W in alga fine (5)6:31nd gh? sipclc alxée in one piece fn/ith tlhe frame, andfthe 5 4 The bhiinéf wliilfch isxsqdaie sligtescislzlfgiliiodg, glued liialiepztlrgirgsséh up to the chamber by the bolt s ring (8); the rear end oi) this bolt 4 spring beiars aiainstlthe blocl; E)) The grgier and efctxiacior ax3e containe in the bo t. The olt is locke y the bo t~ oc (Io varieties of pistols are still made-the small pocket pistol, for digfggg lggéglughttfle Genetifdt'1§ 'e°“Ot°e, § {'e0f"§ , 'Zl“§ i§§ L -;is supp ore a mm n

example, and occasionally the heavy double-barrelled horse' a pmjectlon on the lock frame UZ); the top of the bO1t 1OCk'haS P1S101- At 0116 111110 these latter were much used, Of -577 bore, two teeth (13), which in the loaded and cocked position ht into as Well as the well-known short, large-bore pistol known as the two f€C€SS€S In the bolt, and the bottom of its front e11$1 lH ff0Uf Of Derringer, usually of -41 Calibl-e The double horse pistol is the body attachment (1I)lhas another tooth (14) which bears on the H d f b .d d h 1 b 1 rocker (15). This rocker is pxvoted at its bottom corner. The now usua y ma e or a. zo- ore cartrl ge an sp erica ul et, imaimspring (16) bears in from against the kand welghs about 35 lb. It is a clumsy, but effective weapon, against the h roc er, and in rear

ammer mechanism. The action of the mechanism is as follows: on pressing the trigger, the tri ger nose lifts the lever (18) which is attached to the sear (19), the ifting of the sear allows I the main-spring to act backwards on the hammer, which impinges on the striker and fires the cartridge. At this moment the bolt is locked by the two upper teeth (13) of the bolt-lock, which is itself held up by the lock frame projection (13). But, the barrel body and bolt recoiling together $3 of an in, the rear end of the bolt-lock (1o) is no longer supported, the rocker (15) acting on the forward tooth (14) pulls down the bolt-lock and its u per teeth, the nose of the bolt-lock falling into the recess just behind the projection (12). Thus the barrel and body come to a standstill and the remaining recoil energy is used in driving back the bolt (now free) and extracting the cartridge case When this energy is used up the bolt spring (8) reasserts itself, drives the bolt forward and pushes another cartridge into the chainber as in the magazine rifle, and the main-spring, acting on the rocker, pulls u the boltlock again and engages the teeth (13) in the bolt, lociing it for

FIG. IO.*CO1t automatic -A, .,


the next shot. The releasing of the trigger brings the sear to its former position, cocking the pistol. This pistol is usually supplied with a wooden holster which can also be attached to the grip of the pistol and so form a shoulder-stock for long-range shooting. It is sighted from 50 to 1000 yards.

The Colt Automatic Pzrtol, calibre -38 (fig. 10) consists of four main parts, namely the frame (F), the barrel (B), the slide (S), and the magazine (M) The frame forms, at its rear and lower part, the handle (A), which is hollow, and contains the seat for the magazine After being charged with seven cartridges, the magazine is seated from below and held in lace by the magazine catch (n) which slightly projects from the 'bottom of the handle. This projection serves to release the magazine from the catch, when it can be readily drawn from the handle for re-charging. In front of the handle is the trigger guard (g), in which the trigger (t) is tound, and in the rear and above the grip the firing mechanism is placed in the part of the frame called the receiver (R). The firing mechanism consists of the hammer (h), the sear (w), the trigger (t), a safet device (a), the main-spring (z) and sear spring (e), the lower part oly the latter serving to o erate the ma azine catch. The top of the receiver extends forwardp from the handle, and to it the ba1 rel is attached by two short links, one (I) near the front end of the barrel, and the other (o) at its rear end; these links are pivoted to the receiver and also to the barrel, and allow the barrel to swing rearwards thereon. As both links are of the same length, the rearward movement of the barrel in swinging on these links carries the barrel slightly downwards, but keeps its longitudinal axis in parallel positions during all its movements. Below the barrel the receiver forms a tubular seat for the re tractor spring (r), which in front is closed by a plug (ta) fastened in the receiver by the lower pivot-pin (1) of the front barrel-link. The upper surface of the receiver and two longitudinal grooves on its sides form the seat for the slide, which is guided thereon in its rearward and forward movements. The rear part of the slide forms the bolt or breech block (K), and the front part forms a partly tubular cover (5) which encloses the barrel. In the forward part of the receiver is a transverse mortice extending through the re tractor spring seat, and transverse recesses in the forward part of the slide serve to admit a key (m) which, passing through the sides of the slide and through the mortice, serves to lock the slide to the frame. The re tractor spring (r), in its seat in the frame, consists of a spiral spring, the rear end of which rests against the receiver, and the front end of which carries a piston (p). The rear face of the key (m) has a slight recess, and when the key is in its place the front end of the re tractor spring rests in this recess, thereby confining the key laterally. The tension of the re tractor spring is exerted to force the key and the slide to their forward position. Upon the barrel are provided three transverse ribs (b), and in the interior of the slide are three corresponding recesses. These serve to lock the barrel and the slide firmly together when in their forward position. Between the locking recesses and the bolt, the slide has an opening on its right side for the ejection of the cartridge cases (J), and the bolt is provided with an extractor, a firing pin (f), a firing pin retraction (I9)

spring (q), and a firing pin lock (y). This latter is ivoted at the rear end in the top of the slide, and when depressed, lpocks the firing pin in its retracted position, thus preventing its point from coming in contact with the cartridge primer. When raised, the tiring pin lock releases the firing pin, and in this position also serves as the rear sight, being provided on the top with a sighting notch. The operation of the pistol is as follows: When a charged magazine (M) is inserted, the slide (S) is drawn once to the rear by hand, thereby cocking the hammer (h) In this position of the slide, the carrier (c) and carrier spring in the magazine raise the topmost cartridge so as to bring it into the path of the bolt (K). On releasing the slide, it, with the bolt, is carried forward by the re tractor spring (r), and during this movement the bolt forces the topmost cartri ge into the barrel (B). As the slide approaches its forward position the front of the bolt encounters the rear end of the barrel and forces the latter to its forward position. During this forward movement the barrel swings forward and upward on the links (l, 0), and thus the locking ribs (b) on the barrel are carried into the corresponding locking recesses in the slide. The barrel and slide are thereby interlocked, and the pistol ready for firing. A slight pull on the trigger (t) now serves to move the sear (w) so as to release the hammer (h) and fire a shot. The force of the powder gases driving the bullet from the barrel is exerted rearwardly against the bolt, and, overcoming the inertia of the slide and the tension of the re tractor spring, causes the slide and the barrel to recoil together. After moving rearwards together, for a distance, enough to ensure the bullet having passed from the barrel, the downward swinging movement of the barrel releases the latter from the slide and stops the barrel in its rearmost position. The momentum of the slide causes the latter to continue its rearward movement, thereby again cocking the hammer and compressing the re tractor spring, until, as the slide arrives at its rearmost position, the empty shell is ejected from the side of the pistol and another cartridge raised in front of the bolt. During the return or forward movement of the slide caused by the re tractor s rin 1 P § »

the cartridge is driven into the barrel, and the slide and barrel are interlocked, thus making the pistol ready for another shot. These operations may be continued so long as there are cartridges in the magazine, each discharge requiring only the slight pull on the trigger. The pistol is provided with a safety device (a) which makes it impossible to release the hammer unless the slide and barrel are in their first forward osition and interlocked In the Borchardt-Leuger pistol)(fig. 1 1) the bolt is solidly supported

FIG. 11.-Borchardt-Leu er (Text-book Snap!! Arms,1b[y permission of the Contro er of H. . stationery Oliice). '.v -=

at the moment of firing by a toggle joint. The barrel (1 A) and body (1 B) slide in the frame (1 C), the bolt (2) slides in the body and is held up to the breech by the toggle joint 3 and 4 and the pins 5 and 7, which secure the links of the toggle to the body. The centre of pin (6) is below those of the other pins so that the joint cannot bend at the moment of firin . On the rear link (4) there is a swivel (9) which is connected to tie recoil spring (1o) in the gri . This pistol is fired by a spring striker, like a rifle, instead of b a liiammer. The striker is within the bolt; it is cocked in the recoilyposition by a claw on the end of the front link (3 A) and held thus when ready to fire by the nose of the trigger sear, these engaging with a projection (8 A) on the side of the striker. The magazine (8 shot) is in the grip. The action is as follows: the first cartridge is loaded from the magazine by pulling back the toggle joint. As soon as the toggle joint is released the recoil sprin acts and forces the bolt home, with the cartridge in fiont of it. gn pressing the trigger the barrel and body recoil a little. Then the toggle joint comes against curyed ramps on the sides of the non-recoiling frame and is forced up, so that thereafter the bolt alone recoils (the ejector is similar in principle to that of a rifle). The recoil spring then acts as before on reloading

Other varieties of the automatic pistol are the “ Mannlicher, ” the “ Mars, " the “ Bergmann " and the “Webley.” The last, being simple in construction, small and light, weight 18 oz. and length over all only 6% in., may be classed as a pocket pistol. Qualiiies of Automatic Pistols — In reference to the general qualities of automatic pistols, while these weapons have the advantage over revolvers of longer range and greater rapidity of fire and recharging, on the other hand they are necessarily more complicated in their mechanism, which has to do the work of extraction, reloading and cocking that in the revolver is done by hand. A stoppage may oCCur through a cartridge missing fire, or continuous uncontrolled f1re may take place through the trigger spring breaking until the magazine is exhausted Their action is also to some extent uncertain, as it depends on the recoil of the discharge, which may be affected by variables in the cartridge, also the effective automatic working of the moving parts depends upon their cleanliness and lubrication. As automatic pistols, like revolvers, are intended for personal defence at short range and for sudden use in emergencies, simplicity of mechanism and certainty of action are in their case of paramount importance There is usually no time to rectify a stoppage or jam, however slight. From a military point of vievs, therefore, before the revolver is altogether superseded by the automatic pistol, it is most desirable that the latter should be as certain in its action under service conditions as the former. Some automatic pistols. as already stated, are siglited up to 1000 yards, and provided with attachable butts. The practical value of these improvements is open to question, as the sighting of a pistol differs materially when used with and without a butt, and under no circumstances can the accuracy of shooting of a pistol even with a butt, equal that of a carbine. The tendency in automatic pistols has been to reduce the bore to -3 in, and increase the muzzle velocity, on the lines of modern small-bore rifies. These, again, would appear to be advantages of minor importance in a weapon intended for use at short range in the field, where a heavy bullet of fairly large diameter, with a moderate muzzle velocity, has 2. more immediate and paralysing effect, and is therefore, from this point of view, and particularly in savage warfare, preferable to a small projectile of high muzzle velocity.  (H. S.-K.)