Derringers are one or two barrel, breech loading weapons with barrel lengths of 3″ or less. They are usually .22, .25, .40 or .45 caliber.
The term ‘Pocket Pistol’ is often used to refer to a revolver of 4 to 6 chambers with a barrel length of 3″ or less. Caliber varies from .22 to .32
The term ‘Navy Pistol’ is often used to refer to pistols with a barrel length of 3 to 5 inches and a caliber of .32, .36 or .38
The term ‘Army Pistol’ is often used in reference to pistols with a barrel length of 5 to 7 inches (or more) and calibers of .38 and larger.
Barrel Length. Is Bigger, better? Most ‘Army’ pistols, a term that includes Colts, Remingtons, Smith & Wesson, Adams and other revolvers that are usually .38 to .45 caliber with barrels topping out at 7″ are the longest barrel guns commonly used. However, longer barrels are available. Colt, for example, produced models with 10″ and even a 16″ barrel. Of course this costs extra! From the Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut, extra-long barrels are available from Colt at a dollar an inch over 7.5 inches (190 mm). Several revolvers with 16-inch barrels and detachable stocks were displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, but these were marketed as “Buggy rifles” (Note: There is no evidence that the legendary ‘Buntline Specials’ ever existed prior to 1931 and Stuart Lake’s ‘biography’ of Wyatt Earp.)
‘Express’ Rifle. A rifle designed for Big, Dangerous, Game. Elephant, Rhinoceros, Grizzly Bear, Lions, Tigers…
SA means ‘Single Action.’ In order to shoot a Single Action firearm, the hammer must be thumbed all the way back, there is a mid point stop where the gun is considered ‘half cocked’ and is used to reload the weapon, then a final stop or ‘full cock’ where the gun is ready to fire. Squeeze the trigger and it goes off.
DA means ‘Double Action.’ Simply pull the trigger, firmly, and the hammer cocks itself and the gun goes off. Alternatively you can manually cock the weapon with your thumb. A manually cocked weapon requires less pressure on the trigger to fire it.
Repeater. A rifle, carbine or shotgun that has magazine holding more then one round and which loads fresh and ejects spent shells by Repeated working of the action. The three most common types of repeater are Bolt Action, Lever Action and Slide (or Pump) Action.
Ejector vs Extractor. In single and double barrel shotguns, opening ‘breaking’ the gun exposes the shells. In most shotguns this will lift both casings part way, and must be manually removed. This is a shotgun with an Extractor. Automatic Ejectors are such that the fired casings – but only the fired casings – are completely ejected from the gun. This makes reloading much faster. The English Gunsmith W.W. Greener developed and patented the first, reliable, Automatic Ejector. (This, and Greener’s improved Chokes are why his shotguns were expensive and much sought after.)
Choke. The ‘Choke’ on a shotgun is a slight tapering or reduction of the last few inches of the barrel just at the muzzle of the gun. This reduction modifies the clump shot as it leaves the barrel, condensing it to some degree, allowing for the cloud of pellets to stay more tightly grouped over a longer range before their interaction in the cloud begins forcing them apart into a wider and wider spread. Reliably choking shotguns was a technique that was perfected by W.W. Greener, though many other gunsmiths tried different methods. See the page on Shotguns for more information.
Hammerless. A Hammerless firearm is always a Double Action and the hammer has either been shrouded or the thumb point has been removed. The purpose of this is to make it easier to carry the gun in your pocket (in the case of pistols) without the hammer getting hung up on fabric. Or, in the case of a rifle or shotgun, to reduce the chance of a branch or brush catching the hammer and causing an accidental discharge.
Retractable or Folding Hidden Trigger. A feature of may single action revolvers. When the weapon is uncocked the trigger is folded back against the grip, or even up into the body of the pistol. This is to avoid the trigger catching on cloth, if carried in the pocket or tucked in the waist band. Such pistols do not have a trigger guard (the round ring around the exposed trigger.) The retracted trigger only comes out as the hammer is thumbed back to cock it.
Birds Head or Plough Handle (Standard Grip) The two most common grips on pistols. The Birds Head is a rounded grip that is easier to grab, less likely to snag on clothing if in a pocket and is the grip that is characteristic of Fast Draw Revolvers. On the down side it does not give as steady a grip as the Plough Handle, which is wider and squared off. The Plough Handle grip improves accuracy, +1 on Aimed Shots but it is harder to conceal under clothing or in a pocket. Concealment rolls are reduced by 1. A third style of grip is called a Wedge and is seen on some British and European pistols. It has largely fallen out of favor with American manufacturers.
Take Down Gun A take down gun is a long gun designed to be taken apart significantly reducing its length, making it easier to store, pack, transport and conceal. A variety of barrel, stock, and receiver designs have been invented to facilitate take down. For example, the hinged design of many break-action firearms allows take down.
The most innovative, and copied, firearms are made in Britain, Germany, the Austrian Hungarian Empire, France and the USA. Although many other countries have gun manufacturers, most of them produce copies or knock offs of guns from these nations. These are often available at steep discounts compared to the ‘originals.’ The Model 3 Revolver, produced by the American manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, is probably the most widely copied pistol on the market with many ‘knock offs’ coming from Spain and South America. Although many of these copies are quite well made, many are also made of cheaper materials and manufactured to lower standards and tolerances. As such these cheaper copies often have higher malfunction rates and are more likely to be burst or explode, especially when modern, smokeless powder cartridges are used. Additionally, parts from these smaller manufacturers are not always interchangeable, even on identical models from the same company.
In the 1860’s American gun manufacturers, particularly Colt, lead the way in factory, assembly line production with interchangeable, machined parts. While this was initially resisted by gun manufacturers in Britain, who came from a long tradition of hand made, custom guns, it has largely been adopted by the major manufacturers in recent decades.
Old/Used vs New
At this point in history (1890) there world is awash in guns, both new and used, especially military surplus. Older guns, dating from the 1860’s, that are still in service, have all been converted from cap and ball to cartridge loading, unless stated otherwise. For example, the Colt 1851 Navy was manufactured from 1851 to 1873. At the beginning of their run they were all Cap & Ball, but starting about 1869 they were either converted to, or manufactured for, .38 rim fire cartridges. Although a some what dated design, and slow to reload, they are still perfectly serviceable. And since over 270,000 were made, they are still out there being used and sold. Prices reflect the fact that these are ALL used guns and as such they may have higher rates of malfunction, increased chances of bursting or exploding from smokeless powder AND reduced accuracy as a result of rifling being worn or damaged. (Where applicable.)
Some guns, like the Colt M1877, have been made since 1877 and are still (1890) being made, so prices will reflect both a Used and a New cost.
Gunsmithing & Gunshops
The skill Gunsmith is useful in repairing and maintaining firearms, but it is also of value when it comes to assessing the quality and condition of older guns and the products of the smaller gun manufacturers.
Most reputable dealers, gunsmiths and sellers will give honest assessments on the condition and quality of the guns they sell. This is especially true of the sporting goods store and, shops that deal regularly in firearms and ammunition. It pays for them to keep the customer happy. Small shops, like hardware stores, that sell only a few guns and limited ammunition as a side business are less knowledgeable or picky, and if they are not selling New guns the buyer should beware.
A gunsmith, dealer or sporting goods store will often buy, or trade, used guns after giving them an evaluation. 50% or less of the listed retail price is typical for a used gun in decent shape in sale or trade. (Usually one can get at least 10% for a damaged gun as a source of parts.) The small shops will rarely offer more then 25% of a gun’s value regardless of age or condition, if they are interested at all.
Weapon Name/Type: This will include the manufacturer if the weapon is made by a major company. Surplus weapons will indicate the Nation that had the gun manufactured. Military weapons are often contracted through multiple manufacturers and are built to the military’s specifications
It has been 30 years since any company or government produced cap and ball firearms. Most of those that were cap and ball have been converted to cartridge firing weapons. If a model appears here it was either built to fire cartridges or was converted to fire cartridges. Will also list SA or DA,
Caliber: (Cal) The Caliber of the weapon. See ammunition chart for damage. There were hundreds of calibers, cartridge lengths, load variations and primer types (Rim fire vs Center fire vs Pin Fire…) For simplification I have condensed cartridge lengths and calibers and for the most part assume that anything bigger then a .22 is center fire. So, rather then having .45-70 and .45-90 and .45 Long Colt and the .450 Adams and the .45 Webley and the .455 Eley and the .45 Schofield and the… Well, you get the idea. Most of the calibers had specific bullets for specific manufacturers or gun models. Colt, Smith & Wesson, Webley… They all did it. Sometimes this was done when designing a gun to meet military specifications, and later the gun was marketed commercially. But most of the time it was to generate an ongoing revenue stream by tying the gun owner to the company. In the game there are .45 pistol cartridges and .45 Rifle/Carbine cartridges. .32 pistol and .32 Rifle/Carbine, and so on. They are not interchangeable. Some models of rifle and carbine shoot pistol rounds, the .22 short, the .22 the .40-70 are examples. A few model guns do have particular bullets, the Sharps Rifles stand out. Some companies made guns to fit their competitor’s ammunition. Some Winchester models fired Sharps rounds. Some companies made ammunition that was identical to their competitors but gave their bullet a different name so as to NOT advertise their competitor’s name! (I’m looking at you, Colt, S&W and Webley. All manufactured bullets identical to the Adams but did not want to give that company credit.) And then there are the European guns and ammo that is sized in metric, but will (for the most part) fit US and British caliber bullets and visa versa. The 11mm is a .45 The 7mm is a .32 and so on… There are exceptions. The Mauser cartridges were specific for Mauser rifles. But for game purposes they will be treated as having the same Damage and ranges as a .30 rifle.
Rate of Fire: (RoF) The number of times the weapon can be fired in a Combat Round. Note: Repeaters can be fired up to 4 times and revolvers 6 times per Combat Round.
Number of Shots: (# of Shots)The number of times the weapon can be fired before reloading is required.
Condition and Reliability: (C&R) Name brand weapons are more expensive then ‘knockoffs’ and copies, however the likely hood of a serious malfunction on a roll of 1 is less for these guns. New guns are very reliable. Used, less so, Much depends on past care and usage. Of particular note is the weapon’s ability to handle the higher pressures of modern smokeless powder. Many of the older and cheaper guns are unable to safely and reliably handle the higher pressures resulting from the new propellants, though quality weapons are largely unaffected. Older guns firing smokeless have a 1 in 6 chance of exploding anytime a natural 1 is rolled on the d20. The following scale reflects the guns Reliability and Condition. This ALSO impacts the weapon’s retail price.
|Brand New, modern design, from a name manufacturer. Accuracy is excellent +1, Reliability is very high, +2. Can handle Smokeless Powder easily. Full price retail.
|Lightly Used and in Good Condition from a name manufacturer or a quality copy. The design and style may be slightly dated but still current. Accuracy is good 0, Reliability is high +1. Can handle Smokeless Powder but Black Powder is better for it. 75% of original price retail.
|Well Used name brand, or lightly used or new from a manufacturer of unknown or dubious quality. Or out dated but functional. Accuracy is fair, -1 Reliability is fair, 0 Most Military Surplus falls in this category. Smokeless Powder MAY damage the weapon. 50% to 30% of original price retail.
|Heavily Used and/or, Very Obsolete. Smokeless Powder LIKELY to damage the weapon. Accuracy is poor, -2 Reliability is poor -2 25% of original price retail.
|Worn Out. The gun has been ‘shot out.’ Smokeless Powder? DON’T! Rifling is worn out, Accuracy is terrible -3 Mechanisms are rattly and prone to jam or fail, Reliability is -3. 10% of original price retail.
|Suitable for parts, maybe… Club, paperweight or wall ornament. Smokeless Powder? LOL! Pay??
Concealability: (Conc) The overall size, weight and barrel length can impact the ability to conceal the weapon. Cencealment reflects the ability to walk down the street wearing a sidearm, under a coat, sweater, shawl, cloak, etc without it being noticed by an observer. The weapon’s Concealability Number is added to the observers IQ roll to see if he notices the gun. The average citizen is not looking to see if passersby are carrying a weapon, so the need to make the roll is unlikely. Police Officers, Private Detectives, Criminals, ‘Adventurers’ and other nefarious types do have an eye for such things. Of course, on a busy street they can’t be looking everyone over, so unless something draws their eye, there is only a 1 in 6 chance that the Copper will even look someone over! At that point they roll against their Intelligence with adjustments per the weapon and type of carry arrangement.
|Size & Example:
|Very Small, Very Concealable Example: Single barrel, small caliber Derringer
|Easily Concealed Example: Double barrel Derringer
|Small, Concealable Example: Pepper Box, Revolvers with barrels less then 3 inches
|Medium Concealable Example: Revolvers with barrels 3 to 5 inches
|Concealable Example: Revolvers with barrels 5 to 7 inches
|Hard to Conceal Example: Scatter Guns, Pistols with barrels more then 8″
|Very Hard to Conceal Example: Sawed Off Shotgun
|Difficult to Conceal Example: Shotgun or rifle with cut down stock
|Almost impossible to Conceal Example: Carbine
Weight: (Wt) in pounds or fractions of pounds
Price: Largely a reflection of Condition and Manufacturer. Name brands cost more! Surprisingly, variations in caliber are not reflected with any change in price.
Notes: Specifics related to the weapon are listed here, such as if it is Hammerless or grip type, etc. Some weapons have more extensive descriptions and notes, these are marked with an *