Hiram Maxim’s ‘Hun Stopper’ Was a Lethal Hose
In late 1915 Sir Hiram Maxim, famed inventor of the machine gun, approached the British government with the offer of a “repeating gun firing buckshot for clearing out captured trenches.” Memos from the U.K. Ministry of Munitions describe the gun as firing a cartridge containing eight buckshot and 200 birdshot... Read more
George Reaben’s ‘Torpedo Crossbow’ Seems Problematic
In November 1919 George Birkley Reaben of New York filed a patent for an explosive torpedo that could be fired from a crossbow. Reaben’s patent describes “an arrow which is provided with means for exploding a torpedo upon the arrow striking end foremost the target.” The explosives detonated by... Read more
Woodrow Wilson Really, Really Worried About Germans Getting Silencers
The United States’ declaration of war on the German Empire in 1917 mentions by name the U.S.-made Maxim silencer. On April 6, 1917, Pres. Woodrow Wilson issued Presidential Proclamation #1364, declaring war on Germany and putting the United States on a war footing. The proclamation includes sections specifying items that... Read more
Pray and Spray With the ‘Special Case’ Briefcase Gun
Gun-maker Heckler & Koch’s Spezialkoffer — “Special Case” — is a clandestine weapon for personal-protection details. Offering the firepower of an MP5K in a concealed package, the Special Case first appeared in the late 1970s and is still available today. While the MP5K is already a compact weapon and... Read more
On the Far East Station With the Royal Navy’s Big, Sturdy Submachine Gun
The photographs in this story were taken during the 1965-’66 deployment to the Far East station by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Barrosa. Barrosa was part of a task force supporting British operations in Borneo during the Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation, an undeclared war along the border between Indonesia and East... Read more
The Gun That Killed James Garfield
Charles Guiteau used a British Bulldog pistol to kill the 20th president of the United States James Garfield on July 2, 1881 at the busy Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington, D.C. Guiteau had stalked Garfield for a considerable time. He reportedly believed that killing Garfield, thus elevating Vice... Read more
In 1905, a Former U.S. Army Officer Added Moving Maps to Cars
Before satellite navigation, people found their way using paper maps. Which, of course, can be cumbersome — and ill-suited to the confines of any vehicle, let alone an early open-top automobile. In 1905, Henry Metcalfe, a 58-year-old retired U.S. Army ordnance officer and firearms inventor, filed a patent for... Read more
The Gun That Killed Abraham Lincoln
On April 14, 1865 U.S. president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a single shot to the back of the head. The American Civil War had ended just days before with Southern general Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox when John Wilkes Booth, a well-known stage actor, shot Lincoln as the president... Read more
The Gun That Killed John F. Kennedy
On Nov. 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald fired two 6.5-millimeter rounds from an Italian Carcano Fucile di Fanteria Mod. 91/38 rifle and killed U.S. president John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the fourth American president to be assassinated. Oswald, a 24-year-old former Marine, fired from the sixth floor of... Read more
The Guns That Killed Malcolm X
On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcolm X, leader of Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, was assassinated during an Organization of Afro-American Unity meeting at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Malcolm X had been a civil-rights activist and leader of the Black Muslim community in New York City... Read more
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