6 inch barrel

3

The Confederate Double Barrel Cannon,

The double barrel cannon is not a new idea, going back at least to the mid 17th century. The idea behind a double barrel cannon was not a weapon to fire solid shot, but to fire chain shot, a pair of cannon balls connected together by a chain. Each cannon ball was loaded into a separate barrel, and when fired in theory the two balls should rotate around a central axis, mowing down anything in it’s path like a weedwacker mowing down grass.  The trick was firing both barrels simultaneously.  Any flaw in timing, uneven combustion of gunpowder, or flaws in the barrel could cause the chain shot to careen out of control. It was nigh impossible to fire a chain shot cannon with any semblance of accuracy, hence why chain shot cannon were relatively rare.

In 1862 during the American Civil War, a Georgia dentist named John Gilleland attempted to design and build his own double barrel chain shot cannon for used by the Confederate Army. Gilleland’s cannon was caste in one piece at a cost of $350, and featured two 6 inch caliber barrels. The barrels diverge three degrees so that when fired the cannonballs would diverge and the chain would be drawn taught.

On April 22nd, 1862 Gilleland’s cannon went through official ordnance testing. Testing consisted of firing at two poles in a field. On the first shot the cannonballs wildly struck the ground, tearing up over an acre of the field but nowhere near the intended target. On the second shot the chain shot flew over the poles, taking out a grove of trees far behind the target. On the third shot the chain broke, with one cannonball veering to the right and taking out a chimney on a nearby cabin, while the other flew to the left and killed a cow.

Despite the failure Gilleland continued to advertise his cannon for military use. The Confederate Army said “thanks but no thanks” and refused to adopt the cannon. Today the cannon is on display on the front lawn of the City Hall of Athens, Georgia.

Yes, from the kingpin of the handgun world, we come to the the kingpin of the revolver world. A gun who’s name alone means business. It’s the gun revered as the Cadillac of the Revolver Market. It’s big, blued, and just a bit subdued.

It’s the Colt Python.

It’s an icon of the police force, a force to be reckoned with and while it might not live up to the reputation of some revolvers, it just doesn’t need to.

The Colt Python was built in the 1950′s. Colt was riding off the success of the Colt Cobra and other such revolvers and thought to top the market, they’d make a top-of-the-line gun, a .38 Special Target revolver fitted with barrel ribbing, large target sights, smooth trigger, extra metal and was later changed to .357 Magnum, a brand new cartridge at the time. And in 1955, the Colt Python was released.

It came in bright satin nickel or Colt Royal Blue. Later the nickel was swapped out for Satin or mirror-polished “Ultimate” Stainless Steel. It came with wood or rubber Pachmayr grips and barrel lengths from the 2.5 inch snubbie to the 8 inch one for hunting. Though most you’ll find will be with 4 or 6 inch barrels.

And like any gun, they came in different models. These included the Python Hunter, fitted with a 2X Leupold Scope and 8 inch barrel. The Python Target, a model only in .38 Special. There were custom guns like the Colt Boa, Colt Grizzly, and Colt Kodiak. There was the lower cost Colt Troopers and Colt Lawman’s and there was the .44 Magnum caliber Colt Anaconda.

And on release, the Colt Python was a success with police and civilians across the world. Police Departments bought them, with 6 inch barrels to uniformed police and 4 inch to plainclothes officers. Highway patrol units from Colorado and California to Florida and Georgia had Colt Python’s holstered until their replacement in the mid 1990′s. 

And not only cops, but a number of dictators and kings bought their own run of Colt Python’s. Anwar Saddat of Egypt, Sheik Zayed of the UAE, King Hassan of Morocco, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Khaled and Fahid of Saudi Arabia, Hussein the First of Jordan had their own runs of Colt Pythons. Irish Crime reporter Veronica Guerin was killed by a Colt Python. The King himself, Elvis Presley was known to collect Pythons, with a number attributed to him floating in both Graceland and in private collections.

The Python wasn’t without some faults. The guns had a tendency to “wind down” with heavy usage. Effectively meaning the cylinder wouldn’t line up perfectly with the forcing cone, meaning anything from increase lead spray to the gun not working in DA mode. That and the fact most weighed more than competing S&W revolvers slowly showed Colt that these guns were becoming a money pit.

As the Colt Python was being replaced in Police holsters everywhere, Colt stopped main production of all revolvers, including Pythons in 1999. While their custom shop kept making guns, in 2005, the production stopped. And with that, the prices of Pythons soared to high prices, higher than usual. Your standard Python costs around $2,000 dollars. And while they have stopped production, they haven’t faded from memory. 

Especially in film.

The Python’s long history with police make it a common sight for movie and TV cops, whether normal beat cops or high ranking detectives, the Python’s a common sight. And with it’s usage by movie cops and bad guys, it’s not an uncommon sight from zombie flicks to action movie drama. From the hands of McQ to Grimes, a Python is an perfect pistol. It’s big, it’s commanding, and if it’s a nickel/stainless gun, it’s shiny.

Course with fame in media comes fame in video games, and like the 92FS, the Python got a break because of a video game now revered as a classic.

They’re waiting for you Gordon…in the test chamber.

Half Life. The PC Gaming classic. A game that showed what gaming could do. With the Quake 2 Engine, Valve showed that it didn’t always have to be mindless violence, but can play a story on par with Hollywood. 

You play Gordon Freeman, a mute 27 year old MIT graduate entering a day of work at the Black Mesa Research Complex. Within around 1 hour it goes from your average Monday to a DEFCON 1 situation, with aliens pouring in from every crack in the wall. And all you have is a crowbar, a HEV suit and a laundry list of firearms from the dead guards and HERC soldiers. The Glock, MP5, SPAS-12 and other guns, but none could really rival the Python.

The bottom of the blast pit gives you the satin nickel handcannon, and it serves as one of the games most solid guns, easily dropping zombies in one shot. And just like the MAC-10 and 92FS, this classic influenced a laundry list of other games.

The Python’s a relatively common sight in video games, with it usually in it’s royal blue finish. It serves as a games magnum, high stopping power, low magazine capacity and firing speed. It doesn’t need to fire fast or be quick reloading, cause 1 shot should be enough. From the arms of the Spy in TF2 to the darkened streets of Alan Wake, the Python’s sure to be there and still firing when others have failed.

And that is the Colt Python, the king of the revolver world. It’s had 50 years of production, and from the zombie filled apocalypse to the crazed factories of gravel fueled proxy warfare, it’s a common sight. It doesn’t need to be fast, it doesn’t need to be new, it just needs to work. And work it does.

Hold back the night, turn on the lights, I want to dream… Dream about you baby”

3

The KIS machine pistol,

Another weapon created by the Polish Resistance during World War II, the KIS was a submachine gun or machine pistol that was modeled after the British Sten gun.  Like the Sten the KIS was a fully automatic weapon that fired using an open bolt, and was fed from a detachable magazine at the left hand side of the receiver.  The KIS however had some modifications that differed from the original design.  Instead of a shrouded barrel the KIS used a longer 6 inch tapered barrel.  The KIS also lacked a buttstock, instead using a pistol grip. 

The name KIS is derived from the initials of three men who designed and built the weapon.  The were produced around the Holy Cross Mountains region of southern Poland.  Essentially they were manufactured by cottage industry, with people producing parts in small workshops, attics, and basements.  Around 37 or 38 were produced altogether between 1943 and 1944.  They were all issued to the resistance group under the command of Jan Piwnik, who harassed the German Army throughout 1943 and 1944.  He was killed in action in June of 1944.

2

The M1 Tanker Garand,

In 1944 US Army Ordnance initiated a program to find a shortened, lighter version of the standard M1 Garand infantry rifle.  The common M1 Garand was a long and hefty rifle, and it was decided that a carbine variant would be ideal for paratroopers and other specialist troops.  One variant that was test was the T-26, a Garand variant that featured a barrel which had been shortened by 6 inches to a total barrel length of 18 inches.  The design was one of 150 designs submitted from common soldiers who had made personal modifications to their rifles in order to meet battlefield demands. 

Testing of the T-26 began in 1944 at the Springfield Armory, and it became readily apparent that the new carbine had several issues.  First, the carbine’s recoil, muzzleflash, and report was overbearing.  Secondly the prototype was mechanically unsound.  Shortening the barrel also required shortening of the gas tube, which greatly affected the functioning of the action.  It was found that prolonged use (such as in combat) would wear down the parts of the action, leading to malfunctions and breakages.  It wasn’t until 1948 that the technical issues with the T-26 were worked out, by then the war was well over.  The T-26 was never adopted and only one surviving prototype remains, on display at the Springfield Armory Museum.

The T-26 remained a forgotten design until the early 1960’s when a businessman named Robert E. Penney Jr. visited the Springfield Armory Museum.  Penney was head of a small time military surplus firm called National Ordnance (later Alpine Ordnance), which was in the business of selling cheap M1 Garands from mismatched surplus parts.  Penney came up with the idea of the “Tanker Garand” because as a former tank crewman, he believed they would have made excellent weapons to issue to tank crews.  The misnomer stuck giving many people the idea that the Tanker Garand actually was issued to tank crews.  In the 1960’s National Ordnance produced thousands of Tanker Garands from surpluse M1 Garand parts.  It was long before other small time manufacturers also produced their own Tanker Garands.  Today, the Tanker Garand is still produced and up for sale with some small time producers.