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Old 14th December 2009, 06:46 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default les Apaches-unusual combo revolvers

Something for the readers

Always interested in the esoteric, and recalling the unique book by Lewis Winant, "Firearms Curiosa", I came across some intriguing detail concerning Paris around the turn of the century while looking into of all things, history of French dances such as the well known 'can-can' (= scandal, also 'chahut'=noisy, uproar) which became popular in the fabled cabaret known as the Moulin Rouge (= red windmill).
Also well known during the 'gay nineties' was the rather controversial 'dance' which became known as the 'apache' (pronounced a'paagge) which also became popular at the Moulin Rouge. It was a dance enacting a street fight between two men and a woman, which had taken place nearby in this rough area of Paris known as the Montmarte district.

As often the case it seems, the words of a local journalist described the fury of the altercation as recalling the ferocity of the Apache Indian tribes of the American Southwest in battle, and the term became instantly adopted by these gangs of toughs. In the bravado recalling the event, reenactment in the form of dance brought the dance style that became known also by the name.

One of the most unique weapons used by these early gang members was the odd combination revolver which was comprised of a small caliber (usually 7mm or .27 cal. pinfire) revolver with the grip replaced with knuckleduster (brass knuckles) and a small bayonet ...all of which folded up for east concealment.

While it seems most references to the term 'apaches' applied to these gangs would place c. 1880's, these sans-barrel revolvers seem to date as early as 1870's. It would see, they may have evolved from the small pinfire pepperbox revolvers combined with earlier French Lefaucheaux revolvers which apparantly had collapsible bayonets.

The depradations of these apache gangs seems to have carried well into the first quarter of the 20th century, at least in this particular sense. In a New York Times article of Sept. 1900, it is noted that bystanders near one of these groups "..all remained at a safe distance and held in awe, by the revolvers of three of the desperadoes".
Interestingly the knuckleduster or brass knuckles were termed by them 'American punches', the Apache name from the well known American Indian tribe, and the apparant influence (as noted by the 1900 news item) was gangs in New York some 10 to 15 years earlier.

The foldup guns became known colloquially as the 'deadly flower' probably from that concealable feature. While we know that these were certainly used by these toughs, it seems that law abiding citizens who were constantly preyed upon probably took to using them as well. The difficulties with gun control seem to have been as much present then as today, and of course carrying firearms was prohibited.
It would appear that the gunmakers of Liege in particular DOLNE produced well made examples from 1873-1881, with I believe an 1869 patent. Another example produced in c.1870 by another Liege maker J. Deleaxhe is discussed in "Man at Arms" magazine (July 1978, p.24).

The presence of the gangs of course simply diffused into less colorfully accoutred crime, and the dramatic dance routine prevailed, being seen in many movies from silents into major Hollywood productions with French theme.

These strange combination revolvers seem quite rare and to well retain thier formidability more in remarkable prices as unique novelties, with thier rather dark history less well known.


Attachments: left: 'apache' knuckleduster revolver photo copyright
Wallis & Wallis ,2006
right: 7mm pinfire probably forerunner of the 'apache'
bottom; poster
and the 'dance'
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Old 15th December 2009, 08:09 PM   #2
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Hi Jim ,

Interestingly one of these came up on eBay, about a year ago , obviously the seller didn't realise that it was a true firearm .....perhaps thinking it was a novelty item needless to say, eBay 'pulled' the auction ....but not before I got some photos from the seller

Regards David

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Old 15th December 2009, 08:28 PM   #3
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Hi Jim,
My compliments on the rather comprehensive article on the Apache, and thanks for sharing it, together with the pictures..
It appears that the forerunner of the firearm section, as you illustrate, was the pepperbox sometimes called 'de Curé' (meanning 'of Priest', for unknown reasons), a pattern produced originally by Deprez.
The model shown by David looks very nice. No wonder that the eBay seller didn't realize this intrincate item was a true firearm; it sure looks like a fantasy. On the other hand it seems to be a fact that this kind of devices wasn't propperly an efective weapon, according to the chronicles.
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Old 15th December 2009, 08:31 PM   #4
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Are revolvers without barrels still effective?
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Old 15th December 2009, 08:47 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizos
Are revolvers without barrels still effective?
I am sure i get the meaning of the question, but i was referring to the combination effectiveness; the bayonet is a sissy thing, short and susceptible to close as you thrust, and the knucle duster has no comfortable position.
Naturaly also the lack of barrel implicates in a short distance firing, to be minimaly efective.
I wouldn't call it 'revolver', though; actually the true revolver descends from the pepperbox invention.
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Old 15th December 2009, 10:59 PM   #6
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Fernando thank you so much for the kind words!! and to you and David for the additional material in input! This was such an unusual topic that I feared there would be little response....but you guys always come through

Good question Dizos, and I had wondered about this as well. Actually these strange composites were effective in certain degree, and as one reference noted, they were better than being empty handed. In one of the references it was noted that several police officers in a melee were badly wounded in shots fired.....it seems that this was in the same text where these unusual firearms were seen. Another instance involved severe facial wounds.

I think these fall into the category of the 'street fighting' weapons of earlier times in degree, the formidable looking 'sword breaker' left hand daggers with the pronounced dentation. It has often been questioned whether they were used or not, and the same with these.....probably so, but to what degree cannot be determined.

Street fighting weapons are quite different than combat weapons in that they are intended for 'up close and very personal' contact. They were also intended to be concealed, and as I mentioned, I think many of these so called apache guns were likely to have been obtained by the general public for protection. Sword canes and blackjacks were also types of weapons that were used by thugs, but the blackjack was more for use by thugs....the sword canes of course were well known for gentry, less for the baser element.

It seems similar combination weapons to the apache guns found use as trench weapons in WWI, but I havent found details yet on them.

The knuckleduster was I know incorporated into a full size trench knife.

In one Sherlock Holmes sequence I watched, Watson was concerned he was unarmed as they went on a case into a rough district....Holmes laughed and swing his scarf around, which hit the table with a crash, with whatever very solid material was sewn inside it!! A true bolo type weapon.

BTW, the pepperbox was truly the forerunner to the revolver, and one of the big problems with them was simultaneous detonation......now that would be about as bad for the guy holding the thing I would think.

Thanks so much guys!!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 27th December 2009, 12:47 AM   #7
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On the subject of 'short' or non-existant barrels.
When we consider the date of these weapons and the propellants involved (black powder) its difficult to imagine an effective velocity being achieved, but....
There are many other 'pocket pistols' from the 19thC with very short barrels, and my first thought is more for getting a good seal on the projectile.
When I think of a good 'muff pistol' with a short barrel of less than 2" it's invariably a screw on, so the 'seal' is VERY tight.
But, when I consider the reality of the 'gunfighters' of the late 19thc in America, I believe it was not uncommon for these 'shootists' to cut down the barrels of 'ball and cap' revolvers, to facilitate the fastest possible draw.
Now obviously these wouldn't be used at longer distances, but they must have been effective at close range.And even if they didn't deliver the 'punch' of a longer barrel, they would wound very painfully and spray with burning powder.
Altogether a very unpleasant distraction.
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Old 27th December 2009, 07:39 AM   #8
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Thank you for responding on this Gene, and for the very well reasoned observations on the short barrel guns. It seemed interesting to me also that these interesting apache guns were sans barrel, begging the question of just how effective they must have been. Obviously in very up close and personal situations they must have done thier work, much like the makeshift 'zip guns' known in more recent times 'street' environments.

Your comments on gun barrels of shorter length being better in quick draw application are well placed, with the shorter 4 3/4" barrel preferable. However, the 'fast draw' of the wild west is essentially a myth, along with the 'showdown' face to face often seen in movies and described in novels. Joseph G. Rosa describes these matters well in "The Gunfighter: Man or Myth?" (1969) and he is a brilliant historian on this subject.
It seems that actually such confrontations were unusual at best, and while obviously getting a gun out quickly was important, accuracy was much more so, and the holster was one of the essential points of focus.

The 'quickdraw' and the 'rig' holster was more a product of more modern times, I believe into the 20's and 30's, and with the popularity of the western novels and advent of Hollywood westerns.

The standard length of gunbarrels for the well known Colt SAA 'peacemaker' and frontier revolvers was 7.5". When Ned Buntline came up with the now legendary idea for five special revolvers with extra long 12" barrels in 1876, presenting them to five notable lawmen; Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman and Neal Brown, it is difficult to understand the idea behind these long barrels.
Masterson and Tilghman had their barrels cut down to the standard 7.5", the others as far as is known remained the same.
The use of these long barrel guns remains unclear, and despite popular legend, it is believed that Earp at the OK Corral was carrying a Smith & Wesson...further, not wearing a holster, with the gun in his overcoat pocket.

Leaving the gunfighters and returning to very short barrel guns, there were indeed Colts known as 'house' pistols with 1.5" to 3.5" barrels and I believe four chambers, often termed cloverleaf guns. I think these must have been much the same as the 'muff' pistols you note.These were 'hideout' guns used by bankers, merchants and gamblers, in 'inside' work. It is likely that some gunfighters might have carried these as well.

Interesting notes you place on the powder burns associated with the cap and ball revolvers, and the shot from these was indeed often incendiary resulting in clothing of the victim being ignited.

Thanks for adding to this topic, and giving it more perspective. It seems to me your suggestion of altering barrels must have existed somehow among some of these early gunfighters, they were actually pretty innovative, and searching further we might find something

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 27th December 2009, 02:50 PM   #9
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Hi Jim,

Thanks mate.
I remember 'donkeys years ago' seeing some documentary about the reality of the 'western shootout' as opposed to the hollywood version we grew up with, and they devoted some time to modifications.
The one that sticks in my mind was seeing revolvers with the barrels cut back to an inch or two. Definately cut too, looked horrible.
Unfortunately, all these years later, I can't remember if any of them were attributed to specific individuals or not.
Thinking about it I can see your points completely, and I wonder if these were more for concealment in clothing than pulling from a rig (bloody memory, wish I could remember where I'd seen them...)
Also, you are of course right about the longer barrels, and I'm sure anyone who'se fired an old gun knows that one of the most striking things about them, is the amount of sparks/smoke and general 'mess'.
cap and ball revolver slow motion
I wonder what (and perhaps one of the 'black powder' enthusiasts could help with this) the potential muzzle velocity would be from these barrel-less weapons? I seriously doubt that even with a very tight seal they'd have much range as there can't be more than an inch of travel before the projectile is exiting. But I bet they'd be scary as hell close-up, especially as a 'stab and shoot' close quarters weapon.
As you quite rightly point out, they're certainly a fire risk! LOL
If the intention was to 'literally' press them into someone and fire, then the energy would be concentrated into the smallest possible area (such as it is). I can imagine them being fairly devastating.
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Old 27th December 2009, 03:38 PM   #10
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Jim, as always I enjoy your discussions of the weapons of the Old West.
Here's an interesting hideout gun, from the chapter on "Gamblers, Madams, Gunfighters and Outlaws" in R.L. Wilson's excellent book The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West:

The cut-off Colt 1860 Army conversion revolver belonging to gunfighter/lawman Dallas Stoudenmire was picked up from the street after he was killed in an El Paso shootout.
Lacking such a detailed provenance are these hideout guns by Smith & Wesson, Colt and National:

This portion of a Colt catalog from 1888, from Guns of the Old West by Charles Edward Chapel, shows several options for concealed carry:

and here's one of the rectangular-cylinder Colt House Pistols, from Colt Firearms by James E. Serven:

As to the effectiveness of such weapons, Wild Bill Hickock had this to say:
Quote:
"I hope you never have to shoot any man, but if you do shoot him in the Guts near the Navel. You may not make a fatal shot, but he will get a shock that will paralyze his brain and arm so much that the fight is all over."

Last edited by Berkley; 27th December 2009 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 27th December 2009, 06:31 PM   #11
Jim McDougall
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Outstanding!!!! Beautifully done Gene and Berkley, all perfect examples showing that gun barrels were indeed cut down (even absent) for hide out weapons, and Berkley, I had forgotten about those examples in both of those remarkable references.
The Wilson book is entirely breathtaking with photos so clear its as if you are actually viewing the guns in person.
Thank you for the kind words on my wild west posts Berkley, its a topic I have always been deeply fascinated with, and as I have noted, much of my time in the bookmobile takes me along the 'gunfighter trails'. From Texas through New Mexico, Arizona, California....I even spent time in Malta, Montana which is still a small town but loaded with history. Here the Sundance Kid et al robbed the Great Northern train, and the same tracks ride alongside the highway there.

Gene, the fire topic really is interesting, and I recall years ago in Arkansas, I was able to fire a flintlock musket. I have never known much about guns, but what an experience!! There is a moment of anticipation after the click, the hiss and detonation and the sparks, smoke and smell are hard to describe.
You can see how any close range action with black powder could indeed lead to ignition.

Thank you both so much, this really is great to talk more on these unusual aspects of firearms history.

All very best regards,
Jim
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