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Old 07-05-2017, 05:21 PM   #1
Railstar
 
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Default Turnover/revolving black powder guns

I may have a new favourite gadget.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoNUgQZ-wf8

It’s a matchlock pistol with a hand-spun revolving horizontal drum. These and pepper-box-like turnover pistols seem like a down-to-earth form of repeating handgun to introduce into a TL4 setting – not quite the kind of upgrade that would massively change warfare, but provides a way for people to make more than one shot.

What’s the catch?

Obviously single-shot firearms did not vanish overnight. These gadgets seem to be quite unusual. Therefore, what kind of problems am I missing for this kind of firearm? Why were they not more popular? I am thinking these would be minor modifications to standard firearms, but what modifiers would be appropriate?

First, Bulk is an obvious one. I think the Bulk should be at least 1 point worse, maybe 2.

Would Accuracy suffer because of the extra weight? I can see familiarity penalties applying to someone not used to the heavier guns. Maybe make familiarity with these a Perk?

Possibly slightly smaller barrels/chambers to fit them on the weapon, maybe reducing the wounding modifier from Pi+ to Pi?

With the rotating drum, the break between the drum and the barrel might leak out some of the blast. Should that lower damage at all?

Malfunction rating? More chance of a misfire or hang fire if the spark and the barrel are not perfectly aligned.

Obviously rotating the barrels or drum would be at least a Ready action. Faster than reloading a muzzleloading black powder weapon normally, but it still leaves gaps between shots.

So far I'm thinking Bulk & Malfunction both 1 point worse, Ready actions between shots, and maybe the type of piercing becomes one step smaller.

What else have I missed? Why wouldn’t these come to dominate over single-shot firearms?

I know cost is a factor, but I figure that once gunsmiths become familiar with the designs they wouldn't be that much more expensive to make. I want to avoid the circular situation of them being rare because of being expensive and being expensive because they are rare.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 07-05-2017, 05:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

IIRC, it was the high chance of multiple firing barrels going off (a low Malf score) that prevented matchlock and even TL4 wheellock and snaphance/flintlock pepperbox pistols from seeing greater widespread use.

I think you covered most of the factors involved, though.
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Old 07-05-2017, 06:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Railstar View Post
What else have I missed? Why wouldn’t these come to dominate over single-shot firearms?
I think you are discounting the extent to which cost and availability of skilled labor were factors while overestimating the utility of multishot matchlock weapons for typical users.

If it was cheaper, as I suspect it was, to increase fire rate by just adding more muskets than by equipping a smaller number of men with revolving drum weapons, then you would simply do that. Note also that five men with single shot weapons are five times better at sustaining casualties and have four more swords or bayonets than does one man with five chambers.

Remember too that the locks of the time either involved a live smoldering match or were comparatively unreliable, so having multiple preloaded chambers isn't a favorable risk/benefit ratio.
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Old 07-05-2017, 07:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

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Originally Posted by Railstar View Post
With the rotating drum, the break between the drum and the barrel might leak out some of the blast. Should that lower damage at all?

Malfunction rating? More chance of a misfire or hang fire if the spark and the barrel are not perfectly aligned.
These are the big ones. The big problem with stuff leaking out the break in a loose powder breechloader isn't reduced damage, it's the jets of hot gas near your eye - more a problem for rifles you are trying to aim than for pistols I suppose, though burning your hands isn't desirable either. It's pesky enough out the touch hole. There's also the risk of chain firing.

And the problem with not having the barrel perfectly aligned isn't "misfire" it's "bullet hangs on the edge, and instead of the pressure of powder gases being relieved by expanding down the barrel, the gun explodes". Or "misaligned bullet tears off barrel" if you're lucky.

Really good machining makes both of these less of a problem - the parts fit better, so there is less leakage, and you can build a mechanical action that is accurate enough to align the chamber reliably - but good machining is *expensive* until the 19th century. Once the price falls you do start to see stuff like this (the first commercial revolvers were after all loose powder designs), but there's only about a 50 year gap between affordable machine tools and cartridges.
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Old 07-05-2017, 07:36 PM   #5
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantasm View Post
IIRC, it was the high chance of multiple firing barrels going off (a low Malf score) that prevented matchlock and even TL4 wheellock and snaphance/flintlock pepperbox pistols from seeing greater widespread use.

I think you covered most of the factors involved, though.
Thanks. My thoughts on pepperbox/turnover guns is if multiple barrels go off at once then they're still all pointing at an enemy - so I'd still think of it as an upgrade from just having one shot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sir_pudding View Post
I think you are discounting the extent to which cost and availability of skilled labor were factors while overestimating the utility of multishot matchlock weapons for typical users.

If it was cheaper, as I suspect it was, to increase fire rate by just adding more muskets than by equipping a smaller number of men with revolving drum weapons, then you would simply do that. Note also that five men with single shot weapons are five times better at sustaining casualties and have four more swords or bayonets than does one man with five chambers.

Remember too that the locks of the time either involved a live smoldering match or were comparatively unreliable, so having multiple preloaded chambers isn't a favorable risk/benefit ratio.
How much more skilled labour would be required for a turnover gun compared to an ordinary gun? That is what I mean by the circular situation of "rare because it's expensive and expensive because it's rare." I'd certainly see it as more expensive, but I wasn't planning on making them the luxury pricing equipment that they probably were in history.

I certainly think it was cheaper back in the era of line infantry to simply have more men shooting - although I see that as partly due to the states of the time having such a massive surplus in expendable manpower that they invest less in the individual soldier. I'm not sure if those conditions would apply the same way to the setting though.

A revolving drum certainly seems more risky than a turnover gun though (since if a turnover gun discharges all barrels at once at least they're all pointing at the enemy). I don't really understand the mechanisms like snaphance, doglock, snaplock or miquelet locks well enough to know what could protect against the risk of a chainfire.
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Old 07-05-2017, 07:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

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Originally Posted by Railstar View Post

How much more skilled labour would be required for a turnover gun compared to an ordinary gun?.
The problem with those sorts of things is less mechanical than "how is this better than carrying separate pistols?". You don't save a lot of weight (you still have full barrels for each shot), and it likely takes as long or longer to rotate the barrels (and reprime the lock) as it does to drop one pistol and pull out another. Carrying and readying another long arm is enough more trouble that multi-barrel long arms are a little more common (and still are: double barreled shotguns), but that's enough extra weight to impact carrying and aiming the gun significantly.
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Old 07-05-2017, 08:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

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Originally Posted by Railstar View Post
How much more skilled labour would be required for a turnover gun compared to an ordinary gun?
Quite a bit, since you now need precision machined parts with critical tolerances that mean the gun explodes if you miss them. You also are increasing material requirements by each chamber or barrel, in an era were steel quality depended on the crasftman making the thing.
Quote:
That is what I mean by the circular situation of "rare because it's expensive and expensive because it's rare." I'd certainly see it as more expensive, but I wasn't planning on making them the luxury pricing equipment that they probably were in history.
Well you seemed to be asking "Why weren't these more widespread?" The fact that even if there was a large demand, they would still be masterworks that took several months to complete.
Quote:
I certainly think it was cheaper back in the era of line infantry to simply have more men shooting - although I see that as partly due to the states of the time having such a massive surplus in expendable manpower that they invest less in the individual soldier. I'm not sure if those conditions would apply the same way to the setting though.
Well, yes if you change those conditions, you may change the outcome.
Quote:
A revolving drum certainly seems more risky than a turnover gun though (since if a turnover gun discharges all barrels at once at least they're all pointing at the enemy).
Turnovers nearly multiply weight and more than multiply cost by each barrel, which makes them unsuited to longarms (and makes them compete with simply carrying more pistols).
Quote:
I don't really understand the mechanisms like snaphance, doglock, snaplock or miquelet locks well enough to know what could protect against the risk of a chainfire.
Snaplocks, snaphaunse and miquelet are all essentially the same thing, and are early flintlocks that lack frizzens and half-cocking. Doglocks have frizzens but can't half-cock (and use a dog-catch instead to prevent accidental discharges, a feature which was also present in some of the pre-frizzen designs. Without a frizzen, those weapons have some problems with sparks flying into the pan prematurely or failing to ignite the pan at all.

In comparison, matchlocks didn't rely on a shower of sparks falling into a pan and so were safer. Wheelocks put the sparks more reliably where they needed to be, but required fiddly and expensive works.

Last edited by sir_pudding; 07-05-2017 at 08:18 PM.
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Old 07-05-2017, 08:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
These are the big ones. The big problem with stuff leaking out the break in a loose powder breechloader isn't reduced damage, it's the jets of hot gas near your eye - more a problem for rifles you are trying to aim than for pistols I suppose, though burning your hands isn't desirable either. It's pesky enough out the touch hole. There's also the risk of chain firing.

And the problem with not having the barrel perfectly aligned isn't "misfire" it's "bullet hangs on the edge, and instead of the pressure of powder gases being relieved by expanding down the barrel, the gun explodes". Or "misaligned bullet tears off barrel" if you're lucky.

Really good machining makes both of these less of a problem - the parts fit better, so there is less leakage, and you can build a mechanical action that is accurate enough to align the chamber reliably - but good machining is *expensive* until the 19th century. Once the price falls you do start to see stuff like this (the first commercial revolvers were after all loose powder designs), but there's only about a 50 year gap between affordable machine tools and cartridges.
Sorry for double-post, I was still typing my previous reply before I saw your post.

This is really good information. I don't really understand the technical properties of early firearms that well, so this is exactly the kind of information I thought I was missing.

I was planning on the turnover guns being muzzle-loaders, and the rotating drum style guns being functionally muzzle-loaders as well - but I can see the break being a problem for the drum-guns. Maybe the solution is just that the drum forces the ignition further forward and away for more distance from the eye or hands?

This is all for a fantasy setting by the way, so it doesn't need to conform perfectly to history. As long as it fits together logically I'm happy.

I had been pondering ways to make the drum align more easily. One idea was the openings of the chambers in the drum would have the rim protrude from the drum, which would catch on a sliding bolt as it turns, keeping that chamber better aligned with the barrel. Of course the bolt would have to be released to turn the drum to the next chamber (= extra Ready actions to release and close it) but it would reduce the risk of catastrophic malfunction.

I'm thinking the turnover guns would be the more expensive of the two, since the safety features to align the chamber with the barrel on a drum would slow down the rate of fire.
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Old 07-05-2017, 08:21 PM   #9
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

[QUOTE=Railstar;2108540
With the rotating drum, the break between the drum and the barrel might leak out some of the blast. Should that lower damage at all?
.[/QUOTE]

This you can stop worrying about. All revolvers (except he Nagant) have a gap between the barrel and the cylinder. It is known as the "barrel-cylinder gap" in technical jargon.

Thus all revolvers do lose a little bit but it's just not enough to matter. Probably not even if lower quality workmanship increases the size of the B-C gap. It's very likely to be an insignificant problem compared to the cruddy powder used in the historical matchlock period.
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Old 07-06-2017, 04:42 AM   #10
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Default Re: Turnover/revolving black powder guns

IIRC all powder based locks had a problem with priming in revolvers - the loose powder was prone to leak out of the lock.

And as previously noted, poor obturation (breech sealing) leading to multiple barrels firing at once was also a problem. This may result in additional balls heading towards the enemy, but it may also result in parts of the action heading for your face and the weapon coming to pieces.

Neither of these were undefeatable, but the cost made them very much curios rather than anything that could be reliably series produced - it was the percussion cap that really started to make revolvers feasible as you then had non-spillable spark stable priming.
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