Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The tools presented in GLW and Homesteader

There are not many weapons specified in either “The Great Liquor War” or “Homesteader: Finding Sharon”. First I’ll take a look at those mentioned specifically and then move on to those that would be probable.
Hank James and most of those he dealt with carried the Colt Single Action Army also called the “New Army”, the “Peacemaker”, the “Frontier Single Six” and a host of other names derived from the depths of some super salesman’s imagination. It was designed for the US Army which called for a 7 ½” barrel and chambered for .45 Government. This was quickly followed by .44-40 which allowed the user to have one cartridge for both his Colt and his Winchester Model 1873. During its first production cycle of 68 years it was available in a total of 27 calibers and in almost any barrel length imaginable including perhaps a half dozen with 12” barrels for Edward Judson, Jr. who wrote dime novels under the name Ned Buntline. True West Magazine contributors have done extensive research and found that a few of these “Buntline Specials” actually did exist. Several more have been made for TV and Hollywood productions.
In “The Making of Jake McTavish” I have included a “Sheriff’s Special” or “Storekeeper’s Model” which did not have an ejector housing (no room) and came with a 4” barrel although 2 ½” and 4 ½” were also made. Also mentioned in the “Jake” story is the Colt .36 Navy and since this was long after percussion weapons it would probably be the 1861 model.
Below are the Colt SAA (this is a second generation model meaning it was made for smokeless  powder sometime popularity forced Colt to make them again.)
A Colt Navy .36, 1861
A Colt SAA Sheriff's Model.

            The British Columbia Provincial Police were not issued weapons until many years after the time depicted in these two novels but most carried the Colt “New Army” although some preferred the S&W .44 American or the Remington Model 1875 Single Action Army. Some carried one of the many .38 calibers available at the time in both single action and (after the BCP Police had already been around for 25 years) double action revolvers. Since they often bought them out of their own money what was chosen could be almost anything.
Here is a S&W .44 American and underneath it a Remington 1875 Army

            The North West Mounted Police who also feature prominently in “GLW” where first issued the Snider-Enfield .577 carbine and a .450 Adams revolver. However by the time of this story they had changed to the Winchester Model 1876 military carbine in .45-70 and the Colt Single Action Army.
This is the Snyder-Enfield action. Snyder was an American inventor who developed a way to make the muzzle loader a breach loader.

The Adams .455

Winchester 1876 .45-70

            Near the climax of The Great Liquor War Hank’s friend Harry Gilmore saves Hank with a shot from his “.50 Springfield”. From 1794 until 1968 many rifle models manufactured at the Springfield, Massachusetts Armory were referred to as “Springfields” but with the caliber specified it probably would be a .50 trap-door single shot US Army rifle Model 1873 made in the Springfield Armory starting in 1873. Designed for the US Army (with carbines for the Cavalry) many made their way into civilian hands.
Springfield .50

            Probably the longest production run for a “Springfield” would be the M1 Garand (4.5 million copies) (.30-06 produced from 1936 to ‘57) and the last would, I think, be the M14 in the NATO 7.62mm (.308 produced 1959 – ’64 and upgraded variations still made).

            At the end of the GLW Hank collects a set of Remington 1875 Single Actions with a nickel finish. In the early 1870s Remington lost out to Colt in the US Army contract (a year late) but they did manage to attain contracts for other government orders including one for the US Ministry of the Interior who issued nickel plated Remington revolvers to many of the tribal police forces. These were first issued in .44 Remington Centerfire and later in .44-40.
In later years Remington also released updated versions which I touch in on a story I'm working that, right now, I call "Cattle Business."
A rare 1888 version in .44-40

A Remington 1890

            My last release, “The Making Of Jake McTavish” takes place in 1898 and by this time the bolt action rifle was becoming popular and available in new calibers. It was also at this time that smokeless powder was introduced. Another weapon that I introduce in this story is the Remington Double Deringer which was chambered for .41 rimfire short.

            During the years depicted, the mid 1880s, there would have been a variety of weapons available in both British Columbia and over the mountains in the North West Territories and many where the same weapons found south of the 49th parallel and most other places in the world. Most of those living in the area, native, European, rural or urban fed themselves from the available wild life. Victoria and New Westminster were actual towns so many people there would rely on others to supply their meat but most became familiar with most aspects of preparing their own food. Some weapons where more popular than others, whether through availability, price or access to ammunition but any rifle that one may have heard of could be found somewhere in the west.
            Avocation could also have influence on what a person might want for a weapon. Trappers for example would want something of a small caliber to dispatch their “catch” both quickly and humanly without excessive damage to the pelt and therefore often chose something like a .22. If they could afford it (or thought they could) they might have a .22 revolver for trapping and a rifle in a much larger caliber for bringing down meat. I’ve heard and read stories where a trapper decided to back away from one of his traps and let “Mr. Bear” clean it out since all he had on his hip was a .22 pistol.

            As pictured in “Homesteader” many of those working the wild cattle and horses of the time would want a pistol with a fairly large bore. An 800 lb cow or steer can charge a man very quickly and it takes something with serious impact to slow him or her down. If you are being dragged through the brush by one foot hung up in a stirrup you don’t want that to go on very long. (I can personally attest to that!) Grizzly bears, timber wolves and coyotes can also view a 50 lb. calf as a very tasty morsel and although these species have been taken with small calibers it is probably best not to count on it. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The tools presented in Partners

            My thoughts, feelings and understanding of firearms should be obvious to regular readers. Let me dispel any question by stating that I believe the well made firearm demonstrates the absolute apex of man’s ability to design, engineer and manufacture a tool which can be both functional and pleasing to view. The results of use by man can be the ugliest and destructive of scenes but that is not the fault of either the tool or its designer.
            There are firearms in all of my novels that have been released and many of the short stories. The first mentioned in “Partners” is the Colt revolving shotgun and later in the narrative its brother the Colt revolving rifle shows up. As with the Paterson Colts first seen by the public in 1837 these long guns were revolutionary and their production actually preceded the production of the hand guns. The First Model Ring Lever Rifle was produced in .34, .36, .38, .40 and .44 with 8 shot and 10 shot cylinders although the 10 shot may be impossible to find. This First Model was followed by replacement models with several improvements and the first shotgun in 16 gauge with a 6 shot cylinder in 1839.

            All these early Colt revolving rifles, despite improvements suffered from similar problems. They were all very inaccurate with only slight improvements in each new model. The gap between the cylinder and the base of the barrel was larger than necessary and allowed too much propulsion gas to escape thereby reducing the power behind the bullet in turn reducing impact and distance. They had in most cases (except for an inadequate strap on one model) no frame component above the cylinder giving the weapon a short life. They also required time, effort and good tools to disassemble for cleaning.
Walker Colt of 1847

The biggest improvement in the revolving rifle and the Colt Company in general did not start in either New Jersey or Connecticut but down south in the Republic of Texas. With very little money the Republic created a (primarily) volunteer army they called the Texas Rangers. These men volunteered because bands of men where needed throughout West Texas to protect their families and neighbors from raids by the Comanche and the bands of Comanche, Mexican and whites called Comancheros. It also gave the volunteers an opportunity to eat on occasion in a country that was short on everything but beans and wild beef.
            The Rangers lost many men in those early battles with the Comanche. The Indian would taunt the white, perhaps fire an arrow or two and throw a spear and the young (mostly teenage) whites would fire their muzzle loading weapons. The Comanche would then fire a half a dozen arrows while the Rangers re-loaded … or tried to.
            One of the Ranger captains or leader of what had been designated a Company; a man named Samuel Hamilton Walker saw the answer to this problem in Samuel Colt’s invention with the revolving cylinder. It may be that he owned a Paterson Colt although few men had extra money for “frills” and it would be a few years before a repeating handgun would be seen as a necessity and worth more than a “reliable” single-shot, muzzle loading pistol.
If Captain Walker did own or even borrow a Paterson he would have quickly determined that the .31 or even the .36 caliber Model #5 was no match for what the Comanche could do with his arrows. He therefore drew up a design enlarging the dimensions of Sam Colt’s early weapons and self-funded a trip to New York to meet Sam Colt.  The weapon they built was intended to be a “horse pistol”, to be carried in a holster mounted on a Rangers saddle. It would hold six, .44 caliber balls and be large enough to contain the explosion from a load of black powder that would send the ball much farther than a Comanche arrow … if the shooter could learn to hold the weapon and the horse did not die from fright.
The first Walker Colt was manufactured in 1847. The ft.-lbs. of energy it was capable of transmitting would not be exceeded by a hand-gun until Elmer Keith (the cartridge) and Smith & Wesson (the weapon) produced the .44 Magnum 108 years later in 1955.
(Yes, Ruger released the first weapon chambered for .44 Mag but S&W was working on it first and had built a prototype. The cartridge and the weapons where intended for hunting Elk and deer. I’ll come back to why S&W and Ruger made the first .44 Mags and how the load came to be created … but later.)
Samuel H. Walker was killed during October, 1847 during one of the battles of the Mexican-American War. He was thirty years old and may not have had the opportunity to fire one of his Walker Colts.
1855 Colt Revolving Rifle in .56
The development of the Walker and its subsequent success lead to changes in other Colt models. The Model 1855 revolving rifles and shotguns, those depicted in “Partners” had a much stronger frame with a “top-strap” or frame member over top of the cylinder and tolerances had been reduced so that less propulsion was lost between cylinder and barrel. They were generally accurate out to 100 yards and some to twice that distance. With very little adaptation to lock-screws and center pins cylinders could be pre-loaded and changed fairly quickly during action, although not as effective with shot loads as with the .44 or .56 caliber ball used in the rifle.
One of the bad men encountered near the start of Partners is carrying a Smith & Wesson. This would be the Model # 1 ½ or a “first issue revolver” in .32 rimfire. About 23 thousand where made from 1865 to ’68. S&W had purchased a patent for a “bored-through” cylinder which allowed them to be the first to sell cartridge firing hand-guns. They did not produce a “heavy” revolver until the Model No. 3 First Model Single Action of 1870 in .44 S&W American (centre fire) and a few in .44 Henry (rimfire).
S&W also sold a revolving rifle from 1879 to ’87. It was the Model 320 (in .320 S&W rifle caliber). However, due to the experience the public had with the Colt revolving long guns and some of the less than uplifting talk about the then 25 year old weapon the S&W 320 did not do particularly well and less than a thousand examples were produced.
One of the bad men has a “Springfield .56” which Frank simply fires over the lake to unload. This would be a U.S. Model 1861 Percussion Rifle or Musket made for the Federal Government by a variety of contractors some even made by Springfield Armory.  Thousands of this model rifle (and musket) were made and carried throughout North America and regardless of what might be stamped on the weapon – Alfred Jenks & Sons, William Mason, Remington, Savage or almost two dozen contractors – was usually called a Springfield.
S&W Model 1 1/2 Second Issue in .32
One of the partners and one of the bad men carry a “Spencer.” This would be two of 107,000 Spencers produced between 1863 and ’67. Those produced during the Civil War (and receiving an endorsement from President Lincoln) fired a .52 caliber rimfire cartridge, seven of which where held in a tube magazine in the stock and fed to the breach by a lever which also served as a trigger guard. Despite their hurried and mass production for use by Federal or Northern soldiers these weapons were very accurate and well regarded. As is the case even with today’s rifles where one is mystifying in its accuracy and the next supposedly identical weapon can’t be counted on to hit the wall of a barn from inside some of the Civil War Spencers supplied uncanny accuracy at distances only expected from weapons used for plains buffalo hunts.
Spencer Model 1860 carbine
In addition to his Spencer carbine Frank is also carrying, in a holster, a Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver. From 186 to ’73 more than 200 thousand were produced in .44 with either a 7 ½ or 8 inch barrel.
Colt 1860 Army Civilian Model .44
The one other firearm that comes to mind from the Partners novel is the Henry, or “Golden Boy” as it was sometimes called before the 1866 Winchester which also had a brass receiver, took over that name. The Henry is only mentioned once or twice (and not carried by a character) and appears on the front cover, so I’ll include a little information about it.
The Henry was developed from the Volcanic. The Volcanic was built for a .38 rimfire Smith & Wesson style cartridge. The Henry was built for a .44 caliber rimfire cartridge (24 grains of black powder) designed specifically for it. About 13 thousand were produced from 1860 to ’66 when Winchester (who owned the patents) produced the Model 1866. The Winchester was also made in .44 rimfire and about 170 thousand were made between 1866 and ’98.
While chasing down the man who murdered BC Police officer Jack Lawson the partners, now four in number have a variety of weapons but the action is confined to a variety of double barrel shotguns as was the case with the actual or historical chase. The bad guy, One Eared Charlie Brown uses a Manhattan .36 or “Navy Type” which  were made from 1859 – ’68 and had some similarities to both the Colt ’51 Navy and the Colt ’61 Navy.
That pretty well covers the weapons in Partners. The weapons in The Great Liquor War and Homesteader: Finding Sharon are naturally very different since the stories take place 20 years later and many changes where made in those years. Another decade passes before The Making of Jake McTavish and Cattle Business so there are many changes again. For example, by 1900 bolt action rifles where replacing lever actions in popularity and national defense ministries and their governments where learning that it was cheaper to issue good weapons to soldiers than to replace and retrain them when they were inadequately equipped.
More about the weapons in other novels later.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Last year and for hundreds of years

Below is a repeat of something I posted a year ago to honor (specifically) two remarkable and (generally) a few hundred thousand.
Since November 11th has only been "Remembrance Day" (under more than one name) since 1919 and the end of WWI we tend to think it only applies to those who lost their lives in the wars since that date.
I disagree!
It applies to all those who put themselves in danger for their fellow citizens (not for some fool who told them it was "their duty.") and most especially to those who did not survive. That is to say it applies to many "enemies" as well as "allies" and includes those who came back.
Remember that those who came back seldom did so in the same way they left. All were wounded in some manner either physically or mentally. That is why the figure from above (a few hundred thousand) should probably be changed to a few million.
Remembering war and death will do more than anything else to ensure it does not happen again. Paying attention to my last post might help to make it not happen again.
Having ranted for awhile, here is the post from lasts year.
On October 22, 2014 a man shot one of Canada’s soldiers who at the time stood guard over the memorial for those who have defended our country and way of life and whose sacrifice is otherwise not recorded. He was also representing those men and women who have died to maintain the country and the freedom its citizens enjoy. As a serving member of Canadian forces he also represented those who did serve, survived and returned to life as a citizen and part of the fabric of this great country.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. If you are a Canadian he represented YOU.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. If you live in a country where you have the opportunity to express your views, however small and fleeting or large and long-standing that opportunity may be, then he represented YOU.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. An attack on him was an attack on civilization.
Kevin Vickers, Sergeant-at-Arms within the Canadian Parliament buildings shot the attacker and brought to a halt this atrocity.
In Canada we have some of the best armourers and security training personnel to be found anywhere in the world. We have people with the fortitude – the “parts” if you will – and training to handle any situation that they may face.
Therefore the fact that Mr. Vickers stopped the attack before it became a massacre does not particularly surprise me.
The fact that Mr. Vickers had the training necessary does not surprise me too much since he is old enough to have, perhaps, received proper training such as is not usually enjoyed by some entering the security professions in the last few years. Perhaps he has had time to privately and at his own expense augment whatever initial training he did receive.
What does surprise me is that with the illogical and antiquated attitude toward firearms that is usually broadcast by the Canadian media Mr. Vickers was not only allowed to carry a firearm it was actually loaded and useful. I do expect our politicians will continue to spread false, misleading and un-supported information about firearms because they see such statements bringing votes ... even though it is obvious some of their lives were saved by a man with a firearm who knew how to use it.
I do hope a few real people (those who actually contribute thereby assuring the country grows and prospers) remember this event the next time firearms are vilified.
But more important, remember Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
Remember Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers.

The attacker? Forget him. He was either a fool who believed lies or he was unbalanced ... probably both. His only contribution was to provide a focal point to show how important real Canadians can be to each other and the continuation of the country.