Below is a chapter from The Modern American Pistol and Revolver ©1888. I thought this information might be handy to several of you who are adding a touch of suspense to your novels. I love the fact that this book included great graphics. Of course, I'm a visual learner.
A Number of years ago, when gentlemen sought to vindicate their honor by duels with pistols, it was the custom to provide themselves with a pair of duelling-pistols. These were generally of large calibre, often .50 or y2 inch, generally of smooth bore and flint-lock. These and even larger calibres were made for cavalrymen in the service. Then came the percussion pistol, various styles of duelling-pistols, both smooth bore and rifled, and to-day many Southern gentlemen have in their possession a pair of these ancient arms handed down to them by their ancestors. They are used chiefly, at the present time, for decorative purposes, as their days of usefulness are past; the modern revolver has superseded them as an arm of defence, and the single-shot breech-loading pistol, possessing much greater accuracy, far more convenient to load, and more economical to use, has taken the place of the duelling-pistol for target work, stage-shooting, and exhibition work. The single-shot pistol is used almost wholly for short-range target practice, generally in-doors, at a distance of from five to fifty yards, or for small-game shooting. Therefore, it is unusual to find at the present time these pistols larger in bore than .32 calibre ; they are generally of .22 calibre. The .22 calibre is very accurate up to fifty yards. Our experiments, compared with others, lead us to believe the small calibre is fully as accurate as the larger, and beyond a doubt, with good weather conditions, the larger bore possesses no advantages over the small bore up to fifty yards in point of accuracy. The fact that the cost of the .22-calibre ammunition is so much less, is more compact, allowing a large number of cartridges to be carried about, and the knowledge that the tiny bore can be shot so many times without cleaning, makes it the favorite calibre, in single-shot pistols, for target and smallgame shooting within the distance named.
Any shooting at a distance beyond fifty yards with a pistol is almost unheard of in America; but it is believed that before long the experts who become so proficient with the pistol at this range will shoot at much longer distances, and we shall not be surprised to see matches shot up to 200 yards, and perhaps at a longer distance, as the officers in the European armies practice up to 400 paces and secure good results. When the shooting is done at long distances with a pistol, it will probably be with a single-shot arm of calibre from .32 to .40; but until then the calibres will probably be the .22 and .32.
The Stevens single-shot pistols are deservedly very popular; they are manufactured by the J. Stevens Arms and Tool Co., at Chicopee Falls, Mass. They are made in various styles, as follows:
Conlin model, 10-inch barrel, .22-cal., weight, 2^ pounds. Lord model, 10-inch barrel, .22 cal., weight, 3 pounds. Diamond model, 10-inch barrel, .22-cal., weight, 11 ounces. Also, the new 6-inch barrel, .22-cal., Target pistol.
The barrels are carefully bored and rifled and fitted into a steel frame in the Lord model, and composition of gun-metal in the Conlin and Diamond models. A spring is so arranged under the barrel that when a projecting stud on the side is pressed it releases a catch on the opposite side and the spring forces the rear part of the barrel up and the forward part down, this action acting on the shell-ejector, forcing out the shell of the exploded cartridge; the pistol is then reloaded and barrel closed. The frame permits of barrels of different calibres being fitted into one action, in the Lord or Conlin model. There are several varieties of sights for these pistols to suit the different demands. The triggers are the side-covered trigger in the smaller models, and the guard-covered trigger in the Lord model.
The Lord and Conlin models are very popular among professional and expert pistol-shots. They have been tested and found very reliable, and possess a degree of accuracy unsurpassed by any arm of its kind in the world, if properly used.
The Lord model is preferred by persons of THE STEVENS SINGLE-SHOT PISTOL (New Model.) herculean frame or possessing great strength in their arms, it weighing 3 pounds. The Conlin model is generally selected by those possessing less physical strength; both pistols have handles of sufficient length to permit of their being grasped properly.
The trigger on the Lord model is preferred by a majority of pistol-shots, and, to suit those desiring this style of a trigger in the Conlin model, the manufacturers have commenced making them in that manner, and can now supply either style of triggers.
The weight of the Lord model is in its favor, for those who can hold it secure an advantage in less liability to pull the pistol to one side or upwards when pressing the trigger, — an error one who uses a light pistol is quite liable to make. Such experts as Chevalier Ira Paine and Frank Lord, and even some of the gentler sex, who have astonished the shooting world by their seemingly impossible feats of marksmanship with the pistol, unhesitatingly select this heavy pistol, and declare it more reliable, for the reasons mentioned, than the lighter ones, and as some of the professional shooters perform hazardous feats when inaccuracies with the arm would peril the lives of those who assist them in their performances, it is likely that they have given the matter the fullest investigation. But the person desiring to select a Stevens pistol for fine work should examine both models.
The other pistols made by this company are intended for pocket-pistols; they are accurate and reliable, but being more compact, with shorter barrels and lighter, they are more difficult to shoot accurately than those fashioned after the shape of
A gentleman who makes an annual trip into the woods informed the writer that he never went without his Stevens pistol, and always killed considerable small-game for the table with it.
The Wesson single-shot pistol is manufactured by Frank Wesson, at Worcester, Mass. It is operated as follows: the hammer is slightly raised and held by a pin pressed in from the side; a projecting stud is pressed at the bottom of the receiver, and the barrel turned over to one side,— the shell of the exploded cartridge thrown out by the extractor. The arm is well-balanced, fitted with good sights of different styles, and accurate.
The Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Co. manufactures three styles of single-shot Deringers, one of which is illustrated. To operate this arm set the hammer at half-cock, grasp the stock in the right hand and drawing back the steel button with the forefinger, rotate the barrel toward you with the left hand. Holding the barrel thus turned aside, introduce the cartridge and then rotate it to its original position. After firing, the empty shell may be ejected by rotating the barrel as directed for loading.
The weight of the No. 2 is 10 oz., calibre .41. It is a powerful pistol, intended for a weapon of defence at short range.