James R. Rummel's Comments

After thinking about it for while, it seems to me that the device above resembles some sort of harpoon gun. As if Edwardian gentlemen would be looking to stick Moby Dick in their parlors.
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"Is the design flawed or does someone not really understand how it was truly meant to be used?"

The first fifty Elgin pistols we have on record were ordered for the US Exploring Expedition of 1837. The journals and letters that were written by the members of the expedition are pretty specific as to the purpose of the blade as a means to make trail through heavy brush.

Twenty-five years later, those very same pistols were issued to Union sailors on blockade duty during the American Civil War, and they were supposed to be used as a weapon while boarding enemy vessels. The official records note that the guns were "unpopular" with the men, which probably means that they were hated with a passion so intense we can barely understand it.

The Elgin was quickly replaced with the M1860 cutlass, which proved to be "popular". We can only speculate as to the relief that some enlisted schmoe felt when he was allowed to turn in his Elgin for a nice, heavy-bladed chopping sword.
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Christophe left a comment...

"Another shot at the French military history"

Actually, only three of the five handguns featured are French in origin. The other two are, respectively, Austrian and American.

Also, only one of the guns was ever intended to be a military arm. That is the one that was designed by an American, the LeMat pistol. All of the others were designed for, marketed, and sold to civilians for personal self defense.

It is true that I crack wise about how the French tend to come up with odd pistol designs at the end of the essay, but that is simply because I suddenly realized that the majority of the examples I used came from that country while I was writing the Epilogue. My apologies if I caused any offense.
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I'm the guy who wrote the original post, and I always get a great deal of feedback from people who wonder if the gun can be used today as a self defense weapon.

Short answer is that I suppose so, but it really sucks when compared to modern arms.

The pistol rounds are about .25 caliber, but the gun uses the weak and inefficient pinfire system. I would be surprised if an Apache could generate the same power as a .22 Short cartridge, the weakest of all the modern loads.

The gun was designed in the 1870's, and it is painfully obvious that the average person back then was much smaller than today. I don't mean they were thinner, although they were, but they were also just plain smaller in all dimensions due to poor nutrition while growing up. The Apache was designed for them and not us.

The weird bayonet/knife is less than 2 inches long, and the holes in the brass knuckles are so small that the average modern 13 year old has trouble forcing their fingers in. If the gun is folded up into its compact pocket configuration, two of them would fit on a dollar bill.

So who would actually buy such a thing, especially when potent and effective guns like the Webley Bulldog were available? Usually rich city dwellers who were afraid of getting mugged, but who had no idea what was needed to defend themselves. They bought the Apache because they were impressed with how it looked and how it wouldn't be a pain to carry around.

Considering the extreme interest this gun always generates amongst people interested in self defense, I think that there is a market for an updated version. Say something chambered for the .38 Special cartridge, with a beefier frame, knuckle duster and bayonet. But, since the BATF would freak, it isn't going to happen.

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Profile for James R. Rummel

  • Member Since 2012/08/07



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