It’s that time again, where we have delved deep into the depths of history to uncover some of the oddities that actually passed for firearms.
Modern firearms are extremely well designed and manufactured thanks to years of research and development. Even the modern air rifle is a wonderful piece of manufacturing, but things weren’t always that way, as you will see below…
The Hand Mortar
(Pictured above, image courtesy of Geni, under Creative Commons)
Unlike the slick, streamlined propelled explosives we have today, the 1500s to the early 1800s saw the use of the hand mortar as a way of firing an explosive over long distances.
It worked pretty much like a modern mortar, in the fact that it uses an explosive force to launch an explosive device a long distance before it blows up. However, firing a powerful explosive device powered by another explosion was fairly difficult to do by hand, which is why modern mortars are secured on the ground.
Oh, and before you could fire the grenade, you had to light a fuse before it could be slung towards your enemy. So, you had to light the grenade, stuff it into the barrel and then cross your fingers that it worked as intended. If the grenade fuse got bent in half, clipped or even a stray spark detonated it early, you were in for a bad time…
Turbiaux Palm-Squeezer Pistol
The French were quite big fans of creating tiny pistols to protect themselves, offering protection in a pint-sized package. One of the smallest to be created was the Turbiaux Palm-Squeezer, which was designed for ease of concealment rather than stopping power.
It was meant to be held with the barrel between your fingers, and then the trigger is squeezed with the palm. It could hold from between eight to ten bullets in its cylinder magazine, making it the perfect assassin’s weapon.
Or not… The bullets from the Turbiaux weren’t exactly as deadly as one may have hoped, meaning it felt more like an insect bite than anything else. Plus, if you had emptied the magazine, you had to fully dismantle the gun just to reload.
Was it a stylish design? Yes. Was it good at doing what it was meant to do? Absolutely not!
First used in the 16th century, the key gun would allow a jailer to keep his weapon on him throughout the entire process of opening and closing a cell door, meaning he would always be protected.
Except when the end of the key - which doubled up as the barrel - was being used to disengage the lock… That’s right, not only was it designed to look like a key to throw people off the scent, it was an actual working key.
There were a few problems with this concept. Firstly, the loop of the key often served as the trigger for the gun, so if you attached the key to loop that held your other keys, you’d be suspending the gun by its trigger, thus drastically increasing the risk of you shooting yourself in the thigh/buttocks/wherever else you hang your keys. Secondly, you leave your keys lying about, you leave a gun lying about… Not very safe! Thirdly, it’s just a bit of a rubbish design, hence why it isn’t around today.
NRS-2 Shooting Knife
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin, under Creative Commons)
Russian Spetsnaz Special Forces have a basic principle that all of their tools and equipment could be used as a weapon, which has led to some odd survival axe/machete hybrids, specially weighted throwing shovels and the NRS-2 scout knife.
The knife can be used both in the hand and as a throwing knife, but also featured a silenced, single shot gun in the hilt. It is aimed by holding the knife by the bland, and sighted by looking along a notch in the crossguard. You can then fire a 7.62x42mm specialty round that produces almost no sound or recoil, which is quite handy seeing as you are aiming the gun with the blade of the knife pointing directly at your eyeball!