Guns of the Silver Screen: V21N4

By Kyle Shea

Moriarty's Secret Weapon

Professor James Moriarty is one of the greatest villains in all of fiction. That is one undeniable truth about Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Though he only appears in two of the original books, he is still well liked by fans of the series and considered the equal of fiction’s greatest detective. He is described by Holmes as the Napoleon of Crime and is cunning, brilliant and horribly ruthless, especially to any who get in his way.

Over the years, like Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty has been played by countless actors in equally countless movies and TV shows. Strangely, in the 2009 movie, the director refused to say who played the Professor. In the film, Sherlock’s love interest leaves his home after a long conversation, and he follows her disguised as a homeless man. He follows her to a carriage where she is meeting with Moriarty. He begs for some money until Moriarty threatens him with a concealed C. Sharps Model A1 Pepperbox, chasing Holmes away.

The device used to hide the Pepperbox is almost Steampunk in its design. It is attached to a leather wristband and is activated by a simple push on the gun, which, thanks to an interesting spring system, shoots the gun forward into the owner’s hand. To put it back, all the owner has to do is push it back, and it will click into place.

The Model 1A was patented by Christian Sharps, the inventor of the Sharps Rifle. It is actually one of several models that were produced. It fired .22 short caliber rounds and was very successful, being in production for a long time. To load it, there was a rail underneath the barrels that allowed the owner to take them off the front and load or unload ammo easily. To shoot, you only have to pull the cocking handle back and pull the trigger. When you pull back again, the firing pin rotates to the next round.

Pepperboxes first appeared in the late 1700s. They were popular with civilians and military officers alike because most of them were small and easy to hide. The early models at first were turned by hand, but later models had mechanisms put in that allowed the barrels to rotate when the cocking handle is pulled back. There were two flaws with them; the first being that they were heavy in the front, making it hard to aim. This was not a large problem though, since civilians mostly had to use them at close range. However, the other flaw was that on some models, the powder on each barrel would sometimes go off at the same time, resulting in the barrels shooting in either a chain of bursts or all at the same time.

The 2009 “Sherlock Holmes” movie is a real treat for people who like a good mystery. Robert Downey, Jr. plays a great Sherlock, and Jude Law makes a good Watson. The villain, played by Mark Strong, is actually terrifying, sending shivers down the spines of anyone watching him. The plot is well done, with twists and turns that have any viewer watching on the edge of his or her seat.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N4 (May 2017)
and was posted online on March 17, 2017


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