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Category: Guns

Graveyard Guns – the 8 inch converted Rodman

Cool guns come your way without even looking hard. There is this graveyard near hear with an old Civil War Columbiad sitting in the middle, presumably still guarding the inhabitants. So far it seems to be doing a good job, however, in case of hostilities, the gun would come up short.

Stonelick cemetery sign

Thomas Rodman was a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army before the Civil War, and had an idea that could possibly save the Columbiads being built at that time. The Columbiad was on it’s way to becoming the north’s big gun, but had a problem. At the larger sizes needed for seacoast defense, the Columbiads would crack when the casting would cool. At the time, the usual process for making a big cast iron gun would be to pour it in a mold, then turn the outside on a huge lathe (this part was just cosmetic) and drill the bore out. However when this giant hunk of cast iron cooled, it would crack.

Along came Rodman with an idea. He though that the cooling process was what was ruining the guns. He came up with a way to cast the gun with a pipe in the middle, just smaller than the bore would be. After it was poured, he would run water through the pipe to cool the gun from the inside out, instead of the usual outside in. They would heap hot coals on the outside for a while as it cooled to make it cool outwards.

Front view Rodman gun
This worked great. The Army didn’t want to foot the bill the experimental part, so Rodman patented the idea and sold it to a private company to get things started. He was a huge success, so much so that all big cast iron guns came to be made that way, and the Columbiads even came to be known as Rodmans.

Later, after the war was over, and the benefits of rifling became painfully obvious even to the U.S.Army, a cheap way to keep these guns in action was sought. Some enterprising soul came up with an idea of drilling out the bores and inserting a rifled wrought iron liner to a smaller size. It was finally tested at Sandy Hook proving grounds and failed miserably. The gun came apart. A new attempt at inserting the liner from the rear was tried and also failed. The puzzling thing is that this happened in 1881, and there are lots of these converted guns around the country with dates on them several years after this. It’s a good thing no one saw fit to land on our shores, or we would be shooting liners at them.

Rodman gun breech end
This gun, in the Stonelick Cemetery in Owensville, Ohio, is one of those converted guns. It started out in life as a 10 inch smoothbore Rodman, capable of sailing a hundred pound shell almost 5000 yards. It weighs over 15,000 pounds. It was converted in 1884 by inserting the liner from the rear, as it has the tell tale plug in the breech end. Now, as an 8 inch rifled gun, it could now shoot the theoretically same weight shell as when it was a 10 inch smoothbore, as the rifles shells could be longer. It was laid to rest in 1913, and they must have used a hell of a truck. Hydraulic cranes were still relatively new then, and they might even have used a steam crane to place it.

Well, the story does have a happy ending. The Army finally realized it couldn’t protect the seacoast of the United States on the cheap, and finally got around to producing newly designed and made guns to do the job.


Movie Guns.. big handguns for the big screen

Movies have a way of altering reality to a different perspective, that takes no more work than the imagination. At least on our part. It probably takes a lot of work for the guys in the prop studio, and the cgi guys to make the whole thing believable.

It kind of makes you wish you owned a machine shop of your own to turn fantasy into reality. All that aside, these are my top favorite movie handguns.

Hans Solo’s Blaster..
This thing is a thinly disguised Broomhandle Mauser, which was built from the late 1890’s till about 1930 or so. Broomhandles looked like it was from the future when it first came out, and it still does.

Bladerunner’s bolt operated pistol

A bolt operated pistol that is used for combat and not just target shooting is so contrary to modern design that I like it. It was built from a Steyr bolt action rifle and a Charter Arm’s .44 Bulldog. I found a fan who was hungup on the design and tracked down the original maker and produced one of his own.
Three Kings pistol
The big revolver carried by Spike in the 1999 war film “Three Kings” was a commercially available ‘Thunder 5’, with a huge cylinder meant to shoot .410 shotguns shells. If nothing else, it just looks bad.
Robocop’s Auto-9
Robocops Auto-9 pistol was made from a Beretta 93R, a select fire pistol made in the 70’s for military and police use. In the movie, the gun was supposed to house a 50 round magazine (where did all those bullets hide?), but it really never seemed to run out of ammo. You almost think it was belt fed and it ran up his arm or something.
Hellboy’s Good Samaritan
The best handgun of all time is Hellboy’s Good Samaritan. It’s big, and it’s rounds are so big, it can only hold 4 of them. The cylinders are cut away so you can see the bullets, but in real life this would be a serious safety hazard. But safety doesn’t enter the equation since Hellboy typically hangs out in harm’s way. The bullets are loaded by Hellboy himself, and to kill his unearthly enemies, are loaded with white oak, holy water, garlic, and silver shavings. (That ought to just about take care of anything.) The gun itself is unique in that the grips are made from the True Cross, and the iron parts are forged from Irish church bells, cruxifixes, and blessed silver.


What I like about our present U.S. Army

Did some time in the U.S. Army in 1970-72. I’ve noticed a few things since then that I like about our present army as opposed to our old army.

U.S. Air Force Photo By: Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day

We’ve got better weapons now.
Our M-16’s wouldn’t get out of their own way. Even if you cleaned them every night, you couldn’t see down the barrel in the morning. And they jammed a lot. And they had no optics. And they jammed a lot. (Of course there were a lot of used AK-47’s laying about.)

Body armor.
The only body armor a Vietnam era guy had was a flak jacket, that was useful for spent shrapnel, and that was about it. You could easily shoot a hole in your helmet with a .38. The guys in Afghanistan have some pretty nice ceramic armor, and there is even some interesting new body armor designs, like Dragon Skin.

Armored vehicles.
Not only didn’t we have armored vehicles, but most of them weren’t even enclosed with anything other than a soft top. The helicopters didn’t have armor, which had everybody sitting on their helmets.

Communication with the individual soldier.
Walkie talkies. Huge things, and only one for a whole lot of guys. Modern G.I.’s are plugged in, networked and God only knows what else. We got one call home per year and only with the help of a lot of Ham Radio guys. (Bless ‘em). You get video calls home now.

Modern Volunteer Army.

Nuff said.


Shooting the old Humphrey Bogart gun..

I used to watch Humphrey Bogart movies when I was a kid. Before he became a good guy, he was a not so evil bad guy for a long time. These movies from the ’50’s always had Humphrey carrying the time honored Smith and Wesson 38.
I got to shoot my old Smith the other day. This old gun sure has been around for awhile. It used to be owned by a guy who became a Jehovah’s Witness. They made him get rid of it and I was glad to take it off his hands. This gun started out in life as a 5 screw hand ejector, which places it before 1955. That’s when the butchers got hold of it.
The caliber was .38 S&W, a short low power round that was popular before WW2. It was converted to .38 special during the fifties when it was done as cheap as possible. The cylinder was bored out longer to fit the new round. However the smaller bullet was also fatter, and with a .38 special loaded the cylinder doesn’t fit the bullet closely, leading to split cases, and a possible dangerous situation.

I replaced the cylinder with one from Gun Parts Corporation, and it took relatively little fitting to function. It turns out to be a great shooter! My only complaint is the skinny sight blade, which was normal for the time. Big fat modern sights are much better on my old eyes. However, I am happy to report that none of the beer cans that I was shooting at got away!


The many lives of the Zulu..

My old Zulu has been around. Not one of the Zulu’s who wacked the British at Isandlwana, but an old humble 12 gauge single shot shotgun.


This old thing started life as a musket in Napoleons Grand Armee. Well, soon after the Grand Armee became less grand. About 1835 this thing was hammered out. Smoothbore, around 70 caliber. It was more of an artillery peice than it was a musket. It fired a huge ball of lead that had to be aimed over the targets head to hit him. With a pound of lead you could only get 15 musket balls. Ballistics were terrible, and with no rifling, worse yet. It’s only saving grace was a lot of them in a group, just fire up in the air at the other group, and down comes a hail of lead.

Wars came and went, and along came the Franco-Prussian war. Breechloaders became the weapon of choce by then, and every available weapon was converted to the new system. The first line French troups were using Chassepot’s, but the rear area guys needed guns too. They were kind of on the back burner, as resources dwindled and the war dragged on. With Paris surrounded and beseiged, some enterprising soul thought of melting down church bells for the receivers conversion and lots were made under duress. With the Prussians on their doorstep, the French converted my old zulu to a breechloader, with a brass receiver and taking a huge short fat bullet. If anything, the ballistics were worse, but could be reloaded quickly!


Years later, some entrepreneurial Belgians bought up all those old breechloading muskets and converted them to shotguns for the American market. Poor people heading out west needed a gun to get food more than defending against Indians, and lots of them were bought up by these settlers. Sellers even gave them away with parcels of land. Not much of a weapon, but a 12 guage shotgun is still nothing to trifle with.

This old thing is quite handsome, and the old cut down musket stock, and brass receiver really stand out. Not many machines still work perfectly after 180 years, but this thing will still provide for the table. Can’t use modern shells in it, but an old brass 12 gauge shell and a pile of blackpowder and bird shot and your ready to go!

And it will give a real Zulu a run for his money…


The Liberator Files.. Concealed Carry

I’ve chosen a new carry gun. The requirements were a) Something small and concealable, b) Large caliber preferable 45 caliber c.) Simple and not prone to jams or breakdowns. I’ve almost found the perfect gun.

The Liberator.

This gun fulfills all the requirements. It was a gun made by the US during WW2 to be dropped to the partisans in France. It was made cheap, with few moving parts, 10 rounds in the butt of non-marked brass (I guess we didn’t want anybody to know we made it. Like anybody else used 45 Auto..) a stick to poke the used rounds out and a cartoon to show the Frenchies how to use it. I guess we didn’t have anybody around at the time that could write French.

I got a little holster and it carries quite well.

But a few problems did crop up. If I carry it loaded and cocked, there is a small issue of accidental discharge. So far it’s been pretty good. You hardly know it’s there. The other problem is the second shot. I like 45’s because you don’t usually need the second shot.. but what if 2 guys jump me. Now reloading quick is a problem.

But I’ve been working on that. With a little work I’ve managed to change the mechanism to full auto, and worked a 30 round mag into the butt. Now it is fierce!

Now there are new problems. Once you light it up it just empties the magazine. Also reloading the magazine is tedious. I shouldn’t have welded it on. But I think all these problems are fixabe. I really should rifle the bore for a little more range. The bullets keyhole immediately after leaving the muzzle, but that’s not really a bad thing.

Next I’m working on a Liberator sniper rifle!


Guns in the modern world…

Just read the paper today… a 13 year old kid shot a 10 year old kid over a tv show. I don’t think I’m alone in wondering just what happened to the world over the last 60 years.

In this country we’ve always had guns. Until the last 20 years almost everybody in the country grew up with guns. Gun violence wasn’t a problem (Except for the criminal elements…) But it is now, and it’s mainly young guys. You can get shot in Cincinnati for just looking at some guy wrong. They think you don’t show them enough respect. Used to be that was something you used to earn, you weren’t owed that.

When we were kids we had guns to play with. BB and pellet guns were common, and even some 22’s. The worst that happened was some windows would get shot out once in a while. We were sufficiently afraid of what our parents would do if we got caught.

The best story was from my mother. She was in High School during the second world war, and one day they had a school play. It was about the war in Europe, and she was going to play a soldier. They told her and the other ‘soldiers’ to bring their guns in the next day for the play. She crawled under her bed, where she kept it, and carried it on the bus to school. Also rode the bus on the way home. School Bus! Nobody got shot, and no one was even afraid that anyone would get shot.

Do that today!


Webley PitBull… Rugged Belly Gun


One of my all time favorite handguns is the Webley. The iconic British sidearm, Webleys had been made since the middle 1800’s. They served in all Britains Wars from that period on, and served on all the frontiers where Britain was involved, mainly India and Africa. They’ve dispatched their share of lions tigers and other dangerous beasts.

And dangerous human beasts, too. The .455 caliber marks were especially valued for their man stopping ability. After WW1, the British High Command lost it’s mind and decided that a 200 grain .38 caliber pistol would be just as good and the pistol would be smaller and easier to handle. The .38 Mark IV replaced the venerable Mark VI, but let’s just say the British didn’t throw their .455 guns away.

This gun is a 1915 Mark V, and had been extensively modified by some (probably) local gunsmith. This was kind of common work for gunsmiths in the 50’s and 60’s for guys with less than legal needs. The barrel was chopped to 2 inches, the grips were shaved down, the hammer spur cut off and the cylinder was modified to take american .45 auto bullets on a steel clip. The modification for .45 auto was common in this country due to lots of surplus laying around, and .455 has always been hard to get. The neat thing about the clip is you can reload this thing faster than any modern autoloader. The downside is the bullet. The .455 is a hollow base bullet that swells to meet the rifling, and the .45 is a flat base. This will tend to lose some accuracy, but with a 2″ barrel, who cares. Your not shooting a guy across the county!


It’s heavy, though, and harks back to a time when everything was heavy, and made out of steel. I appreciate the work that went into these guns, and the fact that this gun is ninety years old and still works good is a testament to their design. How good modern polymer guns are remain to be seen in another ninety years.


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